Here are just a few of the rules devotees are told by their diet gurus that they must follow:
• Avoiding all high-fat foods.
• Avoiding all high-carbohydrate foods.
• Eating only low glycemic index plant foods. (All animal foods have a glycemic index of essentially zero. )
• Avoiding social events so you can stick to your diet.
• Avoiding all alcohol, even a single drink, or being sure to drink alcohol with every meal, especially martinis. (The martinis and cream diet was a fad in the 1960's.)
• Making sure you eat extra protein at every meal.
• Making sure you eat extra protein between meals.
• Taking fish oil between meals.
• Avoiding grains and legumes, or getting all your protein from grains and legumes.
• Staying within a “zone” of macronutrients, for example 30% carbohydrate-40% protein-30% fat (a ratio that the famous Zone diet scientist copied from research for the perfect diet for race horses).
• Eating “good” foods and avoiding “bad” foods, eating “this” and not “that. ”
• Drinking pre- and post-workout shakes.
• Cutting out carbohydrates so you can go “ketogenic. ”
• Eating according to Kushi Macrobiotic Theory.
• Eating right for your blood type.
• Eating right for you metabolic type.
• Going “paleo” and eating only those foods some diet book author imagines ancient peoples ate.
The downside to all of these diets is that they leave you feeling deprived. They interfere with your social life. Other people come to see you as cranky and diet-obsessed. And you simply don't get to eat the foods you like.
When you muster the willpower to make these approaches to weight loss work, you can congratulate yourself on your dedication. When you can't must the willpower to make these approaches to weight loss work, and it's not just a matter of controlling your appetite, it is also a simple matter of how you get along with other people, you begin to feel deprived. And if you get to feeling so deprived that you just can't keep up with all the rules for you diet, you experience failure and open the floodgates to regain all the fat you worked so hard to lose.
In the modern era, however, because most of the world is so overrun by high-calorie food choices, there actually is a need for diet gurus to reassure modern people that a few hours of fasting won't hurt you. And while there are certainly are foods that are better for you than others, it is the feeling of deprivation that is the enemy of weight loss, at least as much as eating too much. TV doesn’t help anyone avoid the feeling of deprivation. Especially the Food Channel.
One of the many reasons our pre-twentieth century ancestors were, by and large, fit and lean is that whatever else could be said about historical choices in food, we are certain that they were not influenced by television advertising. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, everywhere television was introduced, beginning in the USA, obesity soon followed. Overconsumption in the television age is probably due to a combination of advertising and falling prices as advertising supports an ever growing food processing industry.
What do food advertisers know about us that we might not know about ourselves?
• Consumers are especially responsive to price changes in soft drinks and fast foods. When price goes down, consumption goes up, consumers drawn almost magnetically to fast food outlets when prices are lowered.
• Reducing prices at an all-you-can-eat buffet doesn't increase consumption, probably because consumers max out their consumption at every trip to the restaurant regardless of price.
• Except for ambiguous products like wine, if food is in a package, quality is far less important to consumer choice than price.
• When people buy food at low prices, they eat it sooner, in order to get the benefit of the lower price.
• When people find a food item at a discount price, they develop a preference for it, on the expectation that it will be available again at the lower price.
• Consumers prefer price discounts for “bad” foods, but prefer bonus packs for “healthy” foods.
• People prefer to pay for “unhealthy” foods and fast foods with credit cards. When consumers pay for food with cash, they are more likely to buy healthy foods.
• When prices of fruits and vegetables go down, people eat more of them. In one experiment, reducing the price of salads reduced the consumption of soft drinks.
• When the prices of candy, chips, and soft drinks go up, people who have limited food budgets tend to economize by buying smaller amounts of healthy foods.
• Temporary rollbacks in food prices (a common strategy at Target and Walmart) lead to increased purchases, increased consumption, and increased intake of calories.
• When people just believe that food was purchased at a lower price, even if it was not, they eat more of it.
• Children who watch television are exposed to 40,000 advertisements for food each year (which probably leads to asking their parents for the food they see on TV 40,000 times per year).
• Most advertisements for food on children's television shows (72% of them) are for food that is high in sugar, fat, and salt.
• The name and description of a food have more influence over purchases than the ingredients listed on its label.
• Packages with logos, label characters, or celebrity endorsements are preferred over packages with generic labels.
• Calorie information changes product selection only when the calorie count is surprising.
• When health information is printed on the front of the package, an unwanted health halo effect can result, that is, people may feel free to eat all they want of it without any kind of restraint.
• People who follow any kind of diet tend to underestimate the total number of calories in a combination of healthy and unhealthy foods compared to an unhealthy food consumed by itself.
• People expect to be able to eat more of any food that is identified as healthy, regardless of its calorie content.
What about eating in front of the TV? Eating in front of the television is distracting, so that television watchers eat longer before they feel full.
So how can anybody stop the information overload and just get back to doing whatever it was they were doing right, even if they don't know what that was? Turn off the TV. Read my blog, of course, but go on a nutrition-information diet. Don't overload your psyche with too many facts about food.