Diet With An Attitude

An approach to weight control that delves into attitudes about weight, shape, appearance, and health. It requires a re-alignment of America's infatuation with food and painless dieting.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I Can't Afford To Go On A Diet

We are so eager to lose weight that we swallow the promises of every diet guru on the planet and eagerly plunk down our hard earned cash, praying that this time it will work.

What are the costs of the popular diets? The initial cost is to buy the "Bible" for the diet or join the program. Those initial fees range from $20 or $30 for a book to several hundred dollars for a personal program.

Then there's the food. Studies have shown that the average cost of a week's food purchases, per individual, is slightly above $50. To start the South Beach Diet, tack on an additional $25 per week. For the Zone and Weight Watchers Diets, add in about $40, for Atkins $50, for NutriSystems almost $60 and for Jenny Craig about $85.

Wait a minute, you say. I'm losing weight by cutting back on eating. Shouldn't that SAVE me money?

Looking at it logically, you would certainly think so. But we don't try to lose weight logically, we approach the whole process through our emotions. It is our emotions that lead us to buy things on impulse, to sign up for programs we know we'll never complete, and to join projects we'll never actively pursue.

Our emotional thinking is our weakness and it has nothing to do with intelligence or education or social level. We all get suckered into scams at some point in our lives and we all occasionally suffer from buyer's remorse -it's a part of the human experience.

The marketers and ad men know it well and spend their days devising tricks for which we all too often fall. How often have you eagerly dialed an 800 number during one of those brilliant infomercials only to receive something that doesn't work as it did on TV, is either shoddily made or just too complicated, and you stick it in the back of a cupboard where it gathers dust until you finally toss it?

When it comes to our weight, our emotions reign supreme. We so desperately want to be more attractive, more respected, more desirable. We will even subject ourselves to painful and sometimes dangerous surgery to bring our reality closer to our ideal. And we will rob our piggy banks, deplete our bank accounts, and run up our credit cards for anything that promises us a slender future.

Do we get what we pay for? Sometimes. There are a few successful disciples in every program. It is their pictures and stories that are prominently displayed in promotional literature. It is the old "before" and "after" trick that sucks us in. Our logic (and a tiny footnote) tells us that the featured results are not typical.

The wary left side of our brain wonders if a little airbrushing might have been employed. Then the right side explodes, filled with desire, well-meaning intentions, and an overwhelming urge to believe. And we fall for it again.

Notice that we never hear or see about the failures, the hundreds of thousands who start a diet with such high hopes yet live the rest of their lives overweight. All the diets have their failures but never bother to mention exactly what their percentages are. They may caution that their program must be followed exactly if it is to work, but let's be realistic: how many of us can follow an unswerving routine for the weeks, months, or years it is going to take to reach our ideal weight? We may be creatures of habit but life seldom fits into one unsquishable box for very long. We adapt the routine to meet our immediate needs and everything falls apart.

Sadder, wiser, guilt-ridden and self-critical, we vow to start again until, eventually, we give up. Is there a better way?

We can start by realizing that it really doesn't matter what diet we choose. The secret is to address our emotions, that infatuation with food that has, nationally, reached crisis proportions. We have to break off our affair with what we eat and restore food to its rightful place - something that keeps us alive and healthy, not our primary source of excitement and self-satisfaction.

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