We’re a nation of plenty and we’re having a hard time controlling ourselves when it comes to food. Most of us are on the See Food Diet (I see food, I eat it). At least that’s what Slate’s science blogger, William Saletan, reports in “Real Food for Real People,” an article written in the wake of a study of 311 female dieters aged 25 to 50 that found that the Atkins diet was responsible for the most weight loss—even considering that most dieters cheat.

The participants in the diet study who said they were following the Atkins diet (fewer than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day) ate nearly three times the amount of recommended carbs. Ornish dieters, who are supposed to get only 10 percent of their calories from fat, also tripled their intake, getting almost 30 percent from fat.

In the end, Saletan and the study’s lead author, Christopher Gardner, mused that it was the restrictive nature of the Atkins program along wtih people’s nature to cheat that combined to produce the no-carb diet’s good showing.

In the real world, simplicity helps. Atkins has few rules and “one of the simplest messages … absolutely no sugar and no refined carbs,’’ Gardner observes. That, he suspects, might explain why participants followed the Atkins regimen more closely than the other diets. In the real world, sometimes you have to push people too far to get them to go halfway. “Cutting back drastically on simple carbohydrates,” as Atkins demands, “is clearly a step in the right direction,” says Gardner.

Is it our backsliding nature that dooms us to failure when we choose “moderation”? Dietician Suzanne Havala Hobbs, writing in the North Carolina News & Observer, posits that “Moderation Is Killing Us.” Her deliciously strict editorial points the finger of shame at the food industry, which has gotten lots of leverage by pushing the moderation concept.

‘Moderation’ is an affirmative word: It says we can eat some, and it doesn’t specify when to stop….

The food industry, with its partners in the [American Dietetic Association] leadership, refused to allow any particular food to be labeled as being unhealthful or a poor choice. No bad foods allowed.

In 1996, when the ADA proclaimed March to be ‘National Nutrition Month,’ one key message read, ‘Any food in today’s diverse marketplace fits in a healthful eating style.’

Sausage and cheese biscuits? Not a problem.

I’m sure Hobbs’s implied diss of Julia Child will have some folks ready to flame, but Hobbs correctly points out that food industry lobbyists have suckered our government into an unhealthy level of permissiveness. Just say no, it seems, is reserved only for drugs.

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