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Weight Loss Survey: Why Dieters Fail To Lose Weight
By Anne Collins
Current levels of overweight and obesity, together with weight-related disease, have made weight control a major health priority throughout America. Yet statistics indicate that average weight reduction on conventional diets adds up to a mere 5-8 pounds per year. So why do we find dieting so difficult? According to a new survey(1), the answer seems to be: because we make 3 crucial mistakes. We don't have a good enough incentive; we allow ourselves to go hungry; and we can't cope with "bad days".
The weight loss survey conducted by annecollins.com asked dieters to select the three biggest problems they faced when dieting. The most common problems reported were: "Inadequate incentive to lose weight" (76%); "Hunger" (72%); and "Bad days" (70%). Although these results will come as no surprise to most dieters, they highlight the importance of motivation in the dieting process. We examine how these problems occur, and what steps can be taken to overcome them.
Why Do We Need an Incentive?
We gain weight because we take in more energy than we use. Either because we eat too many calories, or burn too few, or both. So if we want to reduce weight, we need to improve our eating and exercise habits. And this is not easy, because let's face it - old habits are not easily discarded, especially if they involve cutting out our favorite treats. We need a powerful incentive to help us change. Specifically, we need an answer to the question: "How exactly will I benefit from losing weight?"
When faced with this question, many dieters have no answer. Those who do, typically reply: "I'll feel better" or "my health will improve". Others explain they are trying to lose weight to please their doctor, or their partner, or simply because they are "overweight". Unfortunately, none of these reasons are strong enough to help us succeed. So when temptation strikes, we are unable to resist.
What Type of Incentive is Best?
Our motivation to lose weight must be based on a selfish, specific benefit. A good example might be an upcoming beach holiday, or a family occasion, or the achievement of a specific mobility or fitness goal. It must be as specific as possible (general benefits are useless) and ideally related to a fixed date. In addition, it must be selfish. Losing weight to please others rarely works. The advice I give to my clients is very simple. Do not bother dieting unless you have a good incentive. Because no matter how good the diet, no matter how valuable the exercise plan, unless you have a powerful reason to change your habits you won't succeed.
Hunger Kills Diets
Most dieters are still convinced that calories are their enemy. So the less they eat, the faster they are likely to lose weight. This is not true. In reality, the less we eat, the more hungry we get and the easier it is to fall into temptation. The human body is trained to eat when hungry and no amount of willpower will neutralize this basic urge. This is why binge eating is such a common response to low calorie diets.
How to Avoid Hunger
No rocket science here. Avoiding hunger simply means eating regularly throughout the day, and keeping your calorie intake above 1000-1200 per day. This prevents hunger, thus reducing the urge to overeat, and in addition helps to maintain a regular high level of calorie-burning.
Eat Too Much Rather Than Too Little
We all have days when we feel extra hungry, even when we are dieting. This is no problem - simply eat more! It is always better to eat a little too much than not enough. Might this delay your weight loss? Yes. But so what? Taking a few extra days to achieve your goal is not a problem. The real danger is not eating enough and ending up hungry and depressed. This is a recipe for a binge.
Bad Days and The Problem of Perfection
No dieter is perfect. The truth is, all dieters experience "bad days" or fall into occasional temptation. Sadly, most dieters insist on "being perfect". They cannot tolerate these lapses. So if (say) they visit a friend and end up eating 2 containers of ice cream and a box of cookies, they go to pieces. "I'm useless!" they cry. "I'm a failure!" Overwhelmed by guilt at not being perfect, they then quit their diet in disgust.
It's the Guilt That Does the Damage
In this situation, the actual binge is typically fairly harmless. I mean, we need to eat a huge quantity of food (3500+ calories) to gain even one pound of weight. The real damage is caused by the ensuing guilt. And this is what we need to address.
Guilt Comes From Trying to Be Perfect
All dieters make mistakes and this is perfectly normal. Having an occasional binge is no cause for alarm, far less guilt. Even my most successful clients - those who have lost 100+ pounds - had regular lapses. The difference is, they didn't see themselves as "perfect" individuals. So they felt "entitled" to make occasional mistakes, and so should you. Once you accept this, you will find dieting a whole lot easier.
We Need Support to Make These Changes
In order to overcome the 3 problems described above, an essential first step is to find proper support. This is just as important as choosing the right diet plan, because no matter how good the diet, it can't motivate you to stay on track - only people can do this. Dieting is ten times easier when you receive encouragement from others. So when choosing an online weight loss program, choose one with an active forum. Because at the end of the day, it's all about people. When we are alone and isolated, the smallest obstacle can seem like a mountain. But when we have people behind us, anything is possible.
1. Weight Loss Survey (Oct 2005) by annecollins.com. A total of 17,403 subjects replied to the survey. They were asked to choose 3 from a list of 10 diet-problems. The results were as follows:
(1) Inadequate Incentive (76%).
(2) Hunger (72%).
(3) Bad Days (70%).
(4) Boredom (69%).
(5) Stress (60%).
(6) Interference From Others (51%).
(7) Too Much Eating Out (32%).
(8) Eating on The Run (28%).
(9) Ill-health (5%).
(10) Lack of Sleep (1%).
Copyright Anne Collins 2005.
Anne Collins, 54, is a qualified nutritionist and full time weight management consultant with over 23 years experience. Her clients range from top celebrities to ordinary people of every age and shape. Her website attracts 9 million unique visitors per annum, and her weight loss forum is one of the most active support centers on the Internet.
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Weight Loss Pills Explained
By Anne Collins
Within the pharmaceutical industry, obesity is now seen as the "trillion dollar disease". That's the estimated amount of profit a successful weight loss drug can expect to make. But are companies getting close to delivering a diet pill that really works - meaning, a pill that is both safe and effective at solving obesity? The answer, it seems, is No.
Pills To Reduce Obesity
It's true that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a tiny number of weight loss pills like Xenical and Meridia for long term use in the treatment of obesity (BMI > 30). But evidence accumulated in clinical trials suggests that the effectiveness of these obesity drugs is less than impressive. Total annual weight reduction tends to be in the range 8-20 pounds. Furthermore, the highest weight loss tends to be achieved by patients who participate in supervised trials involving a combination of drug treatment, diet, exercise and counseling. Which makes it difficult to ascertain the precise effect of the medication itself. By comparison, less well supervised obesity drug trials tend to have a higher drop-out rate and reduced weight loss. And the longer the trial, the lower the compliance and the lower the weight loss. In short, while helpful to some patients, weight loss drugs are not yet the answer to obesity, especially when factors like cost are taken into account.
Should we be surprised? Not really. After all, even bariatric surgery is no guarantee of long term weight loss unless patients comply with the necessary post-operative dietary regimen. Indeed, some obesity experts claim that medical interventions like drugs and surgery are almost by definition doomed to failure, for the simple reason that they take control and responsibility away from patients. According to this view, it is only when patients accept full responsibility for their eating habits and lifestyle, that they have a real chance of achieving a normal weight in the long term.
Unfortunately, this view satisfies no one! It doesn't satisfy the pharmaceutical companies, who need to make money. It doesn't satisfy doctors, who need to give hope to their overweight patients, and it doesn't satisfy consumers who want instant weight loss without having to change their eating habits. In short, there is an overwhelming demand for an obesity pill, but a viable product has yet to emerge.
Pills For Cosmetic Weight Loss
Demand for diet pills is not limited to those suffering from clinical obesity. Millions of consumers with less than 40 pounds to lose take non-prescription pills to burn off body fat or increase their rate of weight loss. According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan, almost 25 percent of girl students turn to anorectic diet pills when they're trying to lose weight, including laxatives and diuretics.
These non-prescription pills are more difficult to evaluate, as they are not subject to the same high level of regulation as prescription-only drugs. Thus not all ingredients need to be tested, dosages and other labeling requirements are less stringent, and reporting of "adverse events" or health problems is not mandatory. Furthermore, few long term clinical trials are conducted on non-prescription pills, so hard evidence as to their safety and efficacy is scarce. Meantime, the huge profits to be made from these weight loss products means they can be supported by expensive advertising campaigns to increase consumer acceptance, making regulation and control even more of an uphill struggle. Indeed, the FDA has found it almost impossible to ban over-the-counter diet pills, even after reports of illness and injury.
Herbal Diet Pills For "Healthy Eating"
The past five years has seen a huge rise in sales of herbal diet pills, which are marketed as a form of "healthy eating". These herbal supplements typically include a variable combination of vitamins and other active ingredients which supposedly offer a healthier type of weight loss. Such claims are not generally supported by clinical evidence, and some suppliers are under investigation by both the FDA and FTC. Nevertheless, rising demand for these herbal weight loss pills is yet another confirmation of our huge appetite for what is essentially a non-dietary approach to weight control.
How Do Weight Loss Pills Work?
In simple terms, weight loss pills are designed either to alter body chemistry in order to reduce appetite, or to interfere with digestion in order to reduce calorie absorption. Appetite suppressants include amphetamine-like stimulants such as ephedra, or pills to increase serotonin or norepinephrine levels in the brain. Pills that interfere with the digestive system include fat-blockers (lipase inhibitors) like Xenical and chitosan, carb-blockers, and very high fiber bulking agents such as glucomannan.
Are Weight Loss Pills Safe?
Obesity drugs are generally safe when used correctly and under medical supervision. The trouble starts when users do not follow the manufacturer's instructions. Adverse health events for these pharmaceuticals include heart or blood pressure problems and strokes, as well a range of less serious complaints. The same applies to non-prescription diet pills, whose adverse health effects include high blood pressure, heart palpitations, irregular heartbeats, dizziness, blurred vision, headaches, insomnia, intestinal blockages, anxiety and depression. In extreme cases, both prescription-only and non-prescription pills can cause life-threatening conditions. Even so, safety remains a relative concept. Cigarettes, alcohol, cars and stress kill millions of people every year. By comparison with these things, diet pills cause far fewer "casualties", and if you consult your doctor before taking them, you can reduce the health risk to a minimum.
The Real Problem With Weight Loss Pills
The biggest problem about relying on drugs and supplements to lose weight is not health, it's reliability. In my 20-odd years of dealing with overweight individuals and their families, I have yet to hear of anyone who achieved and maintained any significant weight loss by using pills. But I have met a huge number of people whose weight and emotional state of mind had been significantly worsened through the use of pills. They were afraid of food, they had absolutely no confidence in their ability to make sensible food choices, and tended to rely on purging, laxatives and similar products to control their eating habits. One client - a former annual weight loss winner with one of the major dieting companies - had been fed deliberately with pills in order to achieve the weight reduction that the organization required. When she came to me for help, she had regained 70 pounds of her original weight loss. In short, relying on pills for weight control can mess up your body and your mind.
The Small Print Says It All
Advertisements and infomercials for diet pills are dominated by headlines like: "Effortless Weight Loss" or "Lose Weight While You Sleep!" and so on. But the small print often tells a different story - either that users should follow a calorie-controlled diet, or only eat at certain times of the day, or stop eating certain high-calorie foods, or some combination of all three. There may also be a reference to the need for exercise. In other words, if you want the truth about a weight loss pill, check the small print. Because, as all obesity experts and dietitians will tell you, no long term reduction in weight is possible without controlling energy intake and expenditure.
If You Must Take Pills
Whether you are a diet pill addict, or just an occasional user, here are two ways to make weight loss easier. Look for a healthy, gimmick-free diet, and follow it as carefully as you can. In the process, focus on healthy eating rather than calorie reduction. Aiming to eat healthily is much more positive than calorie control. Secondly, join an online dieting forum and get encouragement and advice from other people. Because all surveys show that losing weight is a lot easier when you have others to lean on. My own forum for instance includes a large number of former diet pill users who are now enjoying their food and losing significant amounts of weight in the process. Which proves that when it comes to weight control, people power is much more effective than popping pills.
Anne Collins, 54, is a qualified nutritionist and full time weight management consultant with over 24 years experience. Her clients range from top celebrities to ordinary people of every age and shape. Her website, http://www.annecollins.com attracts 9 million unique visitors per annum, and her weight loss forum is one of the most active support centers on the Internet.