Researchers Find Weight Loss Regimens Mostly Ineffective

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New research concludes that most diet regiments don’t work and that physicians should focus more on patient’s overall health instead of just weight loss.

A new study by nutritionist Linda Bacon and dietician Lucy Aphramor shows that most diet regimens are not only ineffective in the long run, but actually cause people to gain weight. The two have published the results of their research in the Nutrition Journal , and suggest that rather than following gimmick diets, people who wish to lose weight should instead focus on improving overall health.

The researchers are part of the growing movement among dieticians advocating a paradigm shift known as Health at Every Size (HAES). It goes against the current trend where people in general jump on the next big diet craze hoping to lose a few pounds in the process. The unfortunate result, as many doctors have also noted, is that though a lot of people do lose weight on these diets, most wind up gaining back all the weight they’ve lost, and many add even more pounds after it’s all over, due to feelings of failure.

The Problem

Bacon and Aphramor in their study found that many of the common assumptions about weight are simply not true—that being overweight automatically means that someone is living an unhealthy existence for example.

They cite a study done by Nancy L. Keim and Marta D. Van Loan of the ARS Western Human Nutrition Research Center at Davis, California where seventy eight obese women, divided into two groups, were tested over a three-year time period. One group was advised to follow a traditional diet regimen, while the other was enrolled in self-esteem courses with a curriculum designed to demonstrate how the body’s natural systems work. At the end of the study it was found that both groups basically maintained their weight, though the non-dieter’s scored much better on blood pressure and cholesterol tests. Overweight doesn’t necessarily mean less healthy.

They also dispute the notion that most anyone could lose weight if they’d only stick to a diet regimen, citing Hirsch and Leibel’s research that showed otherwise. While it is of course true that anyone who starves themselves would lose weight, it’s not what most would call a healthier situation.

They also note that the current situation clearly does not work, at least not in most developing nations. With the United States leading the way, despite years of hearing how to lose weight, the problem only gets worse. According to the CDC , more Americans are overweight today than ever before, and to such an extent that it’s been deemed an epidemic.

The Solution

Bacon and Aphramor suggest that instead of relying on guilt or the destructive psychological games people sometimes play with themselves, they instead focus more on their overall health, rather than just how much they weigh. They also suggest that the medical community might do the same, especially for otherwise healthy patients.

The HAES movement is not confined to this study, nor is it sanctioned by any established medical community. Instead, as noted on the haescommunity website, it is a movement of the people themselves—men and women who have grown tired of being made to feel as if they are “bad” somehow for living their lives the way they do, if their weight falls outside the norms the medical profession adheres to despite mounting evidence, that one size just does not suit all.

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