Dieting 101: Introduction and spotting the scams

Lowcarb diets, no-carb diets, low-fat diets, Atkins, Protein Power, cabbage soup diets, grapefruit diets, Paleolithic diets… can’t a girl just get some plain old eating any more?

Somewhere along the way, someone decided that it would be really swell to package a few basic ideas about eating, give it a snappy name like Starch Madness (say that with me, and really scream it: STARCH MADNESS!!!! AAAAAUUUGGHHH!!), slap a book together, and buy into the angst of wobbly-bottomed folks. Then that someone figured it would also be good to do the TV talk show circuit and do interviews while looking sleek, sparse, and shiny, mocking us as we sit on our comfy couch, falling asleep with one of our greasy paws still in the bucket of chicken.

I mean, let’s be honest, the world of dieting is fraught with half-truths and guilt, not unlike a cult. You just buy one recipe book, and before you know it, you’ve been indoctrinated into the Way Of The Broccoli, or the Clan Of The Calorie Combuster, and two weeks later, you’re face down in some Haagen-Dazs. Every chocolate chip in that ice cream is like another signpost of your failure. Failure to comprehend, to really stick to it, to know enough, to be good enough, to eat that perfect combination of fruit and spiderwebs which will send the fat leaping suicidally from your bootay, and blah blah blah. Next month you get suckered in again.

So, since I feel that the only person suckering you should be me, I henceforth present Dieting 101.

spotting the scams

The diet industry is just that: an industry. So they’re going to try to pry your hard-earned cash out of your little fingers any way they can. They will play on your ignorance, fear, and guilt. But sisters, I have the mongoose to that diet industry snake. Here’s how to sniff out the diet cowpies. Mmmm… pie…

1. Beware of anything with a brand name. That goes for workout plans too. There is nothing new under the sun, at least when it comes to eating, so when you see a diet with a brand name, be suspicious.

2. Beware of any diet plan that tells you you need to buy supplements. Besides a good multivitamin, you don’t need to supplement. Real food is the best supplement you can buy. Now, you may want to buy some protein powder for pure convenience, but it’s not anything special. It’s just a portable, cheap, easy source of protein that you can throw in your gym bag.

3. Beware of any diet plan that tells you you must drastically restrict any nutrient. There is one exception to that, which is ketogenic dieting, but that’s a special case and I’ll explain it in a bit. Even keto dieting isn’t for everyone.

4. Look at the overall calorie count of the diet plan. Most diet plans work short-term, at least for getting rid of a few pounds of water weight, but only because they’re a drastic caloric reduction. Once your body wises up, you’re in for a nice metabolic slowdown. More on calorie counting below. Also take a look at why diets don’t work.

5. Empower yourself to choose your own foods. Don’t rely on a diet industry to prepackage your food for you. Learn what you’re eating, and why.

6. Read labels. Often diet products are loaded with junk like chemicals and sugar. Know what real food is and where it comes from.

7. For gawdsake who cares what celebrities are eating/not eating??? Unless you’re prepared to shell out for liposuction, your own chef, and a few lines of coke, don’t bother trying to follow what Starlet-Of-The-Month is doing. She’s 19 and living on cigarettes and celery. People are paying her huge sums of money to be skinny at any cost. Get real.

8. Beware diet plans that claim to knock ten pounds off you in a week. A half-pound to two pounds of fat loss per week is the most you should aim for. Ten pounds in a week is going to be water, muscle, and maybe an ounce of fat. And it’s not gone for good. It’s just on vacation. It’s going to arrive with some more luggage two weeks later.

9. Beware diet plans which use drugs or “herbs” as the main selling point. See the crap list for more on this.

10. Beware diet plans with a one-size-fits-all mentality. Sure, some things work better than others, but everyone is different. Consider your activity level (of course you are engaging in weight training, right dahling?), age, present bodyfat levels, etc.

11. Demand to see the research. Don’t be fooled by scientific-sounding jargon. A lot of diet products and programs use pseudoscientific gimmicks to sound like they know what they’re doing. Look at the studies they cite, if they do cite any. Look them up on Medline. That may sound intimidating, but it’s worth your while to gain a basic understanding of how your body works, and how it processes nutrients. You may also find that the “studies” they cite don’t even exist.