The Science of Dieting

Hello and welcome to The Science of Dieting, my name is Todd Weber, I’m the founder and CEO.  This is where I’m supposed to tell you how great I am.  Well, sorry to let you down, but I’m not.  I’m just a regular guy trying to make the world a better place.  Now, to be fair, I am a registered dietitian, have a MS in exercise physiology, and a PhD in bioenergetics & exercise science, I’ve taught nutrition and/or exercise physiology at seven colleges, and I started a nutrition consulting company (Energy Balance Nutrition Consulting).  This is where I could stop, keeping this bio short, sweet, and generic but I have so much more to say, so here we go for those wanting to read further. 

The Science of Dieting was born out of a frustration that I have had about the weight loss industry.  They have no credibility, no transparency, and everyone has “the best” diet.  Logically, I knew that it was impossible for everyone to have “the best” diet and from my education and research experience I knew that all diets were essentially created equal but I didn’t have the data to support this conclusion.  So I tasked my intern at the time, Selene McConachy, to find me as many weight loss graphs and papers in the academic literature that she could find....check that, I told her that I wanted her to find ALL of the academic papers on weight loss so that we could truly make a comparison between the diets in the context of ALL the evidence.  Fast forward six months and we created a database of over 1500 academic papers and over 40 diet types on weight loss dating back to the early 1900s.  My hypothesis was correct, all diets can work in the short term but they all produce abysmal results in the long term with few exceptions.

What we found in our research was staggering.  I’m well educated in weight management (PhD, MS, RD, certificate of training in weight management, interest of mine since I was 18) and I have touted myself as an expert in weight management.  Boy was I ever wrong!  I can’t tell you the number of things that I’ve learned during this research process.  For the sake of brevity, I’ve outlined a number of the things I’ve learned in the Principles’ section of this website.  Not all of these principles were new to me, some were long held, others I had a hunch about but didn’t have the data to support, some I had to do a 180 on where I was completely off, and some were locked away in my subconscious before reading about them in the academic literature. 

Our research also further reiterated what I already knew: the health & wellness and weight loss industries are completely broken.  Some people want to set the whole industry on fire and start over.  I wouldn’t say that.  I’m not that drastic.  There are many diamonds in the rough out there doing phenomenal work of whom The Science of Dieting hopes to highlight in our Trusted Resources section.

I will say, however that there are 5 primary reasons why these industries are broken:

 

1.     Health & wellness professionals are not trained well enough to spot fads/misinformation and as a consequence, become consumed by consumer trends.  I have taught extensively at the undergraduate level, some at the graduate level, and worked with many professionals in the health & wellness industry.  They don’t teach you everything you need to learn in school and if you’re not willing to teach yourself or find someone to mentor you, you’re going to be washed away in the tidal wave of misinformation our industry creates.

2.     MBA’s, marketers, and business professionals create health & wellness policies.  These individuals are trained to maximize dollars, not wellness.  They are fully unqualified to be creating health & wellness policies.  Furthermore, business professionals cater to consumer demand, no matter how crazy or off the mark it might be, there is money to be made there.

3.     Researchers and academics are tucked away in academic silos.  These individuals know more than anyone about health & wellness; however, they have very little opportunity or incentive to facilitate change in the health & wellness industry.

4.     Companies do not have enough PhDs and other high level professionals actively involved in program design and development.  PhDs should be working alongside MBAs, marketers, and the like.

5.     There is a complete lack of transparency in the industry.  There have been numerous studies on Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, Atkins, and Weight Watchers among others, demonstrating less than stellar weight loss success but they aren’t going to tell you about it, nor are they going to significantly change their program design and development.  They are making far too much money to do so and their ships are too big to steer in a new direction. Besides, they need to protect their “brand”.

The good news, is that all of these problems are fixable and problems The Science of Dieting wants to help begin to address.  But before I move on, I need to say this, The Science of Dieting is so much bigger than me.  So many people out there are on an “I’m right, you’re wrong, I’m smarter than you” ego trip.  That’s not what this is about.  At The Science of Dieting I am laying the foundation for something greater than any one individual, for something that will carry on long after I’m gone.  Science isn’t about one person it’s about the power of the collective whole. 

I started my education back at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2000 and I’ve been intoxicated with learning ever since.  The wonders and the mysteries that science can help us solve have been so enthralling, so invigorating to me.  If we would only apply all that we know to health & wellness, we’d be so much better off.  And yet, so much of this great work is left in the dust pan.  We recreate the wheel using our own “artistic, creative” version of what we believe the truth to be (or currently know it as) and severely compromise the quality of the services we so deeply strive to provide our clients and customers.  In many cases, this isn’t anyone’s fault.  We’re all doing our best with the resources and knowledge that we have.  But there is a clear lack of communication between our front line health & wellness providers and those actually doing the research.  That’s where The Science of Dieting comes in.  My hope is that we can serve as a resource to practitioners and as a guide to the public. 

At the Science of Dieting, I’m putting my stake in the ground and saying enough is enough.  I’m sick and tired of being lied to, I’m sick and tired of false marketing, a lack of transparency, and non-contextual, niche nutrition information.  If you’re not practicing science based health & wellness then I don’t support you, in-fact, I am against you.  I realize that in these hyper-polarized, partisan times I should be calling for unity.  Well, that’s exactly what I’m doing.  I’m calling for unity under the flag of science and I’ve outlined my stance in my Principles.  At The Science of Dieting, we want to move the field forward into the age of truly science based best practices and away from the artistic, creative, myopic, out of context practices that are so prevalent today.  We must raise the bar in health & wellness.  Our clients and customers deserve so much more.  Together, let’s usher in a new era of thinking, one based on science and transparency.

 

Todd M. Weber PhD, MS, RD

Founder and CEO – The Science of Dieting