Fad Diets...will they help you lose weight

Updated at: Jan 14, 2013
Fad Diets...will they help you lose weight

"With consumers in search for the magic formula that will help them shed weight quickly and effortlessly, can new fad diets promise easy results?", questions ace dietician Ishi Khosla.

Ishi Khosla
Exercise & FitnessWritten by: Ishi KhoslaPublished at: Jan 14, 2013

Fad DietsWith the war on obesity, the search for weight loss methods is at an all time high, be it novel diets, exercise regimens or weight loss supplements. Fat has become somewhat a villain in our lives – right from ‘being fat’ to ‘eating fat’.

The modern world is obsessed with dieting. Whether the reasons for dieting are cosmetic or health related, slimming need not involve fad diets or peculiar eating patterns. It is not surprising that people after trying and failing to keep weight off through weight loss centers, nutritionists, personal trainers, gyms, powders and pills, are trying to reinvent theories and diets to rid themselves of fat. 

With the consumers in search for the magic bullet to help them loose weight quickly and effortlessly, can new fad diets promise easy results?

Fad diets advocate, arbitrary exaggerated theories of weight loss and encourage consumers to follow unbalanced diets. They are a short term, quick fix approach to weight loss that does not work over a long haul. These diets tend to over promise results but fail to deliver. Food choices are monotonous and calorie intake restricted leading to wearing off the motivation to continue. These can lead to health consequences like headaches, nausea, dizziness to as serious as death, particularly, if followed for long spells of time.

The tendency of individuals trying to lose weight is to look for the fastest and the easiest way to do so, thereby giving rise to a growing jungle of “fad diets”. There are numerous types of fad diets available with supportive theories giving consumers a varied choice to select the diet that feeds their fantasy. Remember weight loss is difficult and there are no miracles. Many popular weight loss programs appear to fulfill their promises in the short term by restricting certain food groups.

Some of the most widely used diet programs are reviewed here.

1. Crash diets, which include low calorie meal replacement powders, drinks, soups and bars, cannot provide the same balance of nutrients as healthy food. The success of any crash diet is short lived because water and protein are lost from the body, rather than excess body fat. Once normal eating is resumed, body fluids are quickly replaced and there is an immediate weight gain. Slimming then becomes even more difficult the next time around – a phenomenon known as the “yo-yo” effect.  Slimmers who get into yo-yo dieting have a tendency to put on more weight every time they eat “normally”.

2. Fasting with juices and water can also be a dangerous practice. 
It may lead to lowered blood pressure and heart failure. Even if fasting is conducted under medical supervision at spas etc. it is very rare for weight loss to be sustained once normal eating is resumed.

3. Atkins Diet is of the most popular diets, Dr. Atkins believed that fat loss occurs when the body changes from using carbohydrates from fuel to using fats. Thus, the diet involves cutting down drastically on carbohydrate intake and entering a state of ketosis (when body uses carbohydrate stores and starts burning fat for energy). Reducing your calorie intake by cutting down on carbohydrates is a good slimming principal but not when taken to such an extreme.

Individuals can lose upto 3-4kgs in the first week on a low carbohydrate diet but the loss is mainly water loss associated with using up stored glycogen. This like any other fad diet is a temporary solution as when you start having carbohydrates, the weight will return.

When followed for longer periods, it may lead to:

•    Increased the risk of cardiovascular and associated heart diseases attributed to an increased intake of saturated fat.

•    Constipation and an increase in the risk of certain illnesses such as colon cancer due to lack of fiber. 

•    Deficiencies in calcium, B vitamins, vitamin C and certain other important minerals especially iron, which may be a result of restricted intake of dairy products, fruits and vegetables

•    Blood pressure problems that lead to dizziness.

•    Bad breath as a result of ketosis.

•    Dehydration due to ketosis, which further, results in loss of ketones in the urine. When ketones are excreted, they remove water and minerals sodium and potassium from the body.

•    Carbohydrate cravings.

4.    South Beach Diet: Like other fad diets, the South Beach Diet involves cutting down radically on a particular food group.  Carbohydrates are restricted to what we call ‘good carbs’. These are carbs found in foods such as whole grains, fruit, and vegetables. The diet also encourages the consumption of unsaturated fats.
The South Beach Diet is far more balanced than, say, the Atkins Diet. For a start, it doesn’t encourage the consumption of saturated fats. It also allows a higher carbohydrate intake, although this is still much lower than most people are used to. The diets implication that the idea of snacking will be prevented simply by maintaining satiety is unproved. Also, although the author addresses the use of medication in weight control, he neglects to cover the benefits of exercise- an essential component of weight gain.

This diet may result in speedy weight gain, once an individual gets back to regular eating routine.

The South Beach Diet is:

•    Very demanding for those that are accustomed to carbohydrate rich diets
•    Quite expensive and time consuming
•    A new way of life.

5.    Zone Diet:
The theory behind this diet is that the daily calorie intake should be split into a 40/30/30 ratio. This means that 40% of the daily calorie intake should be made up of carbohydrates, 30% of the daily calorie intake should be made up of protein, and the remaining 30% should be made up of fat. The amount of food eaten is also an important factor in this diet, and dieters are encouraged to carefully assess and monitor their food portions.

This diet may be:

•    Very time consuming and expensive.
•    High in saturated fat, depending on the type of protein selected.
•    Helpful in rapid weight loss, but could be followed by rapid weight gain!
•    Difficult to follow as it does not really fit around an individual’s lifestyles.
•    Cutting out some essential vitamins and minerals.

Thus, the key to healthy weight loss is to reduce calorie intake, eat less fat, control portion sizes, and be more physically active.


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