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Diet plans: Do they work in the long term? 


Although diet plans and diet pills are increasingly popular, there's never been credible evidence that any diet plan as of this point in time can ensure long-term weight loss. In fact, long-term studies of diet plans have found to the contrary, that there may be a rebound effect, which is a net weight gain in obese people who have lost weight on very low calorie diets.  The feelings of failure that seem to follow the  rebound effect associated with the latest diet plans may even lead to dysfunctional eating patterns, including binge eating according to more recent research. 

Most low-calorie diet plans seem to cause dieters to shift back and forth between weight loss, weight gain and then weight loss again.  In the end, this “yo-yoing” back and forth between weight loss and weight gain seems to be a pattern associated with increased health risk, including increased likelihood of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. If you are a person of extreme obesity or your weight is clearly a health hazard, a more moderate weight loss approach may include a diet plan that involves realistic and attainable goals rather than an unrealistic ideal for long term weight loss. 


There are efforts underway to develop new kinds of drugs that actually operate directly on genes, hormones and proteins that have been linked to obesity.  Theoretically, these treatments would try to counteract the natural reactions of your body that seem to undermine your best efforts at a diet plan.  Whether these diet pills provide safe and permanent weight loss will remain to be seen. 

What is the proper goal of a diet plan? 

Some researchers have argued that if you are obese, the focus of your diet plan should be more on improving general health and attitudes than drastic weight loss.  If you have poor or unhealthy eating habits they can be corrected, or poor self-concept and distorted body image, you should focus on improving these aspects of your overall health.  Also, if the public can become more educated about the myths and truths regarding obesity perhaps everyone will be better off. 

There is some controversy about appropriate diet plans and whether they should even be considered.  There's a growing body of experts that state that if a person is mildly or perhaps even moderately obese that they should be left alone.  At the very least, their diet plan or weight loss program should set more modest and realistic goals.  Obviously, it is also critical that the public overcome their prejudice against people who are overweight and consider that at its worst it may be a problem that requires treatment and perhaps may simply be another version of the relatively normal human condition.  This is not to say that diet plans are useless, just that a more moderate long-term approach is probably more advisable. 

Some information from Abnormal Psychology by Ronald J. Comer

Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic  MA Licensed Psychologist   Ph.D. Candidate  (Health and Geriatric Psychologist)

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