Fad Diets, A Do or a Don’t? You Decide

Spring is upon us, which means it’s almost time to whip out the bathing suits. For those of us who aren’t quite ready for that, it’s time to start the mad dash to lose the weight we’ve accumulated over the winter months.

Diet fads constantly come and go, but there are a couple that have recently hit the national spotlight and are becoming popular among young women, especially the HCG diet.

This diet revolves around the Human chorionic gonadotropin hormone, which surfaces during pregnancy. The HCG hormone is responsible for storing fat, which is supposed to be used toward helping the baby.

Dr. Albert Simeons, who was studying pregnant women in India at the time, discovered the link between the hormone and weight loss. He was the first to recommend the use of daily HCG injections in conjunction with a daily intake of only 500 calories a day.

from customers on HCGDiet.com state the diet has done wonders for their weight loss goals and helped them lose 2 to 3 pounds per day.

One customer claimed to have lost 20 pounds in a mere 26 days.

Another said she didn’t even feel hungry after the diet restriction.

“I know it sounds typical but it was so amazing to me that I, ME, the hopeless dieter was able to actually see 2-3 pounds less on the scale every single morning and feel great,” one woman said.

However, despite its success stories, the HCG diet is not approved by the FDA for weight loss – it is only legally approved as a fertility treatment.

This makes some nutrition professionals a little uneasy about the diet.

“You could be getting water in the vial,” said Kristen Tice, a campus dietician at the University of South Carolina. “It’s really unsafe to buy something online from somebody you don’t know.”

Tice said the diet puts young women at the risk of missing out on important nutrients and maybe even sending their bodies into starvation mode.

She’s not sold on the effectiveness of the hormone.

“They’re only eating 500 calories a day,” Tice said. “You’d be losing weight regardless.”

She said it doesn’t teach dieters anything about making a lifestyle change, which is crucial to weight loss, and can cause them to gain the weight back.

Another diet misconception is using vegetarianism solely as a means to lose weight. According to the Weight-Control Information Network, vegetarians can find a low-fat diet that will help with weight loss. However, vegetarians also have the opportunity to make bad dieting choices by eating high-fat food or food that doesn’t offer any nutritional value.

Tice said many young women forget the importance of protein in a vegetarian diet.

“They wind up putting themselves in danger because they don’t understand,” Tice said.

Here are a couple other weight loss myths from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

Myth: High-protein/low-carbohydrate diets are a healthy way to lose weight.

Fact: The long-term health effects of a high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet are unknown. But getting most of your daily calories from high-protein foods like meat, eggs, and cheese is not a balanced eating plan. You may be eating too much fat and cholesterol, which may raise heart disease risk.

Myth: Fast foods are always an unhealthy choice and you should not eat them when dieting.

Fact: Avoid supersized combo meals, or split one with a friend. Sip on water or fat-free milk instead of soda. Choose salads and grilled foods, like a grilled chicken breast sandwich or small hamburger. Try a “fresco” taco (with salsa instead of cheese or sauce) at taco stands. Fried foods, like french fries and fried chicken, are high in fat and calories, so order them only once in a while, order a small portion, or split an order with a friend. Also, use only small amounts of high-fat, high-calorie toppings, like regular mayonnaise, salad dressings, bacon, and cheese.

Myth: Skipping meals is a good way to lose weight.

Fact: Studies show that people who skip breakfast and eat fewer times during the day tend to be heavier than people who eat a healthy breakfast and eat four or five times a day. This may be because people who skip meals tend to feel hungrier later on, and eat more than they normally would. It may also be that eating many small meals throughout the day helps people control their appetites.

Tice said there is no easy way to lose weight. The best way is to create an overall healthier lifestyle by eating healthy, exercising, modifying behaviors and managing stress better. Working with dietician or personal trainer helps, too.

“The bottom line is that there is no magic pill for losing weight,” Tice said.

Want to learn more about 2010’s diet fads? This blogger discusses the Taco Bell drive-thru diet, the Twinkie diet, the tapeworm diet and more.

By Kara Apel, University of South Carolina

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