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Most diet programs tell you what foods to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat it. You have very little flexibility; your diet is pretty much the same as the diet for the person sitting next to you at the program sessions, even though each of you has very different needs and desires. Another of our objections is that these programs emphasize losing weight. You may wonder, “Isn’t that what I’m there for?” The answer is no. You should be there to learn how to manage your weight.
Most popular diet programs do help you lose weight, but we all know how to do that. The real problem is keeping the weight off. Even programs that have a life-style management or behavior modification component generally do not put the emphasis on this goal. Instead, losing weight is always the focus. It is not until the weight is lost that you begin to work on your eating habits. Unfortunately, this approach has had dismal success.
Those who have successfully lost weight focus on developing a permanent life-style change. They don’t even worry about losing weight. By gradually changing their eating habits, they take small, easily attainable steps toward a healthier life-style. And guess what? They lose weight and they keep it off.
More importantly, they are able to maintain their new goal-weight because they have made a commitment to three simple goals:
1. They eat healthily.
2. They move their bodies more.
3. They do both for the rest of their lives.
Why aren’t there “programs” that focus more on making life-style changes than on staying on any particular diet? The reason is economics. Results from the life-style approach come more slowly, and people who want to lose weight look for rapid results- Programs that promise and deliver rapid results are more salable. Dieters want to be able to eat anything they choose and still lose weight. If that option isn’t part of a weight loss plan, they want someone to take away all responsibility for food choices from them and promise them quick results. That is the kind of attitude that keeps people fat.
Statistics show that from 25 percent to 64 percent of Americans are overweight. Studies indicate that men expect to lose three to four pounds per week, and women expect to lose two to three pounds per week. If they don’t succeed with these weight-loss goals, many attendees will drop out of the program after the third visit. This has led to many programs’ adopting a “quick start” regimen in which weight loss is more during the first few weeks. This is an enticement to start the program, but when the weight loss slows down, the honeymoon is over and discouragement sets in.
Once someone gets discouraged, feelings of failure are close behind. Only those people who are willing to work hard and make a lifetime commitment will have long-term success with weight loss.
Any “diet” will work if you have that commitment, provided that the diet includes choices from all the food groups. Diets that rely on liquid supplements or include only a limited number of foods can be the worst perpetrators of out-of-control eating. If you emphasize trying to lose weight rather than changing your life-style, you have not made a true weight loss commitment. Chances are you will join the 95 percent of dieters who fail at weight management.
In our clinic, we present our patients with many different approaches and allow them to choose the program that best suits their life-style. Among the options are: counting fat grams, counting calories, using food exchanges, eating low-fat and low-calorie frozen meals, or any other approach the patient may want to try. The only “bad diet” is one that does not allow for real food in real situations and is not nutritionally well-balanced. If a patient finds that the chosen approach does not work, we try other approaches until we find one that is right.
Studies indicate that people who devise their own plans for diet change are more likely to keep lost weight off. In a 1990 California study, 73 percent of the people who maintained their weight loss had devised their own plan of action, but only 39 percent of those who relapsed had done so. The self-choice approach works because people plan for the changes they are willing to make rather than be handed changes someone else has told them they should make.

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