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Send Fad Diets Packing

Provided by the American Dietetic Association: Your Link to Nutrition & Health

Every year Americans spend more than a billion in the weight-loss industry--many times on diet plans and gimmicks that don't work. However, the lure of quick, easy weight loss is hard to resist. Although the diets are ineffective, weight-loss hopefuls willingly give the next craze a chance.

Sorting out fact from fiction

If you're planning to start a new diet, why not check out these facts before jumping on the fad diet bandwagon.

Food-specific diets

Some diets tout one food with special properties that can cause weight loss. Eating just one food while excluding others can result in weight loss because eating the same food becomes boring and you end up not eating the food or enough to maintain your weight. These diets don't teach healthy eating habits and are usually not nutritionally balanced.

High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets

These diets are based on the idea that carbohydrate is bad and that many people are insulin-resistant which causes them to gain weight when they eat it. Authors of these diets are quick to point out that people eating more carbohydrates--which nutrition professionals recommend--are heavier than before. What they don't tell you is that people are eating more calories which is the real reason they are gaining weight.

High-fiber, low-calorie diets

Fiber-rich foods are an important part of a healthy eating plan and they can be very helpful for people trying to lose weight. Fiber-rich foods are filling and because fiber cannot be digested, it doesn't have calories. Although too much is not always better. Eating more than 50 or 60 grams a day can cause cramping, bloating and diarrhea. Eating lots of fiber does not guarantee weight loss. The only thing that will cause weight loss is eating fewer calories.

Liquid diets

There are over-the-counter liquid meal replacements and very low calories diets that require medical prescription and supervision. These should not be used for long-term weight loss and they actually plateau after three months. Both regimens serve a short term purpose, however, they don't teach good life-long habits.


Fasting has been recommended for years to cleanse the body or to start a weight-loss program. Actually, fasting just deprives your body of nutrients. You end up with low energy, weakness and lightheadedness--not weight loss. And when carbohydrates are not available for energy, ketones can build up and stress the kidneys, which can be harmful to your health.

A plan for healthful living

So what's the key to healthy weight loss? An eating plan that includes a variety of foods and is easy to live with--even after the pounds come off--along with regular physical activity.

There are no fad diets, gimmicks or magic-bullets that can help you lose and maintain weight safely. Here are a few suggestions for a healthful eating plan and lifestyle. If you want to lose several pounds, it may take a few months, but in the end it'll be a plan you can live with.

  • Eat a variety of foods--it's important to vary food choices to ensure you get all the nutrients you need.
  • Balance the food you eat with physical activity--physical activity helps with weight loss, as well as disease prevention.
  • Choose a diet with plenty of grain products, vegetables, and fruits--these foods are low in fat--as long as you eat them without butter or creamy sauces. Few people eat enough of these foods though, whether or not they're trying to lose weight.
  • Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol--you do need some fat for good health, aim for 30 percent of your total calories.
  • Choose a diet moderate in sugars--sugary foods are usually low in nutrients and supply unnecessary calories so eat sparingly if you want to lose weight.
  • Choose a diet moderate in salt and sodium--salt is added to many foods during preparation or processing, so beware when adding more salt, some salty foods may not taste salty.
  • If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation--beer, wine and spirits supply calories, but few or no nutrients.

Something to chew on...

Remember this, it's how you eat all year long that really matters.

Need more information?

Check out The American Dietetic Association's newest book Dieting for Dummies IDG Publishing, by Jane Kirby, RD. It's available in bookstores nationwide (ISBN 0-7645-5126-4).

Source: Dieting for Dummies, by Jane Kirby, RD, for The American Dietetic Association, IDG Publishing.


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