As a family of five, we drive an eight-seater van. The three children fit, the grandparents fit, and all our kit (bikes, beach toys, camping gear) fits. We bought it because we wanted something that would enable our active lifestyle and delivered on its promise: Safe, comfortable, reliable transportation.
Several months into driving our new van, we noticed a strange noise every time we drove downhill. Concerned about our safety, we took the van to the garage. We were told a few days later that there was a fault caused by a manufacturing error. Immediately our van was sent for repair, of course at no cost to us. In the mean time, we were given a replacement car. A few days after the fixed car was returned to us, we received a letter of apology, and we’ve been driving it without problems since.
We weren’t blamed for the car not working. It wasn’t our lack of willpower that caused the problem, or not driving correctly, or that we didn’t manage our emotions while driving … The manufacturer took responsibility and fixed the fault with their product, at no cost to us so that it would deliver on its promise once repaired.
Now let me tell you a different story. The one about the diet industry.
There is now abundant research evidence that diets don’t work in the long run.
Dieters may lose weight initially and keep it off for weeks, months, some even a couple of years.
But five years in, and in 95% of cases, dieters end up weighing more than when they started.
Weight cycling (i.e. losing weight, putting it back on, losing it again, frequently described as yo-yo dieting) is likely to be worse for your health than staying at the same weight consistently over time.
The diet industry sells the same product, - a diet – over and over, without people getting long-lasting results. A faulty product is re-packaged and re-sold with a different fancy name, year after year.
Unlike any other industry however , when diets fail to deliver on their promise - permanent weight loss - the fault is not with their product.
It’s with us. It’s our fault. We’re not disciplined enough. We lack willpower. We aren’t willing enough to ‘feel our feelings’ and gasp (!) we eat when we are stressed.
If the reason diets don’t work lies with us, then the diet industry can keep selling us their product, in whatever new version or twist they can think of each year (think Paleo, Keto, Whole30, The Atkins Diet, Weight Watchers, Slimming World, 5:2 or Intermittent Fasting, South Beach Diet, Noom).
No wonder the US diet and weight loss industry made $65 billion in 2018 and is growing and thriving.
What other industry blames the consumer for the fact that their product doesn’t work? None I can think of. Usually, a product is recalled, fixed, or taken off the market altogether.
But I don’t see any diet being ‘recalled.’ Dieters will never get reimbursed for their money, time, emotional and mental energy they invested in a product that doesn’t deliver on its promise.
Remember feeling so hopeful and excited at the start of a new diet… tracking all your food, calories and exercise in a journal or an app… and then feeling guilty, disappointed and full of self-loathing when you eventually go off plan and fail… every dieter knows the cycle.
There is no reimbursement for the missed meals out with friends, not having birthday cake, not baking with our kids, not having ice cream on the beach… You are never getting those moments back.
There is no acknowledgement of the negative consequences and damage that can result from dieting:Weight cycling, weight gain in the long run, disordered eating (think restriction followed by binge eating), guilt over food choices, constantly thinking about what to eat, what not to eat, obsession over the number on the scale or jeans size.
The diet industry’s message is: If you don’t successfully lose weight, it’s your fault, not the diet’s fault.
And we keep buying a product that fails, and blaming ourselves for not trying harder or doing better.
This is simply wrong.
My best diet tip for 2023? Don't.