Why do diets make us so emotional?

In January, ITV aired a programme called Save Money: Good Health, which examined a group of diets to see how efficient they are for weight loss.

Six overweight participants were put on a different diet for 28 days to measure how effective £ for lb each plan was. The winning diet was LighterLife, with dieter Nick losing 23lbs over the course of the month, at the lowest cost of £14 per pound of weight lost.

Every diet has its fans and detractors, but watching the reaction to the programme playing out on Twitter revealed an interesting truth: the topic of weight loss raises a storm of emotion. From dismissing some of the programmes as “fads” to accusing the programme-makers of “lying”, hundreds of commenters had their say and they did it with passion.

Many people dismissed the whole programme as unnecessary, claiming that the simple route to weight loss was just to eat less and exercise more. Sadly, at Broccoli & Brains, we are only too aware that this approach is never as simple as it sounds. If you’ve ever been on a diet, you’ll know that the difficult part is stopping yourself from reaching for familiar or comfort foods when the going gets tough. Some people call it willpower, but there is complex psychology around the link between our emotions and what, when and how we eat.

LighterLife is a Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) and often attracts criticism for being a “fad” because of its unusual nature. We put this to the test earlier this week by asking our Twitter audience the following question: “Your friend starts a VLCD. How do you feel?”

37% of respondents said they were worried about their friend’s health. 26% said they would feel irritated that they had joined a ‘fad’. 23% were jealous of the weight loss their friend was achieving and 14% said they were intrigued by the idea.

We don’t know how many people who took part in our poll have actually tried a VLCD for themselves, but as humans, we often have a quick emotional response to something that is outside of our “ordinary”. In fact, VLCDs are a perfectly safe method of losing weight (you can read more about them here).

As the old adage “eat less, move more” clearly isn’t measuring up to rising global obesity rates, perhaps we need to move beyond our safe boundaries and explore more unusual approaches to weight loss and good health.