Why Weight Watchers Isn’t Working For So Many Dieters Anymore: Doing Away with “All Foods in Moderation”

Few things have done more to derail the ambitions of dieters than the popular advice by Weight Watchers to “enjoy all foods in moderation”. The problem with this otherwise well –intentioned advice is that it doesn’t account for the fact that if we could eat moderately we wouldn’t have needed to diet in the first place.

This one piece of “advice”- a term I use loosely- has crushed the hopes and skinny dreams of more dieters than any other advice I can think of. And that’s why I teach you to think about food, overeating and dieting in an entirely different light. In the philosophy of this wrongheaded diet advice, a dieting woman can eat a little of anything she wants. Hello? Can you imagine Carrie Bradshaw buying just one pair of heels at a Manolo Blahnik sample sale? Better yet, imagine having a “moderate” sex on your honeymoon, or eating a “moderate” amount of cake on your birthday. If it feels good- and few things feel better than swan diving into a bag of Hershey’s Kisses or inhaling a box of Thin Mints- then we’re going to do it to excess.

I have a client who admitted to me on more than one occasion that she prefers the company of a bad boyfriend food to sex any day of the week. Putting aside her personal life, my client was simply admitting to a reality of human behavior. Moderation seldom enters the equation when it comes to pleasurable activities like eating. How many “moderate” drug addicts do you know? I understand this is an extreme example, but there are similarities between drug and food addiction. Simply stated, moderation doesn’t work for a majority of dieters.

In the past two decades, portion sizes have expanded more than Lady Gaga’s wardrobe. In fact, serving sizes have grown have grown not only in restaurants, but even in our own homes. It seems the more we’re given the more we eat, a fact confirmed by Barbara Rolls, a leading researcher in the study of human eating behavior and the author of several best selling diet books, including, The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dr. Rolls and her colleagues gave volunteers varying amounts of macaroni and cheese each day for lunch. They wanted to see if larger portions led to greater consumption. The researchers found across the board that everyone responded to the increased portion size by eating more.

Indeed, it’s my view that words like “moderation” should be stricken from all discussions on weight control, despite our best efforts at rationalization (something most of us excel at, especially when it comes to bad boyfriend foods).  If a food is a bad boyfriend, it’s a safe bet that we’ll never be able to enjoy it in moderation.

We need to learn the eating behavior, science backed strategies that I teach on how to handle these foods in our lives. If you can change your thinking, you WILL change your eating (and start fitting into your pants).

Here’s an all to familiar scenario I encounter with my clients. After months of dieting, a client sees the scale drop to the number she’s been targeting. Like clockwork, she cancels her next appointment and tells me she’s feeling great and is “good to go”. It can take a month, six months, or even a year, but nearly all clients who leave like this will regain every pound they lose. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on the receiving end of an anguished phone call that starts something like this: “Lyssa, I gained back all of the weight you helped me lose. I feel awful. I was dong well. How did this happen to me?”

Again, it all comes back to our thinking about food, overeating and dieting. And that message isn’t getting through to millions of dieters. The message can’t be “all foods in moderation”. That might work for the 3 percent of  IT Girls, ( learn about how to be an IT Girl here) but it doesn’t work for you. A diet only lasts for so long, but you want thin to last forever.

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