Trending Now: Is the Diet Debate Helping to Solve Obesity?

HealthGal Health Guide
  •    Diet talk….talk….talk…..Go about your daily life and inevitably while on line at the supermarket, or on a treadmill at the gym, or at an evening social event, you will hear a conversation about dieting.  Maybe you’re the one starting the discussion because there’s a new trending diet or new diet book that just released or a new headline that spurs further diet talk.  So is all this talk really helping those who need to lose weight, to lose weight?  According to experts, all this talk is not getting to the crux of the matter: help people find a diet that specifically fits their needs and goals, and help them “to stick with it.”

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    Specifically, Sherry Pagoto, FhD, and Bradley Applehauns, PhD, assert that health professionals who are guiding overweight or obese patients need to look at the behavioral issues causing weight gain, and then craft a diet that fits the patient, rather than get caught up in a debate about specific trending diets, popular diets, or even macronutrient consumption.  Some people may just “need their carbohydrates,” and in that case, calorie counting to make sure they don’t overeat makes sense.  For others, giving up servings of processed carbohydrates may be easier, and so creating a more balanced diet may be an obtainable goal.  Until health professionals embrace dieting realities, the billion dollar business called “breakthrough diets” will continue to flourish, at the expense of the obese individual who keeps trying another one and another one…..only to fail. 


    The two experts argue that continuing this current focus on dietary composition, which tends to encourage more breakthrough diet books, is not serving the individual, but rather the pockets of those writing the diets.  Just look at how many people lose weight, gain it back, lose it again and gain it back, as they work their way through the next trendy diet.  Can you really fast for two days a week for more than a few weeks or a few months?  Can you really give up all grain carbohydrates for eternity, subsisting mostly on protein?  Can you really live on prepared home delivered diet meals forever, without finally learning to manage your food behaviors?  This can explain yo-yo dieting and the never ending obsession to lose weight.  The problem is, we need to lose the pounds and keep them off!!


    Obesity management requires finding an eating plan tailored to the individual that also incorporates behavior modification and long-term support.  The longer someone sticks to a diet, the more successfully they will lose weight.  And when behavior is modified and supported, the more likely the person will hit a goal weight and sustain that weight for a period of time.   The authors compare diets to medications.  Take the medication consistently and you will “manage the disease.”  Stop the medication and the disease will perpetuate.  A diet needs to be “active” which means that you “adjust it as needed, and maintain it for the duration.”  One lowers the dose of a medication when the disease profile improves, but in most cases you stay on a lowered dose of medication to keep the disease controlled.  Similarly, you need to use a diet to hit a certain goal weight, and then you need to make adjustments, but still stick to the general diet outline, in order to stay at goal weight.


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    The experts suggest, and I HIGHLY concur, that continuing to debate diets confuses patients, leads to no single diet winner, and, frankly, hurts the patient while lining the pockets of others.  I also concur that the behavior modification and support elements necessary for long-term sustained weight loss are not getting the attention they need from the healthcare and insurance industries.  Let’s debate that one…..


    Amy Hendel is a health professional, journalist and host of Food Rescue, Simple Smoothies and What’s for Lunch?  Author of Fat Families, Thin Families and The 4 Habits of Healthy Families, she tweets health headlines daily @HealthGal1103.  Catch her past guest appearances on Marie! at and other local and national news and talk shows










Published On: August 22, 2013