Saturday, January 17, 2009

Unhealthy Weight Loss

There are many things that I feel strongly about related to health and fitness. I realize that I risk sounding negative and preachy, but here are the top few weight loss methods that I have come to despise over the years:

1. Going on fad diets
2. Taking diet pills
3. Severely cutting calories

To me, all three of these categories fall under the title of Unhealthy Weight Loss. I'll start with fad diets. I personally don't like fad diets because they typically ask you to follow a plan that isn't "natural" to most people. If it isn't natural, you aren't going to stick to it. If you don't stick to it, you'll most likely gain back the weight you lost while on the diet. Fad diets don't address a person's problem with unhealthy eating. I consider them a temporary replacement for the unhealthy eating, until finally he or she gets sick of eating the same thing for every meal and goes back to old habits.

Take the Cabbage Soup Diet, for instance. It is a 7 day diet, and claims fast weight loss (interpretation: water weight). But you're also guaranteed to gain that weight right back once the week is up, because you'll just go back to eating normal food with a normal amount of calories. I doubt anyone will eat cabbage soup every day for the rest of his life.

I've always been a moderation kind of gal. I say, if you want to lose weight, just eat better and exercise daily. And most of those diet books that aren't asking you to eat something crazy are pretty much just stating the obvious, anyway. But, if they give you MOTIVATION you need, then go ahead and pick one up.

OTC Diet pills are also another pet peeve of mine. I used to work in a vitamin store, and I would see the same overweight people come in every month to pick up their supply of diet pills. Most of them are pretty much just caffeine and other herbs that claim to help aid weight loss. Caffeine is a constant in these pills because it temporarily boosts energy and metabolism, as well as an appetite suppressant. But in large amounts, caffeine is dangerous and can cause adverse affects such a heart palpitations.

Even the manufacturers of diet pills admit, usually right on the label, that the pills will not work unless you also follow a sensible diet and exercise plan. DUH! So why waste your money on the pills, and why risk putting all of those unregulated herbs into your body? I am referring to over-the-counter pills here, because I know little about pills that are available by prescription. And even with the Rx pills, the user will still have to face the fact that she probably can't take these pills forever. Therefore, she needs to change her lifestyle and only expect the pills to be an initial boost.

Finally, I want to address those who expect that they will lose weight by severely cutting their calorie intake. This method is typically followed by the yo-yo dieter. She's a master at short-term weight loss, but usually can't keep the weight off because her method is far too difficult to stick to in the long term. I consider anything under 1200 calories to be extreme. This, too, is a method that no one is able to stick to in the long run. It's basically a starvation diet, and it is nothing to be proud of.

A person who follows this type of a diet counts every single calorie that passes her lips, and becomes obsessed with food. She may even lose some weight but, ultimately, this extreme dieting SLOWS her metabolism. Since the body is protecting itself from what it views as starvation, a person on this type of a diet usually has very little energy and has trouble focusing. All of that energy is instead being to used to protect the body.

Eating too few calories also sabotages long-term weight loss, because you destroy muscle. Your body believes it is starving, and will hang onto fat stores for survival. So instead of breaking down fat for energy, it will begin to use muscle tissue. And even at rest, muscle burns more calories than fat, which is why weight training is key for those trying to lose weight. SO, if you're eating less than 1200 calories a day and you've reached a plateau, this is probably why. And eventually, you'll give in to your cravings and may see the numbers on the scale begin to creep back up.

I am the first to admit that I've been extremely impatient with how long it is taking for me to get rid of this extra weight. I even tried diet pills in my early college days. But I learned that there really is no quick and easy way to get healthy. It takes time, dedication, and a change in lifestyle. And when you succeed, you'll be proud of how far you've come.

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