The Reason Why Diets Don’t Work

Every January, a flood of new diet books push their way onto the shelves of your local bookstore. And each promises to contain the secret to successful weight loss.

Unfortunately, they’re all wrong. And what’s even worse, is that most of them don’t even know how wrong they are.

That’s because most diet gurus focus on the external factors of weight loss – food, exercise, supplements. These are the counting calories, counting carbs, eating nothing by grapefruit kind of diet gurus.

Luckily for us all, in the past few years, we have begun to see the evolution of the diet guru. This new breed of diet expert will not only tell you what to eat and how to move, but they will teach you how to think and how to self-motivate yourself towards a slimmer, trimmer you.

Motivation. That’s the ticket.


Without proper motivation, dieters cheat. A little at first. And then a little more. And then a little more. And soon enough, they are sucking back pints of Ben & Jerrys like there’s no tomorrow.

So, there we go. The solution to all of our diet woes is motivation. Except, the experts have got it wrong again.

They think that motivation through external punishment or reward is the path to weight loss. For example, in the past few months, a plan to slim America’s collective waistline by means of a tax on soft drinks (and other forms of junk food) has been discussed.

At first, the plan was proposed by New York Governor David Paterson. His fat tax failed due to public backlash. But now, it has the backing of the American Heart Association.

And with that mainstream scientific show of support, the possibility of a national fat tax becomes much more likely. Too bad it won’t work.

Obesity is not an external problem. It is a complex internal problem involving neurochemicals, nutrients, hormones, dna, enzymes and perhaps most importantly thoughts, feelings and motivations.

And those thoughts, feelings and motivations require a internal solution where we:

  1. Take responsibility for our own health
  2. Create a burning desire to constantly improve the state of our own health
  3. Help others make a similar transformation.

But the experts don’t want you to know that. Otherwise, you wouldn’t buy their book.

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  1. I just read Taubes’ “Good Calories, Bad Calories.”

    He would say that motivation has little, if anything, to do with it. The problem, in his formulation, is that excessive amounts of refined, concentrated carbohydrates cause hyperinsulinemia. The INSULIN makes you eat and gain weight. It’s not your fault. You can’t help it any more than a kid can help growing up. It’s hormones.

    Come to think of it, diet books that absolve people of responsibility are pretty popular. People like that.

    BTW, I’m not saying Taubes is right or wrong. I’m still digesting his ideas.


  2. Hi Steve,

    First off, I am a big fan of Taubes’ book. In fact, my plan for healthcare reform would probably involve shipping a copy of GCBC to every home in America.

    Unfortunately, we both know that even if Taubes went door to door spreading his message of insulin control, people would still ignore it and go ahead eating their KFC value meals and geting fatter day after day.

    And this is why diets (I hate that word) don’t work. People don’t stick with the plan. They cheat.

    The best plan in the world doesn’t work if you don’t follow it.

  3. Steve

    I wouldn’t even consider Taubes’ book a “diet” book. Anyone looking for food lists or recipes would be disappointed. And it doesn’t absolve anyone from responsibility. I think it’s just the opposite.

    If you are struggling with a weight problem and read his book, you have to at least question if it’s true that all the carbs you’re consuming are causing conditions that lead to the creation of excess fat. And then it’s your responsibility to decide whether or not to do something about that. Cutting down on carbs when they comprise 70% of your diet is no day at the beach, I don’t care how much lobster and butter you can eat.

    He lays out the case for questioning firmly held beliefs about what makes us fat. Beliefs that are so fervently held by everyone involved that most researchers aren’t even interested in questioning them. Unfortunately, I think that Dr. Atkins wasn’t the best standard bearer for this cause and there is still a bad taste in everyone’s mouth (no pun intended) about lo-carb anything. His manner put me off.

    But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t on to something and he was preceded by plenty of doctors and researchers who came to the same conclusions.

  4. Janet,

    And then it’s your responsibility to decide whether or not to do something about that.

    I agree 100%

    It’s not the gov’ts responsibility or the doctor’s or society’s responsibility…it’s our responsibility

  5. And it’s not just that diets don’t work, it’s that they can actually create unhealthy behaviors. As DR pointed out, obesity is “a complex internal problem involving neurochemicals, nutrients, hormones, dna, enzymes and perhaps most importantly thoughts, feelings and motivations.”

    Dieting — if taken to a certain level of restriction — throws off some chemical in the brain and leads to overeating. (It’s your body protecting itself from starvation.)

    So, agree completely that diets are silly and pointless, and moreover, sometimes quite harmful.

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