Dropping Dollars and Pounds

With the ushering in of the new year a large mass of people are trying to better themselves by losing the extra weight they put on the previous month. Those holiday turkeys and pies are stubborn though, which inevitably leads many into the pseudoscientific arena of the fad diets. They seem like an easy way out. With only a few monthly payments you can be looking like new again. Are they really that easy, and do they ever deliver what was promised?

The South Beach diet, the Atkins Diet, the Grapefruit diet… we’ve all heard these names before. Most fad diets are simply extremely low calorie diets (1,000 calories per day or less) that are not sustainable over the long run. Basically, a person is starving their self and losing nutrients and water weight along with fat. These can be dangerous, especially in people with health conditions.

There are some elements of these diets, however, that are healthy.  Reducing fat intake, especially “unhealthy” types of fat, will lower cholesterol and help reduce weight. Foods high in fiber help the digestive track while being filling, relative to the number of calories. Restricting caloric intake (to an extent) is an important part of balancing the energy your body intakes and expels. However, the amount of calories a healthy person should intake in a day varies greatly. It depends on a multitude of factors, most notably exercise: how many calories are you burning?

Much of the claims made by diet programs have little, if any, scientific backing. Look for peer reviewed, double-blind studies to confirm the claims being made. If the diet advocates taking some sort of supplement, make sure it is FDA approved. In general, the claim that a special combination of foods and nutrients will make you lose weight is hokum.

One fad diet that actually has some scientific basis is the above mentioned South Beach Diet. The diet restricts the types of food that can be eaten, but without imposing strict calorie or portion caps. It is divided into three phases, each with a balance of foods a person can eat. It focuses on eating carbohydrates with a low Glycemic Index (good carbs) as opposed to simply cutting out carbohydrates altogether. What sets this apart from other fad diets is the focus on balanced nutrition.

It is important to choose a diet with the mindset of eating healthy and not eating to lose weight. Eating healthy will inevitably result in losing weight. Having a balanced diet may take longer than some crash diets, however, the negative side effects will be avoided and the results will be lasting. Additionally, don’t forget to exercise as part of any weight loss regiment.

Additional Resources

Every Diet, Fad Diets: http://www.everydiet.org/fad_diets.htm

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