Dieting Dangers

As long as there is food, there will be diets. Going on a diet is often spurred by different events, such as looking good for a wedding or reaching a milestone birthday. Instead of incorporating healthy habits to lower and maintain their weight, many people jump on the dieting bandwagon for a quick fix.

Disastrous Diets

Janice Baker, a dietitian in San Diego, California, has worked with many former dieters. "People try so many different fads, all-fruit diets, fasting diets, liquid meal replacements and many of them spend thousands of dollars over time. But the superficial nature and restrictions of these diets destines them for failure."

The inevitable return of weight, with often even more pounds, discourages people. "Multiple diet disappointments reinforce – to the dieter – that weight loss is impossible and difficult," Baker says. "People just think: why bother? They feel like they're failures and go back to their old habits."

Dieting can damage more than the psyche. When people lose weight too quickly they can become dehydrated. And quick weight loss may include losing muscle or muscle wasting, which slows the metabolism and actually promotes weight gain.
The ultimate extreme for losing weight is gastric bypass surgery, sometimes turned to as a last resort by people who need to lose more than 100 pounds. "Even though this operation effectively makes it impossible to eat large portions, people will find a way to gain the weight back. Extreme measures such as these need to be integrated into a full program of healthy eating and exercise," Baker says.

The Low Carb  Craze

In her more than 20 years as a practicing dietitian, Baker has seen diet fads come and go. "The low-carb trend was a backlash of the low-fat trend. People used to work out and then immediately head for the frozen yogurt shop. They'd gain weight and blame it all on the carbs." It's a good idea to cut down on refined sugary carbs, Baker concedes, but carbohydrates are an important part of the diet, especially whole grains, and should not be severely restricted.

"Eliminating carbs can actually promote malnutrition. Healthy carbs have protective value in reducing risks for heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Overweight people, who are at higher risk for these diseases, need more protective nutrients, such as B vitamins, fiber and antioxidants." On top of that, low-carb dieters eat too much protein, which can stress the kidneys, and high protein may be high in saturated fat. A high-fat diet can lead to heart disease.

How To Avoid the Diet Treadmill

Instead of trying the latest diet, make an appointment with a registered dietitian who will look at your medical background and help you come up with a personal plan. A good dietitian should look at your health history; they can tailor nutritional plans for people who have diabetes or heart disease – or who take medications. dietitians should also tailor your nutritional plan to your lifestyle. "Someone who travels may be too busy to cook or read labels, while other people who work out of their homes have more control over food preparation," Baker says.

When embarking on a weight loss program, most dietitians recommend that you should not lose more than one pound per week. However, Baker says the body has its own sense of timing. "Sometimes when people start a weight loss program they lose more weight initially, mostly because they are cutting down on sodium intake and losing water weight. Then they begin to plateau."

According to Baker, many people don't want to hear the real truth – that calories still count and a balanced diet is healthy. But even dietitians agree that nutrition isn't the only way to maintain your weight – exercise is equally important. "I am a 24 Hour Fitness member and I swear by the place," Baker says. "I'm there nearly every morning."

Source: Janice J. Baker, MBA, RD, CDE, a dietitian with the Centre for Health Care in San Diego and in private practice.

This information and other information on this site is intended for general reference purposes only and is not intended to address specific medical conditions. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice or a medical exam. Prior to participating in any exercise program or activity, you should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional. No information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition.


This information and other information on this site is intended for general reference purposes only and is not intended to address specific medical conditions. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice or a medical exam. Prior to participating in any exercise program or activity, you should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional. No information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition.