Do Diets Really Work?

Wait! Before you eat that donut, do you remember your New Year's resolutions about diet and exercise? Unfortunately, you are in the majority if you have returned to your old ways. Before the guilt sets in, however, please realize most dieters fail to reach their goal.

For the first time in history, this country has more overweight people than thin people. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions. In a desperate search for a magic formula to melt away excess pounds, many fall prey to the "yo-yo" diet syndrome. The typical dieter drifts from one program to another. They lose some weight only to regain what they lost and even more. Ninety-two percent of dieters regain their weight within two years.

Many diet programs continue to advocate outdated techniques that have never been effective. Chew your food like a gourmet; use smaller plates; eat half the amount of food, etc., are examples of the antiquated techniques still being taught. Typically, weight loss programs teach in a "smorgasbord" style, failing to address individual differences. The chance for long-term success is necessarily minimized. When fad diets and gimmicks are included in the mix, weight control success remains an elusive goal.

Weight depends on the balance between calories consumed and calories expended. Intake more than you output, and a weight gain results. That's it. No "sleeping away" those ugly pounds. Balancing your caloric intake with your caloric expenditure is like balancing a checkbook. Exceed your limit and you will be overdrawn.

Once overdrawn (overeat) the creative excuses begin: "I ate because . . . I'm angry, sad, happy, anxious." Or rationalizations regarding the numbers on the scale: "This scale is broken;" "It must be water retention." If that doesn't work, we lean to the right, to the left, take off jewelry, inhale, exhale or anything else to alter the reality of the scale's message. With a basic understanding of calories and fats, however, you can learn to balance caloric intake and maintain desired weight.

The typical American lacks knowledge of fundamental nutrition. Many people equate volume with calories. It is not necessarily the amount of food but rather the amount of fat content and calories within the food that matters. An example: a 12 oz. steak and black coffee have more calories than a similar portion of broiled fish, salad with no-fat dressing, two baked potatoes with sour cream, two vegetables, a roll with margarine, two cups of coffee, and a cup of vanilla ice cream for dessert!

In addition to poor nutritional knowledge, society has become conditioned to a sedentary lifestyle. Physical activity has declined 75% since the days of our great grand parents. Consider the typical housewife in the early 1900's. In order to provide a family meal she walked to town to purchase food and walk back home and prepared the meal. This was an all day activity. Meanwhile, her farmer husband walked an average of 12 miles a day plowing the field.

Today, the homemaker drives to the market to purchase food and prepares it via microwave. The farmer drives his air-conditioned tractor (while listening to his favorite tunes) as his belly slowly expands. Oh yes, the advantages of modern conveniences.

To end the weight loss/gain roller-coaster, there are two crucial steps.

First, learn the calorie and fat content of different foods, and choose accordingly. Eat turkey sandwiches instead of corned beef; structure snacks and nibble on no-fat popcorn instead of peanuts. Be careful of no-fat pastries. No fat does not equal low calories.

Second, increase your level of physical activity. Take the stairs instead of elevators, park farther from the mall door, and decrease the amount of television. Without making exercise part of our everyday life, maintaining weight loss is virtually impossible.

Weight loss is a billion dollar a year industry. It can be very lucrative for the unscrupulous. Consequently, diet programs and claims constantly recur. Long-term success must include changes in lifestyle and attitude. A beginning step could be redefining the concept diet to mean: Developing Intelligent Eating Techniques. By the way, for $29.95 I will send you my easy, scientifically-proven, fast, no-exercise-required, eat-what-you-want, diet program!

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About The Author / Credits: Keith Levick, Ph.D., is a health psychologist who has been in practice for 20 years and is an Adjunct Professor at Central Michigan University. He is the founder and director of the Center for Childhood Weight Management, a unique treatment program designed for overweight children, located in Farmington Hills, MI, and in YMCA'S throughout Michigan. Dr. Levick is also the President of Goren and Associates, a training and development company. Some of their clients include GM, DaimlerChrysler, Detroit Diesel, AT&T and other Fortune 500 companies. Dr. Levick serves on the Executive Board for the American Heart Association and is well published in the area of health and wellness.

Dr. Levick is author of a new book entitled, Why Is My Child So Overweight? A Parent's Guide to a Fit & Healthy Child, designed to help the entire family become more aware of eating behaviors and help create lifestyle changes. This book is available through

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