"Dieting must die," says one of the world's most influential health experts, Dr David Katz.
Rather than resorting to "foolish and fatalistic" dietary habits, Dr Katz says, "we can, on an individual level, reduce our risk of chronic disease by at least 80 per cent, simply by improving what we do with our feet, fork and fingers."
Dr Katz, in Auckland for the NZ Nutrition Foundation Symposium, Food not Nutrients, is a leading authority on nutrition, weight management and the prevention of chronic diseases. He is the president of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and Director of the Yale Prevention Research Centre.
He says we've known this recipe for vitality for a long time, yet we regretfully set out on an often unsuccessful journey by following one of the latest dietary fads.
"You lose weight on a diet, you gain weight when you come off a diet. It's a colossal mistake. Everybody knows this, but we keep doing it just the same.
"Nobody goes on a diet and takes their children with them. The best way to teach our children what to eat is to eat it ourselves."
"We need to live it together, as a family. This means eating well, being active, living a lifestyle. Not going on diets, then going off diets, or waiting for the next silver bullet or magical pixie dust solution.
"Lifestyle is the best medicine.
"The reward is vitality.
"Healthy people live happier lives."
Dr Katz explains that people living in the The Blue Zones are the longest living in the world because of lifestyle and dietary factors.
The Blue Zones are areas identified around the world where people live significantly longer and healthier lives, such as Okinawa in Japan and Sardinia in Italy.
"Their diets are full of vegetables, fruit, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and often fish, with or without red meat, eggs and dairy," Dr Katz says.
"The Mediterranean diet is not a hardship. It is one of the most healthful and delicious diets that people travel thousands of miles to taste. You can recreate it almost anywhere, including here in New Zealand."
But knowledge is not enough. "We have to pave the way," Dr Katz says.
"We must reconcile willpower with skillpower," he says, reinforcing the main message in his recent book Disease Proof.
Tweaks need to be made at every level, from individual to public health.
"Health authorities need to come together with one voice. If we (health authorities) are competing with one another, the public is going to tip us all out and it's going to be business as usual."
Dr Katz' argument for how we can improve our health isn't sensationalist. It's powerful, simple and effective. His use of science and sense has led him to become a worldwide health icon. It is only a matter of time before Kiwis start to pick up on his words of wisdom and start to follow suit.
Dr Katz' top five tips for families hoping to improve their health
• Live it together and find a way to support one another.
• Trade up rather than give up. Aim for incremental improvements in diet and lifestyle.
• Learn to love the food that loves you back. To do this, take your taste buds to rehab and train them to prefer real, wholesome foods.
• Take control. Instead of following the see-food diet, plan and prepare your own healthy snacks and meals, and eat only when you need to.
• Walk the walk - literally and metaphorically. Not only do we need to put to action what we know, we must also put our feet to better use.
Dr Katz is today presenting as the keynote speaker at the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation symposium Food, Not Nutrients.