Why dieting doesn’t usually work

This TED talk by neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt is from a couple years ago, but it’s topic and lessons are just as relevant now as they were when she delivered it in 2013. The $60+ billion diet and weight loss industry is booming, appealing to not just adults, but adolescents as well.

Such an intense focus on weight at an early age can have some serious unintended developmental consequences, both physiologically and psychologically. For example, this recent study from the UK found girls as young as six on diets, and that dieting youngsters tend to develop a negative body image and are at much greater risk of developing eating disorders as the get older.

It’s a high price to pay for something that evolutionarily our bodies aren’t well designed to do. As Aamodt said in her talk:

“Diets don’t have very much reliability. Five years after a diet, most people have regained the weight. Forty percent of them have gained even more. If you think about this, the typical outcome of dieting is that you’re more likely to gain weight in the long run than to lose it.”

And despite overwhelming evidence to show the severe limitations of diets, the elusiveness of weight loss, and the misguided emphasis of weight as a good indicator of health (see previous post on the topic here and here), diets persist and the industry is thriving.

Give this talk a listen. Some good points to think about.


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