Our American culture is weight-obsessed. In fact, on any given day, 33% of adults are dieting! Chances are good that you are either on a diet today, or have been in the past. Chances are also good that you tried a special diet, lost weight initially, but eventually gained it all back again. If your dieting attempts haven’t given you the results you were hoping for, you are not alone.

This is how it is for most dieters.

If you want to lose weight, stop dieting. That is the conclusion reached by a recent study published in American Psychologist. After examining numerous studies about dieting, UCLA researchers concluded that short term weight loss (up to about 6 months) can be achieved with a variety of diets. The problem is that two-thirds of all dieters regain the weight they lost within 4 - 5 years, regardless of the diet they followed. The researchers go on to speculate that dieting success rates may actually be lower than this, due to the poor reporting methods used in many of the studies they examined.

This is especially dismal when one considers that Americans spent over $46 billion on diet products and self-help books in 2004 alone. Combine this with the fact that one-third of all Americans are overweight, and one-third are obese. That means 2 out of 3 adults in this country are above their healthy weight! Something clearly is not working.

Dieting is also very expensive.

In an article published by Forbes.com in 2005, ten of the most popular diets were examined to determine how much a dieter spent on food to follow one of these diets for a week.* Here's how they compare:
Jenny Craig.............$137.65
NutriSystem..............113.52
Atkins.......................100.52
Weight Watchers........96.64
Zone...........................92.84
Ornish........................78.74
South Beach...............78.61
Slim Fast....................77.73
Sugar Busters!............69.62
Subway...................... 68.60

*These figures were calculated based on food costs in NYC, and include start-up fees and any needed books or other materials, averaged over six months.

Pretty amazing.

The reason that these diets ultimately fail is that often the underlying causes of overeating aren't addressed. The focus is all on counting calories, restricting fats, cutting out carbs, not eating after 7pm, or other such tactics.

If you are a veteran-dieter, think for a few minutes about the reasons why you overeat. Is it what you turn to when under stress? Do you refrain from expressing your feelings, stuffing them down with French fries and milkshakes instead? Do you have a nightly date with Ben and Jerry, a bag of Ruffles and your favorite TV program?

Reflecting on the following questions may help: How do you eat, fast or slow? Do you sit down, or do you eat on the go? Do you eat alone or with others? Do you let advertisements persuade you to eat when you are not hungry? If someone offers you something to eat that you don't really want, do you eat it anyway to avoid hurting their feelings?

Most diets do not even begin to address these questions. Dealing with the issues behind food choices and eating can be a slow process because it takes time to establish new habits.

Dieting is not only expensive and ineffective, but recent evidence indicates it also reeks havoc on brain chemistry. Dr. Cheryl Harte and Mary Kay Grossman, RD, in their book, The Feel Good Diet, believe that frequent dieting leads to a condition they term “yo-yo brain”. From their 10 years of work with women at the Wellness Workshop in Spokane, they believe that dieting depletes the brain of neurotransmitters, the chemicals which regulate appetite and food cravings, overall mood, energy levels, metabolism and sex drive. Serotonin is probably the most well known of these neurotransmitters. Dieting causes serotonin levels to drop, resulting in fatigue, food cravings, bad moods and appetite regulation problems. In other words, yo-yo dieting causes yo-yo brain.

So if dieting doesn’t work, what does?

In her book, What to Eat, NYU professor Marion Nestle says “ The basic principles of good diets are so simple that I can summarize them in just ten words: eat less, move more, eat lots of fruits and vegetables. For additional clarification, a five-letter word modifier helps: go easy on junk foods.”

If it were only that simple.

Author's Bio: 

As a certified nutritionist and registered dietitian for over 20 years, Sue has the knowledge and experience to share nutrition advice and information you can trust. Try her recently developed weight loss program, Alongside: Your Virtual Weight Loss Solution™ at www.youronlinenutritionist.com/Alongside1.html and never say diet again!