by Louise Perry
Thursday, 29
December 2022
Debate
08:00

The latest advice from diet experts: don’t diet

The official approach is now to avoid 'restriction' and focus on 'self-esteem'
by Louise Perry
Cheer up. Credit: Getty

The British Dietetic Association (BDA) doesn’t want you to start your post-Christmas shred next week. In a statement released on Tuesday, the association condemned aggressive weight loss diets (or “fad diets”) on psychological grounds, since the promotion of such diets might lead people to “believe that they are not good enough as they are, and that they have to conform to perceived society ‘ideals’.” A healthier approach would, according to one BDA dietician: 

… work on people’s self-esteem in order to make positive changes to dietary intake, focusing on what we should be eating and doing more of, like increasing fluid and fibre, rather than focussing on restriction.
- British Dietetic Association

This is no doubt true for various fashionable diets – Beyonce’s infamous cayenne pepper diet, for instance – which promise rapid weight loss with a side order of malnutrition and mental illness. The BDA is right to point out that such diets very rarely lead to long-term weight loss. 


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But is it really true, as the BDA claims, that “restriction” ought not to be the goal? It’s no secret that the population is growing fatter every year, with a particularly concerning rise in childhood obesity post-pandemic. The BDA’s insistence on “balance and moderation” is a gesture towards so-called ‘intuitive eating’, the anti-diet diet that encourages people to abandon rigid eating restrictions and instead respond to hunger cues sensibly — with the goal, ultimately, of settling at a healthy weight. 

The problem is that our modern environment is perfectly designed to hijack our intuition when it comes to food. Several people I know who adopted the intuitive eating approach just ended up getting larger, and social media is full of posts with titles like “Intuitive Eating Made Me Fat!” 

This should hardly be surprising, given that twenty-first-century Westerners are exposed to a hyper-abundance of cheap and delicious calories, whereas our instinctive responses to food evolved in an environment of scarcity. Present our stone-age brains with a tub of ice cream and our stone-age intuition will obviously respond with a “yes!” 

If they can be persuaded to be honest about it, almost everyone who remains consistently lean in the modern world imposes some kind of rigid restriction on themselves. For instance: never eating sugar, regularly skipping meals, or counting calories every day for years on end (personally, my secret is a moderately dysfunctional exercise addiction). 

And the celebrities who are in great shape suffer terribly for their bodies. Jack Dorsey only eats one meal a day, Kim Kardashian wakes up at 4am to work out, and Madonna forgoes wheat, eggs, meats, and dairy, surviving on a diet composed largely of seaweed. 

Most people don’t have the self-control necessary to maintain that kind of lifestyle — not because of a moral failing on their part, but because self-control is strongly influenced by genetics. For people whose intuition is poorly suited to our hyper-abundant environment, the only proven, long-term effective tool to manage obesity is neither ‘fad diets’ nor intuitive eating: it’s bariatric surgery, a medical intervention that responds to a highly novel food environment with a highly novel form of appetite restriction. 

Surgically shrinking the capacity of the stomach isn’t balanced, moderate, or natural, and it is definitely orientated towards “restriction” — but then, in the modern world, what is the alternative? 

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Phil Thompson
Phil Thompson
1 month ago

They wheel this fluff out each year. Usually they target specific diets as bad. I wonder how they deal with veg*ns, as one of the BDA’s rules for spotting something that is a fad is does it “ask you to severely limit whole food groups?” and the elimination of meat, and/or dairy, is the most obvious example of demonising a whole food group.

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 month ago
Reply to  Phil Thompson

I have always only eaten one meal a day, maybe some snacks, but not that often, and I did hard work all my life. I also do an aggressive work out at the gym.

I do not see why this is not done by most – being fit is good, you feel better, your joints and body do not hurt, even after a lifetime of injuries – a proper workout on many machines to cover all muscle groups and will really fix most joint damage by the muscles taking up the slack – you would be amazed. I have had so many injuries in my life that if I stopped being fit I would be crippled. You also wake up feeling good, have a great heart, lungs and circulatory system – even your blood chemistry is great..

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

Jonas, you are a man. Not a menopausal woman who has given birth three times. Also, you may just have “lucky genetics” — some do. I mention above that my mom was morbidly obese. I have 2 brothers. One is very slim naturally and never has had to restrict food at all. There is me (middle kid), who is average. Then there is my other brother, who is morbidly obese. We were all raised identically on the same exact food.
Does “hard work” mean you have a very physical job? lumberjack? fire fighter? what if someone has no choice but to do sedentary office work to make a living — 9 hours or more a day, 90 minute commute a day? Also, you can’t seriously think that “everyone can afford a gym” or a personal trainer or equipment like a Peloton!
Lastly: what is your age? 60 or 35? makes a huge difference as well. Some men do very well until they too hit late middle age, and find that the SAME diet/exercise that kept them fit… no longer works as well. OR they get injured and can’t work out as much, and then the pounds pile up.
It is worth noting that men are statistically just as likely to be fat as women… yet 90% of the criticisms of obesity are aimed at women (by men!). In the category of “super morbidly obese” (over 400 lbs), men totally dominate.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago
Reply to  Lola Montez

There’s a simple reason most criticism of obesity is aimed at women – it comes from other women.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

Jonas – I have fasted and tried one meal a day regimes and the answer is that it is very hard and I really want to eat. I also have been in good physical shape exercising regularly while still gaining weight.

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago
Reply to  Phil Thompson

I’m a Boomer over age 60. This has been going around since I was a child old enough to read my mom’s “ladies magazines” — the constant diet advice. My mom was morbidly obese her whole life, even as a young child and on 1000 diets. I inherited her old 1930s era diet books — except for the retro illustrations, they contain IDENTICAL advice to today’s advice — eat less. Diet. No sweets. Exercise more! (Did not work in 1937. Does not work today.)
Veganism can be a diet tactic — orthorexia, worthy of a whole book and group discussion right there! — but it is ALSO a secular religion. Vegans often want moral purity as well as a very thin body.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 month ago

Eat less. Exercise more.
It’s not rocket science.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 month ago

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. In theory it should be a simple energy-in/energy-out equation, but for reasons, not clearly understood, some people hang on to their energy-in, even to the detriment of reducing the amount of energy available for use, whilst others burn through their energy even doing very little exercise. I’d say that it’s lucky for the latter group, but in the event of a global food shortage maybe the former will be the lucky group.

Flemming Nielsen
Flemming Nielsen
1 month ago

Food type gut biome genetics

Vici C
Vici C
1 month ago

Agree. I said as much but my comment found its way to the basement. It really isn’t as simple as an eat/burn equation.

Albireo Double
Albireo Double
1 month ago

Quite. But it is important to do both. Do more and Eat less. The saddest thing I see is fat people in the gym sweating while lifting vast weights in the delusion that this will make them lose weight – It won’t – they’ll just injure themselves, have a coronary, or put themselves off exercise.

The next saddest thing is the fatster who does their gym and then waddles down to the café for a doughnut as a reward. No kidding – I see them doing it!

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

Sigh. So you follow people around, glaring at them while they “eat donuts”? how many times have you done this?
It’s like the people who claim to see “fatsters” in the supermarket, piling junk food into their carts. GET A LIFE! do you seriously follow around other people in the supermarket?
The very fact you call another human being “a fatster” and have no compassion for them — even while they are clearly trying VERY HARD to lose weight through exercise — shows your utter lack of compassion.
No, exercise BY ITSELF rarely results in any weight loss. The purpose of formal exercise is to gain cardio fitness, strength, flexibility, etc. Which are all wonderful things I strongly endorse. But it won’t result in the kind of very thin body that most dieters/exercisers are seeking.

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago

Sigh. Says a man… who never had a problem. Is likely on the young side, given the thumbnail. Did not go through female puberty, need to take hormonal birth control, pregnancy or childbirth OR peri/menopause…probably just as lucky genetics. (Yes, some people truly are just naturally thin and eat whatever they want. Kinda like being born on third base and thinking you hit a home run!)
Do you also tell poor people that their only problem is “they need to EARN MORE MONEY but spend less of it”?
So here is the simple answer why your suggestion doesn’t work for most people: if you eat less and exercise more… your METABOLISM will eventually “reset” and make you burn fewer calories no matter what you do. (See: The Biggest Loser study, based on the old TV reality show and the long term results of the participants.)

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 month ago

I was reading an article elsewhere that suggested that improvements through practicing were inherently limited because you solidify both the good and the bad habits you already possess.
The recommendation was that you should (by whatever means) gain a new perspective about your situation. Unfortunately many people (including me) have ‘practiced’ their diet into an unhealthy one and have no insight to fuel a new perspective.
One ‘diet’ that is working very slowly for me is Time Reduced Eating – I only eat between noon and early evening. I wonder if this upsets the unconscious ‘eat regular meals’ perspective? It may work for you, it may not.

Jane Tomlinson
Jane Tomlinson
1 month ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Personally I would happily return to the 1970s where choices were limited when the overflow of fast food and empty calories waiting to attack body and wallet had not then been invented. When people would sit down to eat a properly cooked, nutritious meal. We have become lazily, indulgently obese. And as we say we are too busy to cook from scratch we are filling ourselves up with stuff that does not feed body or brain. So we keep eating more and more fast, cheap ‘food’. And we just get fatter and stupider. Which seems to appeal to a large section of society that has no aim, and is happy that way.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
1 month ago
Reply to  Jane Tomlinson

All very true. Though I don’t mind people being fat and happy; if only they would pay the NHS costs of the damage they do to their health. (It is of course quite possible by dying younger they actually costs the NHS less overall, so even more reason not to nag them.)

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

The part you have in brackets is quite right. It is unfair to target fat people on the basis of their healthcare costs in this way. In fact, everyone who doesn’t die quickly (of accidents, heart attacks etc) usually costs the NHS a lot of money in the last year of their lives, no matter whether that “last year” is in their 50s or their 90s and irrespective of the reasons for their poor health at the time.

Last edited 1 month ago by John Riordan
Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

What Mr. Riordan says here is correct. The biggest lifetime medical bills people incur is in the last two years of life — usually late 70s or 80s! — not fat people.
Coming from a family with many morbidly obese people… I can tell you that fat people avoid the doctor like the plague. They don’t want to be weighed, measured, lectured, nagged, etc. They won’t go to the hospital unless they are hemorrhaging.
It is the person who lives into their 90s that costs the medical system the most money — why? because they typically have complex long-term medical problems by then and because they have a very high risk of dementia.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 month ago
Reply to  Jane Tomlinson

The 70s? I ate three bags of MacDonalds French fries every after school from 1972 to 1976. Lunch in the cafeteria was a Drakes coffee cake accompanied by a couple of those chocolate/vanilla ice cream cups with the little wooden spoons. Breakfast was a huge bowl of Cap’n Crunch and orange juice. I honestly don’t remember eating anything my mother cooked. I was (and remain, although my eating habits are vastly better now) a petite size 4. Almost no one in my high school was fat, let alone obese. Perhaps it was because we walked or rode our bikes everywhere, didn’t loll around in front of a screen, and smoked like chimneys, I dunno. . .

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago

Sounds like you are roughly my age. Yes, teenagers are growing and their bodies burn a ton of calories — meaning at least SOME OF THEM do not have to restrict food at all.
Today, I have two teenage grandkids. They eat worse junk than you did. Bags of candy, bags of Doritos. Fast food. Greasy pizza covered in sausage and pepperoni. Big bowls of ice cream. Cookies for breakfast. Yet they are both as thin as rails. The granddaughter is size 0 and weighs 95 lbs at 5’5″ tall.
Though it might be that nobody at YOUR high school was fat… I did know a few fat kids even back in Junior High (today’s middle school). But the majority were not obese AS TEENS. A look at this group at our 30th reunions would tell a different story.
Definitely having an active lifestyle helps. Kids used to walk and bike more. When I have asked parents why they don’t let their kids do this… I get MAJOR stink-eye and they tell me how “dangerous it is” and how their precious children might be “kidnapped” if allowed to (say) bicycle to the playground alone.
Meanwhile TV with 350 channels, streaming everything, amazing video games and internet and smartphones… have replaced outdoor play for tens of millions of children. (But that doesn’t explain obesity in people over age 45, does it?)
Also, yes — people used to smoke. I had friends who were smoking cigarettes daily back in 9th grade.

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago
Reply to  Jane Tomlinson

Were you around in the 1970s? there was McD, Burger King, KFC then. Supermarkets full of chips and soda pop. I can’t think of any food we eat in 2022 that they did not have in 1970.
What WAS different back then? first off, most adults smoked cigarettes (77%). Smoking is awful, but it provably reduces appetite while it increases metabolism.
Also, though women were starting to go into the work force in large numbers… most adult women were still homemakers at that point. Meaning, their families had the benefit of regular home cooked food and regular mealtimes.
(On the other hand… I had a wonderful stay-at-home mom who cooked everything from scratch and we almost NEVER ate out… yet she was morbidly obese her whole life. So were nearly all my older relatives and they all grew up on a FARM in Eastern Europe, before WWI. No fast food, no soda, no TV. And all of them were morbidly obese long before 1950.)
My overarching point? you can get very very fat on home cooked food. You can get fat on nearly any type of food, if you have the wrong (unlucky) set of genetics and a sedentary lifestyle.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 month ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Go low carb – count nothing thereafter and once you are in the groove, you don’t have to think about it. I am very slim.

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago

Lesley and Richard: low carb has been studied extensively for many decades. I am old enough to remember the “Atkins Diet Revolution” of about 1970 or so — the man who invented it, died overweight.
Lesley, you are slim because of genetics and possibly food restriction, but NOT because of “low carbs”. The NIH (USA) did a very comprehensive look at ALL popular diets — low carb, low calorie, paleo, intermittent fasting, Weight Watchers, DASH, LEARN etc. — and found that OVER TIME… none of them worked. You say you are very slim; were you EVER overweight? I mean, by more than 5-10 lbs? if you were never overweight… why exactly are you dieting and restricting carbs?
Richard: 30 days is a nanosecond in the lifespan of a diet plan. Almost anything would work SHORT TERM. The problem for fat people is LONG TERM. There is nothing more heartbreaking than dieting… losing some weight… getting nice new clothes & lots of compliments… then a few months later, you have regained every ounce, plus an additional 5-10 lbs as punishment for even trying. 30 DAYS of discipline is frankly very little discipline.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross
1 month ago
Reply to  AC Harper

At the risk of sounding like one of those intrusive copy/paste ads that sometimes show up in all comment sections, I’ve just finished a 30-day experiment with your TRE (over here it’s “Intermittent Fasting”) and, ditto. But the best part, for me, was showing my brain that I *could* maintain the discipline. Habits are muscles.

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago
Reply to  AC Harper

There is nothing new about any type of restricted eating (a better term than “dieting”). LOTS of studies on this — basically, studies all find that doesn’t matter when you eat. It is the total amount of food consumed that matters. Morning, noon, night — one meal — six small meals — breakfast or no breakfast — does not matter.
Here I mean “work for a majority of people”. If you are relatively normal weight in the first place, and seek to control your weight (or lose a few lbs, like 10-15 lbs off an otherwise normal body)… and this appeals to you… then go for it. It won’t harm you, but it is not some “miracle diet”.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago

Surprised so little in the article and in the comments on how modern life has reduced the need for physical exertion for so many of us. We are the primate that no longer needs to leave the Cave to eat…well almost.
Given the plethora of tips from everyone else, here’s mine – don’t diet, not sustainable. Just eat a balanced diet. Cut down on the booze a bit, and find ways to move more. Walk, Cycle, get a dog.

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

j Watson: that is very sensible advice for normal weight individuals with no major problems.
But would this work for a 300 lb person who needs to lose more than 50% of their body weight? walk, cycle, get a dog? what if you already do those things and are STILL 300 lbs?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago

I gave up alcohol 20 years ago and lost 4 stone in under 4 months.. and my weight has not changed since then- my advice came from my jockey friends, who in summer get weighed up to 32 times a day.

a 3 day ” shock” reduction leads to not feeling hungry on day 4, and then its once a day only, which can be adjusted to once + snack.

The key is to get the hunger ” signals” between brain and stomach to stop, and believe me they do, and very quickly!

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago

Jockeys — mostly still all men and self-selected to be men who are fairly short and have very slim natural bodies — are THE top group of men who have eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia.
They don’t just get “shock reduction” — they lead LIFETIMES of food restriction, starvation, extreme dieting. abuse of diet pills, purging (vomiting up what you eat), etc.
Their methods to control weight are near-identical to those used (abused) by fashion models, gymnasts, ballerinas and other dancers, etc.
It is not some “miracle way to turn off hunger”. It is a clear, unambiguous eating disorder.

Graeme Arnott
Graeme Arnott
1 month ago

I started cutting back on cake to cut back on my sugar intake. Weight started to drop off, and I stopped feeling so hungry. I cut out other foodstuffs with sugar (soup, baked beans, bread, falafel – it’s everywhere once you start looking. A sugar tax would put nearly every foodstuff up in price), and I lost more weight. I now eat smaller portions, I eat less often, and I think it’s because the sugar is no longer sending my brain the signals that I’m hungry. It all happened in a matter of months.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
1 month ago

The Left is determined to kill us all one way or another. If they can’t get us in the womb, they’ll encourage dangerous and irresponsible chaos in youth, dissipation and self-involvement in adulthood, and euthanasia in our golden years. Why. Do. They. Hate. Us.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago
Reply to  Daniel Lee

Hang on you left out Remainers. Surely they must share the blame? And those who supported the Vaccine. Big time into their diet fads I bet. Oh and the metropolitan elite – they must be the biggest villains here, eating their tofu whilst corralling the rest of us into Nando’s.

Charlie Corn
Charlie Corn
1 month ago

I’m currently undergoing treatment for Binge Eating Disorder. Again, the advice is very clear: don’t diet. Ever. And the evidence is that most people who develop BED do so as a result of our primitive brains’ reactions to restrictive dieting and ultra processed food. Add in Instagram-led body image pressures which leads to purging and it’s no surprise BED and bulimia are so prevalent.

Lizzie
Lizzie
1 month ago
Reply to  Charlie Corn

I dieted all my life and was always well overweight until I read a book that changed me, aged 45.
Ginene Roth. I stopped dieting and started eating mindfully. I am still 3 stone lighter and hap hap happy

Albireo Double
Albireo Double
1 month ago

I’m a recovering addict who hasn’t used alcohol or recreational drugs in over 30 years. Don’t miss them, don’t want them, not at all bothered by others using them around me. It was tough at first, but really not for long.

The same is true of eating. Food is designed to be a bit “hooky and addictive”, especially the sugar based foods. It’s how they sell it. But no one forces us to buy it, or throw it down our throats. That’s our choice. So, if you want to stay in shape, exercise and eat moderately. And then keep on doing that. That’s all it takes.

As mentioned down thread, habits are muscles. Exercise them regularly and it quickly becomes easy. Moderation is just another habit.

Last edited 1 month ago by Albireo Double
Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

Albireo, if it was “easy”… almost nobody would be fat. But in the US… obesity is now affecting fully 66% of the adult population. (Britain is not that far behind.)
FOOD is necessary for life. Alcohol and recreational drugs are NOT. It is hard to quit booze and drugs, but nothing compared to the difficulty of restricting food FOR A LIFETIME — since you have to eat every single day and be around food and people who also eat food.
You can get away from the drinkers and druggers. You cannot get away from “every person who consumes food”.
Food is not “designed” to be hooky or anything else. Humans naturally like foods that are sweet or salty. Even our caveman ancestors went after honey and sweet fruits. (Also: there is no one food that makes people “fat”. You can get fat on anything, even vegetarian food.)
STAYING in shape is far easier than someone who is ALREADY FAT needing to lose weight. Exercise and moderate eating will not help a 300 lb person lost over half their body weight.
ALL the evidence is that it is VERY VERY HARD — not easy. My morbidly obese mom (back in the 40s-70s) lost over 100 lbs… three times. Then gained it all back and more.

Graeme Arnott
Graeme Arnott
1 month ago
Reply to  Lola Montez

Donoughts, sweets, ice-cream, and cakes aren’t necessary for life. They might be suitable for comfort or socialising or a treat, but they’re not necessary.

Vivek Bhatia
Vivek Bhatia
1 month ago

I read the BDA’s full statement. It’s not clear whether they don’t want you to diet, or they want you to diet but not use the word.
Still, the statement does sound like it’s full of caring and wisdom, which was probably its only goal.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago

I successfully dropped over 5stone a few years back and have kept it off, and it’s very simply down to eating less and moving more. In my case, eating a lot less (intermittent fasting 4 days a week plus calorie counting the rest of the time) and moving a lot more (over 20,000 steps a day during the week between running, walking and the all-important resistance training in the gym).

Now contrary to what many people are saying these days, this strategy does work, but the problem most fat people face is that they don’t accept on an emotional level the costs of reducing their calorie intake. I succeeded by committing up front to the awkward truth that I was simply not going to enjoy food any longer the way I was used to, and that this would require a permanent reserve of internal effort to maintain. I don’t blame anyone for facing this harsh reality and deciding that they’d rather just be fat (except of course on the rare occasions when they’d like that particular choice to be seen as equally valid to those who decide to make the effort).

Anyway, what I do say is that weight loss is a good example of the crucial difference between simple and easy. It is simple – you eat less and you move more – but that absolutely does not mean it’s easy. It is not at all easy, in fact I’d say that it is harder than giving up smoking, because giving up smoking does not involve still having to trigger a craving for nicotime three times a day for the rest of your life but then suppress the temptation. Giving up overeating does do the equivalent of that, and it is therefore no wonder that so few people succeed at it.

Last edited 1 month ago by John Riordan
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 month ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Everyone is different. I’ve known health “freaks” who have died in their 40’s and 50’s of heart attacks or cancer. I’ve known slobs that eat terribly, drink like sailors and smoke like chimneys and live well into their 80’s. These articles are normal fare at Year’s end. My grandfather lived to 99 3/4 years old and his motto was “everything in moderation.”

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

“Everything in moderation” is the same as “eat less move more”. It’s technically correct advice which happens to be of no use to anyone who doesn’t already possess that behaviour as an ingrained habit.

And while you’re right that there are health nuts dying in midlife and obese smokers making it past 80, these are notable principally for their rarity. The general rule is that the less you live healthily, the shorter your life will be, as the numbers make abundantly clear.

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Mr. Riordan: you clearly have developed a lifestyle — constant dieting and food restriction, plus constant workouts — that is working FOR YOU and that is fine. Don’t assume it will work identically for every other person. (And it may work for you for a while, even for years and then abruptly STOP WORKING as you age or have health issues.)
I think it is worth looking at seniors — healthy, long-lived seniors — to see if they are mostly people who diet intensively like you do, and engage in constant workouts and training. I think you will find this is not the case at all.
Obviously smoking is terrible for you (but correlated with LOW body weight!). Nobody is saying “smoke cigarettes” here.
But in studies of people over age 85… most of those folks have lived very moderate lifestyles… don’t smoke or drink to excess… and are somewhat overweight. Not hugely obese, just slightly plump. Seriously. Look it up.
Also: do you really want to live past 85? I’ve clocked a lot of time in nursing homes, Assisted Living, etc. due to having many senior relatives. Living past 90 usually means senility and dementia, and living out the last 5 years of your life in nursing care, tied to a wheelchair and wearing an adult diaper.

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Mr. Riordan, this worked for YOU. Anecdotes are not the plural of data. Also, we have no idea how old you are or other relevant facts about your diet. A healthy young man is not the same as a menopausal woman who has given birth three times.
You can lose weight SHORT TERM on almost any sort of restrictive eating plan — even eating nothing but candy bars could work (for a while). Anorexia and bulimia also “work” but at the extreme detriment of your overall health.
Resistance training is wonderful, but has nothing to do with losing weight. It sounds like you lost 5 stone (about 70 lbs, for us Americans) due to standard types of food restriction and for only the last couple of years. Will this work FOREVER for you? what if you are injured and can’t go to the gym daily? what if your metabolism changes as you age?
Deciding to “not enjoy food any longer” is extremely difficult to maintain FOR A LIFETIME.
I’m happy for you if this works, and if you are content to be hungry for the rest of your life. The problem is… this doesn’t work for most other people. There is nothing new or remarkable about food restriction.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago
Reply to  Lola Montez

I am not sure whether you are arguing with me or agreeing with me, since what you’re saying in no way falsifies what I’m saying.

My diet is over 10 years old at this point and I’m a middle-aged man. I am well past the years of youth when losing weight is comparatively easy. (I also ballooned a little in my early 20s and decided to deal with it: it took weeks to shift about the same 5stone that later took months in middle age).

The only thing I will claim as a general principle here is the part where I’ve said that I accepted at the start that I could no longer enjoy food as I once did (ie every day in forms and amounts that act as mood-gratification as much as nutrition). I maintain that anyone who succeeds at this part of it will lose weight and keep it off. You’re right this this is difficult – it’s one of the things I’m reasonably proud of having achieved.

But when you remark that this won’t work for everyone, this is only true in the sense that it is too difficult for many people to keep up. That is not the same as saying it’s a formula that won’t actually work.

Last edited 1 month ago by John Riordan
Stephen Magee
Stephen Magee
1 month ago

Although I’m a Brexiteer, I often thought that a compelling Remain argument would be that Brexit would send UK obesity levels through the roof – once all those slim Eastern Europeans went back home. 😉

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen Magee

Strange, because ALL my ancestors on both sides of the family were from Eastern Europe… and they were ALL obese. In fact, morbidly obese and this despite living in a very rural area… on a farm… hard work from sunup to sundown… no fast food, no soda, no TV (none of these had been invented back then). All home cooked food, presumably organic. And every one of them weighed over 300 lbs, with one aunt who topped the scale at 425 lbs.
If any Eastern Europeans are today slimmer than Brits or Americans… it is likely due to poverty and not to some ideal lifestyle or incredible willpower.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 month ago

Just go low carb and within that, eat what you want when you want. You will lose weight, stay slim and reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Wish I’d known about it in my youth.

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago

Unfortunately for your theory… the American National Institutes of Health studied low carb in all its forms and found it is no more effective than any other types of food restrictive dieting (Weight Watchers, paleo, time restricted eating, low calorie, fat-free, etc.). There is no magic way to “eat what you want when you want”.
Low carb typically means no bread or starches. Hardly anyone is restricting eating (say) broccoli, though broccoli IS A CARB. All vegetables are carbs. All fruits are carbs.
Your brain, your body… literally run on carbs. They run on GLUCOSE. Your digestive system takes whatever you eat — even if it is all meat — and turns it into glucose, which is a carbohydrate.
Likely you were not very overweight to begin with and are still pretty young. Diets than work for mildly overweight, young people do not work for older folks, after menopause or for those who are seriously obese.
BTW: I know thin diabetics (yes, Type 2!). I also know thin people who had heart attacks and thin people who had cancer.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 month ago

I’m one of those people born with the ‘slim’ gene. Growing up in the 60s & 70s, food wasn’t overabundant but nutritious so i also got off to a great start in terms of calorie intake. Several decades on, my BMI is slap-bang in the middle of healthy normal, around 22.5 and hasn’t varied since my teens. I also drink lots of calorie-rich ‘real ale’ and wine, but only very rarely to the point of inebriation. I don’t do hangovers. When the women brought in boxes of cakes (for birthdays, etc.) where i worked during the latter part of my career, they’d feel guilty about having one. I’d hoover up two or three that were left.
I do however, have what might be termed two ‘secrets’, except they’re not.
First, when i walk, i really move. Not ‘speed walking’ as such but rather faster than a stroll. I love setting a target of someone ambling away in front of me and overtaking them. It just comes from a natural competitive instinct! I don’t slow down on hills. Other than that, just stretching exercises once a week to keep my joints healthy. The main thing is – i enjoy doing them.
Second, i’ll eat my evening meal by say 8pm, and maybe snack on a few nuts before bedtime but then eat nothing for a minimum of 12 hours, often much longer. I only have a light brunch. I don’t feel particularly hungry at that point.
I fully appreciate that due to a variety of reasons, many if not most people can’t do this. But for those who can, not doing so – i.e. not taking minimal care of their body and fitness, is anathema to me. It’s all we’ve got to see us through life.

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Steve, you are doing basically… nothing. You are eating what you like and then walking a bit and you admit to eating cakes and other treats all the time.
You are just LUCKY. Some people have genetics that let them maintain their weight with zero effort. They can eat what they like and exercise little or not at all.
Also: depending on your age… 22.5 BMI is quite slim. It is not “average”. If it was the middle, then a BMI of 17 would be fine when in fact it means you are severely underweight.
I know people like you and all I can say is “life is not fair”. It’s also nice to be born into wealth, or have great physical beauty despite zero effort.
So yes… some people are lucky. And other people are massively UNLUCKY, with bodies that gain weight easily and are very resistant to dieting or exercise.
I would advise you, sir, not to get snotty over your good luck here. Depending on your age and health… you may find in middle age that what worked for you once, does not work anymore. The change can be abrupt and very disheartening if you’ve led a lifetime of drinking ale and cocktails, eating lots of cakes and treats, and thinking you had a “free pass”.

Romi Elnagar
Romi Elnagar
1 month ago

You have to experiment: what works to keep someone else’s weight down may not work for you.
Right now, I’m taking a (self-administered) shot every week of something called “mounjaro” that the doctor prescribed for glucose. It is used off-label for weight loss and the FDA is considering approving it for that later this year. So far, I don’t know if I have lost much weight (my scales recently died), but I am hopeful.
I tried dieting for a year, restricting myself to 1200 calories a day, and lost nearly 25 pounds, but it since has all come back. I walk two miles nearly every day, but that doesn’t seem to have any effect. So, for me, the fat is impervious to anything I do. Maybe there is a “miracle drug” out there in the wings, but I haven’t found it yet, and I DON’T want to have any kind of surgery.

Last edited 1 month ago by Romi Elnagar
John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago
Reply to  Romi Elnagar

Your two mile walk will be burning about 200 calories max (even less if you’re taking your time) so it’s a rounding error, an effort you can erase by eating a fat slice of toast with butter.

The reason you should keep doing it (and more if you can) is that exercise is good for you anyway irrespective of whether it assists weight loss. Exercise in fact has got itself a bad name for being a bad way to lose weight, which is unfortunate because it is good for you on almost every other level: fitness, mental health, strength, immune resistance, mood, cardiovascular health, resistance to injury, etc.

One expert has been quoted as saying that if the benefits of exercise could be sold in pill form even without any effect it has upon weight loss, it would instantly become the best selling drug on the market.

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Exercise is wonderful. I agree wholeheartedly. It is just not a way to lose excess weight. (It may help you relatively slim if you are already slim to begin with.)
The New York Times did a huge article some years back (you can google it) about studies on exercise as a weight loss tool and it pretty much was proven that EXERCISE ALONE has little effect on body weight. In fact, because it builds muscle… it may result in some weight GAIN (though it is healthy muscle weight).
Nonetheless, I think walking two miles a day is wonderful and Romi will reap plenty of other benefits from that.

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago
Reply to  Romi Elnagar

Romi, I hope this works for you and is safe. I can’t speak for the UK, as an American… but here in the US, such drugs are costly and not covered by insurance unless you actually HAVE diabetes. It is also “off-label” meaning not approved by our FDA.
Dieting or restricted eating is very hard and has a very poor track record of working for MOST people. Something like 97% of all dieters (using food restriction vs. surgery or drugs) end up regaining all they weight they lose on diets, PLUS an extra 5 lbs as punishment for even trying.
There is no miracle drug. There is no miracle surgery (gastric bypass is risky, costly and has lifetime implications and doesn’t work 100% of the time). There is no miracle diet. There is no miracle lifestyle change.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross
1 month ago

You had me until- “because self-control is strongly influenced by genetics“. Well, what isn’t? But surely the author falls into the same trap as the body-positive obese – “it’s not MY fault”.

Vici C
Vici C
1 month ago

The amount of bacteria in your gut has a lot to do with your weight. A mother with poor microbiome doesn’t pass on the healthy bacteria and the harm starts there. Until the menopause I could eat what I wanted and was always thin. I was quite active I suppose. Now I find it hard.

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago
Reply to  Vici C

That and I have even WORSE news for you and others here.
As we age — roughly every decade — regardless of weight, lifestyle, exercise — our metabolism slows by about 10%.
That means, even if you eat the same — restrict food — give up sweets or junk food — exercise daily — you will gain weight over time.
To even attempt to avoid this, you would have to regularly reduce caloric intake EVERY DECADE … even though you would almost certainly get hungrier and hungrier doing this.
Menopause abruptly slows metabolism for most women. I’ve heard that “thin until menopause” story about a million times from other women! along with the misery over losing their trim waistlines. (Even if you diet like a fiend, menopause will do a number on your body shape since the desirable “violin shape” — small waist — is driven by estrogen.)

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 month ago

I have no scientifically based insight into this subject but simply a personal anecdote. I have always been able to maintain a slim weight eating not only a similar diet to my wife of cooked from basic ingredients dishes but in my case supplemented by more grazing during the day than my wife. In contrast, despite eating slightly less than me she has tended to put on weight except for the period she went regularly to Slimmers World sessions. We are of similar height but she is naturally stockier than I. I have never given any consideration to dieting whereas she has has had to follow the Slimmers World regime to return to a “healthy” weight. Clear some people do require some regime to follow whereas others can maintain a healthy weight without giving any thought to their diet.

Phil Thompson
Phil Thompson
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I realise gender is a minefield but the fairer sex do have an energy requirement about 500 kcal/day lower than men typically. Energy demand is roughly proportional to lean body (muscle) mass. So we used to have a “Ladies steak” on menus. Now we feed men and women the same portion, and the women get fatter. It’s just science 😉

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 month ago
Reply to  Phil Thompson

Yes, my daughter and her generation make it a point of principle at the pub to ask for a pint rather than a half

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 month ago
Reply to  Phil Thompson

I do agree with you here. I hate wasting food, but the portions served in restaurants are too big for most women (there are, of course, some women who do use large amounts of energy). Fortunately, I have a husband who, I believe, is incubating a pet tape-worm, as he seems to be able to eat anything and still struggle keeping weight on – excess food goes his way.

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago

It is a rare person who can eat most of their meals at restaurants (especially during/after the pandemic!). And who eats everything on their plate at a restaurant? If you observe, you will see most people take home half their meal in a “doggie bag”.
Your husband is likely just “lucky”, plus men have more muscle mass and much less natural body fat (proportionately) and that’s why they find short term food restriction more effective. They also are not dealing with female hormones, a menstrual cycle, birth control, pregnancy or childbirth.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 month ago
Reply to  Phil Thompson

Yes, but the equalities mantra says otherwise. A woman should be entitled to eat and drink as much as a man of equivalent size and not get fat and if she does it is fatophobic to suggest that it might be a good idea to eat less and particularly less sugary food and exercise more.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago
Reply to  Phil Thompson

I have also noticed that the safe limits for drinking, which used to be 21 units for men and 14 for women, have been changed to 14 for both. This is obviously silly and one suspects motivated by some sort of equality politics somewhere, but clearly has departed from reason.

The most sensible thing of course would have been to issue a guideline based upon dosage per unit of body mass, but then again I suppose that might have created a defective incentive for people to get fatter.

Last edited 1 month ago by John Riordan
Justin S
Justin S
1 month ago

Eat a bit less – Move a bit more. It is not that hard.

In the UK we are fabulous at letting ourselves off. Of going easy on ourselves and in effect self-indulging our laziness and gluttony.

If someone is obese – it’s because they eat too much and don’t do enough exercise to burn what they do eat.

What do we hear from the people who are supposed to lead on these simple health truisms? Mewl, Mewl, ‘You are OK as you are’.

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago
Reply to  Justin S

Thank goodness it is SO EASY! I mean, why are we even discussing this subject, when it is easy to lose weight! eat a bit less!
I suppose you tell poor people the world over to just “work more and earn more money!”
After all, we know that poor people are just lazy, right?

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 month ago

“Surgically shrinking the capacity of the stomach isn’t balanced, moderate, or natural, and it is definitely orientated towards “restriction” — but then, in the modern world, what is the alternative?”
Yes its a real head-scratcher, isn’t it?

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

The author here is not talking very honesty or realistically about gastric bypass surgery — first off, it is a last ditch attempt to reduce weight for people with not just obesity but co-morbid conditions like diabetes.
Second, it is very costly and I imagine the British NHS rations it and not every fat person can just “get the surgery”. You typically have to be more than 100 lbs over your normal weigh to even qualify for gastric bypass
Third, this is SURGERY! it has risks. I know of people who died on the operating table or after gastric bypass due to infections.
Fourth, it changes your body permanently and can’t be undone. That means you can never eat normally again. It means loss of vitamins and mineral absorption leading to stuff like hair loss, dry skin, etc. It can lead to alcoholism (because you now absorb alcohol VERY quickly in tiny amounts).
Fifth… though much more effective than any food-restrictive dieting… gastric bypass does not always work. I personally know several people who had it done, and afterwards regained all the weight they lost.

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
1 month ago

My theory is that television is the main cause of obesity. It’s a double whammy. Sitting around getting no exercise and eating loads of crisps, chocolate and cakes etc. Switch off the TV and get people off their backsides.

Gerald Arcuri
Gerald Arcuri
1 month ago

We live in an age of therapeutic advice, not science. Since when does a Dietetic Association dispense advice on “self-esteem” as the cure for being overweight? Sheesh. What nonsense.

We consume too many calories because they are cheap and convenient. We reap the consequences. We stop eating so much, things improve. As things improve we feel better about ourselves. In that order.

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago
Reply to  Gerald Arcuri

I think it is relevant, since most overweight/obese people are wretchedly miserable and have high rates of depression and self-harm.
There are many reasons someone may overeat. Just saying “stop eating” is not very helpful or realistic.

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
1 month ago

We appear to get larger as we age. It’s part of life’s rich pattern. Last christmas I got covid & lost a stone, it was a great result and I’ve managed to keep most of it off all year.

Alison Wren
Alison Wren
1 month ago

There have been times in my life when I put on 2-4 stones really quickly. Turns out I was growing a new human being inside my body!! Women’s metabolism is very different from men’s so the issues (and the shaming) around weight make it particularly difficult for women who usually have to organise food for a household. Going out for a run or to the gym can’t happen unless childcare is available, fast food is SO much easier after a day at work and liberates a bit of time for the bedtime story!

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago

First off… you don’t really KNOW how Jack Dorsey or Kim Kardashian or Madonna REALLY eat. You know what their PUBLICIST has told some interviewer! they want kudos for discipline and focus. For all you know… they are vomiting up everything they eat. Or taking Ozempic (a diabetes drug abused for weight loss).
The real overarching point is that… really, nothing works LONG TERM. You think your excessive exercise plan is what is keeping you relatively slim? NOPE! it is your lucky genetics. (And what happens if you have an injury sometime? or just get older, and the same exercise isn’t keeping you as slim?)
I might add, the idea that the cause is that modern food is excessively “good tasting” … is fundamentally ridiculous. Food has always been delicious, it just used to be in (relatively) short supply and much more costly.
And that’s just ONE of dozens of factors. (A huge factor: before 1975, 77% of American adults SMOKED. Smoking provably lowers appetite and increases metabolism. Women used it as a diet aid for many years. Now only 18% smoke; a huge public health victory against cancer and heart disease. But as a result, we are much fatter.)

David Pogge
David Pogge
1 month ago

“self-control is strongly influenced by genetics”? What isn’t? This is a pointless observation, not a meaningful argument. Diets don’t cause problems with self-esteem, problems with self-esteem lead people to diet.
We are naturally inclined to eat too much of the things we enjoy eating and to physically exert ourselves as little as possible. Gluttony and sloth are essential features of human nature and throughout most of human history both were prudent. The demands of life used to make do hard physical work; the scarcity of food made us endure hunger; our standards of beauty were more realistic and shaped by the realities of hard work and scarcity; our concern about physical beauty was less intense because other issues were more important; and the ability to make foods of all kinds relentlessly appealing (i.e., competitive food marketing) was either less well developed or nonexistent. That was then. Now, if you want to remain thin you have to force yourself to eat less that you would like and move around more than you might wish. This is hard. There is no way around it.
Fad diets, surgeries, and other easy fixes do not work, but telling people that it is OK to be fat is a lie both with regard to their health and their appearance. Here we have one of the many situations in which reality is unpleasant and many people will fall short of the ideal. Trying to deceive ourselves with the fancy language offered to us by the verbally facile “deep thinkers” cannot mitigate these facts.
The best diet plan is: Eat food, most plants, not too much.

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago
Reply to  David Pogge

Isn’t that at the heart of this debate? you can’t do much to change your natural body, especially with time (and for women, menopause). Diets provably do not work LONG TERM; they may work for a few people over the short run.
Yes, life used to be MISERABLE. Who wants to go back to that? David, surely you do not want to live in Subsaharan Africa, nearly starving to death in a famine just to be “thin” — or do you?
Before the modern day (say, the last 75 years)… it was common for people to die of malnutrition or starvation. It was common for 75% of children to die in infancy or childhood. Most people experienced hunger and most people were very poor.
That is not a world I want to live in nor emulate. If you could talk to your ancient caveman ancestors, and tell them you lived in a world of abundance, plenty of food, good medical care… but you were miserable because you were FAT!… that ancestor would be puzzled or laugh at you. If the tradeoff for living in a modern world of antibiotics and vaccines, education and labor saving devices, freedom from hunger is… some people are too heavyset… is that a good trade off or a bad trade off?
Also: that is a DUMB saying from DUMB book by Michael Pollan (who is not a scientist nor doctor nor researcher).. eat mostly plants? for some people, that leads to MORE obesity. (Sugar is a plant.) and “don’t eat too much”? might as well say that “poor people just need to work harder and earn more money”.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
30 days ago

The quote at the beginning of the article is really just saying that “a diet” isn’t the way to eat properly and maintain a healthy weigh, which is demoralizing psychologically as well as being immediatly ineffective.
Instead the key it is a long term healthy approach to food, which tends to result in very slow, but permanent, weight loss. Which is what has been recognized for years. Most people who do diets gain weight in the long term.
It’s not as new as the author here seems to think.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
1 month ago

A difficult topic; each person’s metabolism is so different, in ways that our science doesn’t understand yet.
Having said that, here’s my two cents. A years long kinda/sorta vegetarian diet (85 or 90% of my meals had no meat), for ease and convenience, not conviction, kept me in trim at just the age when so many people started gaining weight.
By not conviction, I mean that I wasn’t trying to save the animals or my arteries; there was no over-riding theory, no goals and no fuss. If someone put a hamburger in front of me I had no problem saying thanks and digging in. I think the reasonableness of the whole thing set me up to be a person who doesn’t jones about food.

Lola Montez
Lola Montez
1 month ago

OR you are just lucky and were born with a speedy metabolism and not much natural desire for food… and are a relatively young MALE, meaning no hormonal issues, no periods, no pregnancies and no menopause.

Mark Cook
Mark Cook
28 days ago
Reply to  Lola Montez

Lola , look up Dr Tim Spector and Dr Sarah Berry …..