2 January 2011,

Happy New Year!
I was asked to give some advice for making diet plans stick during the holidays (http://www.chatelaine.com/en/article/22723–six-strategies-to-avoid-weight-gain-now-and-in-the-new-year), and I have decided against repeating that here.
Instead of giving you more advice, I am going to give you a list of The Most Ridiculous Diet Advice I have heard over the year(s). Sometimes laughter is indeed the best medicine, and these ‘successful’ diets are no exception.

Top 5 Most Ridiculous Diet Tips I Have Ever Heard

1. Donˊt Eat That Mars Bar – Journal Your Feelings Instead
Well. If it were that simple, I suppose we might have a paper producing crisis – not an obesity related one. The reality is that when bad moods hit (for a plethora of reasons) we want to escape them – not relish in them. Chocolate achieves this pretty instantaneously, now doesnˊt it??

…But the pleasure is short lived, and bad moods have a nasty habit of hanging around longer than we might have hoped.

It is only after the bad mood dissipates are we tempted to engage in reflection – doesnˊt that sound about right? Itˊs never the other way around. Itˊs unlikely to go the other way around for quite along time – journalling is a massively complicated behaviour, and it requires a lot of positive motivation. Positive Motivation is the same kind of thing that spurs Going for a Run. So, just like I refrain from clamouring the benefits of going for a run when the cravings hit for chocolate (which is hatefully sanctimonious, even I will admit that), Iˊm dubious about the efficacy of this kind of advice.

Writing is one of the most complex and focused activities in which we can engage. Suggesting that because you are on a diet youˊll simply be able to substitute your cravings with a new itchy-fingered pursuit of written expression is ridiculous.

2. Five Mini Meals a Day!
Grazing is one of the ˊdangerous habitsˊ bariatric post-op patients can engage in. How encouraging people to eat more when they are trying to consume fewer calories is advice that has always stunned me.

I understand the logic (that waiting until youˊre hungry will provoke bingeing) but my experience has always shown me that extending the opportunities for eating typically increases caloric intake, and not the other way around. You cannot eat yourself thin, unfortunately (please see my previous comments about the futility of starving yourself in my original blog posts, particularly if this statement makes you wary about the promotion of anorectic behaviour).

3. Donˊt Deprive Yourself – Have a Piece of Dark Chocolate
My absolute favourite. I love seeing pilates-perfected celebrities moan about their ˊtrouble zonesˊ and clamour about the benefits of that one square of dark chocolate they savour every day.

OK, letˊs test drive this kind of guidance with other addictive behaviours:
Alcohol Addiction: Donˊt deprive yourself. Letˊs cheers to sobriety– with single malt scotch!
Drug Addiction: Easy does it. Letˊs substitute heroin for the more pedestrian methamphetamines.
Shopping Addiction: Louis Vuitton for you! Donˊt think about High Street clothing brands. You want to really make your shopping moments count.
Gambling Addiction: Stay far away from Lotto 649 tickets. Instead, letˊs make sure to maximize the pleasure in your gambling experience. Weˊll be sure to include some Roulette Tables, and maybe add a few Loan Sharks to really make it special.

I hope you are laughing – I know those are extreme examples. The reality, is that the ˊDonˊt Deprive Yourself Adviceˊ totally undermines the difficulty that reforming your eating behaviour is going to prove to be. You will feel deprived. It will last for the most of an hour or two. I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

4. Nothing Tastes As Good As Thin Feels
Mm. The advice of both Oprah Winfrey and Kate Moss, the two archetypal mascots of Healthy Body Image Maintenance. Better yet, itˊs perpetuated by almost every single B-rate celebrity and reinforced with their so-called comeback on US Weekly. Whatˊs not to love?
That itˊs dishonest, untrue, and a mantra for almost every sufferer of disordered eating is a starter. Eating feels really good. Attracting partners because of a certain body type (typically with a waist to hip ration of 0.7 for females) is also true. The end.

We oscillate between these two desires which can make choosing something to eat really difficult – I apologize to my male readers, I cannot think of a better analogy, and I will expand on this topic in upcoming posts.

The problem with the previous message is that it insidiously suggests that Not Eating Feels Really Good. It doesnˊt. Not Eating is going to cause just as many problems as Eating Too Much. So cut it out.

5. Extreme Diets (The B-12 and/or Urine Diet (Horse or Pregnant Womenˊs Urine, or vitamin B-12 shots)
Iˊm not joking. I have had a series of close friends confess to following this plan (or ˊfriends of friends who are thinking about it… what do you thinkˊ totally absolutely hypothetical situations reported). Um. What do I think? Well. First off, these diets are all accompanied by strict compliance with 500-700 kcal diets. In some cases, non compliance is met with being kicked off the plan (a lot of places publish their efficacy stats, they donˊt react well to rebellious types who start to actually give in to hunger pangs).

OK, letˊs think about this. Letˊs say we substitute Weight Loss (ie. Health Promotion) with something equally elusive. Letˊs substitute ˊWeight Lossˊ with Femininity. Get Feminine by Drinking Horse Pee.

No really. CAN YOU IMAGINE?!
Can you conceive of the outcry???

Yet for some reason, we get Medical Doctors signing their names to these kinds of ‘successful diets’ in the name of ˊhealth promotionˊ who are not questioned.

Take my word for it: drinking urine (albeit in capsule format, at least, I hope so…) and vitamin shots are smoke and mirrors to enhance your motivation and enhance cognitive compliance. That is all.

So, there we have it! I have tried to invoke a bit of skepticism into the weight loss claims you’ll inevitably read in the grocery check out queue in the next few weeks. Keep me in touch if the urge to believe in any of the smoke and mirrors strikes.

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