The Cabbage Soup Diet. The Chocolate Diet. The Starbucks Diet. The Lemonade Diet. The 3 Day Diet. The Blood Type Diet. The Zone Diet. The Apple Cider Diet. The Frozen Rat Meat Diet. Just kidding on that last one, but who knows? Anyway, you get the picture. The short list you just read is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what are generally called fad diets. They can vary considerably in their approach, but all promise a quick fix and most of them surface and disappear in a short time.
If you or a friend or family member has had concerns about weight, there's a good chance you've heard about quite a few fad diets. There's also a fairly good chance you may have tried some, and not without reason. Diets that offer fast and dramatic results are very tempting when you've battled weight over the years and haven't found an effective and satisfying approach. Part of the draw is that you can definitely shed some pounds on fad and crash diets. The problem is that if you lose weight rapidly, you're also more likely to gain it back quickly, too. And the concerns extend beyond that to some factors that could damage your health. What kind of damage? It depends on the diet and the restrictions (or in some cases over consumption) involved, but health concerns from fad diets include:
- Bone density loss
- Gallstones or kidney stones
- Constipation – or the opposite
- Damage to hair, skin and nails
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Eating disorders
- Vitamin and other nutritional deficiencies
- Abdominal pain
- Emotional letdowns from having unrealistic expectations
10 ways to spot a potentially harmful diet
It's important to recognize that not every fad diet is harmful or even ineffective. The basis for some popular diets may be well within the bounds of good health when followed in moderation and incorporated into a broader weight management plan. But there are some red flags to look for and some considerations that should caution you to be on your guard. For example, be wary of any diet that:
- Promises quick and easy results and guaranteed success
- Focuses on a single food or a single food group
- Makes unrealistic claims that sound too good to be true
- Is based on complex research broken down into a too simple conclusion
- Lists "good" foods and "bad" foods
- Offers an approach connected to a product
- Eliminates one or more of the five basic food groups
- Makes recommendations that ignore differences among individuals or groups
- Downplays the need for exercise
- Sounds like an approach you couldn't follow for long
Is there a better way?
There are healthier approaches to successful weight loss and ongoing weight management, but none of them are quick fixes. They are more realistic regarding results – like the loss of a pound or two a week – and they are able to be incorporated into your lifestyle over the long haul. What healthier diets share with fad diets is only the fact that they, too, offer choices. But generally, they all focus on some major steps:
- Eat a Variety of Healthful Foods: Diets that contribute to weight loss and a healthier lifestyle include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. And the less processing that goes into them, the better. Along with including healthier foods, a healthy diet means cutting back on foods that are high in saturated and trans fat, sugar and salt.
- Practice Portion Control: Simply pay attention at home and serve smaller amounts. One helpful approach is to use smaller plates and bowls. In restaurants ask for a take-home box or bag when your food arrives and put a large portion of the usually-too-large portion away from your plate.
- Make Sure You Include the Other Half of Any Weight Loss Plan: Long-term weight control won't be effective without regular exercise. And that can include something as basic as walking. If you're going to be increasing your physical activity on any measurable level – and that will be the case for most people – it's a good idea to talk with your doctor before starting.
Your doctor is also a good resource for credible information on weight loss in general and about your goals in particular – and those are always great topics, when applicable, for your wellness visit. For more information on Riverside weight loss resources call Riverside Nurse at (757) 595-6363.
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