“Lose weight now!” “Get rid of belly fat!” “Lose 40 pounds fast!” We’ve all seen the commercials, the billboards, the magazine ads. But how to sort out the good diets from the bad? If the diet sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Here are the top 10 worst ways to lose weight.
10Eliminating entire groups of food. Sure, we all know that chips are ice cream aren’t a dieter’s friend, but eliminating an entire food group – like all carbs or all meat – is not the healthiest way to lose weight. You can miss out on valuable nutrients by doing so, like folate or fiber or iron. Rather than cutting out all carbs, choose complex carbs, such as those found in whole grains, veggies, and fruits, and limit simple carbs, such as those in white bread and simple sugars. If you choose to eliminate meat from your diet, whether for health or philosophical reasons, consult a dietician first to determine the best way to replace the protein and other nutrients contained in meat. 09Strict and regimented diets. These may help you lose weight initially, but they will not work in the long run for the simple fact that deprivation often leads to binging and they are not easy to maintain long term. A diet must be something you can live with for the rest of your life, not something you are on only for a period of time until you lose the weight. If you go back to your previous eating habits, you WILL regain the weight you worked so hard to lose. 08Single food diets. Cabbage soup. Grapefruit. No doubt you’ve seen the chain emails. Do these diets work? Sure, because you’re not eating as much, because you’re not eating a lot of junk food. But are they healthy? No. Not only are they usually very nutritionally unbalanced, they are not something you can live with long term. 07“Fast” and furious. We all know someone who starved themselves the weeks or days before their upcoming nuptials or vacation, but is it a good way to lose weight? No. Fasting CAN have health benefits when done in moderation, but it is not a good long term strategy for losing weight, for the same reason that strict, regimented diets are not a good long term strategy: they are not something you can maintain forever and binging is a very real risk. 06Eliminating water weight. Many “dieting” products are geared towards this end: water pills, vinyl or sauna suits, steam rooms. Sure, you’ll lose weight, but as soon as you re-hydrate, you’ll gain the weight right back again. Worse, while using these products, you run the risk of electrolyte imbalance and dehydration. A healthier way to reduce bloating would be to limit the number of carbonated beverages and excess sodium in your diet. 05Purging. Popular wisdom puts purging in the realm of bulimia, but anyone who uses laxatives, diuretics, even excessive exercise can be considered a form of purging. Using diuretics and laxatives when there is no medical need can lead to an electrolyte imbalance, and they do not help with real weight loss, i.e., loss of fat. Instead, you are losing water weight and emptying your bowels – not an effective long term weight loss strategy. Instead of using laxatives, increase the amount of fiber and water in your diet. 04Pills or diet supplements. Even when prescribed by a doctor, pills and diet supplements come with risks. The ones you purchase at your local drug store are even riskier, often not even regulated by any government agency. Apart from not guaranteeing purity, they also cannot guarantee safety or effectiveness (anyone remember ephedrine? Phenfen?). Dietary supplements and pills are simply not worth the risk. 03Skipping the exercise (or over exercising!). Either is bad for you. Not exercising leaves you vulnerable to muscle loss, not to mention a host of bodily ills that accompanies inactivity in general, things like heart disease and increased cancer risk. Over exercising can lead to exhaustion and burnout as well as increase your risk of injury. Talk to your health care professional about any limitations you may need (most otherwise-healthy overweight people probably won’t need any, but it’s a good idea to get a checkup anyway), then start with a daily walk or any other physical activity you enjoy. Work your way up to at LEAST 30 minutes most days of the week. For optimum weight loss results, strive for an hour of cardio most days of the week (per American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association). Add in strength training two or three times a week to build and sculpt muscle. 02Smoking. Many people, women in particular, are reluctant to give up smoking for fear of weight gain. Smoking comes with a host of proven physical ills, from heart disease to lung cancer to infertility to emphysema and worse. Lose the cigarettes and start making healthier changes. Talk to your health care professional about ways to reduce the urge to smoke, limit potential weight gain, and other ways to make the cut easier. 01Surgery. Doctors recommend it to morbidly obese patients, commercials praise it, documentaries show it in glowing terms … so why is it number one on the ten worst ways to lose weight list? Because any weight loss surgery is major abdominal surgery. Obese patients are at higher risks from any kind of surgery. Apart from that fact, however, there are many risks that are unique to bariatric surgery: hernia, collapsed lung, enlarged heart, gallstones, gastroesophogeal reflux disease (GERD), ulcers, nutritional deficiencies, dumping syndrome and death. One out of twenty people will have complications from the surgery (source: http://www.bariatricedge.com).
Unless you are more than 100% over your ideal weight and suffering complications from your obesity, it is far healthier for you to try traditional methods of weight loss first (including psychological assistance if needed, help from a registered dietician and your regular health care practitioner). Bariatric surgery is not a “quick fix,” it is not easy, it is not guaranteed to work, it is not risk-free, and people can and do die or forever have their lives negatively impacted by it. Even if you do qualify as a candidate for weight loss surgery, you will do best exhausting ALL other weight loss options before resorting to this drastic process.
So those are the worst ways to lose weight. What is the best way? Making permanent, sustainable lifestyle changes. Don’t make large goals – concentrate on changing your life, not just your body. Eat food closest to its natural state – rather than orange juice from concentrate, eat an orange; instead of a toaster pastry, have a whole grain English muffin and some fruit preserves; instead of potato chips or fries have a potato. Incorporate more whole grains, more lean proteins, more heart-healthy fats, more fruits, more veggies into your diet. Reduce your intake of highly processed foods. Don’t assign moral judgments to food: nothing is “good” or “bad,” simply healthier or less healthy.
Move your body – get regular exercise. Sleep enough to fulfill your body’s needs. And ignore the number on the scale. Don’t worry about losing two pounds this week or forty by the end of the year. Instead, make “eat two pieces of fruit and four servings of veggies every day,” “walk two miles a day,” or “processed meats only once a week” your weekly goals. Gradual changes are much easier to adhere to. Making small changes may not show up rapidly and fulfill that desire to look better, but in the long term, you are making healthier choices that will stick with and benefit you for the rest of your life. And isn’t that really what we all want?