First Do No Harm

Why Diets Donít Work

This is going to be the most comprehensive articles you will find on the subject. I know this because I keep getting articles like it in my inbox and they all point to just one or two things, and they try to sell me something related to those things. They are never very comprehensive.

Iím going to give you three solid reasons, one orchestrative reason, one holisitic reason, and one overall controlling reason. [Yes, I just created a neologism.]

You donít have to take notes, but believe me: there will be a test.

But first, did you hear about the two women talking, when one brings up the subject of her new diet?

ďItís terrible. I have to cut out white flour, white sugar, potatoes and my favorite bread. Then I have to measure everything. No cold cuts, mainly fish and chicken and steamed vegetables. I canít have any alcohol and canít use any sugar substitute other than stevia. And there is no cheating. No eating after six in the evening. Not even a smoothie before bed.Ē

ďThat sounds horrible. How long have you been on it?Ē

ďI start tomorrow.Ē

Everyone hates dieting. This is one reason they donít work. And this isnít even one of the reasons I had planned on telling you. So, you got a bonus.

#1: It's all about metabolism.

When most people diet, they start cutting back on their calories. You might want to say, at this point: ďDuh.Ē

Well, if youíd read my book (Rapid Safe Weight Loss), youíd know thereís a lot more to the process than just cutting calories.

Now consider this. Your body is always trying to maintain balance, or as we science folk like to call it: homeostasis.

After just a little over one week of cutting calories, your body realizes the calorie restriction and lowers your metabolism to burn fewer calories, mainly because your body thinks itís starving.

You see, we all still have the bodies of Hunter/Gatherers. When there were food shortages, our bodies went into its famine phase, slowing down our metabolism to keep from burning all our fat stores.

Weíre going to need fat stores to make it thru the famine and when the famine eventually ends weíre going to need our fat stores to create the energy needed to get out there and hunt/gather.

So, after just over a week of fewer than normal calories (even if your normal calories are huge and causing you to gain weight), levels of our hormone leptin are dramatically cut our metabolism drops, and there you have it: your weight loss plateau.

Nobody likes those damn plateaus when weíre dieting!

There are things you can do to counter this situation. You have to fake out your body with creative cheating, intermittent fasting, foods that stimulate greater metabolism, and exercises that kick your fat burning in gear.

Sounds simple, but you need a plan and you need to follow it.

#2: That damn leptin again.

It is secreted by our fat cells. If you are obese, youíre secreting an awful lot of it and your brain will eventually become resistant to it. Thus, your brain just doesnít know that you're fat. You look in the mirror, you see that youíre fat, but your brain wants to be told by leptin that youíre fat and that you donít need to eat.

This is a terrible, vicious cycle:

You diet. Your leptin levels drop. You stop dieting, your leptin levels go up and up and up and up till the brain canít sense them anymore and your body thinks it needs to build fat stores to secrete leptin and so you start putting on the fat. Ainít that a kick in the shorts.

The way to stop this is, again, those same recommendations weíve just mentioned. You need to tell leptin youíre the boss: You have to fake out your body with creative cheating, intermittent fasting, foods that stimulate greater metabolism, and exercises that kick your fat burning in gear.

#3: Gremlins! (Ghrelin)

Actually, thatís my mnemonic [a little trick to remember something]. The actual word is: Ghrelin. Itís referred to as the ďhunger hormone.Ē Ghrelin has a few roles in the body. It controls a huge portion of your digestion, for one thing. And since it is produced in your stomach, lap band surgery (or all of these surgeries that shrink the stomach) have an effect on how much ghrelin is produced, and the overall effect on your body, because of these procedures, is to ruin your digestive system and put your wellbeing in jeopardy. Not a good situation.

Ghrelin levels are reduced during digestion. When they are high, they signal the brain that youíre hungry and had better eat soon. Eating puts them to work digesting your food, hence they begin to drop.

Now the bugaboo is this: Studies show that even after a year of a reduced calorie diet, your ghrelin levels tend to stay high. One study I found showed ghrelin levels remained high up to 18 months after people stopped dieting. Our bodies just don't seem to adapt to calorie restriction, at least as far as ghrelin is concerned. When you stop dieting, it takes a long time for ghrelin to just settle down and so you feel hungry all the time.

However, the good news is this: Intense exercise lowers ghrelin levels. Or if you canít do intense exercises (youíre old like me Ö or injured like me), just taking a walk after meals will help bring them down. (And this is why walking after meals is so important!)

#4: You stopped dieting.

That's right. Diets don't work because we stop them. Say you want to lose 50 pounds. You diet, and diet, and diet, and finally lose the weight. So you stop.

You have stopped doing what was working and now you're going to go right back to what wasn't working.

This is why I hate fad diets. Even the best diets, with tons of peer reviewed studies behind them, like the new LOW CARB diets eventually fail because you go back to eating carbs when you are off the diet.

This is why, in our book, Rapid Safe Weight Loss, we tell you this is not a diet. It's a lifestyle change. Yes, it's very rigorous for a while when you will experience some great weight loss, but you continue to use much of what you know after that to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

#5: Stress.

Do not get me wrong: I am not saying stress causes weight gain. There has been only one study (I think out of Italy) that claimed this and that study has been thoroughly debunked.

But stress can be a factor.

Why? We are hunter/gatherers. Our bodies cannot sense any difference between the stressors in our lives today (car troubles, stupid, mean bosses, etc) and the stressors in our hunter/gatherer lives (a tiger chasing us for its dinner).

A ferocious animal breathing down on us or a butt-headed boss breathing down on us produce the same stress hormones. Dieting or experiencing a famine both produce the same stress to our bodies, or, at least, our bodies cannot discern any difference.

Even it seems our governments seem to want us to live in fear. If itís not the Commies itís the Terrorists.

Why is it so easy to get us to live in fear?

Look around you. Do we have an obesity epidemic? Do you know that most people who are obese, are obese because they are living in fear?

That is why itís so easy to get us to live in fear: Weíre already there.

The obese are afraid they will not get their next meal. They fear an approaching famine. We have food all around us but inside of us are these fears, and our greatest fear, as hunter/gatherers, is famine. All our fears are related to famine. And no, this is not rational. However, thatís one thing about fear is they donít have to be rational to be real (or at least feel real).

And fears mess with our hormones. Stress will not put weight on us, our habits do that. Stress keeps us from losing. When stressed, we store fat.

Iíve discovered a very interesting method of losing weight that is built upon the premise that diets donít work. Instead of dieting, you are slowly lifted up into a place of safety where you are not going to starve and you can give your body permission to be thin.

I know it sounds crazy, but it works. Conquering our fears is a huge undertaking. Living in the present can do it, but living in the present is also a huge undertaking.

Here are a few links to programs that can help you:

The Gabriel Method This is the the method I discovered. I've read it. It makes a lot of sense. It has worked for many; perhaps it will work for you.

Living in the NOW. I have all of Eckhart Tolle's audio programs. There is nothing better on the planet for bringing you to a peaceful place. I fall asleep at nights listening to Tolle. Even his voice is soothing.

#6: Diets don't work because we go on them. (Kinda like #4 above, but it has to be reiterated.)

If itís something that you must start and then stop, then itís something that will not work in the long run because maintaining proper health is a full time job. We donít just do it for a while and then stop.

First of all, if we have fat, we have inflammation. Inflammation comes from being fat and is also responsible for being fat. (In an article on metabolic syndrome, we ask the question: Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?).

How many redundant studies that show that our diets and lifestyles are killing us have to be conducted before we realize that our diets and lifestyles are killing us?

We must free our bodies of inflammation. We must get up off our asses and move: Ask your doctor if getting up off your ass is right for you!

We must eat when we are hungry, sleep when we are tired, and play.

If you own a dog, then you know you have a zen master living with you. Learn from that zen master.

After writing my book Rapid Safe Weight Loss, I went out and did the plan I had just created in that book. I wasnít about to publish it unless it worked. It worked well. In fact, the last time I did the program I lost 17 pounds in two weeks; but that was when I learned that, at my age, I shouldnít be doing that much exercise, that quickly after my winter break, I tore my meniscus on the tennis courts and now I am really pissed because it will take a long time to get back to doing what I love: tennis.

SoÖlearn from my example. The older you get, the slower you work your way up into an exercise program after your winter hibernation.

After writing that book, I dropped 35 pounds in one month by following the instructions; the minimum instructions. You can do your exercises more often than the minimum and you can lift weights every other day. Itís up to you.

But I did the minimum, lost 35 pounds, and then I decided to work on the second part of the book (which is not written yet because Iím too damn busy doing 17 other things) about Maintenance.

Thatís the one thing most diet programs donít have because diets end.

Lifestyle changes never end.

Maintenance is the incorporation of tiny lifestyle changes that keep you from gaining back that weight you dropped from those larger lifestyle changes you recently made to lose the excess. And in the maintenance program you still have the option of going back to the basics and working off a few more pounds when you are readyor when you need to, because part of your maintenance program is weighing in regularly.

You have to set a limit. If you reach or exceed that limit, you have to go back on the more rigorous plan and get rid of it so you can get back to your maintenance.

By maintaining just a few of the rules set forth in my book about exercise, intermittent fasting, and creative cheating, etc etc etc, I was able to maintain my weight for two years.

I have NEVER done that in the past. As always (with this website and my journey), I make sure it works before passing it on to you.

So, now you know why diets donít work.

You also know never to go on a diet. Instead, we incorporate lifestyle changes; changes that might be a bit radical at first, a bit extreme, but they are changes that you can, at a minimum, maintain the rest of your life, just in smaller quantities and for shorter periods.

Further Reading:

Intermittent Fasting (


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