A New Kind of Diet
Why Diets Fail
Many people tell me, Harley, I've done every diet you can think of! Take my word for it--in the long run, none of them work. Well, obviously they didn't work, or you wouldn't be reading this book. Or maybe they worked for a week or two before your weight boomeranged back to its usual (depressing) number on the scale, but the end result is the same: You think you're doing everything right, and you still can't lose the weight. And after a while, you become discouraged--and why wouldn't you?
Why does nothing you've tried work? You've attempted so many diets that you can no longer open your refrigerator door without feeling a massive headache clamp down. There is SO much competing information out there, and so many contradictory recommendations, that it's no wonder we no longer have any idea what we're supposed to eat or how we're supposed to move. Eat low carb. Eat no carbs. Eat ALL carbs. . . . Who could possibly make sense of all these competing prescriptions?
Did you know that more than half of Americans, an astonishing 52 percent, think it's easier to do their own income taxes than to figure out how to eat healthier? That's right, filing with the IRS has suddenly become preferable to knowing what you should have for lunch.1
Let me tell you: It's time to stop. Enough is enough! We are listening to the wrong people telling us to do the wrong things. Who are these authorities, anyway? A lot of the TV trainers we're letting guide our fitness decisions are straight out of central casting (and I mean literally straight out of central casting) meaning they have zero credentials in the field of nutrition and have never trained anyone in their lives before their first television appearance.
I had the privilege of hosting a talk-show called The Revolution
, which was one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career. The amazing women I met helped me rethink my whole weight-loss philosophy. Even with 10 years of education and 20 years in my practice, I needed to change my way of thinking. That's a lot more than I can say about most of the high- profile "experts" who are dictating the health decisions too many people are making.
It's my training, and the wide range of people whose bodies and minds I've helped transform over the past 20 years, from Halle Berry and Jessica Simpson to single-mom schoolteachers, that has led me to understand exactly how serious the crisis we're facing is. Let me tell you, I know exactly what you're going through, whether you need to lose a ton of weight, or those last stubborn 5 £ds, and you have no idea where to begin. That's what I'm here for. Stick with me for the next 15 days and you will see amazing, dramatic results--in your energy level, in your health, and most noticeably in your weight.
To get there, first we have to wipe the slate clean. Press reset. Start over. Rethink everything you've ever been told about how to lose weight. People are looking to crazier diet solutions than ever, and where is it getting them? Right back where they started from--maybe even a few £ds heavier. So before you embark on your next crazy scheme, let me explain why you keep failing, and why you can see far more dramatic results from a much simpler and more sensible approach.
Trust me, I realize what I'm up against because I know exactly how much crazy stuff is out there. I admit that some of the better-known, more mainstream programs--with point systems and so forth--can be effective, but in many cases they take too long for the kind of results people want (and deserve), and some are also prohibitively expensive.
So people turn to the more extreme quick fixes, everything from eating like a caveman to inserting feeding tubes in their arms and living off nothing but liquids in IV form for weeks on end. I mean--are you serious? Losing weight does not have to resemble an all-out death wish.
The caveman lived on nuts and meats alone, but he also stayed active all day long and--oh, yeah--he generally died by age 18! In all other ways, our lives are hardly Paleolithic: We pop countless pills in the hopes of losing a few £ds here and there. Weight-loss pills are a $2.4 billion industry in the United States, despite a recent study determining that no evidence exists that any single product will result in significant weight loss.2 Even sketchier is that some bodybuilding and weight-loss pills have been shown to cause liver damage, among other serious health issues.3
Weight-loss pills are often unregulated and can be quite dangerous. From 1999 to 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received 32 reports of serious liver damage in people taking orlistat, the active ingredient in Alli weight-loss pills; 27 patients were hospitalized and six cases resulted in liver failure. The FDA says it's not completely clear if orlistat caused the liver damage and is not telling people taking Xenical or Alli to stop using the weight-loss pills. But the agency warns them to be careful to use the medicine as directed.4 It's clear that using weight- loss pills can cause serious damage and just aren't worth the risk to your health.
What about attempting to cleanse your body of all those toxins that must surely be the sole reason for your bloat? Detox cleanses have gotten huge in recent years, propelled by promises of quick results and endorsed by top celebrities. But the days upon days of near-fasting recommended by these programs can have some seriously nasty side effects, including vitamin deficiencies, muscle breakdown, blood sugar problems, loose stool, and overall weakening of the body's immune system and ability to fight infection and inflammation. Excessive cleansing can also lead to the expulsion of "good bacteria," which are essential for keeping the intestines healthy and the whole immune system functioning properly.
When you're coping with all these issues--and I haven't even mentioned the headaches, irritability, fatigue, aches and pains, and dehydration--how are you supposed to carry on with the rest of your life, much less get the exercise you need to be healthy? And how can you possibly stay on any such extreme plan for more than a few agonizing days?
The answer is: You can't, and that's why you're reading this book. These quick fixes might help you squeeze back into your favorite jeans by Friday night, but they are wreaking major havoc on your health, and the results DO NOT LAST, for a whole multitude of reasons.
Here's where the yo-yo-ing comes in. You lose 15 pounds by surviving (barely) on grapefruits for a month, but then within hours of putting real food in your poor depleted body again, your weight immediately balloons up 20 £ds above your original starting point. How else is your poor confused metabolism supposed to react?
So let's give up all this crazy stuff. None of it works. It's just crazy.
They Require Too Much Time, Effort, or Money
Many diets, including some of the healthier, moderation-based plans, fail because they ask too much of the participants' time. Whether it's attending meetings during lunch hour, writing down and adding up every single bite of food consumed over the course of the day, or spending an hour of prep time per recipe five times a day, many of these diets make unreasonable demands on our already-crammed schedules. I just opened up a hot new diet cookbook and the first recipe I saw was for an omelet--with 12 ingredients! (P.S. I made it, and it was gross. Thanks for nothing, firefighter diet.) However noble their aims, these diets simply ask too much of us. Most of us are already juggling enough responsibilities as it is.
Learning how to eat efficiently and move effectively is not rocket science, but we've complicated everything so much that it's sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees. When you don't succeed on a diet, it's not because you're a fundamentally weak person; it's because you've set yourself up to fail with endless impossible restrictions and headache- inducing do-and-don't lists.
The other problem with diets tends to be price. They just cost too much. Getting ready-made meals delivered to your door might be convenient, but it sure isn't cheap. A recent study examined 10 of the most popular diets and found that their median cost was $85.79 per week, or roughly 58 percent more than the average $54.44 most Americans spend weekly on food. And some--like the Jenny Craig diet, which has an average cost of $137.65 per week--are even pricier still.5 One popular detox cleanse costs an eye-popping $195 for a 3-day supply of juice. That's almost $70 a day--a huge financial commitment for some seriously dubious rewards.
They Teach the Wrong Lessons About Food
Whether you're eating all juice, all cereal, or all red meat, eventually your palate will rebel against the monotony. It's perfectly natural for you to get sick of eating the exact same ingredient over and over again.
The more restrictive the diet, it seems, the more likely the weight loss is temporary. According to recent research published in American Psychologist, while people can lose 5 to 10 percent of their weight in the first few months of a diet, up to two-thirds of them regain even more weight than they lost within 4 or 5 years.6
Many diets ignore the fact that eating is one of the great pleasures in life by depriving dieters of a huge range of foods, and no one can possibly stay on such a limiting regimen for so long. It doesn't help that most foods on these programs don't taste good. When you're living off space-food- like prepackaged frozen entrees or raw kale salad all day, you're not going to look forward to your meals--and why would you? You eat this way because you want to lose weight, but after the first few days the very idea of another frozen chicken dish and/or bowl of steamed bok choy and watercress makes your stomach turn, and so you stray from your plan for one meal and then another, and before the week is up you're off the program altogether.
Other diets demand we hunt down hard-to-find, exotic ingredients--as if, if your local grocery store doesn't happen to carry organic free-range venison, quail eggs, or persimmons, your whole eating plan is doomed on Day 1.
They Confuse Some Basic Nutritional Facts
Some diet programs focus exclusively on the old "calories in, calories out" rule, the theory being that if you expend more calories than you take in, you will lose weight, period, end of story. But diets that focus exclusively on calories and not what those calories are made of are completely misguided. I cannot emphasize this point enough: Not all calories are created equal.
Fourteen hundred calories of white bread is NOT the equivalent of fourteen hundred calories of salmon. Different foods affect our bodies differently, regardless of caloric content. They make you look different and feel different, too.
A recent study found that following a low-fat diet can slow down your metabolism, which makes weight loss more difficult, whereas a high-protein diet can increase the body's fat-burning capabilities.7 Another found that low-fat diets are not the best route to lasting weight loss.8 So losing weight is not a simple matter of caloric arithmetic. You also have to consider WHAT you're eating, not just how much of it.
And far too often, diets deprive us not only of calories but of the foods we need to live at the top of our game. If, for example, you're on a juice fast, you're not getting ANY protein, healthy fats, or fiber--and your body needs all of these nutrients to function. Because you're depriving your body, you'll probably be hungry, miserable--and extremely vulnerable to falling off the wagon. We also don't take in enough liquids, and many of us live in a state of semidehydration, which our bodies far too often confuse for hunger, which causes us to eat more.
They Push Exercise Too Much
Never thought you'd hear that from a fitness professional, did you? But overexercising can be a real problem. First off, no amount of exercise can undo the effects of a bad diet. Do you know how many minutes you have to do on an elliptical trainer to offset the caloric burden of a single slice of cheesecake? Up to an hour and a half. And no studies have shown that exercise in and of itself definitively causes weight loss. As Gary Taubes put it in his well-argued book Why We Get Fat, "very little evidence exists to support the belief that the number of calories we expend"--i.e., how much we work out--"has any effect on how fat we are."9
I believe it's because our over-the-top workout habits end up supercharging our appetites, ultimately causing us to consume even more calories than we would have if we'd stayed home and skipped the gym. Taubes once again states the case plainly: "Increase the energy you expend and the evidence is very good that you will increase the calories you consume to compensate."10 Put in the simplest terms possible: The harder you work out, the hungrier you'll be, and the more you eat. But if you want to lose weight, increasing the number of calories you're taking in is counterproductive at best.
I started thinking about this seeming contradiction more and more in the summer of 2009, when Time published a cover story called "Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin."11 The gist was--hey, it's great that you go to the gym, but if you leave the gym famished and hit the all-you-can-eat buffet on your way home, you're still going to gain weight, simple as that.
But was it? Why have so many popular fitness programs failed to get this message? Turn on your TV and look at all the current exercise infomercials out there--ever tried working out with that drill sergeant shouting orders at you to do nearly impossible types of exercise at nearly impossible levels of intensity with no regard for possibility of injury? Many of these programs are way too difficult, way too intense, and there's just no method to the madness. I myself am in great shape and can't do most of these exercises! Why is there a program based on chinups when only a tiny percentage of the population can actually do these incredibly advanced exercises?
Copyright © 2014 by New York Times bestselling author Harley Pasternak, MSc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.