When it comes to weight loss, we all wish for uncomplicated solutions. As a result, many Americans fall prey to fad diets, which can be hard to spot even for the most intelligent and street smart consumers. These fad diets most often focus on fast and easy weight loss. So, how can you spot one? Fad diets and diet scams can be revealed by one or more of the following features:

1. Energy restriction and/or rapid weight loss

Examples: The Master Cleanse, Hollywood Diet
These diets severely restrict calories (800 calories or less). Drastically cutting back calories will cause the body to naturally shed water (and possibly muscle), which will result in short-term weight loss. But when a person begins to eat normally again, the body will rehydrate like a sponge and all the weight will come back. Slow, steady weight loss (a half-pound to one pound a week) is more likely to equal lasting change than dramatic weight loss.

2. Extreme food restrictions

Examples: The Atkins Diet, Paleo Diet, Raw Food Diet, Grapefruit Diet, Cabbage Soup Diet
Diets that completely eliminate certain foods or consist completely of only one food group may lead to short-term weight loss, but you're likely depriving your body of essential nutrients. You're also likely to burn out eating such a limited diet, making the diet difficult to maintain.

3. Food combinations

Examples: Fit for Life, Blood Type Diet
There is no evidence to support that the timing of eating foods or eating certain foods in combination will aid a person in losing weight. Eating the “wrong” combinations doesn't cause them to produce toxins or be instantly stored as fat.

4. Gimmicks

Example: Five-Bite Diet
While taking only five bites or not eating after 7:00pm are strategies for reducing overall food intake, they obviously aren't realistic long-term strategies for weight loss.

5. Pills, powders and herbs

Examples: HCG Diet, Metabolife 356, Dexatrim, Bulletproof Coffee, Hydroxycut
Many diet pills and powders are not regulated by the FDA, so there is no way to truly know what's in them. For most dietary supplements, there is no scientific data to back the claims of weight loss. It's best not to take something if you're unsure of its contents, as it could cause dangerous side effects or reactions.

It's Popular, But is it For You?

Another category of popular diets are ones developed for people with specific medical conditions, like gluten-free diets for people with celiac disease or the ketogenic diet for people with epilepsy. They're intended for a very limited population only about 1% of the population has celiac disease and the statistic is similar for epilepsy. These diets aren't unhealthy, but they also may not be appropriate for the average person.

And it's important to note that just because a diet is popular, doesn't mean it's bad for you. Some examples are the well-known DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) diets, which were developed to support heart health. These diets are reasonable and balanced, making them a great option if you're looking for structured program to follow.

Lose Weight the Right Way

So, if fad diets aren't the answer, then how should you approach weight loss? Start by changing your mindset. Good weight loss goals should be lifestyle driven, not a drastic alteration of your eating behavior. Here are a few hallmarks of a successful weight loss plan:

1. Behavior

Eat mindfully. Try to identify the reasons you overeat or make unhealthy choices. Reward yourself with activities instead of food.

2. Exercise

The ADA recommends 30 minutes a day of moderate aerobic activity (exercises that give the heart a continuous workout, like walking, swimming, or dancing) with an anaerobic activity (exercise that requires short bursts of exertion, like weightlifting or baseball) at least two days a week. Moderate activity means you can talk, but need to take a breath in between sentences. It is important to choose activities that you enjoy. For many, group exercise classes are a key to a sustained exercise habits, creating friendships and accountability.

3. Diet

There is no “silver bullet” to eating right; it's a series of good, common-sense choices. There are some great resources online for determining the right amount of calories for your lifestyle and body type. And remember to eat a variety of foods. It's about quality more than quantity.

And remember, it's never a bad idea to consult a physician before embarking on a weight loss journey. You can make an appointment with a West Valley provider by calling 455-3981.