Weight Loss Diets Under the Microscope

Are you constantly counting points with every bite you take?  Or avoiding all carbohydrates as if they may bite you back?  We are living in a world of dieters.  Studies show one out of three people will be on a diet at any given time in their lives, with only one out of 20 actually achieving their goal weight.  Additional studies show that most will stay on a diet for an average of only 6 months.

 

So what happens after that?  Most will jump onto the next popular diet after gaining double the weight back, and find themselves lost, not knowing what to do or who to listen to. This is the yo-yo dieter.  All of the dieting confusion makes healthy eating hard to understand, and has many Registered Dietitians saying, “stop the dieting madness”!

Without pointing any fingers, or naming specific names, let’s break down some of the popular diet types, and see if we can dispel some of the myths out there, gearing you in a better direction towards healthy habits in order to maintain a healthy weight.

High Protein Diets: Believe it or not, high protein diets have been around for a long time.   These diets sometimes forbid great foods such as fruits, veggies, and whole grains due to their carbohydrate content.  My first question to anyone with this carb cutting habit is, how many times have you actually driven through a fast food restaurant and ordered a super size of carrots?

Remember the importance of some of the great carbohydrate rich foods. They are necessary for energy, performance, and contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals.  The typical adult should consume at least 45-60% of their calories from carbohydrates found in fruits, veggies, and whole grains.

Some high protein diets recommend this amount be limited to < 20% of calories!  Such a low amount can lead to side effects such as fatigue/exhaustion, irritability, lack of concentration, constipation, bad breath, dizziness, and headaches.  Since carbohydrates are the preferred fuel of the brain, most people avoiding carbohydrates will be crabby, tired, and irritable.   And remember, protein has calories – just as many as carbohydrates – and excess calories overall leads to weight gain.

Magic food combinations and percentages: Don’t eat this food at the same time as that food!  Make sure every meal has the required macronutrient (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) percentages! Yikes, all of that sounds way too complicated for me!  If I need a calculator to prepare every meal, I’m giving up on that diet pretty quickly.  Let’s do a biology check: remember your food is all going to the same place.  So if you have been convinced to avoid combining certain foods at the same meal, remember, you only have one stomach.

As for trying to aim for that perfect percentage at every meal, here’s an easier way to balance a healthy plate – the plate method.  Split your plate in half and fill half of it with veggies and/or fruit.  The other half of the plate should be shared between a lean protein source and a whole grain or starch.  Now you have a colorful plate with a variety of macronutrients, and you didn’t even need to be a math whiz to figure it out!

Negative calorie and fat burning foods: Let’s be clear about one thing: there are no “negative calorie foods.”  Period.  If you haven’t heard of a negative calorie food is, let me explain.  The theory is, if you consume something like celery, you will actually burn more calories than you just ate.  If this is true, and they say you burn 6 calories for every stalk of celery you eat, you better start chewing!

It takes an excess burned or deficiency consumed of 3500 calories to lose or gain a pound. That being said, you would have to consume around 583 stalks of celery to burn enough calories for the grand result of one pound. Lose a pound and gain one sore jaw!   And for those who think that fat burning grapefruit is the answer, sorry just another very low calorie diet with some form of grapefruit in every meal.  One thing to note, grapefruit can be a great fruit for its Vitamin C and fiber, but don’t count on any fat burning catalyst theory to help you maintain a healthy weight.

Vegetarian Diets/ Eliminating food groups: Vegetarian diets seem to be very popular in the younger population.  There is a misconception that if you become a vegetarian you will be thin for life and extremely healthy!  If you are becoming a vegetarian or vegan for religious reasons or animal rights, that is one thing.  However, take note that cutting out food groups may also put you at risk for becoming deficient in important vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients important for growth, performance, and general health.  And you can still over do your caloric intake and struggle with your weight as a vegetarian.  If you are considering cutting out a specific food group, or becoming a vegetarian, consult with a Registered Dietitian first and find out how to do it the right way.

So what is the ultimate weight loss secret?: As simple as it seems, stay away from dieting!  It all comes down to good old fashioned calories in vs. calories out.  Good nutrition is not about good foods versus bad foods, it’s about making healthier choices more often, and learning what works best for you and your body!  Healthy eating is making sure that you consume the right amount from all five food groups and sneaking in those “forbidden foods” every now and then. Need more guidance than that?  Seek the assistance of a Registered Dietitian in your area.

By Lauren Scott, MS, RD, LD

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