Jesurgislac’s Journal

October 21, 2008

Tuesday Recipe Blogging: Diet merchants lie

Suppose you are a woman aged 40, 5 foot 8 inches tall, and you weigh 165 pounds. Your BMI is 25.9 (which NHS direct will make a point of telling you is overweight for your height, but which most people would say is a perfectly normal size.)

Your basal metabolic rate – the absolute minimum you need to stay alive if you do nothing all day but lie on the couch and watch TV – is 1500 calories a day. If you eat less than your basal metabolic rate requires, you starve. If you starve, you lose weight. When you quit starving, you gain weight.

A BBC news story which reports that women who were put on starvation diets of 1200-1500 calories a day also reports that most of them failed to stick to the diet and failed to keep losing weight. In a sane universe, this ought to be as much news as “dog bites man”.

Yet over and over again, you will see diet merchants recommending diet “calorie allowances” which are far too little to stay alive on. Over and over again, you hear the message from the media: fat is bad. Overweight is bad. Control your calories. Go on a diet. Lose 10lbs in 2 weeks!

Friends go on the Atkins diet on a spectacularly regular basis – suddenly they won’t eat a slice of bread or a baked potato, while tucking into bacon and eggs. They lose weight. They go off the Atkins diet. (No one should stay on that diet long-term: it can have serious health risks.) And they gain weight: reliably as clockwork. That’s how diets work: that’s what keeps people coming back for more.

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