Fad Weight Loss Diets: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Scottsdale, Arizona based celebrity personal trainer Lucas James and nutrition expert and trainer Jason Apfel give you the low down on poor nutrition and fad diets.

With all of the fad diets out there the phrases ‘low-carb’, ‘low-calorie’, and ‘low-fat’, have all been associated with weight-loss at one point. But what’s the catch? Aren’t all these things good? Well… the answer isn’t as clear as you might think. While low-calorie and low-fat food options can be beneficial, these ‘deprivation’ diets are often impossible to maintain over the long run and typically lack valuable vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Low-carbohydrate diets especially, tend to promote unhealthy meal options and eating habits that can deprive our bodies of the necessary energy for healthy growth and development. If any weight-loss is achieved with fad diets, the pounds don’t stay off for long, once you return to a ‘normal’ eating style.

It is important to avoid ‘dieting’ in the typical sense of the word. A healthy lifestyle accounts for a healthy diet. Dieting alone is a short-term fix and can be detrimental to ones health.  There are numerous unhealthy dieting plans and products out there supported only by marketing claims for noticeable weight loss in a short time period. Some of these include: the Atkins diet, South beach diet, Low-carb diet, Low-fat diet, Hollywood diet, Grapefruit diet, Liquid diet (using low-calorie, high-protein, high-fiber shakes) and the juice diet.

Fad Weight Loss Diets: The Good, The Bad, The UglyThe majority of weight loss during these diets can be attributed to a loss in water-weight.  More so, weight loss during fad-dieting is often quickly regained when normal food and liquid intake is resumed. These diet plans are often expensive and can be dangerous for maintaining proper body function. Moreover, they do not emphasize lifestyle changes that will help you maintain your desired weight. Poor dieting can result in the loss of valuable body tissue such as muscle mass in addition to vital minerals, vitamins and nutrients necessary for maintaining our health.

So if these diets are a sham what really works? Well, first off, eating fewer calories than you burn through exercise and normal body function is key in reducing body weight.   To drop a pound of fat in one week, which is the equivalent of 3,500 calories, you have to aim to eat about 300 fewer calories every day while burning 300 calories from exercise five times a week. Just as important as reducing your caloric intake is replenishing your body with nutrient dense calories from healthy food sources. The most effective way to achieve your body weight is to eat a variety of correctly portioned healthful foods, in addition to exercise.

Our bodies are constantly undergoing an internal tug-of-war to balance our nutritional needs with our daily energy expenditures and body functions. Proper fueling is necessary for our bodies to utilize our diet most effectively for nutrient replenishment and muscle growth; this means focusing on implementing specific eating strategies: eating the right food types at the right time. It is important to eat the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat to ensure healthy growth and develop, along with other nutrients, vitamins and minerals.

Each vitamin or mineral helps to regulate metabolism and bodily processes. If you have low levels of certain vitamins, you may develop a deficiency disease.

For example, Vitamin D and Calcium cooperatively work to maintain healthy bone structure and prevent low bone density and fractures. Vitamin C helps boost your immune system and protect your body against infection. B Vitamins help with an array of functions including supporting neurological function and development. Vitamin E stimulates the function ofT-cells, which help fight off foreign diseases and are an important component of your immune system.

Whenever you go on a fad diet that promoted the exclusion of any of these necessary nutrients, you increase your risk for illness and disease. While too little of a specific nutrient may not cause a problem immediately, once your body is depleted for an extended period of time, you can suffer from the resulting health consequences.

Aside from the frequency and types of foods you eat, portion size plays a large roll in maintaining a healthy body weight. Over the last few decades, food servings have grown larger and larger with new fast food restaurants and ‘super-sized’ meal options.  You should aim for the following portions:

Fad Weight Loss Diets

Portion Sizes:

– A cup of fruit should be no larger than your fist.

– Four ounces of cheese is about the size of four playing dice.

– Three to four ounces of meat, fish, or poultry is approximately the size of a deck of cards.

– One to two ounces of nuts equals your cupped hand.

When you’re at home, try serving your meals on salad plates instead of large dinner plates to dissuade you from plating oversized portions. Also, fill up on fresh greens, salads, fruits, and vegetables instead of high-fat foods, breads, pastas, and sweets. With weight-loss in mind, try eating a variety of healthy foods including lean proteins, complex carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and healthy omega-3 fats from fish and monounsaturated fats from avocados, nuts, and olives or olive oil.

*What are those fad diets?

Atkins Diet– The Atkins diet involves limited consumption of carbohydrates to switch the body’s metabolism from metabolizing glucose as energy over to converting stored body fat to energy.   Low carb (ketogenic) diets deplete the healthy glucose stores in your muscles and liver. When you deplete glycogen stores, you also dehydrate, often causing the scale to drop significantly in the first week or two of the diet. This is usually interpreted as fat loss when it’s actually mostly from dehydration and muscle loss. Loss of muscle causes a decrease in your metabolism. More so, since metabolism happens in muscle, less muscle and muscle tone means a slower metabolism, meaning fewer calories burned in any given day.

South Beach Diet– The South Beach Diet is relatively simple in principle. It replaces “bad carbs” and “bad fats” with “good carbs” and “good fats.”  Phase 1 eliminates all sugars, processed carbohydrates, fruits, and some higher-glycemic vegetables as well. Its purpose is to eliminate the hunger cycle and is expected to result in significant weight loss. Phase 2 re-introduces most fruits and vegetables and some whole grains as well. Phase 3 is the maintenance phase and lasts for ‘life’. The high-protein intake from south beach diet can make the kidneys work harder, causing kidney stress and strip the body of calcium. The inconsistency between each ‘phase’ of the diet is unwarranted. Good foods are always good foods, not tools to change your ‘hunger cycle’.

Hollywood Diet / Grapefruit Diet- usually involves eating half a grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice with each meal and significantly reducing caloric intake, often to below 800 calories per day. The diet is based on the claim that grapefruit has a fat-burning enzyme or similar property. The variations of the grapefruit diet that are too low in calories (below 1200 calories a day), carbs or essential micronutrients are considered unhealthy and potentially dangerous.  Highly restrictive diets can cause eating disorders and poor mental health.

Liquid Diet / Juice Diet (using low-calorie, high-protein, high-fiber shakes) – A clear liquid diet consists of transparent liquid foods such as vegetable broth, bouillon, clear fruit juices, clear fruit ices, popsicles, clear gelatin desserts, or clear carbonated drinks. A full or strained liquid diet consists of both clear and opaque liquid foods with a smooth consistency. It includes milk, milkshakes, ice cream, puddings, strained cream soups, fruit nectar with pulp, smooth cooked cereals such as porridge and cream of wheat, butter, and honey.  Mostly, people replace meals with ‘health’ drinks or ‘meal-replacement’ drinks.  This can result in malnutrition, body system shut-down and extremely detrimental and deadly conditions.  We are not robots that run on gasoline.  Our bodies need calories, fat, carb and protein.  Health drinks and products cannot replace natures true fuel.

About the Author

, Celebrity Personal Trainer and Fitness & Nutrition Expert headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ. He specializes in helping men and women achieve weight loss, muscle building, toning and other customized fitness & nutrition programs to create a Healthy Lifestyle. James offers private luxury personal training, 12-week custom workout plans, and personalized nutrition meal plans. Follow on Google+.

Comments are closed.