Fad diets yield temporary results

2013-02-28T00:00:00Z 2013-02-28T15:15:05Z Fad diets yield temporary resultsBy Vanessa Renderman vanessa.renderman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3244 nwitimes.com

Bell bottoms, big hair and T-shirts that change color when you touch them. Just as fashion goes in and out of style, so do diets.

Dietitians, especially those with decades of experience, have heard them all. There's the cabbage soup diet, the cottage cheese diet, the diet where you eat only during certain hours, the healthy cookie diet and the no-carb diet where people are encouraged to consume proteins and green veggies, to name a few.

But, just like fashion, fad diets go out of style.

"I've heard of every single diet you can think of, said Lori Granich, a registered dietitian at Franciscan St. Margaret Health hospital in Dyer. Granich, who works with patients at the hospital's Midwest Bariatric Institute, has heard about all sorts of fad dieting experiences from patients. Usually, insurance companies requires patients to try other weight loss methods before resorting to surgery, she said.

She has a good litmus test to determine if something is a fad.

"Any diet you ever look at and you can't do it forever, it's a fad diet," she said. "They're offering a temporary solution to a lifelong problem." 

Some of the banished items are necessary to the body.

"Any time you eliminate a whole food group, that's not sustainable," Granich said. "We need carbs, we need protein, we need fat. For energy, growth, repair." 

Some diets promote specific food combinations or eliminate eating foods at certain times, such as only eating fruit in the morning.

"If it sounds too good to be true, it's because it is," said Kristin Coffman, a registered dietitian at St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago. "If losing weight was easy, no one would be heavy."

The most common fad diets Coffman encounters in patients are low-carb diets, such as the protein-heavy Atkins Diet. But along with weight loss comes a sleepy, foggy feeling.

"Your brain needs carbs to function," Coffman said. "I would probably classify a fad diet as anything that restricts a food or group of foods or encourages you only to eat a food or group of foods. And, no. I don't support them."

Restrictive diets mean restricting the vitamins and nutrients from the avoided foods.

"Never completely restrict something," Coffman said. "Anything that is encouraging you to completely restrict something or only one thing is going to prevent you from eating a well-balanced diet. Juicing is a big one now. It is dangerous. If you're just juicing, you're cutting out whole grains and proteins."

Proteins are the body's building blocks, an essential piece in developing healthy tissue and hair and in healing wounds.

The weight loss key is in changing unhealthy behaviors. A safer way to lose unwanted pounds is to make lifestyle changes, starting small. Have a piece of cake on your birthday, but don't eat the fried chicken and other fatty foods that day. Swap out whole milk in favor of skim. Try low-calorie versions of your favorite foods.

"Making small changes can help a lot," Coffman said.

Leela Chigurupati, a registered dietitian with Methodist Hospitals, said working with a physician and dietitian to meet weight loss goals aids in the process.

"It's like a team," she said.

Rather than falling into the fad diet trap, people should eat nutrient-dense meals and focus on portion control, while adding exercise to their routine.

"Many fad diets don't talk about exercise," she said. "Exercises should be a part of it."

Fad diets show quick results, but once the diet stops, people re-gain the weight and sometimes more.

"You see them in a month, two months, and you see them gain that weight back," Chigurupati said. "It's rapid loss, but also rapid re-gain."

People should set realistic, specific weight loss goals. Research shows slow, healthy weight loss it more likely to last than a dramatic weight loss, she said.

"The weight loss industry is a billion-dollar industry," Coffman said. "There is no big secret. You've got to burn more calories than you take in."

But Granich is seeing a shift to better-informed patients.

"I feel like people are more educated and trying to go about normal (dieting) ways," she said.

They know fad diets aren't good for the long term, but they think the short-term success will be motivating, she said.

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