The Big Fat Lie About Weight Loss

Doctor with book and telescope

Doctor with book and telescope

“Eat This, Not That” Book Franchise

A little bit knowledge is a dangerous thing. That’s why some television diet gurus owe it to their followers to ditch their favorite sound.  Men’s Health editor and author David Zinczenko loves to make the rounds of daytime television promoting his “Eat This, Not That” book franchise with a tagline that promises that we can lose weight just by swapping one chain restaurant dish for another. He goes even further by predicting exactly how much we can lose in a year by following his tips a certain number of times each week or month.

Promising A Quick Fix

Popular Today Show contributor Joy Bauer regularly concludes her otherwise useful nutritional segments with the same promise.  Promising a quick fix –even if the promise is a big fat lie– makes for good TV and sells some books in the process. Easy weight loss is a pretty sexy prospect. The truth is less sexy. Marginal improvements in our dietary choices, while beneficial, might not cause us to lose weight at all. In fact, a daily food swap that will eventually cut 35,000 calories from our diet will let us drop 10 pounds if, and only if, we aren’t otherwise consuming 35,000 more calories than we need to maintain our current weight. Sadly, many of us are doing just that.

According to the Center for Disease Control, Americans are becoming fatter at an alarming rate. Back in 2000, no state had an adult obesity rate higher than 30%. By 2010, 12 states could no longer make that claim. Now, about 33% of all adults in this country are obese.

That means, as a group, we have plenty of bad habits. If we’re already on track to pack on another 20 pounds, swapping out our whole milk for 1% isn’t going to make us lose weight. Instead, we’ll just gain weight more slowly.

TV is to sell books

This should be obvious, but exactly when did we, as a culture, learn to resist the lure of a quick fix? If we had, weight loss wouldn’t be a $40 billion dollar industry and we wouldn’t be getting so darned fat. If the point of proffering nutritional advice on TV is to sell books, then fudging on the truth makes sense. If the point is to serve the viewing public, it does not.

Whether or not these popular experts present a more complete explanation between the covers of their books is irrelevant. This is TV. On TV, the segment stands alone, and professional ethics apply even when the camera is rolling and time is short.

My conclusion would be that eat everything in moderate and mostly avoid processed foods.  Having a balance of everything will minimize health risks and the healthier you are the better in the long run.

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