Three months into 2014, and most people’s New Year’s Resolutions are but a distant memory. Diets that started with great fanfare on January 1st, have withered and died along the wayside.
What is it about weight loss that makes 95% of diets fail, time after time?
One person who has helped thousands of people lose weight is Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an Ottawa based physician and medical director of Bariatric Medical Institute. Freedhoff is certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine, and is considered Canada’s nutrition watchdog, in large part due to his highly successful health blog – Weighty Matters. Freedhoff often cites external factors as contributors to people’s weight challenges, for example dishonest food marketing. In many ways, Yoni’s blog is parallel to Fooducate’s, and we often link to his writing.
In fact, his writing is so good, that Freedhoff has started writing books. His first book, The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work is hitting the shelves these days. We took the opportunity to chat with Yoni about the book, weight loss, and our modern food landscape.
Fooducate: how many years have you been in practice, and what are some non obvious commonalities your patients seem to share?
Dr. Yoni Freedhoff: I’ve been in an exclusively weight and nutrition practice since 2004. As far as common denominators go among patients, while there are none that are truly uniform, I’d suggest that one of the most common contributors to weight these days are meals out. And it’s not really all that surprising in that calories in restaurant meals are incredibly high. One recent study reported that among 29 fast casual restaurants the average number of
calories per dinner (including a shared side, a shared dessert and a beverage) was greater than most men and women burn in a daytime. Whereas once we as a society used to eat out for occasions, today eating out on a multiple time per week basis is considered quite normal. We need to re-cultivate love affairs with our kitchens.
Fooducate: What led you to write this book?
Freedhoff: The look of relief that I see on people’s faces when I tell them that I’m not going to measure their heights and tell them what to weigh is enormous. My goal for patients, both in my office and with The Diet Fix, is to help them learn to live the healthiest lives that they can enjoy, rather than steer them (as many diets and diet gurus do) to the healthiest lives that they can tolerate. Given how much that message resonated with my patients, along with their long term success was what led me to want to write.
Fooducate: Why do so many people who were successful at weight loss, at some point regain their weight?
Freedhoff: Whatever a person chooses to do to lose their weight, unless they keep doing that, they’re going to gain it back. Unfortunately, many folks think suffering and success are synonymous. However in the long run they later learn that weight lost through suffering almost always comes back. True weight loss success needs to be measured not in terms of how much is lost, but rather how much is kept off.
Fooducate: in your blog, you are very outspoken about external factors affecting people’s nutrition. Does the book include strategies to deal with our obesogenic environment?
Freedhoff: Absolutely. The fact is that people haven’t changed over the course of the past 100 years, the world around them has. Putting this another way, I simply don’t believe that we have suffered an epidemic global loss of willpower. If I had a time machine and I dropped my patients off even just 50 or 60 years ago I’ve no doubt that they’ll be lighter when I pick them up 6 months later. But we don’t have time machines. As evidenced by annual statistics, the default in this environment is gain, but with awareness, planning and organization it is possible to navigate even this current toxic environment healthfully, and that’s precisely what The Diet Fix aims to teach.
Fooducate: Your book emphasizes the importance of maintaining a long term food diary as a key to success, yet that’s one of the hardest behavior changes for people to make. Why is that?
Freedhoff: I think people’s struggles with food diaries stem from challenges of both perception and attitude. First, perceive the effort to be tremendous even though it’s anything but. With apps like Fooducate and many others, what once was perhaps fairly described as slightly tedious (writing by hand, flipping through books to look up numbers), has become nearly effortless.
Second, from an attitude perspective many people and programs teach that food diaries are tools of judgment – there to tell the user if they’re good or bad, what they’re allowed, or how much room is left for dinner. If you’re using your food diary as a bludgeon to feel badly about your choices, go figure people give up on them quickly. Food diaries are there to help guide your next choice, not to make your next choice. It’s about the healthiest diet a person can enjoy, and sometimes enjoyment and health don’t go hand in
hand and that’s A-OK.
Fooducate: Is your book relevant for parents of children who are overweight?
Freedhoff: Parenting boiled down to its essence is living the lives we want our children to live and no doubt I want my children to respect their personal bests as great, to learn not judge their self-worth by a scale, and to appreciate that food isn’t simply fuel but also comfort and celebration – so yes indeed, this book is relevant to parents of children with any weight!
[ Disclosure: Dr. Freedhoff provided us with a complimentary copy of The Diet Fix. ]