Post by Michael Snyder
I'm very glad for you. The Scarsdale diet also works -- for some.
The Atkins diet works -- for some. The Grapefruit diet works -- for some.
No diet, including yours, works for everyone.
Is there any documented instance of a reduced-calorie diet
failing to "work" for anyone who actually followed the diet?
Saying a diet does not "work" when a subject does not follow the
diet is like saying an automobile does not "work" when people
refuse to start the engine and press the accelerator. If someone
performs a "let's go driving" dance around the car and the
car remains stationary, that's not sufficient to conclude the
car is broken. It means the customer lacks the necessary
understanding to use the car. If the manufacturer claimed the
car was smart enough to interpret dance, then the car would be
broken with respect to that claim.
When people say a diet does not "work," all available evidence
supports the hypothesis that those people euphemistically mean
the diet failed to motivate them to follow the diet.
In that sense diets usually do fail---few diet plans provide as
much pleasure and satisfaction as unrestrained gluttony. Gluttony
is popular because it feels good.
A quote from p. 116 of the book "Why We Feel" by Victor S. Johnston:
"Incredibly, the release of dopamine onto the nucleus accumbens
has now been established to underlie almost every form of pleasure
that animals can experience. Blocking the action of dopamine at the
nucleus accumbens will stop an animal from stimulating its pleasure
pathway (in the experiment discussed earlier), and even more
important, it will block the pleasurable effects of a host of
natural rewards, such as food and water and sex. In addition, it
has now been established that all addictive drugs---like
cocaine, amphetamine, alcohol, and heroin---either directly or
indirectly activate the pleasure pathway and eventually release
dopamine onto the nucleus accumbens. The release of dopamine onto
the nucleus accumbens, then, appears to underly all of our
This is why Dr. Chaos states elsewhere in this thread that to cure
obesity in the United States on a large (heh) scale requires
changes to brain chemistry. This is the chemistry that counts: the
release of dopamine onto the nucleus accumbens---the "feel good"
part of the brain.
Research would probably show---if it hasn't shown this already---
that a person who chronically overeats gets an immediate reward by
doing so. Some sequence of chemical messengers begins at the
olfactory sensors and later at the stomach and leads to that
dopamine hitting the "feel good" spot.
A person who can "eat anything he wants without gaining weight"
is not necessarily able to eat more calories than an overweight
person of similar lean body mass and activity level. Rather, the
person who can "eat anything he wants" probably derives less of
a pleasure hit by eating more calories in the short term than
he needs to maintain weight. For whatever reason, his brain does
not reward him with as much pleasure for overeating as the
obese person's brain rewards him. He may experience much pleasure
in eating food he needs, but when he has had the proper amount,
the reward system temporarily shuts off. Further eating will not
be enjoyable until he expends some calories and his appetite
To some degree this may depend on the types of foods a person eats.
It's far more enjoyable to overeat doughnuts than to consume the
calorie equivalent in raw carrots (about one pound of carrots
equals a medium-sized doughnut---try eating a pound of raw carrots
at one sitting). However, attempting to eat carrots instead of
doughnuts does not erase a person's memory of how much
fun it is to eat doughnuts. In the Biosphere experiment, at one
point all the crops except carrots and yams failed, so the
subjects had to eat nothing but those foods. Despite attempting
to eat as much as they could, none were able to maintain weight
and the experiment came close to being cancelled until other crops
The obese person needs to have his reward system reprogrammed
to be like the "naturally" slender person: instead of rewarding him
with more pleasure when he eats more than he needs in a day, his brain
should deter him with disgust if he continues to eat after having enough
Obviously diet plans alone will have a hard time fundamentally
restructuring what a person enjoys doing. As experience shows, it
is incredibly difficult to persuade people not to do things they
enjoy. In some cases, people are willing to risk dying early, or
go to jail, or endure social sanction, rather than refrain from
doing the things that release dopamine quickly onto their
nuclei accumbens. Sometimes the less-immediate external
deterrents cause the addict to retreat further into his addiction.
However, we can infer restructuring brain chemistry on a massive
scale is possible through environmental change alone. A century ago,
the ancestors of modern Americans were, on average, far leaner, and
most of them had ample food. Most could have eaten a few hundred
excess kcal/day with no problem, but fewer of them did. (Food supply
is not the limiting factor as long as a person spends only a small
faction of net income on food. A century ago in the U.S.A., people
had plenty of money to spend on things like railroads, major wars,
city-building, and so on. Getting enough to eat was obviously not
a huge problem for most.)
That strongly suggests something has changed in the environment which
has changed the brain chemistry of many people. Before, people's
brains told them when to stop eating, and now a lot of people's
brains are saying "when" a bit later.
The obvious suspects are (a) the presence of tasty, high-calorie
convenience foods; (b) cultural changes toward larger portion
sizes; (c) labor-saving technologies (e.g., the automobile); and
(d) the proliferation of compelling sedentary entertainments
(TV, video games, computers). It's obvious those factors
could make it easier to get fat, but it's not obvious how those
factors would actually increase the pleasure reward from maintaining
a calorie surplus. Evidently (many) human brains reprogram their
pleasure pathway in response to sustained signals from the
It will be difficult for any diet plan to generate signals
of comparable intensity to nullify the vast cultural changes
in the United States over the past century. However, support
groups might help, if they trigger dopamine release onto
a person's nucleus accumbens through the mechanism of social
approval, and if the subject correctly associates that reward
with the action of eating less.
It's interesting to note the conflict between competing reward
systems. The chronic overeater who wants to lose weight derives
an immediate reward from continuing to overeat, but also experiences
a longer-term deterrent from the consequences of past overeating
(social rejection, health problems, loss of mobility, etc.).
These deterrents are sufficiently unpleasant to have caused most
obese people to want to lose weight at some times in their lives.
Unfortunately for the overweight person, the reward is much
easier to associate subconsciously with the food, and overeating
is easy to conceal and deny. There is no direct deterrent to the
eating itself, because eating is a perfectly normal activity; there
is only a deterrent to the longer-term consequences of overeating.
In the battle between feel-good-now vs. feel-good-later,
feel-good-now usually wins.
Humans have some ability to learn to associate events that occur at
different times. Some animals, like cats, are unable to comprehend
a scolding which takes place more than a few seconds after the
corresponding offense. A clever human might eventually learn to
associate extra daily doughnuts with rude comments on the bus or
a lack of dating success six months later.
However, it's hard for a human to communicate cerebral learning
back to the reward center. Knowing that something enjoyable is
a bad idea does not make it much less enjoyable.
-- the Danimal