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From the Desk of Clarence Bass


Dieter's Dilemma

"Like breath holding, dieting is against nature; nature will always win."
Living Without Dieting

"Lose 50 lbs. in two years!" doesn't get people very excited, but John P. Foreyt, Ph.D., and G. Ken Goodrick, Ph.D., authors of Living Without Dieting (Warner Books, 1992) insist it represents the gradual approach that leads to ultimate success in weight control. The two biggest mistakes people make, according to Foreyt and Goodrick, are "reliance on restrictive dieting and being in too much of a hurry." A friend of mine is an example.

When I first met Fred (not his real name) he had just lost more than 100 pounds; he was down to 295. Obese since childhood, he hit a pinnacle of 400 pounds a year previously. He told me he encountered a sticking point at about 330 pounds. He was using diet alone, with little or no exercise. "I know, I know," he acknowledged, "I'm an idiot." At that point he added walking to his regimen and lost an additional 35 pounds.

When I next encountered Fred, about a year later, he was still on a roll. He had lost another 50 pounds; he was down to 248. In less than two years, his waist had gone from 60" to 40". "My quality of life - in virtually all aspects - is at an all-time high," he told me. Nevertheless, he was not satisfied. He complained that he had "virtually no muscle mass" and wanted help instituting a weight training program. "I need to see absolute closure on this life-long problem," he emphasized.

Unfortunately, when I next heard from Fred, about seven months later, he had experienced a setback. His employer had "put me on the road," and his eating and exercise habits suffered a relapse. For six months he had done no walking and no weight training, and the temptation of fast-food restaurants had gotten the best of him. He was "miserably in the 280 category again."

Doctors Foreyt and Goodrick probably would have predicted that Fred was headed for a weight rebound. In fact, they likely would say it was practically inevitable. (Fred has not given up and is busy designing a more sustainable weight control plan.)

Why was Fred setting himself up for at least a temporary setback? Why was it almost ordained that he would go back to his old eating habits and regain some of the lost weight? Foreyt and Goodrick feel that losing weight by dieting is like holding your breath. It's a problem, they say, of mind versus body. No matter what your mind commands, your body eventually takes over and you grasp for air. Likewise, say the authors of Living Without Dieting, "our bodies are designed to rebel against dieting, whether our minds want to succeed or not." We eventually scarf down a large number of calories to make up for a prolonged period of calorie deprivation.

The culprit is restrained or restrictive eating. Foreyt and Goodrick define a restrictive diet as "one in which eating is consciously limited to less than is desired." If you get hungry on a diet it is restrictive. Restrictive dieting almost always leads to a binge, which often continues for weeks or months.

This explains why dieters often end up weighing more than they did to begin with, according to the Tufts University Diet & Nutrition Letter (November 1996). Citing research by Janet Polivy, Ph.D., of the University of Toronto, Tufts says college students on strict diets tend to behave like "truly starved people," who have been observed to continue eating voraciously long after resuming their normal weight.

This makes perfect sense when you consider that fast-food restaurants and abundant food supplies are relatively new to humankind. Our bodies evolved in a time when food was scarce and often unavailable. Drs. Foreyt and Goodrick (and others) believe we are instinctively programmed to crave high-energy foods and to eat - and keep eating - when food is available. This helped us survive in the wilderness, but works against people like Fred in modern times. Dr. William Bennett of Harvard University called this the "Dieter's Dilemma."

What's The Answer?

The dieter's dilemma can be managed, however. The answer is to avoid restrictive diets. I have maintained a very low body fat level for more than two decades, and I can honestly say that I did it without ever being hungry or feeling deprived. It can be done. Indeed, it is probably the only way to lose fat and keep it off.

In Living Without Dieting, Foreyt and Goodrick explain how to eat all you want without eating too much. The secret, they say, is to eat all you want, but change how much you want. I agree.

Here's how, in brief.

First, become a low fat, high carbohydrate eater. Research has shown that a high fat-to- carbohydrate ratio leads one to consume more calories than needed. Eat all you want and it's likely to be too much. On the other hand, if you eat a diet high in carbohydrates (preferably complex and minimally processed) and low in fat, your appetite control mechanism will keep you from consuming too many calories. "If you enjoy eating, then low-fat eating is for you," says Ken Goodrick. Because you can eat more without eating too much.

Second, reduce cravings. One way to do that is never miss a meal. Eat three meals a day and two or three between-meal snacks. I routinely eat six times a day. (Ask my wife.) That stabilizes the blood sugar and keeps you from getting excessively hungry and losing control. Again, you have no desire to overeat.

Finally, as I said in Ripped 2, it's a good idea to splurge occasionally. If you crave a pizza or an ice cream sundae, don't deny yourself. That way you won't feel deprived, and you'll be happy to go back to your regular eating pattern the next day.

Those are just the basics, of course, For more details read Living Without Dieting. (If you can't get it in your local bookstore, it's available from Amazon.com or through Gurze Books, 1-800-756-7533). You'll also find information about the theory and practice of losing fat without hunger or feeling deprived (including specific recipes and tips on coping with calories) in my books described elsewhere on this site..

Don't fall victim to the dieter's dilemma. Lose slowly and never leave the table feeling hungry or deprived. That's the solution, Fred..


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