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questioner: Your page on proper nutrition was great. I followed the links, and learned a lot. But you did not mention anything about overweight and weight loss, and that’s where I need help. I have tried many different diets for years, but still I am overweight, and nothing I try seems to work. What do you recommend?

dr-robert: I advised healthy dietary changes for improved physical, mental and emotional stability, but did not recommend a diet specifically for weight loss, and this is why:

Essentially, there are three reasons why someone would be overweight. The first of them is simply eating too much of the wrong kinds of foods due to bad habits or lack of proper nutritional information. Secondly, weight gain might be one symptom of an underlying medical condition such as hypothyroidism, or Cushing’s syndrome. But usually--almost always in fact--being overweight results from one simple cause: chronic overeating for emotional reasons combined often with insufficient exercise.

Although overweight due to underlying medical conditions is fairly rare (1% or so), if one does not seem to be overeating but still gains unwanted weight, those conditions must be ruled out.

If the problem really is just lack of information, the information is simple, and I will state it now. Forget Atkins, forget Ornish, forget Protein Power, forget Beverly Hills. Forget all of the so-called weight loss diets. Since they focus on quick weight loss, not on healthy nutrition, they are all harmful to one’s health in one way or another*, and they are ineffective in the long term; even if one loses weight, only very rarely will the new, thinner physique be maintained over time. “Going on a diet” is the wrong way to approach this matter, and almost guarantees failure. The word “diet” when properly used does not mean a weight-loss plan; a diet is simply what one eats. In other words, all of us have a diet already, we do not need to “go” on one.

The way to come to the proper weight is simple. Get some real physical exercise every day, eat less, and base your diet on the principles stated on the ask dr-robert page and the links you mentioned. In other words, move your body as it was intended to move, and refine the diet you already have. In addition, it has been found that when wanting to lose weight, it is helpful to add more dairy products and other sources of calcium to the diet, to avoid fatty foods, to avoid sugar, white flour, and other refined carbohydrates, to cut down on alcohol if you drink, and to stay away from the starchier vegetables such as potatoes. Except for a few fine points, that’s about it.

But this kind of information is not much help the chronic overeater, because almost always habitual overeating is an emotional problem best treated, like smoking, excessive drinking, or other drug addictions, by intervention on the psychological or emotional level, not just with good advice about food and exercise. The advice may be good, but until one is emotionally ready to commit to weight loss and subsequent weight maintenance, the advice will not, really cannot, be followed consistently.

In fact, habitual overeating is even more complicated to deal with than smoking, alcohol abuse, or other drug addictions, and this is why: a drug addict can come to the point of abstaining from the drug of choice while still craving it, but the overeater does not have abstention as a option. One cannot simply swear off food as one can with cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs. All of us must eat, and so the temptation to consume a bit more is always there right on the plate, in the fridge, on the shelf, or on the menu.

If you want more information about overweight and how to deal it effectively, holistically, and with the emphasis on mental, physical, and emotional health, you can find some good leads, including recommendations about diet, exercise, and even some healthy recipes here at the weight control info center, and here with Dr. Andrew Weil. If you are the kind of overeater who cannot be helped by information alone, I suggest making an appointment with me for personal counseling which will include an individualized nutritional program as well as therapy aimed at being able to make an emotional commitment to a healthier body, a more tranquil mind, and a happier life.

Be well.


*The Atkins diet in particular is just criminal--nothing more than a commercial scam which has been perpetrated for years. It is a diet which, if followed, immediately deprives the body of the micronutrients required to prevent cancer, heart disease, and other serious ailments. If you simply must have a complete diet plan, and do not want to seek individual nutritional counseling, try the South Beach diet which at least includes a variety of healthful foods.

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Todos Santos Counseling, Therapy, and Depth Psychotherapy

Todos Santos, Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico

last modified January 30, 2005

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