The Tale of Kirstie Alley
Public displays of weight-cycling make me cringe. How horrifying to helplessly watch Kirstie Alley lose 75 pounds - and regain 83 - before our eyes. How did it happen and, even more important, can it happen to you?
What did happen?
In 2006, Kirstie Alley, a beautiful big-boned actress whose weight has long fluctuated, became the spokesperson for the Jenny Craig diet plan. In 15 months, Kirstie lost 75 pounds and appeared on Oprah in a bikini (at age 56!) Fast forward, two years later, Kirstie’s on Oprah again, overweight, and calling herself “disgusting”. Cringe. Note to Kirstie: Be kind to yourself because self-denigration is not associated with weight loss success. Note to Jenny: Don’t choose loose cannons for your spokespeople! Kirstie was preceded by Monica Lewinsky, well know for reckless behavior, who shares Kirstie’s weight-cycling fate.)
The Jenny Craig Diet is a “restrictive diet” because it takes away all food choice. On the Jenny plan, a dieter eats packaged food that costs an average of $75 a week. The idea is to make food choices convenient, served in portions that obviate overeating. There are also weekly weigh-ins with a “personal consultant” who sells more food. (Meanwhile, Jenny, the company, is doing just fine having been sold to Swiss food giant Nestlé for $600 million dollars in 2006.)
Neither a taut nor floppy string
In a recent People magazine interview, Kirstie admitted that she "went a little wild" when she stopped eating Jenny food. She “cut some slack” and treated herself to the food she had been denied. Little did Kirstie know that she should have cut herself some slack all along. Restrictive diets, as opposed to flexible diets, increase the sense of deprivation and the tendency to binge. Rigid diets strip you of the opportunity to practice choosing food in the real world. Many successful losers in the National Weight Control Registry, and on Calorie Count, have done away with All-or-Nothing thinking.
Try, Try Again
Yo-yo dieting itself does not increase a person’s risk for health problems nor does it make future weight loss impossible. It is not worse to yo-yo diet than it is to maintain an excessive weight.
Yo-yo dieting does leave a person “fatter” pound for pound because “lost weight” is from both fat and muscle, whereas “gained weight” is proportionately more fat. And yo-yo dieting carries a psychological toll. It is so discouraging and depressing to try and fail (again). Any unsuccessful diet is opportunity that has been missed.
Drama not withstanding, yo-yo dieters need to know that success is found in making small lifestyle changes for their own sake rather than for loosing weight. Forever is the key concept, ever mindful of the process you design, and ever learning from your mistakes.
Where are you with restrictive vs. flexible dieting and with weight cycling?