While researching a recent article on weight loss I became curious as to how we got into a culture of, for lack of a better term, "weight loss chaos." It is chaotic because the choices are numerous, confusing, and many are very dangerous. We are apparently willing to go to just about any extreme to accomplish "extreme weight loss." We see losing pounds as greater than the risks.
Many people today are living with physical problems that resulted from bad diet choices. Some have even died as a result of dieting. Even physician prescribed weight loss aids have led to an untimely demise. I am not suggesting that we should avoid diets altogether but rather that we should be less willing to jump on fad diets. We absolutely must do something...but not the wrong thing.
So how did we get from a world with only a handful of diet choices to today's massive pool of weight loss plans and products? By studying the history of diets one thing that I noticed was that the number of diets began to increase in number in the 1960s, escalated gradually in the 1970's and 80's, and then a boom started in the 1990's that still exists today.
In 1960 Jean Nidetch invited some friends to meet in her apartment so that they could provide diet support to one another. The idea caught on, Weight Watchers was born, and earned the founder $100 million in just 17 years.
Others saw the potential in the weight loss market. Perma-Slim was introduced in 1968 and Dr. Robert Atkins started his "Diet Revolution" in 1972. In 1974 a charismatic personality named Richard Simmons jumped on the diet bandwagon with the "Roughage and Anatomy Asylum." In 1977 we were introduced to the Pritkin Diet. The Scarsdale Diet followed in 1978,
In 1980 the Beverly Hills Diet gained popularity and in 1982 Jane Fonda caused a stir with her workout videos. Then, in 1988, Optifast became the diet of choice. Remember, the diet market began to grow in the early 60's and continues to grow today. The reason for the incredible growth was simply "supply and demand."
According the CDC the percentage of the American adult population labeled as "overweight" increased slightly...from 31.5% in 1960 to 32.2% by 2006. More significant was the rise in obesity rates in that same period, 13.4% in 1960 and 35.1% by 2006. A further alarming statistic is the rise in those in the "extreme obesity" group. That percentage has escalated from 0.9% to 6.2%.
So the obvious reason that the diet market has grown so dramatically is because we have been putting on more and more weight. A small market in the early 60's has grown into the mega marketing opportunity of today.
By the way, since weight loss has become such BIG BUSINESS what would be the incentive for creating diets that help us lose weight, keep it off, and get healthier? Most of the products that are on the market are only there for a quick and easy fix...something that requires overweight consumers to keep coming back again and again. Only a few are truly healthy, provide good nutrition, and promote wellness for life.
Interestingly, the first of the mega diets, Weight Watchers, was based on...and continues to be a healthy program. The one deficiency...which is not the fault of Weight Watchers...is that the only diet that will have lasting benefits is one that results in life change. In other words, until we grasp the importance of a right diet for life then we will never keep it off.
In 1992 the National Institutes for Health got it right by declaring that the best diet is "moderation and exercise." What they meant by "moderation" is that we must adopt a lifestyle of healthy food choices without excess.
Most of us know that the 1992 declaration was on the mark...but it wasn't what most of us wanted to hear. Lifestyle change and moderation are just too hard for most of us. Therefore, we continue to grasp for the hot new diets that hit the market hoping for the easy magic that will produce the slender good looks we all desire. The solution is there for us if we want it.