Weighty Matters

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Dieting Makes Us Dumber?

on October 28, 2013

A couple of days ago, in my post about being done in by a cupcake, Hope posted a link to a NY Times article. Here it is: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/22/business/the-mental-strain-of-making-do-with-less.html.

The article talks about the mental stress of dieting, associating it with the psychology of scarcity. This scarcity mental strain also applies to other people, such as those who are poor. I won't go into the whole thing, but a couple of ideas really jumped out at me. Apparently there are studies that show that when we diet, the thoughts of food, obsessing about our food choices, trying to balance everything, even calorie or carb counting reduces our mental bandwidth. If I'm in a meeting and there's a big plate of donuts on the table, I can be so consumed with whether I can/should/could fit a donut in my plan, that I'm not paying as much attention as I should to the meeting. Diets have psychological as well as physiological impacts.

Less bandwidth makes it more difficult to make good choices — so dieting may make it harder to succeed at losing weight. How's that for a paradox?

One of the suggestions in the article was that the diets that require less thought, i.e. those with more restrictions on what foods are allowed or not, fewer choices, etc. sap less bandwidth and are, therefore easier to stick to.

I can get behind that theory. Prior to weight loss surgery, my most successful weight loss (about 103 lbs) came on a program on which I ate only 9 ounces of protein and a cup of salad a day. It was medically supervised with three visits per week to the clinic and monthly doctor's checks. Any time I tried one of the really strict popular plans, like ones in which I only drank meal replacement shakes, I did great for the time that I was on it. Once I went off, of course, the weight came back on, but those diets were easier at the time than one in which I had to figure out every meal, calculate points, count calories, etc.

This is partly why I'm continuing with my plan to be more restrictive. I did pretty well last week. For this week, I'm sticking with full liquids for breakfast and lunch with a more solid protein and some veggies at dinner. I sometimes just feel the need to chew. πŸ™‚

If you get a chance to read the article, please do. I'll be interested in knowing what you think!

Happy 450th blog post to Weighty Matters! Thanks for keeping me company.

3 responses to “Dieting Makes Us Dumber?

  1. Hope says:

    Happy 450th post! I’m glad you enjoyed the article. πŸ™‚

  2. Skye says:

    First: the link is broken. You need to remove the characters following “html”.

    Second, that is a very interesting article. It would be nice if someone with actual power decided to follow some of the suggestions for dealing with poor people. And if more people took it to heart when looking at and dealing with poverty. How can anyone have the mental capacity to deal with complex issues when they are simply trying to survive? I for one can testify to that. It’s even hard to look for work when I’m terrified about running out of money.

    Thanks for bringing the article out of the comments so those of us who missed it could read it.

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