Lately, there has been a great deal of advertising done by someone using a drawing of a blond woman going from fat to thin and promising you can lose weight by following “one weird old tip” (or something to that effect). I don’t know what the tip is, but the ads look, feel and sound like the same old pig in a poke type of thing that has been sold to those looking to lose weight for decades. These are plans that promise you that you can easily and simply lose weight by making simple and desirable choices in your life.
It’s easy to understand why people want to sell you easy answers. They want your money. The slightly more difficult part is understanding why “we” (and I actually don’t mean “me”, but humans in general) actually buy simple answers to complex problems. My guess is part of it is desperation. We can’t make the lifestyle alterations necessary to achieve a lasting healthy weight, so we keep looking for some trick or option that we’ve missed. Someone has to have the answer because there are still more thin people in the world than fat ones, and the thin ones don’t seem to be any less neurotic or any more intelligent than us.
The thing about these deals, and this applies to all of them, even the most absurd ones, is that they work for some people. Sometimes they work for a little while, and there may be at least a handful of others for whom they work for the duration of their lives. The main problem with the wackier plans is that they rely on substituting real food for fake “balanced” concoctions that offer all of the nutrients you need at fewer calories and with no satisfaction (no matter how hard they try to fake good taste). In the short term, people can manage this. The problem is that, in the long run, you grow tired of a stomach that rumbles because it didn’t get real food and taste buds that want to experience something more.
Many plans actually make sense from a certain viewpoint or seem logical, balanced and healthy. The problem with many of the most sensible plans is that they depend on a certain level of discipline which can be maintained under ideal conditions, but may rapidly fall apart in difficult life situations or when your options are limited. This is something that I faced rather seriously when I found that I was too injured to exercise my way to weight loss as I once did. It is also an issue for people who accomplish weight loss based on restricted food lists. The more you “can’t eat”, the harder it is to take part in normal life, particularly social functions.
I have always been dubious of the diet “pigs in pokes” – the cookie diet, candy diets, cabbage diets, soup diets, etc. It’s not just the fact that all of these plans are so obviously about selling specialty products to people desperate to lose weight, it’s also that I’ve always seen them as very short-term solutions. What happens when you lose all of the weight you want and stop eating the cookies or medically-formulated bars or soups? They do nothing for you in terms of teaching you how to deal with food in day-to-day life and seem to set you up for a cycle of regaining when the "diet" is done.
I think that most people have a terrible time altering their relationship with food, myself included. It's so much easier to radically alter your habits than to moderate them. This is especially true when you have tried and failed so many times to make the changes that are necessary to lose weight. I think that people buying those dietary pigs in pokes are simply tossing out their entire unhealthy way of dealing with food and hoping to replace it with a new and healthy way. Perhaps that is why fad diets have appeal. If the change isn't radical enough, people don't have the sense of abandoning their "bad" way of life entirely, and they really want to get as far away from their "fat habits" as possible in the hopes of building thin ones.