Disease Proof

Blog Discussion: Is All Dieting a Waste of Time?

Dr. Fuhrman dedicates a lot of his book Eat to Live to explaining that diets really don't work--for a number of reasons. His main point is:

A weight-loss program can be considered successful only if the weight loss is permanent, safe, and promotes overall health. Temporary weight loss is of little or no benefit, especially if it compromises your health.

Alas (the blog) recently published a massive essay essentially saying that dieting is a massive waste of time. It touches on a number of studies. If you read it, don't ignore the dozens of comments. There are some important points in there, too.

The essay is summed up in the conclusion like this:

1. No weight-loss diet has ever been scientifically shown to produce substantial long-term weight loss in any but a tiny minority of dieters.


2. Whether or not a weight-loss diet "works," people who go on weight-loss diets are likely to die sooner than those who maintain a steady weight or who slowly gain weight.

3. For fat people (or anyone else) concerned with their health, the best option is probably moderate exercise and eating fruits and veggies, without concern for waistlines. In other words, Health At Every Size (HAES).

4. The model on which most weight-loss diets are based - in which fat people eat like fat people and must learn to eat like non-fat people - is probably a myth.

Dr. Fuhrman is a staunch believer in the importance of weight loss in the name of health. But that doesn't mean this isn't an interesting discussion worth having.


To me, the thing that's missing from most discussions of weight loss, including this one, is the idea of excellent nutrition, that actually improves your overall health as you lose weight. (It's not just about avoiding certain foods--but is rather about gravitating to others.) Many of the important studies showing these kinds of effects have been described previously on DiseaseProof, and are as relevant as ever in this discussion. I'm interested to hear what you think.

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Comments (15) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Helena - April 13, 2006 7:41 PM

I have lost a hundred pounds, not on Eat To Live, but just by eating less and being more active. I have kept it off for over a year now, and do not intend to ever get fat again. I found it impossible to stay obese when I started to live healthier. Weight loss, for me, was a side effect of eating healthier and getting active.

I had the following thoughts about the article:
The first and second point are contradictory. If weight loss diets never work, how can they know that people who lost weight live shorter lives? Also: the studies I read that stated that, are not without problems. For one thing: many people who lose weight do not eat healthy. I wrote about such a study at http://www.bitterpoison.com/archive/will-losing-weight-kill-you/

Point 3 and 4 are also related. They claim that fat people do not eat unhealthier or more than thin people. In my experience, this is not true. I ate terrible when I was obese. All the obese people I met had bad eating habits as well. In the comments to the article other overweight people tell the same story. There are differences in metabolic rate, and I think that some people can be 130 pounds and other 150 pounds, while on the same diet. But you do not become obese by eating tons of vegetables.

I think it is important that the focus is on health, not on weight loss per se and that prevention is better than cure. It is also true that the BMI is fundamentally flawed. But now that I know how it feels to weigh 130 pounds, instead of 240, I will not believe people who say I was healthier at the latter weight. I am willing to accept that my weight loss caused stress to my body, that's why I now eat very healthy. I expect my body will need some years to recover, but I am confident that all in all I am much healthier now.

Debra T - April 14, 2006 10:48 AM

I agree with the previous comments. It never makes any sense to me to hear "weight loss diets don't work." If people eat heatlhy, the way Dr. F recommends, or close to it, they won't be fat. It's simple physics. It could take a long time to lose weight, certainly, but if the individual maintains a healthy diet and active lifestyle, they will not get fat again. The issue is not whether a diet works, but wheter people work the diet. Most dieters give up. It reminds me of the low-fat studies.....the researchers conclude that low-fat diets don't "work." But the study participants weren't even following the recommended diet, yet alone a healthy diet. And, the notion that one can be obese and healthy is just preposterous. I've been fat, with a BMI at 30, and it was no healthy picnic. I was tired all the time, and all my health indicators went south. These "fat and fit" fools are kidding themselves. I think what they advocate is very dangerous. It's like saying it's ok to smoke a little, as long as you eat vegetables and exercise. Give me a break!

Leanne - April 14, 2006 7:25 PM

I have lost over sixty pounds, with Eat To Live and have kept a steady healthy weight for over two months now. I have no intention of returning to my previous weight, or of even gaining weight at all, and will be monitoring my weight and food choices and intake every week to ensure that no weight gain happens.

I feel so much healthier, am fitter, and am now helping my good friends to follow the same path and lose weight and get healthy.

Thee is nothing good about maintaining obesity and poor habits, and everything to be gained from changing your ways an adopting a good diet. If you eat healthily, weight loss will follow. It simple fact.

anet - April 17, 2006 3:16 PM

Depends on what you call "dieting"...
I suspect that only a permanant lifestyle change is effective at helping one to LOSE weight...otherwise it you always "find" it again.
Additionally there's an emotinal component to overeating that must be considered if one is to r e a l l y change their relationship to food in a way that will lead to lasting changes in weight.

Peggy - May 7, 2006 3:33 PM

I've never been able to successfully "diet". I've never successfully lost any weight either - that is, a significant amount for a long period of time. I did loose 23 pounds on weight watchers once, which i gained back in my last pregnancy.

I almost think that in my case, i'm completely deluded. *laughs* The thing is, I -think- that i eat well! I eat only whole grain breads and pastas, and I eat quite few fresh fruits and vegies (but, after doing some reading in here - I see, not enough). I don't care for fast foods, and I know that i eat a LOT less of them than other people who are a lot smaller than I am.

I know all about nutrition, and frequently write about it in my blog. I don't sit and "munch" all of the time, and I take dance classes.

I also weigh a little over 200 pounds, wear a size 16-18, am diabetic and have thyroid disease.

I have to shamelessly admit to you - that article is exactly what a person like me wants to hear.

If it weren't for the way that i feel most of the time, I'd easily reside to that way of thinking. I don't "feel healthy" I don't feel well at all, as a matter of fact. I have a hard time getting out of bed - my knees frequently bother me. I don't have enough energy to go out do things with my children - I rarely have enough energy to walk up the hill to my house, and always opt to drive, thank very much.

In my defense, I have a deformed leg, which led to scoliosis, and i'm frequently in too much pain to get moving. But, my experience tells me that the more I move, and the less I weigh, the better i'll feel, and the more i'll be able to move.

I-just-can't-seem-to-do-it. I also suffer form depression - which means that i'm stuck in another seamlessly endless cycle - move to get out of it. Don't feel well enough to move.

I feel like a 60 year old in a 37 year old body. Er, a 37 year old in a 60 year old body? You know what I mean.

Brad Chappel - June 1, 2006 8:16 AM

Great weight loss information. Keep the nice work up. If you are looking for more weight loss help then you can get it from fast-weightloss.blogspot.com

mike - August 18, 2006 7:41 PM

Hi, No Not all diets are a waste of time, you just have to find the right one. i.e. one that will deliver long term results. go-advise.com has many weight loss, diet ideas and best of all they're free.

weight loss recipes - May 4, 2007 1:12 PM

Diets may help to reduce over weight but has to put lot of effert. I also agree with the article above.

weight loss recipes guy - May 21, 2007 2:29 PM

I don't think diets are waste only if you follow it righ.

Fast Weight Loss Diets Boy - September 15, 2010 4:52 AM

This is very informative post. I believe diets would really work as long as there is patience and perseverance.

Lose Belly Fat - October 12, 2010 9:57 AM

I think that dieting on it's own doesn't really work long term, it takes more than just eating less to lose weight. It also depend on the person that is dieting, no 2 people are the same so what works for one may not necessarily work for another. You need to know about your body, what it responds to and what doesn't work. Then once you decide that you are not willing to continue the size that you are, you will be able to work toward reducing your weight. It's more a change on your lifestyle than just eating less.

M. Shaalan - December 11, 2010 1:30 PM

The key to success is having a diet plan and stick to it, never loose hope and continuous self motivation to get better results.

Bob the dieter - February 24, 2011 6:44 AM

Hi there I beleive that dieting is mostly an attitude of mind, but if you make the lifestyle changes such as the way you think about food on the diet then dieting will be easier, because your life is easier.

Weightlossdiet411 - March 1, 2011 10:10 PM

Dieitng is a lifestyle change, and a difficult one at that. Visualization is a helpful tool that we often don't utilize.

omid - November 23, 2011 2:06 AM

First of all not all diets were created equal there are many different diets some actually help promote overall health way before you lose any weight on them. Second expecting any diet's results to be "permanent" without continuous effort is equivalent to expecting your boss to keep paying you forever even after you quit your job! just my two cents :)

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