Waiting on the Weight Loss Fairy

No, there isn't just one magical thing experts do to find health and lose weight -- any more than expert chefs use just one magical ingredient, expert musicians play just one magical note, expert pilots pull just one magical lever, or expert authors use just one magical letter.
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Yesterday I was on NBC Connecticut's Today Show to talk about my new book, Disease Proof. We'll get back to the book shortly, but for now, I want to talk about television, you, and fantasyland.

I had a short wait in the green room (the name of the waiting area for on-air guests at any studio) before my segment, and inevitably, TV monitors were playing there, showing both the affiliate's own programming and the competition. Just prior to CT Today is the show from the mother ship, Today, which now extends from the early morning until 11 a.m.

From my days working for Good Morning America, I know that the morning shows serve up the "harder" news first thing, and then get "softer and longer" with their segments as the rush of early morning gives way to the more languorous aspect of watching-TV-in-the-not-quite-afternoon. The nearer to 11 a.m., the more these shows are about pop culture and entertainment and the less about news. That's the prevailing formula.

So, while waiting to talk about my book on NBC Today, I saw a segment about a new weight loss book, describing a new lose-weight-fast diet, on Today itself. I don't ordinarily watch any daytime television, but I wasn't at all surprised that if I happened to catch 10 minutes of it, what I would wind up getting is yet another new way to lose 30 pounds in 30 minutes, or some such thing. The morning shows, and related programming, including the popular medical shows, may not have a new diet on every episode, but I'm quite certain there hasn't been a single week in the history of any of them without a diet feature.

Each such diet is introduced in the customary fashion, with the theory and promise emphasized. A food stylist may help show what wonderful foods go along with it, or perhaps some particularly effortless form of exercise is demonstrated. But most importantly, the diet will tend to be about "just one thing" you must do, or shouldn't do -- and the promise of weight loss will be a whole lot faster than any health professional would recommend, or than common sense would allow. It will all sound, in other words, too goo to be true -- which is what makes it suitably titillating for TV.

But here's the thing you already know: It is too good to be true. Let's consider that this type of programming has been on for years, and there have been new quick-fix diets introduced every week if not every day on virtually every such show. That makes for thousands of such diets. Thousands!

If the first 7,022 quick-fix diets down the pike did not give you the lasting control over your weight and health you really want, what do you think the probability is that the 7,023 will? If your answer is anything other than "just about zero, or maybe a little less," you may as well stop reading now. Of course, it's zero.

Here's the paradox: We seem to have exactly the same kind of collusions causing obesity and pretending to help fix it. The food industry feeds us obesigenic junk foods, and we complain about it -- but we buy it just the same. Since we keep buying it, they keep selling it -- and when they are criticized, they contend they are just trying to keep the customer satisfied. We get fatter, and they get richer -- and both of us, supplier and demander, have a hand in keeping this going.

As for the fix, we keep pretending there is some way to lose weight and find health that doesn't actually involve taking better care of ourselves in sensible ways. So, the media try to satisfy this yearning by offering quick-fixes, the best of which are mostly nonsense, and most of which are total nonsense. At some level, we even know they are nonsense -- but we have that yearning. So TV and magazines keep feeding us false hopes, which keep the yearning for magic going; and the yearning for magic keeps the quick-fix nonsense coming.

Which leads back to Disease Proof, and why I will keep doing all I can to tell the world about it. If you wanted to learn how to cook, do you think you would be better served by having an expert chef teach you everything he or she knows, or by having one "magical" ingredient? If you wanted to learn to fly, would you be better off learning from accomplished pilots, or having a magical chant? If you want your children to be literate, would you like them to learn the alphabet and reading, or get a bargain on a radical new shortcut that involves using only the letter "W"?

We seem to accept that everything worthwhile in life requires a set of skills, and that we tend to be well served learning those skills from those who have them. We know there is no quick-fix for learning, reading, cooking, flying, or driving. We watch old sitcoms to laugh at the foolishness of get-rich-quick schemes. But we tune in daily to get thin and healthy quick. Take a quick look around to appreciate just how thin and healthy that's made us!

Perhaps we've had enough of this? Perhaps for our own sakes, and the sakes of our children who may otherwise extend this same cycle into another generation, we are ready to give losing weight and finding health that lasts the respect they deserve?

I wrote Disease Proof in the hope that we are now ready for the same kind of empowering truth about weight loss and vitality that we apply to everything else that matters. The book details exactly the set of skills I apply in my own life and share with my wife and children; embellished by the terrific insights of my co-author, Stacey Colino, a wife, mother, accomplished health writer, and fellow fitness enthusiast.

No, there isn't just one magical thing experts do to find health and lose weight (or control weight, because when you have the right "skillpower," you don't gain excess weight in the first place) -- any more than expert chefs use just one magical ingredient, expert musicians play just one magical note, expert pilots pull just one magical lever, or expert authors use just one magical letter. There is a set of skills for being expert at health and weight control. I have them, because it's my job to have them. In Disease Proof, I share them all to the best of my ability.

That's the truth. If you are ready for it, I believe Disease Proof is for you. The book, as described by those who have read it, is enormously empowering -- and quite possibly life-altering. Decide for yourself.

If you are not ready for the truth and want to keep waiting for the weight loss fairy, or cling to the hope that the 7,024th quick-fix diet will do what the others didn't -- don't bother with the book. Just turn on the television.


DISEASE PROOF is available in bookstores nationwide and at:

Dr. David L. Katz;