Calling Out the Fad Diets
by Maia Appleby
Companies marketing the newest fad diets and weight loss supplements have snared some very intelligent people over the past few years, and they continue to do so. There are many ways to decrease your body weight, but if you want to lose fat and be a healthier, thinner person a year from now, your best bet is to stay away from these scams. Here are ten sure-fire signs to look for when checking out a weight loss program. Just remember the old saying, “If it smells like a rat…”
It promises that you will lose more than a pound or two per week.
A sound, healthy weight loss plan can only suggest that you will lose up to two pounds a week. If you're supposedly going to lose ten pounds by Saturday night, repeat after me: “Give me a break!” Even if you do miraculously lose it this quickly, you'll gain it back with interest before you know what hit you.
It is estimated that one pound of fat equals about 1500 calories. In other words, if a person continues to eat at her regular level, but starts to walk five mornings a week, burning about 300 extra calories each day, she will lose about a pound per week. This is an example of the ideal way to lose a few pounds, as long as the diet is healthy and balanced.
Although results may be slower by this method, you can also create a caloric deficit of 1500 pounds per week while maintaining your current level of activity. If you normally consume about 1500 calories per day, but cut out 300 of them five days per week, you should lose about a pound per week. This is much more difficult to monitor, since most people have neither the time nor the desire to write down everything they eat all day long. Theoretically, though, this is the “magic” of weight loss.
Losing five pounds a week with exercise would entail doing something equivalent to playing racquetball for three hours a day five days a week without increasing your food consumption. Too much exercise without enough food is dangerous, stupid and sometimes fatal. Losing the same amount through a caloric deficit would require starvation, which doesn't offer any health benefits at all.
Casting these two options aside, in order to lose five pounds per week (or whatever exaggerated number is given to you), you would have to seriously deprive your body of something. In most cases, this “something” is water, which you need to survive. It might appear to be working, but you can't continue to lose at this rate without killing yourself.
Certain food combinations are credited with weight loss powers.
There is no medical or scientific evidence that certain food combinations offer health benefits. Sure, you'll get gas if you have this with that, and some combinations undoubtedly taste great together, but there's currently no magical combination that makes the body shed excess fat. These notions can be very convincing, and fun to play around with, but the bottom line is that the evidence is non-existent.
A magical pill, bar, shake or food item is involved.
Excess fat accumulates on your body because you're taking in more calories than you're burning. Period. Extra items that cost you extra money are one of two things: either placebos (props that don't do a darn thing but make you think they're working) or drugs. Stay away from this unless your doctor recommends it. Even then, be careful.
The weight loss industry is one of the most lucrative around. There are people getting extremely rich by marketing different potions. They know that telling you to exercise and eat a well-balanced diet won't make them wealthy, so they don't. They also know that overweight consumers are among the most desperate, an easy target market.
Also keep in mind that “natural” and “herbal” are two words to beware of in the diet aids market. The FDA has practically no jurisdiction over these products, so manufacturers can pass just about anything off as a diet aid without being subject to FDA approval. This is terrifying, especially in light of the many Fen/Phen, Ephedrine and Redux deaths that have occurred over the past few years.
Dr. David Kessler, dean of Yale's medical school and former FDA head, had this to say: "Since there is virtually no control over the quality of these products, it is not unusual not to know what is actually in herbal preparations and dietary supplements,” adding that "Congress has tied the agency's hands in regulating dietary supplements, both in regard to safety and to efficacy. Unfortunately, harm has to occur before FDA can regulate a dietary supplement."
Over-the-counter drugs are also under fire, these days. Phenylpropanolamine, which is found in products including Acutrim and Dextarim, is currently the only nonprescription weight-loss drug approved by the FDA. In November of 2000, the FDA announced that it was considering withdrawing its approval, since these diet aids have been found to increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, or bleeding into the brain.
In May, 2001, Metabolife recalled its popular Diet and Energy Bars because the company had been mistakenly putting six times the safe amount of vitamin A in them since the beginning of the year. This level of the vitamin is toxic enough in humans to cause increased pressure in the brain, severe liver damage or bone abnormalities. The list goes on and on. There are much safer ways to lose a couple of pounds.
The words “without exercise” exist anywhere.
Come on! We all like the idea of taking the easy way, but weight loss and exercise go hand-in-hand. The only way to burn fat is through aerobic activity. Any other method of weight loss will take away muscle mass and water, along with a little bit of fat. If you want to lose weight and look good once you've lost it, accept the fact that you will be exercising.
It is possible to lose weight without exercising. If you become very ill and are bed-ridden, with a serious loss of appetite, you will probably lose a great deal of weight. You will also look and feel terrible.
You don't have to become a marathon runner or an aerobics queen to exercise enough to lose a pound a week. Just find something you like to do and spend thirty to sixty minutes a day doing it. Many people have lost weight simply by walking, swimming or bicycling at their leisure each morning. Don't make a big deal out of it. Exercise will serve as your insurance that the weight will stay off. Nothing else can do this.
There is no warning for people with various problems, like high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disorders.
Yikes! Nobody with any problems such as these should begin a weight-loss quest without permission from her physician. In fact, even healthy women should get advice first. The high fat content of low-carbohydrate diets pose a lethal threat to anyone with blood pressure or cholesterol problems, and diabetics should never mess with their diets without expert advice.
Every sound weight loss program takes the client's well being into account above all else. If you don't see any warnings, you will know that your health and safety are not important to the company that's peddling to you.
It uses the words “fat burner” or “fat blocker” (or anything to that effect) to describe itself.
Red flags all the way, here. There are many amazing products on the market now, but remember that many of them are consistently being taken off the market, too. Think of it this way: if it's grotesquely unnatural, it's probably bad for you.
Just read the side effects these products pose and you'll probably pass. Federal regulators recently chastised Xenical, a relatively new diet drug that claims to block fat, for failing to provide complete information on its television commercials. Side effects too graphic to mention in this article were left out, and so were crucial warnings.
There is only one way to burn fat, and this is through the expenditure of calories. Nothing from outside your body can burn fat for you. That's just the way it is.
One food (or type of food) is consumed excessively.
Remember the cabbage soup diet? Or the grapefruit diets of the 1970's? Do you know anyone who tried one of these, lost weight and kept it off? Of course not. If you stayed on one of these diets for the rest of your life, you wouldn't live long. Besides becoming absolutely psychotic with boredom of that food, your diet would be so unbalanced, you would certainly die of malnutrition.
Certain food items will help you along the path, but too much of anything is just too much. The human body is designed to eat a variety of different foods, and deviating from this can be extremely unhealthy, even toxic. Follow the food guide pyramid set up by the United States Department of Agriculture, concentrating on lean meats, whole grains and low-fat items.
Drinking water is not strongly encouraged.
One of the keys to weight loss exists in a simple bottle (or cup) of water. If you're not told to drink at least two liters (or eight cups, or something in that neighborhood) of water per day, you're not getting good advice. Water helps your liver convert fat to energy, which you will need for exercise, during which you will burn more fat. It would be very difficult to get the weight loss results you're looking for without factoring in this life-giving mineral. READ MORE ABOUT THIS.
It is a low-carbohydrate diet.
Low carb diets are usually high in fat, which is terrible for anyone trying to lose weight or maintain their health. The idea that eating lots of protein does anything extra for your muscles is ridiculous. Your body can only handle protein for about two hours after consumption. Then, it turns it to fat. Sure, we've heard success stories galore about these diets, but again, they are quick fixes. You may lose a pound of muscle to every pound of fat you lose on this type of diet, and your body will not stay hydrated, so you're slowing down your metabolism in both of the ways described in the next section.
Besides, you're exercising! Active people need lots of carbohydrates. Don't believe people when they tell you that bread, cereal, pasta and potatoes make you fat. This is a myth. The butter, sour cream and Alfredo sauce that you put on these things may do such a thing, but the actual carbohydrates won't. (Disclaimer: The author is talking about complex carbohydrates, like whole-grain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables. Simple carbohydrates, as in chocolate cake, will make you fat.)
Again, the secret is balance. About half of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates. You also need protein, and yes, fat. Your body needs so many things to function properly and remain healthy that the only logical way to feed it is by eating a variety of foods every day. Depriving yourself of one major source of nutrition is never a good idea.
Repeating the law mentioned previously: is it natural to eat a hamburger without the bun? This diet will make you crave carbohydrates like you wouldn't believe. Listen to your body.
It claims to “boost metabolism” or “decrease appetite”
It probably contains caffeine. Or worse. A pill or potion can't boost your metabolism. That doesn't even make sense. Do you even know what “metabolism” is? It seems to be the buzzword of the past decade, but very few people could correctly define it.
Metabolism is a blanket term for many changes that go on in the body, so to say that something speeds up your metabolism could mean a variety of things. For our purposes, there are probably two types of metabolism to look at: your metabolism of fat (which occurs, as I mentioned earlier, when the liver converts fat to energy) and basal metabolism.
To remain within the scope of this article, suffice it to say that diet aids making such claims usually use diuretics to speed up your heart rate, causing your organs to work more quickly as well. They ultimately force water out of the body, making you feel thinner for a while, but this quick fix will eventually make you fatter.
Here's how: This forced exodus of water results in dehydration, a dangerous condition for a body to be in. When you become dehydrated, your kidneys can't function at full throttle, so they call on your liver for help. Your liver then has to take a break from converting your body fat to energy so it can help your kidneys out. You begin to store more fat than you normally would. The end. Basal metabolism has to do with ratio of fat to lean body mass. Muscle tissue requires lots of calories to maintain itself, so the more muscle you have, the faster your body uses calories during rest. This is an important principle to remember. Throwing some weight training in with your cardiovascular routine will greatly enhance your results.
Sadly, at this point, no synthetic or organic concoction on the market can safely or effectively replace the phenomenon of your body's metabolism. We just have to lose weight the old-fashioned way.