A Lifestyle, not a Diet

“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants,” is the diet mantra from Michael Pollen’s famous book The Eater’s Manifesto. While I’m studying for my fitness certification, this advice seems to be the one of the simplest diets and could really improve your health.

So, if such great and effective advice exists, why are there hundreds of different diets, diet pills, food delivery services, and other paid ways to lose weight? Two simple reasons. First, the advice that Pollen gives is not a six-week plan to lose twenty pounds but rather flexible diet advice that often requires a lifestyle change and actual research by the eater on what “too much” means. In other words, it is difficult. The second reason is that a simple flexible diet would not sustain the 20 billion dollar industry that is the diet world.

Although it might be painful to admit, the health industry and the diet industry are still businesses that thrive on new consumers and continual consumption of their products. While a variety of lifestyles is helpful, it can be pushed for the wrong reasons. For example, my father feels his best on a LCHF diet, which started because he read Atkin’s book twelve years ago and never looked back. He’s lost weight, lowered his bad cholesterol, and feels healthier. But when I tried that diet the only thing I felt was bloated and tired. (Also consider the fact that it took twelve years, not twelve weeks, of changing his lifestyle gradually to achieve the results I am talking about.)

saynotofoodwaste.diet.healthy.lifestyle.greens.veggies.happy.2People who make money in the diet industry are looking for ways to get us to continually seek diet food, diet books, etc. The way this occurs is not by promoting a diet that lowered cholesterol or made a person more energetic – instead, the metric used is weight, often with unrealistic expectations or false claims.

To see why it might be best to look at some of the statistics associated with the diet industry. About 85% of self-identified dieters are women. Most dieters, even if they are successful in losing weight, gain all the weight back plus excess once they stop their diet. What it seems is that the diet industry is often focused on changing the appearance of the person rather than their health, and women are strongly socialised to make their make appearance be slim or small. The diets, if adhered to strictly, can garner results but because the weight loss is so quick (and unhealthy), once the person stops this diet they gain the weight back.

So what does this all suggest? Many many diets are focused on one thing: appearance. They thrive on getting us to try multiple diets that temporarily boost our confidence but re-enforce destructive eating habits and the cycle repeats itself. Diets which emphasize lifestyle changes and require patience don’t make as much money, but can help us be happier in the long run. To stop us from reinforcing Diet Culture and its unhealthy eating habits, education on food is extremely important.

By Jordan

Sources:
1. ”10 Things the Weight-loss Industry Won’t Tell You” by Catey Hill (Link: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/10-things-the-weight-loss-industry-wont-tell-you-2014-01-10)
2. “100 million Dieters, $20 Billion: The Weight-loss Industry by the Numbers” by ABC News
(Link: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/100-million-dieters-20-billion-weight-loss-industry/story?id=16297197)

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