This Reason review of both Gina Kolata’s Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss— and the Myths and Realities of Dieting and Brian Wansink’s Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think does something one doesn’t often see in writing about the efficacy of diets: It recognizes that losing 10lbs is nothing like losing 100lbs.
In Rethinking Thin, Kolata, a veteran New York Times science reporter, focuses on a group of obese people enrolled in a University of Pennsylvania diet study. They exhibit the usual pattern of initial success followed by setbacks, typically ending up about as fat as they were to begin with. […]
By contrast, in Mindless Eating, Wansink, a marketing professor at Cornell University who has studied consumers’ food-related decisions for decades, focuses on the sort of gradual, modest weight loss that Kolata concedes is achievable. Declaring that “the best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on,” he urges small changes in everyday behavior that over the course of a year can result in a weight loss of 10 to 25 pounds. His book will not be much help to people like the research subjects Kolata interviews, who generally want to lose 50 to 100 pounds.
So many people seem convinced that there is no difference between losing 10lbs and losing 100lbs. So many people have lost 10lbs by a “lifestyle change” like getting a more active job, or walking at lunch, or working out 3 times a week, or what-have-you—and assume that fat people who did the same thing would eventually weigh what they weigh. It doesn’t occur them that a fat person might only lose 10lbs if they start exercising, or that the fat person may already be maintaining a similar level of exercise their body has already made a similar adjustment.
Now, I’m not saying that losing and keeping off 10lbs is easy or possible for all or necessarily desirable. We all make our own choices. But it is a different thing than losing and keeping off 100lbs.