Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Yo-yo Diet Syndrome

Being an owner of a swimwear store and website, I can't tell you how many times women storm out of the fitting room bemoaning how fat they perceive themselves to be. They state they will return in two weeks after they get rid of the ten pounds that stands between them and looking great in a swimsuit. And so begins the classic struggle that is played out a million times during any given day in America. The yo-yo diet syndrome that you can never beat. You can succeed at it ten times and lose at it eleven. It is a sad state of affairs that we are the fattest country on earth and it gets worse with each passing year. Not only adults, but the majority of children are also overweight due to inactivity and poor nutrition. The saddest part of it is that it contributes to failing health and quality of life in addition to the lost self-esteem from a negative body image.

We are set up to fail, time and time again, by ruthless marketing of fast food and poor nutritional choices by an industry answering only to their shareholders. There was the point in time when I too ranted about this relentless campaign to make Americans fatter and fatter. But the fault lies not with the companies trying to entice you, it rest solely of the shoulders of each and every person who strives to live health and maintain an optimum weight. We choose to be uneducated and illiterate about even the basics of nutrition and food choices, relying on a commercial to tell us what is healthy and what to put on the table tonight. I know many educated doctors and professionals who do not have a clue as to reading the nutritional ingredients on a package, much less understand the importance of the message. Nutrition has basic principles and they are the same for all of us. With rare, rare exception, the principles are universal no matter what country and what age or sex you are. There is a wealth of information available on the internet with the push of a button, yet we rather pour over gossip sheets and let TV do the work.

No article can even begin to address all of this critical information, but here is one that is right at the top of the list. The American-led concept of low/non-fat foods and sugar-free products. Some simple research will demonstrate that if trace back to the time these products were first introduced, that was the starting point of Americans getting more and more obese. The food industry will tell you that their dangerous additives such as aspartame are there to help people fight obesity. Maybe ask them the question as to why their additive started the problem. Study and study show that dieting adults who regularly use diet foods that are low/non-fat or sugar free consume 25% MORE calories per day than the person who consumes only the natural version. Impossible you may say, how can this be?

Very simple process at work here, the mind, through the barrage of advertising claiming their virtue, views foods with these labels as being so devoid of sugar or fat that you automatically consume more simply because of the label. When fat-free donuts were introduced, many people considered that an invitation to consume the entire box since that nasty fat was gone. Calories are calories and when in excess, they are converted to fat, especially with sugary carbs, like in the donut. Another point here, if a product has its fat removed, then the only way they can get it to the point where you tolerate the taste is to add sugar. Same from the other side, take out sugar, put in fat. They realize you must have taste or it will be so bland, the market won't bear it. A quick look at the caloric content will show not much difference in calories between the non-fat and regular. Sly manufacturers even adjust the serving size down a bit so it appears you are taking in less.

Here is the major point of this example. The sweetening additives, along with the depleted version of the product, fail to timely inform your brain that you are full. A strange concept but a healthy working body tells you when you have had enough, you are full, and it is time to stop. With the diet versions and additives, that signal appears only after you have consumed way too much. Hence, the 25% increase in calories between the two users. Of course, the food industry loves this. You pay much more for the diet version and eat more of it than the person eating the regular item. The normal fat, in say, a product like ice cream, serves the purpose of telling your body when it is full and enough is enough. At that point, you must make a conscious decision to overeat. With diet versions, you never get that valuable message until the damage is done. This is just one example of how you need to get smart about nutrition and take responsibility in getting a lifetime diet strategy that gets you the optimum weight you desire.

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