End the diet debates

Diet is a four-letter word in my world. We all know people who fit into the various diet categories: the yo-yo dieter, the jump on the latest fad-diet dieter, the on the diet/off the diet dieter, the I’m never going to go on a diet/ I eat whatever I want people, and then there’s the diet pusher. They started eating a certain way, it worked for them, and now they are on a mission in life to get everyone else to do what they did. Because it worked!

For them.

A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association hit the nail on the head and is music to my ears. It is titled, “A Call for an End to the Diet Debates.” The authors contend that the only consistent finding among dietary studies is that when people adhere to a diet, it works. When they don’t adhere, it doesn’t work. They go on to draw parallels to other treatments. When people stop taking blood pressure medication, their blood pressure goes up. When people stop taking diabetes medication, their blood glucose levels are not controlled. Well of course, right? When we stop treating something, the effect of the treatment also stops. Why should dieting be any different?

This is where we get to the key point. As the authors of the JAMA article state, “The assumption that one diet is optimal for all persons is counterproductive… The most important question is how to improve behavioral adherence.” In other words, diets don’t work because they are generally not sustainable or realistic. What works is lifestyle change, and that change is individual for each person on this planet. Finding a way of eating that is satisfying, fits within your cultural and religious traditions, fits into your budget and family, is realistic for foods available to you – that is the gold people search for when they try a ‘diet.’ We can all help each other out here. Let’s stop this good foods/bad foods, on the diet/off the diet, I’m splurging tonight, better get back on the bandwagon talk. That’s life.

Here’s what we can do instead.

  • Support one another in the food choices we decide to make for ourselves.
  • Make options available for people to be able to make those choices at home, at work and in places where we gather.
  • Stop comparing ourselves to others.
  • Continue to try different ways of eating, there is something out there for everyone.
  • Talk to your regular healthcare provider about joining a lifestyle change program – there are starting to be more and more available.
  • Recognize lifestyle change is a process.

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