If you are familiar with college football, then you are probably familiar with the concept of a “system” quarterback on a “system” type team. If you are not familiar, take a look at Texas Tech, they are a system type team. There is a good analogy with the quarterbacks on system football teams and all of the people using “system” type diet plans out there. They work well while in their “system” but outside of it, their success fades.
We have all seen the infomercials that show celebrities losing a lot of weight and reducing their pant sizes with just a simple “system.” We have also seen the piles of books at the nearest book store that claim to have the secret to losing weight with their special “system.” So what do these systems have in common? 98% of them take out the guess work for the person doing the diet while just putting them on some form of a calorie restricted diet. Well that’s a good thing right? That would seem like a good thing except that the dieter never seems to get a grasp of the true problem at hand (actual good nutritional habits) and sooner or later, the system fails because of either non compliance (not following the diet anymore) or because the system wasn’t good in the first place.
What is the true problem? I believe the root of most dietary problems is developing bad habits in the first place because otherwise people wouldn’t be looking for special systems to “cure” their diet (I acknowledge there are other problems such as poverty/healthy food availability, environment etc. but that is not the scope of this article). If this is not the case, those gimmicks would not sell like they do and most people would be lean and healthy already. I truly believe that if people would make the right dietary choices in the first place, these cries for help (reaching for the gimmick book/special microwaveable meals) would end.
So what are my gripes about these programs if they DO tend to work at first? I feel as though these gimmicks don’t do a good job at giving long-term health. Instead, they offer a small amount of weight loss at the beginning without teaching healthier habits. Take for example the “system” that has frozen foods delivered to you every week. This sounds great since it is extremely convenient to the user. The problem is that this convenience is at the cost of the dieter learning truly good dietary habits. This might not be too detrimental if the user doesn’t mind ordering these foods for a LONG period of time and doesn’t mind the taste of constantly eating frozen meals. But the problems don’t stop there. The commercials show meals that are usually forbidden on other diets, which is enticing for the dieter. This idea stems from the fact that you CAN eat junk food and still lose weight as long as you aren’t eating much of it or anything else (just being in a calorie deficit). The problem is that you WILL lose weight, but not healthfully and not efficiently.
Moving on to other types of systems… programs that use a point system that also let you eat things that would seem contradictory on a healthy eating plan are becoming more and more popular. These programs are also built on the fact that as long as you are in a caloric deficit (eating less calories than you burn) you will lose weight. Again, this will cause weight reduction, but at the cost of a truly healthy diet and not to mention the user’s health. Theoretically you could eat a few junk food items (brownies or a piece of pizza) and still make your point total for the day. Sound healthy? This is why we advise QUALITY over quantity. These point systems are only based on quantity over quality. Using this philosophy is not efficient for health.
What about other systems that lay out every detail from workouts to every bite to eat for the day? Again, these are wonderful for someone who has no idea what they are doing, but what happens when the program is over? Do they start over? Or does the company that made the program have to keep making more and more specialized diets and workouts for the extent of the users life? Once again the problem lies in the fact that the user follows blindly and doesn’t develop his or her own habits.
So right now, some of you reading this and asking, “Well if those systems aren’t the answer, what do I do instead?… Isn’t Leaner Living a system?” The answer is to LEARN and APPLY actual healthy habits instead of relying on someone else just telling you what to do. The Leaner Living system is our own method of teaching our patients how to practically apply principles and habits that can be maintained for life as opposed to a blind faith following that lasts a few months. When we see patients that follow the other systems the short-term success rate is about 70% and the long-term success is much less(around 15%). When we instill our principles into someone, our short-term success is near 100% and the long-term success is just as high. It is never too late to develop healthy habits. Best of all… you won’t have to rely on another quick-fix system again.