NO FAD DIETS Americans are obsessed with dieting. They willingly try the latest diet appearing in popular magazines, discussed on talk shows, and displayed on the shelves of a local bookstore. The basic premises to a healthy life seem simple, and Americans are even given specific guidelines- outlined in the food pyramid- as to how much of each food group to eat.
If this is so, why then, is obesity one of the leading health risks confronting Americans? It may be because the simple and healthy road to weight loss is actually a long-term process.
Therefore, it is tempting for Americans to substitute diets and exercise regimens with what are known as “fad diets”—diets that promise quick and easy results. Long term weight loss does not come from extreme diets and quick fix decisions; losing weight and keeping it off comes from choosing a healthy lifestyle and making it a habit. Despite research, fad diets have achieved popularity proving their dangers and inefficiency. Just as a car needs the proper gasoline, the human body needs a healthy diet; a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat to properly develop.
Although fad diets may share very different “truths”, most have many common characteristics: most claim to provide insight and new results, but they are simply replicas of older fad diets (Hobbs 2007, 42). They also claim that specific foods or group of foods are the “enemy” and should be banned from the diet. This is a myth—there is not a single food which is capable of causing weight gain or loss (Hobbs 2007, 42). Another characteristic of a fad diet is that they usually promise fast results.
These diets are usually not supported by scientific evidence, and the information they provide are usually derived from a single study or analysis (Hobbs 2007, 42). An example of a popular fad diet is called “The Zone. ” This plan was created by Barry Sears, PhD in 1995 (Greene 2003, 23). Sear’s principle argument is that human beings are programmed to function best on only two food groups: lean proteins and natural carbohydrates (Greene 2003, 24). Consumption of carbohydrates, according to Sears, produces insulin—a process that converts carbohydrates into fat (Greene 2003, 22).
Critics of this diet argue that Sear’s theory regarding insulin production is an “unproven gimmick” (Greene 2003, 22). Individuals who go on fad diets are putting their body at risk for disease and illness. A second well-known fad diet is called “Sugar Busters. ” This plan was created by H. Leighton Steward (Greene 2003, 13). Labeling sugar as the enemy because it releases insulin and then stores it as body fat, “Sugar Busters” demands that both refined and processed sugars be taken out of one’s diet (Greene 2003, 13).
This includes potatoes, white rice, corn, and carrots. Sugar is not naturally toxic and it is dangerous to eliminate along with complex carbohydrates, which provide a good source of fiber (Greene 2003, 14). This plan, just like many other fad diets, calls for the elimination of a specific food. It is ignoring the fact that the human body needs many types of foods to stay healthy (Greene 2007, 17). These fad diets promote high- fat foods which, in turn, can increase the risk for heart disease, cancer, high cholesterol, and liver and kidney damage.
A 2007 Stanford University study took 311 women who averaged 40 years old and 189 pounds, and put them on 1 out of 4 diets—the low carbohydrate Atkins and Zone diets, or the low-fat Ornish and LEARN diets. After six months, the Atkins dieters had lost 13 pounds; the others 6 to 8 pounds. All the dieters, however, started to regain what they had lost (American Heart Association 2005, 12). In the past year, the Atkins dieters regained 3 pounds, and the others had gained back 3 to 8 pounds (American Heart Association 2005, 11).
None of these dieters could stick to the dieting plan for a long-term period. Fad diets are extreme plans that lack valid evidence and research. High-fat diets may promote short-term weight loss, but most of the loss is caused by dehydration (Hobbs 2007, 14). As the kidneys try to destroy fats and proteins, water is lost (Hobbs 2007, 14). High-fat diets are low in calories causing depletion of body mass instead of fat loss (Hobbs 2007, 16). Fad diets argue that the human body responds to carbohydrates in a way that causes weight gain.
If Americans are gaining weight, it is because of the quantities they consume. Weight gain is due to the excessive calories, not the carbohydrates that invite obesity (Greene 2003, 22). If fad diets work, it is due to the decreasing of calories being consumed [The Zone’s diet calls for less than one thousand calories a day] (Greene 2007, 33). Fad diets are very difficult to keep up with since they ban certain products and require repeated eating of certain foods. These fad diets are low in calcium, fiber, and other important vitamins (Hobbs 2003, 32).
This provides many dangers such as heart disease, hardening of arteries, and high cholesterol. Many fad diets contribute to the “yo-yo dieting. ” Yo-yo dieting is the successive loss and gain of weight due to excessive dieting. This makes weight loss slow when it is looked at from a healthy perspective (American Heart Association 2005, 39). Because of the obvious health dangers and the failure to provide long-term weight loss, this should encourage people to stop using fad diets but that is not the case.
Fad diets continue to remain the substitute for healthy diet plans and exercise. Each year, Americans spend more than thirty billion dollars fighting fat—often on gimmicks that do not work (American Heart Association 2005, 9). What is so appealing to Americans about fad diets? Instead of pursuing the long and enduring road of healthy diets and habits, most embrace the “easy fix” – the fad diet. When one hears of a person losing a significant amount of weight, one often does not even question the health risks, and they embrace this quick way of losing weight for themselves.
Devoting to a lifestyle that includes exercise and eating a proper diet with moderate portions is still the best method to lose weight and keep it off (Greene 2007, 21). Those who make the change from a typical high-fat fad diet to one that follows a diet based on the food pyramid will slowly and safely lose weight (Greene 2007, 22). It is important to note that it is possible for fad diets to prove effective for certain individuals. Each body is different, reacting to certain diets in different ways (Hobbs 2003, 56). Fad diets may work on bodies that are used to such extreme constraints.
Diversity, however, is the most basic principle for the human body (Hobbs 2003, 59). The fact that fad diets disregard this most fundamental truth renders them unhealthy and ineffective. The diet industry is giving the world what they want—a diet plan that can be followed while keeping the same of living (Greene 2007, 40). If a person want to lose weight, it is best to stay away from fad diets. A magic pill or diet will not take weight off. A person trying to lose weight should talk to their physician about a healthy weight loss plan that is right for their individual needs.
Also, Exercise goes hand-in-hand with weight loss. Simply walking 2 to 3 times each week will boost your metabolism. Studies show that ninety-five percent of people who lose weight gain it back within five years (Greene 2007, 32). It is not surprising that nearly twenty-five percent of Americans are confused when it comes to dieting (Greene 2007, 32). Reducing calories, no matter how approached, will result in weight loss, but when cutting calories, it is also important to choose foods that nourish the body (Greene 2007, 35).
In conclusion, fad diets do not result in long-term weight loss, are nutritionally inadequate, and should simply be avoided. The key diet for weight loss is one that reduces overall caloric intake and promotes physical activity. Psalm 139:14 says, “For I am fearfully and wonderfully made. ” We need to live a lifestyle that reflects this principle; fad diets are not a reflection of this. God designed us exactly how He wanted to, and that should bring comfort to each and every person in this world.