What's the Appeal of Diets?

Updated on March 07, 2014
F.B. asks from Kew Gardens, NY
24 answers

Mamas & Papas-

For those of you who diet by watching your intake, or who diet by subscribing to an eating plan i.e. weight watchers, atkins, south beach, paleo, whole foods, the maker etc. What's the appeal? Seems a rather complicated way of approaching food, and misery making too as you contend with want/ deprivation & change.

F. B.

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So What Happened?

Thank you for your responses. I appreciate your feedback. Apologies to those who felt judged, or were hurt by this question, that was not my intent.

Best again,
F. B.

Featured Answers


answers from Seattle on

I can only assume that you don't have a weight problem or have never been obese.
No one WANTS to be on a diet. We all want to be able to eat whatever we want whenever we want. How fun!
But most of us can't. Most people will tell you they are not on a "diet", but rather a lifestyle change.
It is complicated. But for most of my years I have approached food as a friend, a confidant, and comfort. That isn't healthy either.
So, I guess I would rather approach it as something that is meant to fuel my body.....if I have to "diet" in order to do that, then I diet.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

I don't think there is an appeal to diets, the appeal is in the results. People want to be thinner, look better and feel healthier, that is the appeal. I have never heard of someone starting a diet because the diet itself sounded appealing. It is the result that they are after.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Ok, we now know that FB is thin and can eat whatever she likes.

I USED to like you.


9 moms found this helpful

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answers from Los Angeles on

Ya know, I really question what would make someone post a "question" like this.

Sooooooo incredibly odd. Possibly pointless.

You have no issue with food. Or weight.
Great. Good for you.
Here's your pat on the back. Pat. Pat.

If I never drank, I suppose I could post a question about how "pointless" drinking alcohol is: the expense for something you pee away, it makes your judgement wonky, causes a headache the next day....
But for those who DO drink, they probably feel it's more complicated.

I would imagine that for a "pointless" food delivered diet, the recipient just might need some help planning a healthy day of meals.
For those who "count calories or points" maybe it's because their food knowledge/interest/willpower might not be as perfect as yours, right?

I know that eating healthy for life and regular exercise is the way to a healthy weight for life.

I've never really followed a "diet" or "program," but I sure as heck don't give a rip about the judgement of those who do. Maybe you shouldn't either?

13 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

?? Why would people diet or watch their intake?? Seems rather obvious. It's not for fun... I'm naturally skinny and have never had to diet but even I am confused by this question. It's like asking an alchoholic why they don't drink anymore and go to AA meetings. Bc all the alchohol isn't good for them. People diet bc they are overweight and want to be healthy... Sometimes structure helps people stick to healthier eating. You must know that some people gain weight more easily than others. Maybe they didn't have parents who cooked healthy meals and got their metabolism off to a bad start as a kid. There are different reasons for being overweight but whatever they are, diet and exercise are the obvious ways to try to lose the weight. What do you suggest instead?...

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I used to think like you. I've always been petite & very fit. I'm 5'1, 4 kids & was 115 pounds. I'm almost 42. Then I had abdominal surgery to remove a tumor from my uterus, my baby almost didn't make it. Between reaching 40, the surgery & more medical problems, I cannot lose weight. Exercise is difficult due to a herniated disc that I need surgery for but there's no guarantee to fix the problem. It's been down hill for me & I feel bad about myself.

But honestly this post just reminds the people who are fighting the weight battle, that others judge them and don't understand.

Count your blessings

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

The appeal is a healthier and more energetic body. And it doesn't hurt when I look better too :-)

There are diets and there are healthy eating habits. Healthy eating habits have better long term results.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

The appeal is that if your natural inclinations have resulted in being overweight, then you would try something that does not come naturally to you. Can't help but think this is very judgmental of you and more an opportunity to pat your own back.
I agree that yo-yo dieting, and temporary results are a lot of torture for no long term gain. However, when you restrict your calories in a reasonable way, you don't suffer too much.
Do you know what I find miserable? Being overweight, hating the way I look in my clothes, making love in the dark, thinking I've passed the age where it appropriate to wear a bikini, and feeling fat, tired and out of shape.

Perhaps you've come to terms with your weight. Perhaps you are one of these people who just eats right for a few weeks and everything goes back as it should and you are blessed not to have have to work so hard at your physique.

There is a fine line of creating a calorie deficit for weight loss and making yourself miserable by over restricting. In any case, I will do the work it takes to loose my baby weight, and I've had to do it thee times. I also had to do it shortly after getting married and realizing that adopting my husbands eating habits would simply not work for me. Yeah, it kind of sucks. Its just that it sucks less than being overweight.

And FYI, my husband and I just went plant based. Here's another appeal for ya: his cholesterol dropped 73 points and he is no longer at risk for stroke and heart attack. Oh, and we feel fabulous, where before we were often sluggish.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Diets have no appeal at all. The speed limit has no appeal at all. I'd much rather eat what I want when I want and how much I want. I'd much rather drive as fast as I want and use my judgment on how fast is safe.

BUT I drive the speed limit, mostly, because I don't want to see flashing blue lights in my rear view mirror. AND I don't want some uncaring and bored Judge telling me I'll lose a week's take home pay because I wanted to go "too fast".

I don't want to carry around 50 extra pounds because I eat more calories than I burn. So I diet and watch what I eat and keep track of calories consumed.

Good luck to you and yours.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on


We learn how to eat from the people who raised us. Some folks are never taught what is healthy or not, or how to eat in moderation. Some of these plans are great ways for adults to learn what they weren't taught as children. Especially those who were only taught "you'll eat everything on your plate."

It does seem complicated, but for those who were raised in homes where it was modeled that you just eat whatever makes you feel good, or whatever tastes good, it's necessary.

Truly, the diet that really isn't a diet, but focuses on healthy choices and moderation is Weight Watchers. The rest are rarely more than temporary plans that cannot be reasonably or healthfully sustained for life.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Richland on

No one is hating on you, they are trying to offer a different perspective.

Genetics are fun. I am super smart, I have the papers to prove it. I would imagine a heck of a lot smarter than you. That is genetics, can't really take credit for that can I? Would have been this way if I lived in a cave all my life.

When I was 38 I was 5'8, 130, I had a six pack and the guns to protect it. Probably hotter than most 20 somethings, again genes. Didn't diet, just walked a lot.

Don't know if you live under a rock, narcissistic so you don't realize how ignorant you sound, just think you are special, thing is you don't get to take credit for genes. You didn't earn them, work for them, you were BORN with them. Most people as they get older realize this, not sure what genetic failing you have that you haven't figured this out.

Grow up already! Not hating here just trying to get you to wake up and smell the coffee. You can't go around taking credit for your gene pool, that is luck of the draw. When you do there are plenty who can effortlessly knock you down.

So apologize because that is what grown ups do.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Reading on

I figure my paleo post may have sparked your thinking. If not, I'll share anyway. But I think the earlier responses of "count your blessings" are pretty accurate. Each person struggles with something in life. I don't understand addictions, but I have family members who have serious addictions and I don't need to understand how they feel to recognize how hard they struggle and how real it is.

This is day three of doing paleo for me. I'm normally gluten and dairy free, so it's not a big leap - just doing it for lent and because I've wanted to try it for a long time (posted two days ago about it). I have to say, without counting calories, I have lost two pounds in two day (yes, I know, probably water weight, but I'm guzzling water and peeing constantly). I have zero appetite, just by not eating starches. My meals have been large and tasty, all veggies, fruit, nuts, and meat. I had to take off my jacket because while I'm normally chilly in the morning but this morning, I'm overheated - I'm in short sleeves - (typically I'm in fleece). My body is functioning more efficiently. I don't feel deprived at all. I feel great.

If I was starting this from a typical diet, it'd be hard. But I've lived without wheat for over a year, so this was actually a small, doable change for me that started with the idea of giving up sugar for lent. I had a physical yesterday and was reluctant to tell the doc. I thought he'd criticize my choice. When I did, he thought it was a great idea and invited me back for "after" blood tests in 40 days to see where my cholesterol is (had a blood draw yesterday, so that'll be my "before."). My family has genetically very high cholesterol and a history of bad heart disease.

(Eta- just wanted to add, got my blood results and just since going gluten free, I learned my triglycerides are cut in half! Woot!)

I know the first couple of days on any diet are easy - it's the three or four day mark that sucks. But I'm looking at this as a long term change, not just a diet. Yes, I may decide it's not for me when lent is over. But so far, I'm loving it. And I'm researching the history of food production and nutrition science and it's very interesting. Paleo is very interesting. I don't believe any diet choices are life long - we are human and we are supposed to adapt and grow according to our needs and preferences, so despite what I'm thinking now, I recognize that there may be something better for me in the future. But for now, This is where I am and I'm happy with it. Check back in 38 days!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Spoken like someone who has never struggled with weight? If so, then enjoy your good health (I mean that sincerely)!

As for me? My body's relationship with food is broken. What a person who doesn't struggle with weight doesn't understand is that it's not a matter of calories in, calories out. Food is information. And for some of us, either due to genetics or bad choices (in the past or currently), the information that our bodies get from food makes us hold on to fat and toxins. You and I could eat the same things and have the same level of activity over a period of time and chances are, I would gain weight on what you eat and how you move. Why? Because how my body processes food isn't the same as how yours does. Maybe my genetics are such that my gut doesn't handle certain things as well as yours does, so I get low-level inflammation from dairy or certain grains, inflammation that triggers an insulin response in my body that triggers a excess fat storage. Or maybe you were breastfed longer than I was so your digestive tract wasn't subtly re-programmed to not receive micronutrients like mine perhaps was from the synthetic nutrition of formula. Maybe you've never had a diet soda habit, which truly messes up with your body's insulin response and fat storage in ways that certainly weren't understood 20 years ago and even still aren't understood by many people today.

At the end of the day, I can tell you that after 20 years of repeated concentrated efforts to just eat less, eat healthy and exercise more, IT DOESN'T WORK. "Everything in moderation," "calories in, calories out," "just eat less and exercise more" is literally killing us. My body responds in a toxic way to many foods now. Now that I've eliminated grains, especially gluten, if I do have grains, I have a noticeable response - joint and muscle pain, bloating and constipation. If I have dairy, I have stomach pain for 24-36 hours until it's out of my system. I have a lot of weight to lose, so although my fasting blood glucose and post-prandial glucose numbers are considered health by conventional medicine, I'm eliminating all added sugars and most fruits and am keeping my fructose intake to under 15 grams a day so that I keep my insulin levels low and in fat burning mode instead of fat storage mode.

I'm one of those people who has been healthy but overweight for many years, and each year it's another five lbs, and another, and another. Cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose and insulin are all great by conventional medicine's standards. My diet has been mostly whole, fresh foods with very little by way of packaged foods (things like BBQ sauce, salad dressing, wheat thins, etc.) for many years. I run several 5K races a year, do one triathlon a year, take zumba classes, yoga, lift weights, biked a 150 mile event last year, etc. So I eat right and exercise...and am 75 lbs overweight.

When you get to the point where something is obviously broken, you fix it. For me, the fix appears to be that I simply need to eliminate whole categories of foods from my diet, add in more of the right kinds of foods (more fat, actually - avacado, coconut oil, nuts), and use some supplemental items to help speed the detox and reset along. I hope to get to a point where I restore some balance to my body and can add back in some things I used to enjoy, but I'm at peace with the fact that I may never get there and that's OK as long as I'm healthy and feeling well.

Sorry to have written an essay on this but it's one of those things that people really don't understand unless it's been a problem for them.

FWIW, both of my parents are slender, active and healthy. My mom has some chronic health issues such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue - both possibly related to untreated chronic lyme disease - but she manages her symptoms with diet and supplements. I had a very, very healthy diet growing up - organic foods, home-grown produce from the garden, real meals, whole grains, and no sugar or artificial colors or sweeteners. I think was really started by downward spiral was that I worked in fast-food restaurants as a teenager and in college so I ate that horrible food, drank diet soda like water, haven't slept more than 5-6 hours a night on a regular basis since middle school, and would gain weight after each pregnancy was over (would lose weight during the pregnancy). So clearly I made poor choices as a teenager and young adult that I'm paying for and correcting now!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

If someone wants to lose weight, or accomplish anything for that matter, it helps to have a plan to follow to reach that goal. After following the diet plan for awhile, it can possibly change the way a person eats for the better long term. When trying to conquer any new challenge comes hard work and strong will power, or in your words misery. So for you it's not food, but surely you can relate in some other way as to why following a plan to reach a goal would be beneficial!

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answers from Chicago on

For someone like me who has trouble with organization and planning, following a specific method helps me to keep track of my eating. Otherwise, I already eat healthy items, but my brain has a really tough time what/when I am eating. I don't seem to have a built-in shutoff valve for my hunger. Something like Weight Watchers really helps me to gauge my intake and expenditure in an organized fashion.

By the way, with Weight Watchers I never feel deprived because there is built in flexibility, as long as you track it.

I've done Atkins and lost 40 some pounds, which I regained +20 after I got married.

I did Medifast's "Take Shape for Life" plan after I delivered my 4th baby 6 months ago. I lost 70 lbs (25 from the baby; 45 from the diet) in about 2 months. I didn't follow the instructions to ease back into normal eating, so I regained about 25 of the pounds. I am starting the diet again tomorrow with a firm commitment to wean off of it once I reach my goal, and I will be incorporating formal exercise again now that my baby's old enough to be in the YMCA's child care zone while I go exercise.

Without following a plan I've never lost ANYTHING. I need the accountability and structure of a plan. For some of us it seems less complicated than having just an unlimited food world from which to choose from. Having a plan to follow makes the journey doable.

ETA: Ding-ding-ding Christy--you are absolutely right about learning our eating habits from our parents. My mom has a mega-sweet tooth and has never deprived it. She doesn't eat breakfast or lunch, but she'll grab every pastry that goes around her office. She also enforced the "clean your plate" rule on us. When I first talked to my Primary Care Provider about my weight concerns she said something to me that I had never realized I had done before. She said, "Make sure you're not eating your kids' leftovers." Wow, eye opener for me--I had never paid attention to that before, but I had been eating those left-overs for YEARS!! She said, "I know that we in the US can be made to feel guilty for wasting food, but don't try to solve that problem by cleaning their plates. Put it away in the fridge, or give yourself permission to throw out the rest." I rarely touch their leftovers now. It has helped a lot.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Well, I don't always stick with it, but I liked the Zone diet. The appeal was the insulin regulation aspect. Granted, I have some health issues which limit my diet anyway (intolerances) and so it's not a question of deprivation. If I looked at it that way, I would be miserable. Instead, I look at what I *can* eat without worrying about feeling miserable-- do you see the difference? I look at the good choices I am making for myself as better than eating whatever I wanted and feeling terrible all the time.

I think there is something to be said about eating intelligently, knowing how a food you put into your body is going to affect you. Frankly, I don't really crave stuff that makes me feel bad. I have passing fancies for things I really shouldn't eat, but there's always a yummy, healthy option to actually satisfy cravings. Those Hot and Spicy pork rinds? I still drool at the thought-- but I can eat some toasted seaweed and get the same crunch and salt, trace minerals as well... and I feel fine afterward. It's all about the perception of the situation. I can't change the fact that a lot of foods don't work for me, but I can control how I want to feel about it.

ETA: Ditto Julie S on genetics. I'm impossibly short, like a great grandmother. I have IBS, thanks Dad. Sometimes, your genetics conspire to turn your body into a curvy little short-stack and then questions like this seem a little inane.

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answers from New York on

Perhaps it's a really good thing that you posted this, for your benefit, so that you can see that your opinion of dieting has thus far been limited to your own experience. Maybe this will help you have more sympathy for people who live with weight issues, for some it being a consuming, obsessive, esteem crushing monkey on the back. I, like you, have never had to worry about my weight—my challenges and struggles lie elsewhere— but I grew up in a house of dieters and have watched my mother and sister fight and lose and win and lose and grieve for what they can't attain and I have grieved and struggled along with them enough to know they DESPERATELY want to control their weight, but simply can't. CAN'T. I have several friends the same way. Please understand it is not for want of trying. Many would give their right hands to be at their ideal weight. I can only imagine what they might give to be able to do it by just watching intake and exercising which is for many not so simple. I can almost guarantee you that almost every overweight person started out by trying that 'simple' solution for a long time before surrendering in despair.
I never expected to find wisdom in the words of Valerie Harper, but what she once said really stuck with me: when asked which diet worked, she said, the one you stick with. Diets help people do what they simply can't on their own. Often they can't do that either, but for many there is one particular type of diet that will work with their particular idioms. Thank God when you find that! THAT is the appeal. I need help, and it helps me. Period.
Thank God you will never know this struggle. If you know someone on this roller coaster, please just encourage her or him, no matter how strange it may seem to you. It just may give her some solace.

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answers from Huntington on

The appeal is that most people want to be thin or at least fit. For those of us who have difficulties in that department, it makes sense to have a "plan" laid out for you, a plan that says "follow me and I promise you will have results!"

Obviously not all "diet plans" are equal. There are many that are ridiculous, unhealthy and only give short term results. However, there are also a lot of plans that help people learn healthy eating habits, moderation, and are plans that can be followed forever (lifestyle change). Weight Watchers, Paleo, counting calories, whole foods are "plans" that I feel fall into this category.

Listen, nobody really wants to count calories, limit what we eat, follow a specific food list, etc. The same way I would suspect nobody really wants to clean their house, exercise, take self-emprovement classes, etc. But we want RESULTS, we want to improve, and so we do what needs to be done.

In my case, a healthy eating plan and counting calories (a diet!) is necessary. I am trying to train my body to like exercise and to like veggies and fruits and to stop when I am full. It is difficult to begin with, our bodies get used to junk food and being full and being sedentary and there is definitely an adjustment period before it feels easy and natural. And if I go off course for a vacation or the holidays, I really struggle to get back on track. My body holds on to weight. I have a problem with overindulging. I know this. A plan helps me get back on track.

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answers from Portland on

I think people like diets because they promise quick results. But for most people, they are simply a temporary fix that quickly becomes unfixed – or worse, all the change and deprivation make putting on even more weight a real possibility when the diet stops. Classic yo-yo eating.

I developed severe sensitivities to "everything," chemicals and foods, about 30 years ago, and had to eliminate virtually every food I liked with new grains, vegetables and proteins. It was awful at first, but my symptoms were awfuller, so I stuck with it for a several years, and still mostly eat in this alternative way.

As the symptoms gradually improved, I was able to include occasional treats, but that experience did change many of my food choices permanently for the better. I eat very little these days that I don't prepare myself from good, simple ingredients. Since I have had a slew of health issues from early childhood, this seems to keep most of them under better control.

In spite of careful eating habits, though, I did eventually develop diabetes, which is in the genes. But I've kept it under control for over 12 years with good food and exercise. I do "diet," in a sense, because I have to severely limit carbohydrates to keep my blood sugar numbers good.

ADDED: J B. explains the need for dietary adjustments for some people very well. We don't all handle the same foods with the same results. I grew up in a poor family eating tons of pasta, bread, potatoes and beans, which turn out not to work well with my metabolism.

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answers from Philadelphia on

To each his own:).

I don't think anyone likes to diet but I know several people that have been very successful on WW and therefore love it!

For me... I turned 40 and knew my metabolism wasn't what it once was. You may say I deprive myself of sugar but after not having it, I no longer want it. Additionally to borrow a WW saying "nothing taste as good as thin feels".

I am guessing but I bet you are not to close to 40yo right?

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answers from St. Louis on

Well, I think they do appeal if someone really has had a long term weight problem.

Maybe the diet can "reset" their thinking and encourage more healthy foods long term.

But I will say, I tried the South Beach Diet a few years back when I had about 10 lbs I wanted to lose...I ended up gaining weight!! ...crazy I know. :) I think I ate way too many nuts and cheese! Special diets do seem complicated to me!

Now that I am in my 40's I do have to keep a watch on the amounts and what I eat or I gain weight much easier. I don't do a "diet" but try to keep a lifestyle of whole grains/fruits /veggies/some meat/ a little dairy and some "treats."

I try to avoid white flour and too much sugar, but I do have a sweet tooth and work a little in as I would feel so deprived if I didn't! :) Also I eat out once or twice a week and get what I want and don't worry about it.

For me, it works right now to keep a fairly stable weight...who knows though, I may have to be stricter as I get older if my metabolism slows more, but I look at it all as a lifestyle and not a "diet".

But, I do think it varies from person to person what works for them.

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answers from Washington DC on

For my DH, just curbing calories wasn't working as he got older. He's a runner and he exercises regularly. For him, changing WHAT he ate made a difference and he chose a diet plan that helped him with those changes. It's not been misery and for the most part it's been a whole family change. We eat less pasta and more veg and we are all healthier for it. DD and I do still indulge but we are not much of a cake, ice cream and soda family to begin with. My mom never dieted, just tried to eat variety and moderation.

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answers from Amarillo on

The only real diet that works is the one where you change your eating habits for life. You change the way you think about eating and what you eat. You eat to live and not live to eat.

Also as F. B. states you can eat everything but don't go overboard.

Food prepared from scratch is much better for you. There are so many preservatives put into the processed foods that cause issues with health conditions today. Some foods are made so that you "crave" them and will come back for more.

The only thing these diet companies do is prepare the food for you. You do not think about it and lose the weight. Once the weight is off, you usually go back to the old habits and thus the cycle continues. So that is why I say you have to change your eating habits for life. The quick fix to things that is not a quick fix.

Be healthy about it and not worry so much about the pounds lose the inches. Do work out and remember muscle weighs more than fat. Change up your wardrobe a bit to make you feel better. We all had the pre-baby body that was tight. Now we have the after baby body and some are tight and some not so much but enjoy what you have and rock it!

the other S.

PS I have a bit of a tummy now but that is because I am 66 and not 18. Just tone it and own it.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

Unless you have a metabolic disorder such as diabetes or celiac disease, I see no sense on completely eliminating entire classes of foods from your diet. Eat what you like, in reasonable amounts. It's really not that hard.
If you like cookies, have cookies. But have two, not twenty.
If you like fried chicken, have fried chicken. But have one or two pieces (depending on the size of the piece), not an entire bucket.
If you like soda, have soda. But have one can, not an entire twelve-pack.

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