Monday, July 9, 2012

some thoughts on diet systems

some thoughts on diet systems


I'm sure you recognize the names..


(and I'm sure there are others out there..)

The question is, "Do they work?"

There are a lot of diet "systems" out there, and each has plenty of testimonials and "before and after" pictures showing overweight people getting skinny, so they must work, right?

The answer, "Yes and no."

The Good

They work on the very basic premise that you're currently eating too much food, and they will help you reduce your caloric intake (since you can't control it yourself.) And in this regard, they do work.

They provide you with (in most cases) proprietary meals to eat, along with instructions on when to eat, how frequently to eat, what to eat, how much to eat, etc. Their meals are configured so that by eating the right number of the right meals (and not cheating with other food), you'll limit your calorie intake to a deficit amount, and your body will be burning more than it consumes. Add some exercise to the mix, and you're definitely on your way to weight loss city.

So yes, these systems can help you lose weight. But...

The Bad

There's more sides to this equation:
  • Long Term Transition - If you're not learning to prepare / order your own meals, you're setting yourself up for failure once you get off the system and go back "into the wild." You'll either go back to your old eating habits, or you'll try to eat healthy but won't be used to controlling your portion size.
  • Fitting into Business Life - You eat lunches out with clients, partners, and prospects. You travel for business. You meet with bosses, subordinates, and colleagues. You won't land the deal, or the promotion, by being the picky eater who can't eat at one restaurant or another, and who would rather just have an iced tea. Business gets done over meals, and you need to be able to meet and eat whenever, and wherever, makes the most business sense.
  • Fitting into Personal Life - One day you're eating somewhere between the office, soccer practice, and gymnastics. The next day everyone in the family wants pizza or Chinese. The day after that you're mixing and matching leftovers before they go bad. When your family life is busy, there isn't always an opportunity to stay on the pre-packaged meals from the "system."
  • Expense of Proprietary - Whatever system you choose won't be free. You'll pay for the system, and you'll pay for the food. Whether the cost fits into your budget or not is something for you to decide; I'm just saying it's a cost (where there doesn't need to be one.) And then it comes back to the Long Term Transition point from above - are you doomed to failure once you stop paying? If so, then you're either hooked on paying for life, or you're back to where you started.
Bottom Line

Diet "systems" can work, especially in the short term. They help you limit your calorie intake, which for most people is the primary point of failure.

However, these "systems" only work if you follow them very closely, which can be difficult (or even impossible) to do without turning your life upside-down. Sometimes business life and family life don't allow for pre-planned and pre-packaged meals. And the transition from the "system" back into regular eating can be difficult.

I'd prefer learning how to eat regular food in the wild successfully, so you don't need a "system". It's not that difficult to do, especially when you pair it with a goal of getting healthy over the long term. Small changes to your diet, without making drastic life-style changes, can have a huge impact.

Stay tuned - I'll be writing a lot more about specific eating ideas for weight loss over the coming weeks and months.

-Chris Butterworth

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