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Jacques Peretti is back looking at the health of the nation. His last documentary was called "the men who made us fat" you can read about it here. This time he is looking at the men who made us thin and the huge industry that sells us Diets.
Everyone that he spoke to was aware of calories and so many were counting them so it is no surprise that people look to diets. There are so many diets and you would be hard pressed to find anyone who has never tried one. But how many people have been on a diet, lost weight and then kept it off?
In examining the industry he finds some shocking truths.
Studies have shown that the pattern of diets means that you nearly always regain the weight. This means that you are actually better off not going on it in the first place! That's some food for thought...literally.
In 1944 an experiment took place at the university of Minesotta where 36 men lived on a diet of just 1500 calories a day for six months. This was done to find out what happens to the human body when it is starved. The experiment was run by American nutritionist Ancel Keys and they were monitored constantly. Being starved meant that many were affected quite badly, mentally as well as physically. Many tried to escape to eat grass in the nearby grounds. One tried to bite off his fingers. The most important discovery for the diet industry was that after the six months were over they quickly put the weight back on...and then they put on more. This was the first time that this had been shown. It proved that trying to lose weight with a diet over the long term will not work for the majority of people. Once you realise this it may well make you think about all the money, time and effort you have put into your diets in the past.
American insurance company Met Life redefined the definition of overweight back in the 50's and this helped launch the dieting industry.
For millions of women in this post war period many had found themselves overweight. The diet industry came to their rescue.
Metrecal was the first diet drink launched in 1959. Each can contained 200 calories and looked like baby milk formula. The idea was that you had Metrecal for breakfast and lunch then an evening meal if you wanted. Does that ring a bell at all? More and more people were convinced that they had a weight problem with clever and imaginative advertising. Jane Maas was a copywriter working on the account and helped come up with a snappy set of adverts that almost made it seem like a cocktail party of fun to drink these diet drinks.
Dieting was being presented as a sexy way of life, and these are Jane's own words. Now speaking about it Jane says that the flames were fanned at this point.
Soon there were hundreds of products appearing. Scientists who studied weight loss at this time were starting to see that there was a problem with this.
In 1959 a study was carried out by Professor Jules Hersch to see how people lost and gained weight. He saw that people were not gaining by losing weight, because when the dieters lost weight their bodies panicked and this meant that they put the weight back on. Our biology was preventing us from keeping the weight off. The conclusion in his words "it works for a while and then a couple of years later it's just put back on. They always work for a while but then the weight comes back."
So, this information was discovered over fifty years ago, Diets don't work and yet we still have a huge industry making billions of pounds.
This means that if a diet fails in the long term then people will keep coming back and back to the product. This consumer failure was a recipe for business success !
The diet industry relies on the shame of feeling overweight. Even if you fail it convinces you that it was your fault and not that of the product. This means that you can well become a yoyo dieter. When you go on a diet you put your body through things that are very bad for your metabolism. Sadly it's a cycle that millions of people fall into.
"The Diet Revolution" known as the Atkins diet has been around for nearly fifty years, most people have heard about it. As well as his books he also had a range of food available. The one thing that came with the success of the Atkins diet was that you could eat as much as you wanted as long as it was the right thing.
Pierre Dukan is the author of "The Dukan Diet" which is an £80m business. He has taken the ideas of the Atkins diet and run with them in his own way. He says that his diet is very simple. 72% protein and 28% fruit and vegtable. He also sells Devorcal tablets which are supposed to help you lose weight, as well. The diet is very popular and it was even reported that Kate Middleton may have been using it before the Royal Wedding. The statistics that Dukan himself states show that 1 in 4 people manage to keep the weight off at the end of the diet. Does that sound like a good statistic? Would you bet on something that would only work 25% of the time? It goes to show that the long term just isn't catered for in these diet programmes. That is just two years later. What about five years later...
Jean Nidetch founded Weight Watchers and it came to the UK in 1967 and found a ready market. The idea was that getting together in a group would help. They said that they believed that no fat person could do it alone. In their own words "Fat people are basically Stupid"- Bernice Weston. Today they are keen to point out that they are promoting a lifestyle and not a diet. Looking at Weight Watchers own statistics Dr Carl Henegan, an expert in Clinical Trial data from Oxford University showed that over the long term it just isn't effective. After five years 16% of people managed to keep the weight off. He also points out that these are the ones who have stuck with it. What happend to the others I wonder ? Don't forget these are their own statistics. Perhaps the success comes from the fact that 84% of the people need to come back and do it again?
It is interesting to know that many of the biggest companies providing diets are also making foods..diet foods.
With obesity rates soaring the diet companies have seen a brand new and lucrative income stream. The NHS now pays for patients to go to classes with slimming groups including Weight Watchers. The statistics show that out of 1000 people offered the classes 115 will agree to attend, 64 will actually attend, after five years just 10 people will maintain their goal weight. (Dr. Carl Henegan)
Does all this make sobering reading? The statistics speak for themselves. It's quite a scary read isn't it !
Think carefully about what you want. Do you really want to spend your life and your hard earned money on Diets? Is there a better way for you to lose weight slowly and keep it off?
Say goodbye to Diets forever....Find out about the Slimmer you programme and "No more diets" HERE
Read about his other Documentary "The men who made us Fat" here