It’s almost impossible to turn on the TV or radio these days without being bombarded with advertisements for the latest developments in weight loss and dieting, all of which guarantee that you will shed pounds with minimal change or sacrifice on your part. But stop and think about it… if it was truly that easy to lose weight, wouldn’t everyone have their dream body tomorrow? As a general rule of thumb, if a weight-loss gimmick promises drastic changes in limited amounts of time or if it just sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Besides being too good to be true, some of them are actually downright dangerous, especially if you don’t know what to look out for. Here are a few extremely stupid and dangerous diet gimmicks to watch out for:
1. Meal Replacement Shakes
This is one of the most popular forms of “diet” programs. SlimFast, MediFast, Shakeology, they’re everywhere. I urge every single person considering one of these programs to seriously, seriously do some research and reevaluate. Some of the SlimFast and Shakeology drinks are actually pretty decent forms of nutrient supplements and would make an excellent addition to a healthy meal plan. A SlimFast and a spinach and grilled chicken salad for lunch, or a Shakeology with scrambled eggs and a slice of whole wheat toast is not necessarily an unhealthy or unsafe option, but three meals a day that are comprised of nothing but a meal-replacement shake is. Be very, very careful when incorporating one of these into your diet plans. Eating your calories is generally preferable to drinking them. Please eat.
2. Liquid Detox Diets
Some of these diets are downright scary. Most involve some concoction of lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper and the instructions for this diet range in extremity from “drink once a day” to “consume nothing except this drink for the next ten days.” I cannot stress enough that despite their popularity, these “diets” are dangerous and unhealthy. Will you lose weight? Yes, definitely. But you cannot survive on this liquid concoction alone, and the minute you attempt to transition back to regular food, you will not only gain the weight back, but you’re very likely to gain MORE weight back, because all you’ve successfully managed to do is traumatize your body with this brief stint of starvation. Permanent weight loss means permanent lifestyle changes. Period. If your “diet” is not something you can sustain permanently, it is not something that will help you in the long run. Food is good. Please eat it.
3. The Drive-Thru Diet
This diet operates under the premise that as long as you are eating within a certain caloric range you will lose weight regardless of what you eat. While in theory this is true, it is also very misleading. The quality of the calories you consume is equally, if not more important, than the quantity. 1,600 calories of crap is still crap and will not improve your health in the long run. Healthy food is good. Please be sure to eat lots of it.
4. Fasted Activity Burns More Fat
This school of thought teaches that all exercise should be done on an empty stomach to burn your fat reserves. In theory, this is not a false statement. However, in the big picture, it doesn’t really make a difference. Your body will burn fat reserves when it runs out of calories, no matter what time of day or night or how much you have or haven’t eaten already that day. As long as you’re consuming less calories than you burn, you’re going to burn fat regardless. Plus, eating food gives you energy and generally makes you happier…so please eat.
5. 1,200 Calories Is All You Should Be Eating in Order to Lose Weight
No, no, no, a million times no. 1,200 calories is the recommended number of daily calories for your average six year old. Unless you are very short and slender of build, 1,200 calories is not enough for anyone. At all. Ever. Use a calculator to find your basal metabolic rate (BMR). This number is the number of calories your body will burn in a day if you did nothing but lay in bed all day. You should absolutely never eat less than this number. I know it may look scary high, but trust me. Sometimes eating more gives you the boost you need. I’ve lost more weight on a diet of 1,500-1,800 healthy calories per day than I ever did on a 1,200 calorie crash diet. Don’t know how to calculate your BMR? Try here: http://www.myfitnesspal.com/tools/bmr-calculator. Eating less than your BMR can do long-term damage to your metabolism and your body. Food is good. So please eat.
Healthy weight loss is between 0.5 to two pounds per week. If you are losing more, you may be losing dangerous or unhealthy weight. If you have questions, talk to your doctor, and always be sure to research everything before jumping in with two feet. You have the rest of your life to live, don’t rush your results. Take your time, enjoy the journey, and be proud of your consistency. You are worth more than cheap tricks and gimmicks.