Last week I mentioned that I was reading Dr. Yoni Freedhoff’s book, The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work.
Well, I whipped through that book in record time, in part because it’s written in such a friendly, accessible style, and in part because I found its overall message really compelling and inspiring.
We all know that most diets fail. The statistics are pretty grim: among people who do manage to lose their excess weight, about 95% regain every pound, often with interest. If any other medical treatment had that kind of failure record, it would have been outlawed years ago…and yet people keep embarking on diets, hoping against hope that this time they’ll succeed in keeping the weight off.
So whose fault is this?
Some blame the diets—whether low-fat, low-carb, no-gluten, no-sugar, no-yeast, or whatever else is currently in style. Others (many others) blame the dieters for their presumed laziness and lack of willpower. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard, “Just eat less and move more, and you’ll lose the weight,” I’d be a wealthy woman.
The thing is, while we’re told that losing weight ought to be easy, most of us have a great deal of experience that tells us it’s really not. We can come to believe that the fault lies in ourselves, in not wanting it badly enough, or not having the inner fortitude to buckle down and just lose the weight.
Dr. Freedhoff takes a very different approach. He starts from the premise that diets that are overly focused on restriction are by nature traumatic. And most people who’ve tried to lose weight repeatedly with these diets suffer from something he calls “Post-traumatic Dieting Disorder” or PTDD, the result of years of failed dietary efforts that leave us demoralized, discouraged, guilty, and ashamed.
PTDD symptoms can include feelings of ineffectiveness, shame, hopelessness, and a sense of being permanently damaged. Sufferers often have poor body image, and may withdraw socially, feel threatened by food (especially high-calorie treats), or have impaired relationships.
Moving beyond traumatic dieting
So what’s the solution? In the first half of the book, Dr. Freedhoff describes the “seven deadly sins” of dieting, followed by “dieting’s seven traumas”; and then he lays out a 10-step method for overcoming traumatic dieting and replacing it with a foundation of behaviours that he calls a “10-day reset” to change the dieter’s relationship with food.
Drawing on the habits and behaviours of those 5% of dieters who’ve actually managed to sustain significant weight loss over a 5-year span, the “reset” includes gearing up, learning to track your food, banishing hunger, cooking, thinking things through, exercising, learning to indulge realistically and sensibly, eating out, setting goals, and troubleshooting.
The second half of the book is an “everything else” section that includes a guide to resetting any weight-loss program—so long as you can imagine living with it for the rest of your life, Dr. Freedhoff states that it really doesn’t matter whether you choose paleo, low-carb, low-fat, Weight Watchers….any system can be reset, and made non-traumatic.
My one quibble with the book—and it’s a small one, overall—is the idea that the 10-step reset can be accomplished in 10 days. While some steps (learning to track your food, embarking on an exercise program) take little time, others (like learning the habit of cooking rather than relying on prepared foods) are more of a long-term thing for most people.
This is the most compassionate, practical, and ultimately useful book I’ve read on the topic of weight loss…and I’ve read a great many of them. Even if I weren’t one of Dr. Freedhoff’s former patients, I think I’d feel just as enthusiastic in recommending the book to anyone who wants to move past the “LOSE WEIGHT NOW!!” mentality of most popular diet programs, into a healthy lifestyle at a healthy weight…for the long haul.
Please note: I have not been offered any form of compensation for this book review. It represents my personal opinion and endorsement only.