In a sea of fad diets, it’s easy to lose track of what’s realistic. The sensible solutions (think: a healthy, well-balanced diet) might seem bland, or too hard when you compare them to the fantastic promises from diet marketers.
But how many times have you embarked on a trendy new weight loss plan only to regain all the weight you’ve lost? This is known as “yo-yo dieting,” and it can cause a lot of unnecessary frustration.
How do you avoid this frustration? Stick to well-balanced diets and stay away from weight loss scams. It helps to cultivate a healthy sense of skepticism when you watch infomercials, read advertisements or hear emotional stories of weight loss success. Here are some of the telltale signs of a weight loss scam.
1. “Rapid Weight Loss – Lose 10 pounds in 10 days!” It’s easy to find products promising rapid, unrealistic weight loss. These products usually target people who want to lose weight for a time-sensitive event such as a wedding or high-school reunion. While these products can help you shed pounds quickly, it’s usually in the form of water, not fat. You didn’t gain the weight in days, so don’t expect to lose it in that amount of time either. Of course there’s no ideal pace for weight loss, but most experts recommend losing weight at a rate of 1-2 pounds per week.
2. “Eat whatever you want and still lose weight.” If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There are no safe and effective weight loss supplements that will allow you to load up on high-calorie foods while whittling down your waistline. Successful weight loss and maintenance requires you to adopt good food choices and watch your portion size. Losing weight often means cutting back on the amount you’d normally eat or changing the types of food you eat. It’s a change in behavior that can leave you feeling deprived. Learning to shift your mental focus to the positive will help. Focus on the foods you can eat instead of what you can’t. Focus on your motivation (why did you want to lose weight?) instead of setbacks.
3. “This product will block carbs/proteins/fats.” Disregard claims that pills and potions can block your digestion of carbohydrates, proteins or fat. It’s tempting to believe this — you’d think by now some genius scientist would have figured out a way to trick the body into slimming down effortlessly. We can’t say they haven’t tried, but these products often come with unwanted side effects, limited clinical evidence, or both.
Remember “fat-free” potato chips marketed in the 90s? They tasted just like their fat-full counterpart because they were indeed deep-fried, not in vegetable oil, but in a tub of Olestra. Olestra was created in a lab when chemists joined a fat molecule to a sugar molecule so your body wouldn’t recognize it as food. So, what’s the problem? The product was banned overseas and scaled down in the United States after people learned that undigested fat usually leaves the body by way of explosive diarrhea.
One more example: garcinia cambogia sales blew up the Internet when Dr. Oz deemed it a “revolutionary” weight-loss supplement. Garcinia cambogia is a tropical fruit containing hydroxycitric acid (HCA), a compound that can block carbs from being converted and stored as fat. It sounded plausible and there was some evidence from animal trials that it could help with weight loss. Unfortunately, this didn’t hold up well with human trials. HCA only led to small, insignificant, short-term weight loss.
4. “This product boosts energy and metabolism.” Our metabolism depends on many factors including genetics, body size, gender, hormonal variations and more. There is no secret food formula that can take your metabolism to new heights overnight. Supplements claiming to do so often add high levels of caffeine or other stimulants that work on the brain and nervous system to make you feel more alert. You do get a small boost in metabolism if you end up sleeping less, but this is short-lived. Sleep deprivation has its own set of negative health consequences, including weight gain.
Want a tried-and-true method for increasing your metabolism? Pick up an exercise routine that includes strength-training and bodyweight exercises. This helps you build more lean mass in the form of muscle, which requires more energy to maintain than fat.
5. “This program reduces bloating, cleanses and detoxifies.” Be wary of detox tea, colon cleansers and products that claim they can purge your body of toxins in the name of a flatter tummy. They may contain diuretics, laxatives or both. You end up losing weight, but most of it is bodily fluids and waste. The feeling is short-lived, and laxative abuse is a potentially dangerous disorder. Rest assured that your body has evolved a very unique organ to clear out toxins — your liver. Be kind to it by drinking lots of water, limiting alcohol and eating a healthy, well-balanced diet.