Diet

Why diets fail so many people with Dr. Yoni Freedhoff

The Canadian obesity researcher talks to us about his new book, The Diet Fix and why it's time to reprogram the way we think about food.

diet, overeating

Photo, Getty Images.

Wrap you head around this: Of the two-thirds of people who’ve tried to lose weight, 60 percent have attempted to do so more than six times. Of those who’ve tried more than six times, 34 percent have struggled more than 20 times. And 66 percent have tried on so many occasions, they’ve actually lost count.

It’s with these jaw-dropping stats that well-known obesity expert Dr. Yoni Freedhoff kicks off his recently released book The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work. We chatted with Dr. Freedhoff to find out more about what his book is all about.

Q: How does your book differ from the other anti-diet books on the shelves these days?
A: This book is different in that it helps people to lose weight, but in a non-suffering manner — and it isn’t a “diet.”

The [other] anti-diet books generally say: be happy wherever you are, and please don’t try to lose [weight]. I don’t think that’s medically sound. There are proven medical benefits to losing weight. But a lot of times when the anti-diet folks talk, they don’t talk about quality of life, and [excess] weight has a very negative impact on that quality of life.

There’s so much stigma in society against folks who struggle with weight, and that stigma alone negatively impacts people’s quality of life.

Q: Your book involves a 10-day ‘breaking the diet cycle’ plan involving steps such as “Gear up”, “Think”, “Exercise”, “Indulge” and more. How did you develop this plan?
A: In trying to help people get where they need to go, the biggest hurdle is getting them mentally to the right place. That includes having a person understand and appreciate that there are variables beyond their control. That their best is something laudable and congratulatory and important and that they need to treat themselves with the same amount of love and respect as they treat their friends and relatives. And that food is fuel, but it’s also comfort and celebration.

So getting people to that mental place is what those 10 days is all about. It’s teaching people that food is something you don’t need to be afraid of but is controllable. That it has roles beyond fuel.

Q: Of the 10 days, are there any in particular that are most-challenging for people?
A: Learning how to use a food diary as a tool to help yourself rather than a bludgeon to beat yourself up with. And also getting past the perception that it’s onerous. Perception and reality are very different when it comes to food diarizing. A lot of people perceive it as a difficult process that’s very frustrating. Nothing could be further from the truth in this day-and-age where there are apps that allow people to keep track of what they’re consuming in seconds. I keep a food diary and I haven’t missed a day since 2011.

Q: Any surprising facts you uncovered in putting this book together?
A: The amount of times people try to do ridiculous diets. It’s staggering that we try so hard. And it’s the message of the whole book. People don’t fail diets. Diets fail people. And the fact that we haven’t figured that out as a society.

Q: So what message would you like readers to take from your book?
A: Your job in life is to live the healthiest life you can enjoy. Sometimes those lives aren’t very healthy, and that’s normal and okay. The world we live in has a lot of nutritional warts but also a lot of nutritional blessings in that there really are a lot of amazingly wonderful and indulgent foods. Food is an incredible pleasure and we can’t deny that in our existence and expect that we’ll stick with things. So if people can take away that they need to enjoy food and to sustain their losses, that would make me very happy.

For more from Dr. Freedhoff follow his blog, Weighty Matters.