Fad Diet Disasters

    If moderation is a concept completely lost on you, then you are not alone. Thousands of girls, boys, women and men in the United States flock to the nearest bookstore every year to pick up a copy of the newest fad diet in hopes of finding a quick, easy and lasting solution to weight control. While all fad diets claim to be effective, most are not, and those that do succeed in shedding pounds fast often come with high prices to the dieter’s health.

    Rachel Garcia

    The appeal of most fad diets exists in their advertised effectiveness. The apparent ease and quickness of the dieting constitutes the hook for thousands of overweight individuals in the United States. Dieting terms range anywhere from the 24-hour diet to month long diets.

    UCSD strength and conditioning coach Matt Kritz expounded on the falsity of quick and easy diets.

    “”The most common misconception [about dieting] is how quickly you can lose the weight when you’ve spent a lifetime putting it on,”” Kritz said. “”Realistically it’s going to take 6 to 8 months, maybe even a year, and that’s not what people want to hear.””

    Certainly, time is one of the main selling points for popular diets, including those that promise dramatic weight loss in a matter of a few weeks, days or even hours. Kritz explained that even in the apparently successful cases of weight loss, usually the loss is not a long-term solution and is not, as advertised, as easy as it appears.

    “”If it were as easy as they were marketing it, people would be doing it and you wouldn’t have to tell them to,”” Kritz said.

    This is especially true for the latest craze of high-protein, low-carb diets, including that of Atkins’ New Diet Revolution, the Sugar Buster’s Diet, Protein Power and Barry Sears’ Enter the Zone diet. While some of these diets emphasize different foods to abstain from, the general theme is clear: eat fewer carbohydrates, store less fat, eat more protein and satisfy your appetite. While many health officials do not dispute weight loss from such high-protein diets, they do condemn the health risks that accompany the deceptively successful regimen.

    Terry Martin, UCSD director of the wellness programs, explained that with high-protein, low-carb diets, much of the weight loss is actually water loss. Since every gram of carbohydrate is accompanied by three grams of water, eating less carbohydrates will decrease the amount of consumed water, and results in significant weight loss. This, however, puts increased stress on the kidneys and may lead to various metabolic diseases.

    “”It’s futile for most people to sustain it,”” Martin said. “”Over a long period of time, it’s hard on your body.””

    To date, no major health care organization embraces the high-protein, low-carb diet. The American Dietetic Association, among other major health care organizations, has adamantly opposed the high-protein, low-carb diets. While they concede weight loss may occur, they dismiss any real legitimacy behind these Hollywood fads.

    With the decreased amount of water weight, in addition to the fact that the body works harder to break down protein than it does for carbohydrates, high-protein, low-carb diets may in fact lead to weight loss. The result, however, can put undue amounts of stress on the kidneys, especially if sustained over a long period of time, and can lead to renal diseases, heart disease and osteoporosis with the increased consumption of saturated fats and cholesterol in protein-rich animal products such as meats and dairy.

    So what is to be made of the “”doctor”” behind the fad diets? Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution has topped the New York Times Best-Seller Lists, while similar diets are also enjoying monetary success. Dr. Barry Sears of “”Enter the Zone”” brandishes an impressive resume at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and supports his diet philosophy with various scientific studies. Martin, however, decried these findings, explaining that such studies are isolated reviews and do not hold up against the vast number of higher-carb nutritional research, which possesses more longevity and legitimacy.

    Kritz explained that in the fad diet industry, there is “”money to be made.”” To be sure, America spends an estimated $33 million on diet books, pills and diet programs every year while maintaining a significant amount of overweight and obese individuals.

    Both Kritz and Martin attribute America’s weight problem to stressful eating and a lack of exercise. Kritz asserts that most people know what they should be eating and simply look for an easier route.

    In terms of proper nutrition, Kritz clarified that “”the old adage still stands: 65 percent carbs, 25 percent protein and 15 percent fat.”” He also described consuming sufficient amounts of vegetables as one of the commonly difficult aspects of healthy eating.

    Martin furthermore recommended incorporating healthy eating habits for longevity, and not a “”diet,”” to individuals hoping to shed pounds. Brown rice and whole grains as opposed to white flour are among some of the foods Martin advocated, as well as indulging your sweet tooth from time to time to avoid harmful bingeing.

    The bottom line with fad diets seems to be that anything quick and easy about losing weight simply may not be true. In order to lose weight permanently and successfully, Kritz exhorted that people have to first ask themselves why they want to lose weight.

    “”Most people focus on the how-to’s and not the why’s — they don’t want to go there,”” he said. “”But if you can answer the why question before you answer the how-to, then you’ll be successful.””

    For more information about health and nutrition, visit http://www.ucsd.edu/shs.

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