Living the WELL Life

The "Me" Diet - by Frances Abrams

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I hate weight loss diets.  I really dislike what they do to me mentally and emotionally.  I've been on many diets and I have never enjoyed the experience.  They make me feel deprived, depressed, and fatigued.   When I'm dieting, I'm always thinking about food (especially the food I can't have) and my next meal.  It doesn’t feel good to be controlled by food like this.  When I stop obsessing about food, I stop overeating.

Eating in our culture has been driven by diets for decades.  Women are made to feel that, if they don't have the bodies of Halle Berry or Jennifer Lopez, they need to cover up.  Shorts and swimsuits are just not an option for those of us who don't follow a lean and mean diet plan.  Dieting in our society means losing weight.  It's as simple as that.  We live at a time when quick weight loss plans and cosmetic surgeries (like liposuction) are common practices.  We go on diets so that we can slim down and fit into clothes that are displayed in fashion magazines on pencil thin models.  There have been lots of times in my life when I dieted to lose weight, but the times when I felt happiest and most at peace with my body were when I was listening to my body’s cues for food and eating healthy organic foods. 

The roots of modern day dieting can be traced to two 19th century men: Rev. Sylvester Graham, a New Jersey preacher, and William Banting, a London undertaker.  In 1829, Rev. Graham invented graham bread later marketed as Graham’s “crackers.”  They were made from whole flour and contained no additives.  Graham promoted a strict vegetarian diet, which also eliminated liquor.  As a proponent of Victorian values, he also offered his diet plan of bland food as a means to control sexual urges!

William Banting created his diet because he needed to lose weight.  In 1863, he wrote a pamphlet entitled “Letter on Corpulence,” considered to be the first low carbohydrate diet, where he described how to eat to lose weight.  He advocated four meals a day, which consisted of protein, greens, fruits, and dry wine.  He suggested eliminating starch and sugar, but included milk, butter, and meat. 

In the early 20th century, a California doctor and newspaper columnist, Lulu Hunt Peters, introduced the concept of calories.  Her diet was specifically aimed at married women and included a formula for women to determine their "ideal weight." Controlling weight, to Peters, was simply a matter of self-control.  Peters herself, however, weighed over 200 pounds!

Over the years there have been so many fallacies and fabrications around losing weight.  Not too long ago the benefits of eating celery, cabbage, lettuce and cucumbers were extolled, not for their healthy components, but because chewing them would burn more calories than you could absorb.  It seemed to make sense at the time although it was too good to be true.

Diets remain compulsively popular in the United States. The Jenny Craig diet’s popularity might be the result of the endorsement of stars like Valerie Bertinelli and Queen Latifah.  Alternatively, there is the popular “Maker’s Diet” where following  God’s dietary laws, including fasting, supplements, cleansing agents and adhering to some Kosher eating practices leads to weight lost. There is the ever-popular Atkins diet which never seems to go out of style and is similar to the Scarsdale diet from the 1970’s.  I have friends who promote the South Beach diet, which is considered one of the strictest diets on the market.  It has been criticized for being too restrictive and causing dehydration.  There are so many weight loss diet plans on the market that someone could try a new diet every week.  But why would you want to do that to yourself?

Going on and off the latest diet fad creates yo-yo dieting -- a term coined by Kelly D. Brownell, an American scientist, professor, and expert on obesity and weight control at Yale University. The problem is not with losing weight but with the rapidity of the weight loss and then the quick regaining of the weight.  Medical experts agree that it is healthier not to be overweight, but losing weight too quickly can create other problems.  I was surprised to read that there is evidence that yo-yo dieting lowers the levels of good cholesterol and, in fact, may increase high blood pressure. 

We need to be strong in the face of the marketing of the newest diet regimens.  We know that diets don't work.  If they did, we wouldn't be the fattest nation on the planet.  Many experts have made the comparison between fueling our bodies and fueling the gas tanks of our cars.  If your car has plenty of gas, then you won’t stop to fill it up--if your body is still full from a meal, then you won't think about eating again until it needs refueling.  It makes sense.

There are a lot of medical and health reasons for losing weight.  If we eat healthy, organic, and whole foods and listen to what our bodies are telling us, then we can all be healthy and achieve the ideal weight for our body.


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