Lose weight! Try this pill! Eat this single food! Are timeworn diet gimmicks now actually safe to use?
Many might remember the dieting fads of the 1950s and later, as women attempted to cinch in ever-thinner waistlines. Of course, dieting isn’t always about weight loss. It can also be about chronic disease management to help people fight obesity, diabetes, heart disease and more.
Even today, there is always something new to learn about health and diet. Sometimes, diets and fasting seem to work—scientists even plan to use fasting to fight cancer. Here’s your update on what works, and what doesn’t.
Five Fad Diets To Steer Clear Of
Health.com says some diets are not just impractical, they are downright dangerous. Here’s a look at a few that nutritionists deem completely unsafe:
Famous Fad Diets
In the 1950s, the grapefruit diet had everyone rushing to the fruit section of the grocery store because it seemed to work so well for stars like Marilyn Monroe. Eating half a grapefruit three times a day pre-meals with no change to the actual meal was a pretty simple thing to do, after all.
Research over the past 70 years has confirmed the good news about a diet along these lines: Eating soups, salads and fruit prior to a meal does help a person eat less during the final course and lower overall calorie intake. The bad news? After a while, grapefruit gets monotonous, it doesn’t contain any “fat-busting enzymes” as some believe, and the overall diet calls for an extreme limit on calories.
Switch it up with other fruits or healthy items while eating portion-controlled, balanced meals, say experts, and the infamous “grapefruit diet” could be a great way to control your weight. The trick to turn this fad diet into a healthy way of life is to include more balanced foods you enjoy, add in exercise and sneak in a few more healthy habits (like ensuring you have enough calories for your body). Otherwise, sheer boredom will cause you to toss grapefruits in the trash and go searching for the chocolate in the back of the pantry.
In the 1970s, diet fads narrowed the focus from balanced meals to low calorie meals. Researchers discovered that while the concept of eating fewer calories than your body required did indeed drop pounds, the body still requires the right combination of calories and nutrients to keep muscles healthy. Plus, too few calories can wreak havoc on the body’s immune system. Later, the high-protein, low-carb diets proved similar: They can work, but when the body doesn’t have the right nutrition blend, it can backfire into weight gain or, worse, serious health issues.
The worst news? Foods packaged and marketed as low calorie are often artificial and processed, and typically high in unhealthy preservatives and flavorings. Fad diets go on and on (remember the chocolate diet or the cabbage soup diet?), but the key point is to consider science and what we now know about how the body works.
Why Fad Diets Don’t Work
Today’s fad diets often add in another element: the “magic” powder. Eat a little bit of this food, a little of that food, lots of water and THIS powdered or premixed drink so you can lose weight. Again, you will lose weight for a while. Once you try to get back into real-world eating, however, the pounds will creep back on. Why? Because the diet never teaches you how to make healthy eating a way of life.
WebMD.com nutritional experts say that before starting any weight-loss plan, you should take stock of your current health status. Meet with your doctor, for example, to check weight and manage any health issues you might have. Do you need more of a certain nutrient, for instance?
Keep a food diary to understand what you’re currently eating. Locate a support group that can help you get through those days when all you want is cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Next, set a goal to move more. You don’t need to start with a big workout plan at a senior center. If you currently only walk to the next-door neighbor’s house, walk a house farther today. And one house farther the next day. Take baby steps, at your own speed, when it comes to movement. Just move.
Once you’re moving a bit more, it’s finally time to upgrade your eating. Become aware of how much unhealthy food you eat and what you reach for as a comfort food. Replace “I should” with “I choose” or “I choose not to” when selecting foods to eat.
Those simple words put you in control and quickly strip away the guilt. Choose, for instance, to stock your pantry with healthy fare. Choose to add flavor to foods with spices and herbs instead of salt. Choose to bring healthy snacks when you go out. Choose to savor each bite you eat. Choose a rainbow of fruit and vegetables to help you get a good mix of nutrients. Or choose not to — it’s your decision.
The bottom line is that while fad diets — including fasting — can indeed show short-term improvements, the only sure way to long-term weight loss is to make healthy choices day in and day out.
“Study finds fasting may help reduce negative side effects of chemotherapy,” July, 2011, National Institute on Aging.
“Losing Weight Without Fad Diets,” WebMD.com.
“14 Fad Diets You Shouldn't Try,” Health.com.
“Fasting and less-toxic cancer drug could be alternative to chemotherapy,” Mar. 30, 2015, Robert Perkins, USCNews.
Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors