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Why diets may not work

Why diets may not work

June 12, 2024

At the time of lose weight , many people rely on diet as one more component of the small daily rituals that must be followed to have the desired body . At one point, some of these people will decide to stop pretending that they are fulfilling the objectives of their weekly feeding table and will again embrace with honesty a life dedicated to carbohydrates and junk food.

Others, however, will manage to follow the diet until discovering, months later, that not only has it not worked for them, but they have also gained weight. Why does this happen? Traci Mann , from the University of Minnesota, explains part of this mystery in his book Secrets from the Eating Lab: the science of weight loss, the myth of willpower, and why should you never diet again.


It's not all about meeting tables

The title of the book may seem very forceful, but the truth is that Mann does not suggest that it does not matter what you eat. Evidently it is not the same to take a diet based on industrial pastries and pizzas that stick to a diet plan in which the vegetables , nuts and fruit make up 80% of what is eaten. What the psychologist actually suggests is that diets are ineffective on their own, because they do not contemplate psychological strategies to lose weight: they only indicate the raw material to be used.

Actually, this does not sound preposterous. If we think of diets as if they were a kind of product to buy and apply directly, we probably do the latter wrong, by giving the diet the power to make us lose weight and obviate everything else. Specifically, we will be overlooking the mechanisms of self-control that we should be using and whose absence can blind us to the continuous failures when it comes to following good food planning.


Traci Mann says that to understand why diets are not effective, we must first recognize that each person has a different way of assimilating food, and that the latter is determined in large part by our genetics .

Many people tend to create large layers of fat, and with others the opposite occurs . Thus, the human body does not have a "center" to tend naturally, because we are all different. When a person tries to lose weight to get closer to that fictitious "focal point", his body feels unbalanced and makes efforts to adapt to the new situation.

One of the side effects of this struggle to adapt to a diet with fewer calories is stress. The body tries to keep us on alert and look for new sources of calories, which encourages, as would be expected, that we make more trips to the refrigerator.


Diets take our usual eating habits and subject them to a subtraction, but does not contemplate the compensatory exercise that our body does to counteract with small daily sums such as pecking between meals. In the end it is possible that with the diet we are eating both the food proposed by that meal plan and the occasional snacks that generate stress and that we are able to ignore or underestimate, without realizing that we only eat so much between hours We started to self-impose a certain type of daily menu.

It is useless to think of willpower

Another idea of ​​the book is that it is not practical to make one of the fundamental elements in the fulfillment of the diet the willpower . Mann considers that the force of will has been mitificado until turning it into a species of agent whose paper is to give orders to the rest of the body, as if it had power on him.

However, this idea of ​​"willpower" ceases to be important when we realize that no component of our body is capable of giving orders unilaterally, without receiving pressures from the rest of the body. Specifically, Mann believes that this concept exists only to have something to blame when something does not work. It is something like the hollow under the carpet that hides what we do not want to explain.

What to do?

A theoretical model useful to explain our relationship with diet is one that does not depend on an idea as abstract as is the will power and that accepts that there is put limits on the pretense of losing weight if you do not want to lose health , because of the role our genes play. Thus, each person should focus on achieving a point of tolerable thinness, but no more.

From there, the point is to control the quality of what is eaten, but focus instead on following strategies to avoid falling into an unacceptably high carbohydrate temptation. These strategies can not entrust almost anything to willpower, as this will bend in favor of the adaptation mechanisms dictated by genetics.

What Mann proposes is to pursue objectives that indirectly distance us from tempting caloric intakes.

Part of these strategies are purely psychological , such as replacing thoughts about a cake with others in which wholemeal bread appears or a food with even less carbohydrates. Others, however, are related to materially changing our environment. For example, hide or throw away junk food in the house, or put obstacles to access this food. In this way, the desire for carbohydrate food will be surpassed by another trend that is also very human: the laziness of going to look for food. They are all benefits!

Bibliographic references

  • Mann, T. (2015). Secrets from the Eating Lab: the science of weight loss, the myth of willpower, and why should you never diet again. New York: HarperWave.

'Slow Carbs' and the Truth About Low-Carb Diets (June 2024).


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