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Diet Mania in Overweight America

Why is it that every species on earth, from worms to giraffes, has mastered the primal task of feeding itself properly...except for humans, the ones with the biggest brains? Why are we the fattest nation around, with the greatest abundance of diets and diet food? While we sit around discussing diets du jour, drinking diet sodas and eating artificially flavored diet foods, we have continued to gain weight as a nation.

Perhaps we can take a lesson from the dumber species; I doubt they fret about body image. Cows don't ruminate about the size of their thighs; they're much smarter than us! Humans have been brainwashed by the mass media, food, and diet industries to believe we don't even know how to feed ourselves properly. We are led to believe that we need their program to pull us out of the funk created by the last program, and that our natural body size is unattractive.

Yet, our government blames the victims of faulty diets and consumers of supervised abundance, created by overly subsidized mega farms that glut our markets with food surplus. Legislation to abolish lawsuits for obesity is based on the concept of "personal responsibility" which does not acknowledge seduction and manipulation by marketing and advertising. The public would be better served by enforcing legislation to police deceptive claims instead of humiliating dieters who already feel like a failures after gaining back lost weight. The threat of personal lawsuits keeps a check on menaces from which our government fails to protect us.

I asked the contact person on the Atkins website if they could point me to some long-term studies of people who did the diet and kept the weight off for years. They wrote back to say, "Thank you for your email. No, not at this time. No diet plan has any long term research." This is horrifying! Many versions of contemporary diets have been around for decades and thrive on the relapse rate. Let's face it, if these diets worked, we'd all be thin, healthy, and gorgeous by now!

The abundance of ineffective diets saturating the market and saturating our arteries creates serial failure, which inevitably leads to compensatory bingeing, thereby fueling billion dollar industries. In addition to sloppy eaters, we have yo-yo dieters, seasonal dieters, and people who have given up on this exercise in futility.

Could the combination of partially hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup be an even greater contributor to health problems than poor diet and inactivity? Why not ban them? These additives that have tainted nearly all of our prepared foods and drinks, and it is unfair to blame the victim, who is not responsible for stuffing these pollutants into our food supply. It is practically impossible to find products without these ingredients in supermarkets, and it is difficult finding grain products that are whole grain, and not "enriched."

Perhaps we should redefine obesity; not as measured by scales, BMI or calipers, but by lifestyle as measured by reasonable caloric intake, predominance of natural foods, and moderate exercise. Thus, a 168-pound woman who averages 1600 calories per day and formally exercises twice a week while taking stairs and walking when practical would be considered normal.

Your alarmist headline, "Obesity on track as no. 1 killer" beckons the response of "Now I really must get serious about losing weight!" But how???? "That means eating healthy foods in healthy portion sizes and finding ways to incorporate exercise into their everyday lives." Are there any Americans alive who don't know this is what they should be doing? Telling them again through scary headlines and cute commercials is unlikely to change behavior. Let's try something new. First, let's program preferred foods into reasonable weekly caloric limits. It would be great if some of these foods were replaced by the new generation of delicious all natural chips, cookies, puddings, chocolate covered soy nuts, organic whole grain toaster waffles and natural ice cream, which are much better than cardboard-flavored ancestors. These products would be considered to be real food and constitute meals, to be counted towards the weekly caloric total. People never go "off their diets" to have what they want. Who says you can't have a waffle with ice cream for breakfast, sesame blue chips with salsa and soup for lunch, a snack of chocolate covered nuts and a decent dinner?

This strategy offers inherent satisfaction while eliminating transfats and high fructose corn syrup. Weekly caloric totals offer structure with freedom. This represents the creation of personalized food plans, which are certainly plans for life.

Abby Aronowitz, Ph.D. Author of Your Final Diet