A Note to our Health Professional Colleagues
(Excerpt from Am I Hungry? What to Do When Diets Don't Work)
If you've ever felt frustrated when trying to help your patients and clients manage their weight and motivate them to live a healthier lifestyle, this book is for you. The truth is, if diets were effective for long-term weight management, their problem would have been solved with their first one. An important first step toward really making a difference is understanding why diets haven't worked for most of them in the first place.
With diets, the latest diet "expert" defines which foods are "bad" and therefore which foods must be avoided, limited, or counted. To comply, dieters must maintain their willpower indefinitely. Not surprisingly, dieters often exhibit an increased preoccupation with food and feelings of deprivation, leading to a love-hate relationship with food.
The expert also determines when, what, and how much dieters should eat, regardless of their intrinsic hunger and fullness cues. This doesn't allow them to learn to use their innate ability to manage their weight. Dieting may backfire, leading to a decrease in a dieter's metabolism. In the end, most people regain their lost weight---and sometimes more.
Furthermore, the expert often prescribes exercise to burn off fat or earn the right to eat. In essence, exercise becomes a punishment for eating. A common result of this negative association is that when the diet is over, the exercise program is usually over too.
Most importantly, diets focus on what people should eat without addressing why they are eating in the first place. Dieters often don't learn to recognize and effectively cope with their eating triggers and meet their true bio-psycho-social needs.
In short, dieting is negative, disempowering, and unsustainable. In its wake, the dieter is often left with feelings of guilt, disappointment, lowered self-esteem, and diminished selfefficacy. This becomes a downward cycle from which they may never physically or emotionally recover.
Yet many in the health and fitness arena continue to advocate dieting despite a failure rate that would be considered unacceptable for most other therapeutic interventions. At what point will society begin to doubt the wisdom of the diets rather than the fortitude of the dieters?
Granted, this requires a paradigm shift. Dieting is so pervasive in society today that it is difficult to imagine it any other way. But there is a growing non-diet movement that has been largely unheard, misunderstood, or dismissed by the medical community. Faced with a burgeoning epidemic of overweight and obesity, can we afford to ignore it any longer?
It is time to move away from promoting ineffective dieting and instead guide people to relearn their instinctive ability to feed themselves an appropriate amount of food. We need to help them recognize and find ways to meet their other needs in other ways. Further, they deserve a solid foundation of legitimate, reliable nutrition information and freedom from the harsh, arbitrary limits of restrictive dieting. Just as important, they need a positive, sustainable approach to fitness in order to build an enjoyable, healthy, active lifestyle.
Am I Hungry? addresses all of these issues in an innovative, integrated, multidimensional, and personalized approach simply not found among the quick-fix diets predominant today.
You have our pledge that in these pages, you will find common sense instead of gimmicks, a positive approach to eating and activity, and lifelong skills in lieu of quick fix schemes. Am I Hungry? can transform a person who struggles with weight and eating issues into a person with healthy attitudes and behaviors. You and those you care for will gain a whole new approach to weight---and life---management.
Wishing you wisdom, joy, and optimal health,
Michelle May, M.D.
Lisa Galper, Psy.D.
Janet Carr, R.D., M.S.