Diets that promise far too much magic in too little time are essentially quick fixes that could be harmful for your health. Ludicrous and larger-than-life claims such as “watch the pounds shed off if you eat before 5pm” or “this supplement will burn fat from your thighs ” or “lose weight with cabbage soup diet” or “a teaspoon of this magic powder at bedtime will make sure you lose weight while you sleep”, are continuously doing the rounds. With more and more people wanting to lose weight quickly and without effort, such fad diets will continue to surface. In fact, if you’re faced with just two months and lots of weight to lose, a fad diet becomes the only recourse even if it means paying an arm and a leg for one and harming your health in the long term.
No short cuts : Single-food diets cannot help you lose weight.
How to recognize such a diet
•Diets that claim you can lose more than 1kg per week: Some fad diets promise 2-5kg weight loss a week. Such diets are unhealthy because these induce muscle mass loss more than fat loss. Water loss is never permanent and water weight returns when you are back on your normal diet. Muscle loss is clearly unhealthy because it makes you weak and tired, and affects bone health. Muscle loss also promotes storage of fat in the body, making you fatter in the long term.
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• Diets that advocate restricting entire food groups: Several fad diets promote single foods, say, only cabbage or just soup and salad and nothing else the whole day for the duration of the diet. Such diet diktats compromise the intake of minerals and vitamins. Others advocate cutting out entire food groups, especially macronutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats. This causes nutrient deficiencies. For example, a high-protein diet with very few carbohydrate food choices will lower fibre intake, affect digestion, lower B-complex levels, affect mood, skin and hair. Omitting fat will cause vitamins A, D, E and K deficiencies, because these are stored in fat
•Diets that advise you to eat only raw foods: A balance of raw and cooked foods is essential for a healthy diet. For example, the antioxidant lycopene in tomatoes is better absorbed when they are cooked. The insoluble fibres in pulses such as kidney beans and lentils need to be broken down with pressure cooking to be digested better in our bodies
•Diets that claim a single food can help you lose all your fat: Several fad diets claim that a couple of doses of a certain type of fruit juice, extract or supplement is all you need to lose weight quickly. These diets can be very dangerous, especially if they do not label the nutrition contents they contain. Even a natural substance such as ephedrine, an extract from Ma huang, a natural herb found in some supplements, is considered toxic and has been banned in some countries. It can affect body temperature and metabolism, lead to irregular heartbeat and increase the stress hormone level.
Clearly there are no quick fixes with regard to health, which is why fad diets can potentially damage health. Health for the most part is always work in progress. As such, it must be looked after every day, not once in a while, for an event. The best and only way is undoubtedly healthy eating and regular exercise. A healthy diet comprising four-five meals provides a rich array of nutrients. Include many foods and food groups such as wholesome grain, multicoloured vegetables, including broccoli, carrot, spinach and tomatoes, fruit such as papaya, apple, orange, guava and mango, among others, and nourishing protein food items such as skimmed paneer, dairy and yogurt, eggs, lean poultry and fish in your meal plans.
All this also stimulates your taste buds and makes you look forward to your meals. Regular exercise along with such a diet helps improve vital metabolic processes, keeps heart, lungs and all organs healthy, improves and maintains the blood cholesterol profile, and keeps you functionally fit for a lifetime.
Madhuri Ruia is a nutritionist and Pilates expert. She runs InteGym in Mumbai, which advocates workouts with healthy diets.
Write to Madhuri at email@example.com