If feeling healthy and being ten pounds lighter is on your list of New Year Resolutions, beware of fad diets.
First, what is a fad diet? A fad diet is any diet that is difficult to stay on longer than 3-4 months.
Here are some common myths about weight loss and fad diets.
Myth: Fad diets work for permanent weight loss.
Fact: Fad diets are not the best way to lose weight and keep it off. You may lose weight at first on one of these diets. But diets that strictly limit calories or food choices are hard to follow. Most people quickly get tired of them and regain any lost weight.
Fad diets may be unhealthy because they may not provide all of the nutrients your body needs. Also, losing weight at a very rapid rate (more than 3 pounds a week after the first couple weeks) may increase your risk for developing gallstones.
Diets that provide less than 800 calories per day also could result in heart rhythm abnormalities, which can be fatal.
Tip: Research suggests that losing 1/2 to 2 pounds a week by making healthy food choices, eating moderate portions, and building physical activity into your daily life is the best way to lose weight and keep it off and lower your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Myth: High-protein/low-carbohydrate diets are a healthy way to lose weight.
Fact: But getting most of your daily calories from high-protein foods like meat, eggs, and cheese is not a balanced eating plan. Too much fat and cholesterol may raise heart disease risk.
Too few fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which may lead to constipation due to lack of dietary fiber. Following a high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet may also make you feel nauseous, tired, and weak.
Eating fewer than 130 grams of carbohydrate a day can lead to the buildup of ketones (partially broken-down fats) in your blood, which can cause your body to produce high levels of uric acid, a risk factor for gout and kidney stones.
Ketosis may be especially risky for pregnant women and people with diabetes or kidney disease.
Tip: High-protein/low-carbohydrate diets are often low in calories because food choices are strictly limited, so they may cause short-term weight loss. You may also find it easier to stick with a diet or eating plan that includes a greater variety of foods.
Myth: Certain foods, like grapefruit, celery, or cabbage soup, can burn fat and make you lose weight.
Fact: No foods can burn fat. Some foods with caffeine may speed up your metabolism for a short time, but they do not cause weight loss.
Tip: The best way to lose weight is to cut back on the number of calories you eat and be more physically active.
Myth: Natural or herbal weight-loss products are safe and effective.
Fact: A weight-loss product that claims to be natural or herbal is not necessarily safe. For example, herbal products containing ephedra (now banned by the U.S. Government) have caused serious health problems and even death.
Tip: Talk with your health care provider before using any weight-loss product.
Mary R. Ehret, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., is with Penn State Cooperative Extension, Luzerne County, 16 Luzerne Ave., West Pittston, Pa., 18643. (570) 825-1701/602-0600. Fax (570) 825-1709. firstname.lastname@example.org.