For the last decade, I’ve traveled giving seminars at hospitals, colleges, and health clubs. The most requested seminar I do is titled Does This Diet Make Me Look Fat? It’s a complete behind-the-scenes exposé on the weight loss and diet industry and its effects on women’s metabolisms. Keep in mind that dieting is a billion dollar industry—it’s a business and it behaves like one. I’m quite passionate—and vocal—in my disapproval of crash diets, extreme fads, and the professionals who promote them when they are extremely unhealthy and medically unnecessary.
Meet Julie. She’s one of the many women who’ve shared their stories with me over the years, and unfortunately her story is far from unusual. In fact, it’s the same story I’ve heard over and over again from many kindhearted and trusting women.
Julie is sitting next to me with tears running down her face. We’re discussing her food log and she is asking how she can gain weight on so little food? She feels frustrated and depressed, and admits her body image is affecting her relationships.
Julie relates an all too common experience: “I weighed around 180 pounds—the most I’d ever weighed—and decided to try a trendy new diet. I was used to eating around 2,000–2,500 calories a day, and on the new diet I started eating almost a thousand less. At first, it worked and I lost about 12 pounds. When my weight loss slowed, I started skipping breakfast. I lost another 3 pounds before the weight loss stopped and I just couldn’t keep it up. I started eating normally again and quickly gained back the fifteen pounds I’d lost. I didn’t want to weigh 165—I wanted to weigh 135—and if I couldn’t reach my goal I’d rather be 15 pounds heavier and eat what I wanted instead of starving myself forever and still feeling overweight.”
What Julie believed was that she ended exactly where she started. Unfortunately that’s not true. What actually happened is that the sub-caloric strategy she implemented (the one which is also used in nearly every fad diet in existence!) set in motion a behavior that changed the way her metabolism functioned. She believed she lost 15 pounds of fat, but in reality she lost 10 pounds of fat and 5 pounds of muscle. When she gained the weight back, all 15 pounds were fat—so at the end of her yo-yo experience, she was weaker, less athletic, and even appeared somewhat softer.
For many years Julie repeated this process, gaining a few pounds of fat and slowing her metabolism a little each time until she wound up sitting in my office in tears, all but begging me to help her.
Now here’s what I didn’t tell you about Julie… She was 17 years old when this story began. Now 28, Julie weighs over 200 pounds. She eats almost nothing, and is still unable to budge her weight. My heart breaks for her.
And she’s not alone. I see this every day—people putting faith in the empty promises made by the diet industry with no long-term solutions in sight and no way to address the real problem—a stalled-out metabolism. Instead they are presented with a myriad of get thin quick fixes all marketed under the banner of “Healthy Eating”.
In consideration of the ongoing yo-yo diet trend that is still alive and kicking (for both men and women) you might wonder if the diet industry is really aware of the effects crash dieting has on long-term metabolic health. Are they failing to properly explain the metabolic consequences for their own financial gain?
Either way, someone owes Julie the truth.