My Thoughts on the Diet Industry

A couple of days ago, I read this fantastic open apology letter that a former weight loss counselor wrote to her former clients.  It appeared in the Huffington Post today, but also was originally posted on this blog.

I found that very interesting.  I have hated what I view as the “diet industry” forever.  Fad diets, diet pills, prepackaged meals, I’ve tried them all in all of them failed me.  Yet, I was always made to feel that my failure to make these diets work and keep the weight off was always my fault.  I did not exercise enough, walk enough, I ate too much, I ate the wrong combinations of things, if I only did this or that, etc.

I found it very interesting to hear from a former “weight loss counselor” about how some of these plans deliberately stack the deck against their clients to keep those clients coming back as they rebound from diet after diet.

“Wait a minute,” I thought to myself as I read this apology letter, “they sold a diet plan which they knew would not work or have a lasting effect, one which would most likely keep their clients coming back again and again?  How, exactly, is that healthy?”

Simply, it is not.  The diet business is just that.  A business.  There is no real lasting money in the cure.  It’s the repeat business that keeps the store open.

This is another reason why I think categorizing obesity as an illness is good.  Have people work with their doctors and trained dietitians to help them lose weight.  And force companies that want to pretend that they are offering solutions instead of a lifestyle of using their service, meet medical standards for a healthy weight loss and lifestyle plan.  Eat right.  Exercise.  Work with a doctor or nutrition specialist.

There is no real short cut to weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.  Yes, I guess you call the bariatric surgeries a short cut, but really, it is only a tool.  I am forced to eat smaller meals, but I work very closely with the nurses and nutritionists in my surgeon’s office to make sure those meals consist of nutrient rich food.  This is something I was not doing before.  I ate a lot and I ate a lot of junk.  Now I eat a little, and it’s primarily healthy food.

Here is an example of my before surgery diet:

Breakfast: (choice of one of the following)

  • Toasted bagel from Panerra with egg and bacon.
  • Breakfast burritos from local deli with egg, bacon, potato, onions, green peppers.
  • Croissant from deli with egg and bacon. (croissant fried on grill, of course).
  • 2 bowls of cereal with fruit.
  • Fried potatoes and eggs, bacon, or sausage, and toast or english muffin.

Lunch:  (choice of one of the following)

  • Chipotle burrito.
  • Chinese food, usually kung pao chicken with rice and an egg roll or pot stickers.
  • Sandwich and potato soup from Panerra.
  • Chicken drumsticks and rice and some kind of vegetable.
  • 1/2 rotisserie chicken and some bread and vegetables.

Dinner: (choice of one of the following)

  • 12-24 Chicken wings and fries.
  • Large Bag of Chips and some kind of dip.
  • 1/2 rotisserie chicken and bread.
  • Chicken Saag – entire order, rice, one somosa, garlic naan.
  • Chinese food, same as lunch.
  • Subway sandwich – footlong, cookies and chips.

Snacks: continuously throughout the day, chips or whatever.

Examples of meals post WLS:

Breakfast: (choice of one of the following)

  • 4-6oz nonfat plain greek yogurt & 1/2 cup of berries.
  • 4-6oz nonfat plain greek yogurt and peach or nectarine.
  • 1 scrambled egg with spinach and 1/2 banana.
  • 1 hard boiled egg with some kind of fruit.
  • 2 oz cheese and fruit.

Snack:

  • 4-6 oz nonfat plain greek yogurt & 1 scoop protein powder.

Lunch: (choice of one of the following)

  • 1/2 chicken breast, 1/2 avocado, 1/2 cup of fruit
  • 2-4oz cheese and fruit
  • Chicken Saag (2-3 cubes of chicken breast, 1/2 cup spinach), and fruit.
  • 1/2 cup tuna salad, fruit & vegetables

Snack: (choice of the following)

  • 4oz nonfat greek yogurt (plain)
  • 2oz nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, etc)
  • 2-3oz cheese

Dinner: (choice of the following)

  • 4 wings, celery and carrots (that is a rare, but special treat)
  • cracker pizzas (usually 4 or 5) (saltines, tomato sauce, cheese bake for a few minutes in toaster oven)
  • Chicken Saag (2-3 cubes of chicken breast, 1/2 cup spinach), and fruit.
  • 4oz Chicken breast and two vegetables of some kind.
  • 4oz salmon and two vegetables of some kind.
  • 4oz cheese and vegetables and fruit.

See the difference?  So, yes, I am eating considerably less than I was before.  I am following the Dr.’s plan very closely.  I may allow myself a treat of chicken wings or cracker pizza, but look at the difference between my before surgery meals and after.  I used to eat out a lot.  I still eat out sometimes, but I often end up coming home with a huge amount of leftovers that I eat over the next couple of days.

Conceivably, you can try to continue to eat all of the bad food and make yourself sick stretching out your stomach so that you can eat almost as much as you did before the surgery.  But why would you do that?

The WLS surgery does not solve all of your problems or change why you ate badly, binged, or ate out for nearly every meal in the fist place.  It’s a tool to jump-start you on the path to good health, and it’s not for everyone.  But all of the good you can achieve can be undone if you do not take steps to address why you became fat in the first place.  These are things the “diet industry” was never designed to address and therefore never will.

Whatever you decide to do to improve your health, lose weight, or whatever, you need to find the will within yourself to stick to the plan.  It’s hard.  I still struggle every day.  And people on the outside continually give me bad advice or tell me what I’m doing wrong, even when I know I am doing what the doctor told me to do.  Staying focused is tough.  But once you experience all that you can gain from improving your health, it becomes harder to turn back.

All I know is that while I may want to eat certain things, and sometimes I may find a way to fit a night out at a restaurant or a special treat into my diet, I do not ever allow that to throw me off my plan.  I’ve come too far and worked too hard.  I do not ever want to go back to being the fat girl who could not even walk to from the bus to the office again.  Ever.

So I kind of wandered away from my point here about the “diet industry,” so let me try to find my way back…

Anyone who tells you there is a short-term quick fix to losing weight and being healthy is selling you something.  One thing I have learned over the past year is that it is a lifetime of work.  The changes you make will have to be permanent.  I will never be able to go back to having the kinds of foods I ate before my surgery.

Bottom line, if you’re not willing to make the commitment to truly change your behavior, you will never permanently lose the weight.  All the fad diets and pre-packaged plans in the world will never replace a life-long, sustainable, sensible diet and exercise plan.  And that’s what the “diet industry” does not want you to believe.  As long as you believe there is a short-cut, or a quick fix, they know they have you right where they want you, in their pockets.

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