Why Diets Don’t Work
I bet you’ve heard of the freshman fifteen? You know, those fifteen pounds that you will statistically put on by the end of your freshman year in college. How about the freshman 50? Because that’s how many pounds I gained during my freshman year of college!
There were many things I was unprepared for upon departing for college, including:
- No curfew
- How difficult the exams would be in a class full of 700 students — I went to one of the largest public universities in the country — in order to weed out the weakest links.
- How to balance studying with partying.
- All-you-can-eat buffets in the dorm.
I was chubby through most of high school but was able to maintain a decent weight by playing on the soccer team. When I arrived at college, I was so overwhelmed with the challenging coursework that my physical health took a backseat. The dorm provided a hot buffet for each meal and I could eat as much as I wanted because it was included in the monthly dorm fee. And eat, I did. I ate three big meals a day (mostly junk), then studied late into the night. On the weekends, I would go to parties and ended up pledging a fraternity.
I barely noticed the first ten pounds that magically appeared around my waist. My clothes began to feel a little tighter, but it wasn’t too bad. The next ten pounds, however, were different. I started to look ridiculous in tight shirts, so I went out and bought bigger sizes. Another thirty pounds snuck up on me by the end of the year. I gained 50 pounds (four inches around the waist) in only 9 months! I barely recognized the person staring back at me in the mirror.
My blood pressure was high and my knees couldn’t handle a great deal of movement without getting sore. I returned to my hometown for the summer and begged my mom to sign me up for Weight Watchers. This was the early nineties and the options for dieting were pretty slim. My mom sat me down and told me the cold hard truth: you don’t need some fad diet, you need to exercise and eat better. For the next three months, I ate nothing but meatballs/spaghetti and tuna, and worked out every single day. By the end of the summer, I lost 52 pounds!
And so began my lifelong battle against the bulge. I would gain 15–20 pounds, then go against my mom’s teaching and try the latest fad diet (e.g., low-fat, Atkins, Protein Power, keto, etc.) along with some moderate exercise. The weight would come off and I would stabilize for a while, then the same cycle would occur: gain weight, try another diet with exercise, lose weight, get off the diet and stop going to the gym, gain weight, etc. It was a vicious cycle for years.
Then, something happened. My employer offered a free web-based weight loss program called Wondr Health. The program promised no more dieting along with eating the foods you love. Who doesn’t want that?
Dieting, by definition, is about denying yourself the foods you love (which are usually bad for you) and following a strict eating regimen in order to lose weight. Typically, you will lose the weight if you follow the diet. But then what? You get bored and start craving the foods you love!
Eventually, you give up the diet and go back to your favorite foods, then the same cycle begins again. If you have tried dieting in the past, you know exactly what I am talking about.
Wondr Health is different. It is an eating strategy where you can still eat the foods you love (pizza, burgers, chips, etc.), while still losing weight. How on earth can you this be possible? By paying attention to your hunger signals, timing your eating (at least for a while), and stopping when you’re full. That’s it in a nutshell. No more diets and vicious weight gain/loss cycles.
A typical day goes like this:
Wake up. Go about your day until your hunger signal hits (they teach you the different levels of hunger), get a meal, time your eating (10 minutes of eating, a 5 minute break, followed by 10 more minutes of eating). Focus on eating slowly, enjoying every bite, and listening to your stomach when it sends the full signal.
It has been four years since I implemented Wondr Health. I have lost 43 pounds (in the first 18 months) and have maintained a steady weight of 156–158 pounds. The program has changed my relationship with food and I can still enjoy my favorite dishes while maintaining a healthy weight. My blood pressure and cholesterol levels are normal and I’ve never felt better. I dropped the 5 minute break between eating periods and now I just time myself to make sure I stretch my meals into 20 minutes each. Like clockwork, the full signal hits at 20 minutes and I stop eating.
I don’t eat another meal until a hunger signal returns. Sometimes I skip a meal or we will go out to dinner with friends and I don’t eat anything. I just say that I ate a late lunch and am stuffed.
A funny thing happened along the way. I lost the constant cravings for my favorite foods (usually junk) and started picking healthier choices anyway. It was almost like reverse psychology. When I went on a diet and denied myself junk food, I wanted it even more. When I can eat junk food at every meal (while still following the Wondr Health strategy), my cravings go away and I don’t want it as much. Isn’t it funny how that works?
A diet won’t work forever, but an eating strategy will.