If you read the headlines about the recent Stanford University study that compared four popular diets, you might think the Atkins diet — the infamous very low carbohydrate, high fat eating plan — won hands down over the Zone diet (a reduced-carbohydrate plan), the very low fat, vegetarian-type plan promoted by Dean Ornish, MD, and the dietary-guideline-style diet developed as part of the LEARN program. At least one news report I read touted the success of the Atkins plan as resulting “in more weight loss over a year than three other diets….”
If you take the time to read more closely, however, you see that women following the Atkins diet shed only an average of 10 pounds during the year, which was far less than judged necessary to bring them to a healthy weight. But what’s more significant is that the researchers reported the women didn’t even really follow the diet. They ate nearly triple the amount of carbohydrates allowed on the Atkins diet.
Furthermore, and maybe the real lesson to be learned, is that all women on all the diets had problems staying on the diets — even with the extensive support received. They didn’t just read the book and follow the instructions. They also attended weekly sessions with a dietitian for the first two months, and had regular phone and email contact. AND they were paid for participating in the study.
Of course, this isn’t surprising to most of us, definitely not the women who come to Green Mountain at Fox Run. If we could count all the diets we’ve been on, and failed to lose or keep the weight off if we did lose…well, you get the picture.
It dismays me that researchers continue to invest so much in looking at whether certain diets work or not, or which ones work best. You’d think with all the dieting Americans have taken part in over the last 50 years, we’d get the hint. Diets don’t work. There is more research being done on healthy lifestyle approaches that don’t involve dieting — that use mindful eating as the eating plan — but it’s still just a drop in the bucket compared to time and money spent spinning our wheels over diets.