• Most dieters approach weight loss as we would a boxing bout… seeking to knock-out a tough adversary, namely, our own body. The record to-date is pretty clear: Few can successfully land that “knockout punch.” Perhaps we’d have a better shot if we approach the weight-loss “fight” differently… using the more efficient mindset of the Judo wrestler. Judo’s philosophy is to leverage an opponent’s force to one’s advantage, rather than confronting it directly. It has long been touted as the most efficient (and cleverest) strategy to defend oneself—if the attacker pushes, you pull and if the attacker pulls, you push.

In Chapter 17 I explain how the insights we gain from applying a systems perspective suggest Judo-like strategies we can deploy for weight-loss—strategies that work with (not against) our body’s built-in drives.

• We cannot—should not—rely on intuition alone in managing a system as complex and important as our bodies. With its many interrelated subsystems and processes (some counteracting, some reinforcing) the human body is simply too complex to effectively manage by human intuition alone. Furthermore, in matters of health and disease some consequences may be hard if not im­possible to reverse, which makes trial and error or learning from experience a risky business. To effectively manage a system as complex as our body, a reliable (and efficient) system of dynamic “bookkeeping” is required. Information technology provides that functionality.

 • “Irrational Exuberance.”  It is estimated that in any given year, 25% of US men and 43% of US women may attempt to lose weight. That’s many millions of weight-loss seekers… and that’s good news. The bad news: failure rates are exceedingly high.

While most dieters undoubtedly understand that they would succeed more often if their weight-loss goals were more realistic (in terms of the ultimate target, the pace to achieve it or both), setting more realistic goals unfortunately rarely coincide with most diet­ers' personal agendas. Nor are they encouraged to. The diet industry thrives for two reasons—big promises and repeat customers. The big promises attract the customers in the first place, and the magnitude of the promises virtually guarantees that they cannot be fulfilled. It makes for a very attractive business model.

The persistence of many dieters to shoot for unrealistic weight-loss targets—despite achieving only modest losses in previous efforts—may be rooted in the misconception that setting challenging goals can only be beneficial… and in any case is harmless. That a dieter who shoots for his/her dream body weight, no matter how unreasonable, would nevertheless always settle for what is achievable... ending up no worse than someone who had started with a more modest goal.

That’s a misconception.

Research suggests that most dieters pay a hefty price for their irrational exuberance. The unrealistic goals that people set not only virtually guarantees that they cannot be fulfilled, but in fact contribute to relapse. (Not unlike a marathoner who sprints early, only to run out of gas later.) The systems thinking inspired insights we gained into the workings of the human energy regulatory system can help shed some light onto the reasons why.