Monday, April 3, 2017 2:21 PM

The Darlings of the Diet Industry are Back!

The funny thing about writing blogs/articles like this is that I never know when or where a topic will hit me.  For instance, while watching TV one night the topic for this blog hit me as I witnessed Oprah proclaim enthusiastically, “I LOVE CHIPS!,” during an ad for Weight Watchers while at the same time losing 40 lbs.  Then not more than 15 minutes later while channel hopping, I saw Marie Osmond talking about how she dropped 50 lbs via Nutrisystem.  As I thought about it, and maybe I am wrong on this, but it seems like a cyclical thing with these two.  Seems to me that I have heard this before from both of these well-paid celebrity talking heads.  And just so she isn’t left out, we can also add Kristie Alley to the mix.  Thanks to the large cash infusion her bank account got from Jenny Craig last year, she is back after a 7-year separation and singing their low-calorie praises once again. 

So, you may be asking yourself, what is the deal with these diets?  How do they work?  Which one is best?  What is the difference between them? Or do they even work at all?  Let’s take a quick look at each, and for the sake of time I am just going to stick to these three, even though there are too many weight loss programs to count.

Weight Watchers
If you are not in the know, this is the program that is based on points.  Meaning, you are allowed a certain number of points per day, and as long as you don’t go over your points for the day you should see your body shed the excess weight in no time. 

There is one part of this program I really like and that is the built-in accountability of it.  I like the sense of community and mutual support of it.  I know for me, I always do better as part of a group or team and the positive support and energy I can draw from it.  Not to mention the driving desire for being able to motivate or help others in the group. 

On one hand the point system makes eating simple, but on the other hand it is VERY easy to abuse, which human nature being what it is… well, you get the idea.  Here is an example of what I mean. The point system doesn’t really take into account the quality of food eaten.  Meaning, it’s ok to eat a processed snack as long as it is low calorie.  A lot of total garbage food fits the bill here!  Oh, and did I mention they sell miscellaneous boxes of brand name highly processed but low-fat health food?  Which also happen to be loaded with sugar and ethyl-methyl bad stuff… aka preservatives.  
It’s easy to fall into the trap of not caring if what you are eating is healthy or not as long as you lose weight.  Just stay under your point allotment and you are good to go.  Somehow a diet of Twinkies and brownies as long as I stay under my point total doesn’t sound like a good idea. 

Now be honest here, how many of you have been on this point system and at the end of the day you count up your points and find that you are under your total and figure, hey I can afford to treat myself and pig out on some junk food before going to bed.  Sound familiar?  Sound like a healthy choice?

What could possibly be any easier than mail order meals you just nuke, eat and repeat until the pounds just drop right off of you?  Did I mention you can do this all by eating burgers, pizza, lasagna, cookies, etc.?  Not to mention it worked for Marie Osmond and have you seen her lately?

A HUGE plus is this plan/diet system is simple!  VERY simple!  All you have to do is order your meals, freeze and heat as needed.  By sticking to their mail order meals you will be put into a caloric deficit and the weight will naturally come off.

Yes, this is convenient, but it is also incredibly LAZY!  It is effective in the short term, but it does nothing to build life-long sustainable eating habits.  Let’s face it, you are completely lying to yourself if you think you are eating healthy by eating brownies, cookies, cobbler, mac and cheese, pizza etc., etc.  Again, you are not eating real food!  You are not being taught healthy habits, and folks that go this route will only keep the weight off as long as they can bankroll the mail order meals. 

Jenny Craig
The Jenny Craig plan is fairly similar to the Nutrisystem plan, and both will be a financial commitment.  Jenny Craig will cost you more, but from what I have read their meals taste better so they have that going for them.

Again, not much brain power needed to follow this plan.  The one thing I do like is they talk about volumizing meals.  Meaning, they promote you buying your own fruits and veggies to supplement the meal plan.  FINALLY someone suggesting real food here!  There is also some face-to-face or support via phone provided by Jenny Craig, so another notch in the plus column.

I would refer you back to the cons listed for Nutrisystem here, plus this plan is more expensive than Nutrisystem.  With both of these systems, you also might want to take into account what happens when you go on vacation or out to eat in a restaurant.  These plans are so easy, they turn their clients into sheeple incapable of making smart food choices when left to their own vices. 

The Verdict
What they don’t tell you is that there is about a 97% failure rate with TV weight loss plans/systems in the long run.  And let’s face it, the “end game” is what we are all concerned about.  Sure, you can get the weight off by using one of these programs.  How could you not, running on 1,000-1,500 calories a day?  However, keeping it off is the issue.  If you really pay attention to each of the three women who represent those programs, you will notice they win the battle over weight loss every few years, but none of them evidently have figured out a strategy to win the war on weight loss as evidenced by the fact that it seems like every few years they reappear on a weight loss ad once again. 
I am assuming if you have tried one of these weight loss programs yourself, you probably had some great success.  I am also guessing that weight loss success slowly started to evaporate once your bankroll started to go down and you quit purchasing their microwavable delicacies.  Think about it, those three women are being paid to diet and they can’t keep the weight off, so how are you expected to? 
It’s easy to lose the weight when you don’t have to think about it.  You are basically a lemming literally being spoon-fed a preprogrammed low-calorie diet.  The issue is that these diet systems are being advertised and aimed at women with little consideration to muscle building exercise, i.e. lifting weights.  Now keep in mind that muscle mass is living, breathing tissue that needs energy, i.e. calories to keep it alive.  The calorie intake is so low in these programs that your body will be in starvation mode and begin to cannibalize itself.  In other words, you will be losing muscle mass.  If you lose muscle mass, you end up with a slower metabolism than when you started your dietary journey in the first place.  This will result in the inevitable and dreaded rebound, and you might even find you have put on more weight than when you first started your TV diet.  
Think about this: if I owned a company that had a pre-allotted point system or prepackaged meals I could sell, why would I do anything to point my clients towards an independent, autonomous dietary lifestyle when I can keep them in the dark and handcuffed to my program to maintain them as repeat customers.  Seems like a winning business strategy to me.  Basically, you are being set up for failure by buying into the quick fix.

Tim Clark, Manager Fitness Club
Community Medical Center Fitness Center