Diet Gimmicks Don’t Work

Diet gimmicks are like magic tricks. We know the magician doesn’t create the white rabbit he pulls out of the hat, yet we suspend our disbelief for the sake of entertainment.

Like a Diet Gimmick
Like a Diet Gimmick

Diet gimmicks make claims they can’t support, such as “lose 30 pounds in 30 days.” While we recognize the ploy to get us to buy something, we suspend disbelief because we want to believe that someone has finally come up with a magic pill. Other diet gimmicks use “before and after” photos in commercials.

If you’re a baby boomer, you might remember a commercial for Brylcreem, a men’s hair product. Whenever I used to hear it, I’d end up with the ditty in my head all day.

Brylcreem – a little dab’ll do ya.
Brylcreem – you look so debonair.
Brylcreem – the gals’ll all pursue ya.
They’ll love to get their fingers in your hair.”

I borrowed the tune to write a parody for my sweet tooth.

Chocolate – a little gem’ll do ya.
Chocolate – with texture ultrafine.
Chocolate – so luscious one’ll suit ya.
A tasty nugget from a candy mine.”

Wait a second. Something’s wrong here. Why set an arbitrary limit on how much chocolate we’re allowed to eat?

Because it’ll backfire. Food restriction doesn’t work. Saying no to food for reasons* other than that we’re too full only trains us to suppress our natural hunger cues, to regard them as unnecessary, unreliable, even unwanted.

How do we assess hunger cues? By sitting quietly (perhaps with eyes closed) away from the aroma of food and focusing our thoughts on how our stomach feels. If we’re not sure what our stomach is telling us, then we’re probably full.

Diet Gimmicks -  like pulling a rabbit  out of hat
Diet Gimmicks –
like pulling a rabbit
out of hat

If we still want to eat right now, we can! The good news is we’ll be eating with awareness instead of mindlessly. Believe it or not, after a while, our mindfulness helps retrain us to relax in the presence of food, pay attention to our stomachs, and not pressure ourselves to eat when we’re not hungry. Best of all, we’ll find that eating when we’re a little bit hungry makes the food taste better.

So I rewrote the parody.

Chocolate – such mesmerizing flavor.
Chocolate – with texture ultrafine.
Chocolate – eat now or save ‘till later,
Contented when our senses all entwine.”

(My apologies to the true poets among my readers!)

No matter how tantalizing the promised results, diet gimmicks – despite their magical claims – lead to arbitrary food restriction, which leads to ultimate weight gain.

Watching a skilled magician is a lot more fun.

*The negative effect of food restriction on chronic dieters does not apply to people with food allergies or to those who avoid food groups (such as meat) from ethical concerns.

Posted on February 23, 2016

4 thoughts on “Diet Gimmicks Don’t Work

  1. Oh, my. Gaining weight comes on so gradually I hardly notice it but when I do notice it…losing that extra weight is such a struggle. I remember the Brylcreem ditty. I sang it as I read it in your post!

    1. Your sharing your struggle makes me feel less alone, Anita. As for the Brylcreem ditty, the tune is what I remember. If advertisers realized the stickiness of those jingles on us even now, years later, I’m sure they’d use more of them. Thanks for your feedback!

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