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Dieting bad for health?

Finally, some respite for eaters everywhere. A new study shows that dieting has a huge downside in the long-run. Researchers followed two sets of overweight women between the ages of 30 and 45 for six months. Where one group followed traditional weight loss methods, the others were "instructed to let go of restrictive eating habits and not weigh themselves, were counseled to eat according to their natural appetites, given standard nutritional information about healthful foods, and participated in a support group designed to help them become more accepting of their larger bodies, develop a positive self image, and enjoy their bodies."

Here's what the results have to say:


[T]his study also poignantly illustrated that improvements to health and health behaviors with dieting are not maintained and in the end dieting actually worsens women's health and quality of life. The dieting group which had significantly increased their physical activity right after the treatment period, had returned to their initial levels by the end of the study. And most remarkably, there was nearly 200 percent more bulimia and eating disorders among the dieters compared to the nondieters. The dieters' self esteem and depression had also significantly worsened, which isn't surprising given most dieters are left with an overwhelming sense of failure. And the psychological and physiological effects, as well as eating problems, resulting from calorie restriction itself have been clinically documented.
The nondieters, on the other hand, enjoyed extraordinary improvements in their self esteem and feeling good about their bodies, and less depression. Nondieting resulted in healthier eating and more normal relationships with food, less eating restraint and feelings of hunger. And the nondieters, by learning the joys of movement separate from an "exercise" or weight loss regimen, had nearly quadrupled their physical activity. They'd naturally made healthier habits part of their lifestyles by simply nurturing and appreciating the bodies they had.
No doubt this latest piece of evidence will become part of the ongoing obesity wars, and coming weeks will inevitably bring us new research that says exactly the opposite -- just to ensure that we all remain as addled and anxious as ever. But this study is at least useful in pointing out that the pressure to lose weight -- even for sound health-related reasons -- does not occur in a cultural/psychological vacuum. Dieting, when accompanied by low self-esteem, is no good for the body or soul, irrespective of the size of one's waistline.

P.S.: In case you're wondering, I don't feel like saying anything about the current situation of Turd Blossom aka Karl Rove except to state the obvious: all digits on my hands and feet are in an extreme state of contortion. That aside, I read an interesting piece by Michael Wolff in the latest Vanity Fair, comparing Rove to Democratic guru Bob Shrum. I plan to write more about it tomorrow when my brain is less dehydrated from excess amounts of alcohol.

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