Richard G. Petty, MD

Diets Make You Fat

Most people who have tried dieting know a sad truth: they do not usually work for very long. Our bodies are designed to form and retain fat stores and millions of years of evolution have created sophisticated and elegant systems to thwart any attempt at self-starvation. That is the real reason why most quick fix promises are doomed to failure. As day follows night, every time that a scientist somewhere publishes another piece of the obesity puzzle, a flurry of articles and books will follow, claiming that they have The Answer, never realizing that there are several hundred interlocking pieces to the puzzle.

Yet more research has confirmed that diets rarely help. A group of investigators from UCLA published their findings in the April issue of American Psychologist, the journal of the American Psychological Association.

Traci Mann and her co-authors have conducted the most comprehensive and rigorous analysis of diet studies that I have ever seen. They analyzed 31 long-term studies in which people were followed for two to five years. What they found clearly mirrors clinical experience. Most people can initially lose 5 to 10 percent of their weight on any number of diets: low carb; low fat; high protein or pretty much anything else. But then the weight comes back: in the majority of people they regained all the weight plus more. Sustained weight loss was found only in a small minority of participants, while complete weight regain was found in the majority.

Their conclusion: diets do not lead to sustained weight loss or health benefits for the majority of people. And since people who regain weight usually have the “bounce” where they regain with interest, most people would have been better off not going on the diet at all. This is important: aggressive dieting can be dangerous to the body. It has been suggested that repeatedly losing and gaining weight is linked to cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and altered immune function. So if people had not dieted, their weight would be pretty much the same and their bodies would not have suffered the wear and tear from losing weight and gaining it all back.

Over the years, many diet studies have looked good, but the results have often been skewed by a number of factors. For example, in some studies participants self-reported their weight by phone or mail rather than having an objective weight measurement. Many studies also had very low follow-up rates: eight of the studies had follow-up rates lower than 50 percent.

Traci Mann, the lead investigator was asked, “If dieting doesn’t work, what does?”

“Eating in moderation is a good idea for everybody, and so is regular exercise,” Mann said. “That is not what we looked at in this study. Exercise may well be the key factor leading to sustained weight loss. Studies consistently find that people who reported the most exercise also had the most weight loss.”

Happily there ARE genuine solutions to the problems of weight, but they do not begin with a diet. They begin with a totally new understanding of how our bodies operate, how to deal with the psychological and social barriers to health and how to activate the natural abilities of the body balance and heal itself.

I am going to talk about those a little more in the next post.

“I’ve been on a diet for two weeks and all I’ve lost is fourteen days.”
–Totie Fields (American Comedian, 1930-1978)

“The Diet Mentality has come about because there is agreement in our society that the only way to lose weight is by dieting. But dieting produces absolutely no permanent, positive results. In fact, it makes you feel worse about yourself and probably does more damage than good to your health.”
–Bob Schwartz (American Health Expert and Author)

“Gluttony is the source of all our infirmities and the fountain of all our diseases. As a lamp is choked by a superabundance of oil, and a fire extinguished by excess of fuel, so is the natural health of the body destroyed by intemperate diet.”
–Robert Burton (English Cleric and Writer, 1577-1640)

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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