Fad diets that
ignore the principles of the Dietary Guidelines may result
in short term weight loss, but may do so at the risk of
your health. How you go about managing your weight has a
lot to do with your long-term success. Unless your health
is seriously at risk due to complications from being
overweight or obese, gradual weight loss should be your
rule — and your goal.
Loss & Fitness Software
Fifty-one million Americans - as many as two
thirds of them females - are trying to slim down.
Provides access to government information on nutrition,
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The Facts About
Being obese can
have serious health consequences. These include an
increased risk of heart disease, stroke, high
blood pressure, diabetes, gallstones, and some
forms of cancer. Losing weight can help reduce
these risks. Here are some general points to keep
- Any claims that
you can lose weight effortlessly are false.
The only proven way to lose weight is either
to reduce the number of calories you eat or to
increase the number of calories you burn off
through exercise. Most experts recommend a
combination of both.
- Very low-calorie
diets are not without risk and should be
pursued only under medical supervision.
Unsupervised very low-calorie diets can
deprive you of important nutrients and are
- Fad diets rarely
have any permanent effect. Sudden and radical
changes in your eating patterns are difficult
to sustain over time. In addition, so-called
"crash" diets often send dieters
into a cycle of quick weight loss, followed by
a "rebound" weight gain once normal
eating resumes, and even more difficulty
reducing when the next diet is attempted.
- To loose weight
safely and keep it off requires long-term
changes in daily eating and exercise habits.
Many experts recommend a goal of losing about
a pound a week. A modest reduction of 500
calories per day will achieve this goal, since
a total reduction of 3,500 calories is
required to lose a pound of fat. An important
way to lower your calorie intake is to learn
and practice healthy eating habits.
In Search of the
Some dieters peg
their hopes on pills and capsules that promise to
"flush," or otherwise eliminate fat from
the system. But science has yet to come up with a
low-risk "magic bullet" for weight loss.
Some pills may help control the appetite, but they
can have serious side effects. (Amphetamines, for
instance, are highly addictive and can have an
adverse impact on the heart and central nervous
system.) Other pills are utterly worthless.
The Federal Trade
Commission (FTC) and a number of state Attorney
General have successfully brought cases against
marketers of pills claiming to absorb or burn fat.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned
111 ingredients once found in over-the-counter
diet products. None of these substances, which
include alcohol, caffeine, dextrose, and guar gum,
have proved effective in weight-loss or appetite
Beware of the
following products that are touted as weight-loss
- Diet patches,
which are worn on the skin, have not been
proven to be safe or effective. The FDA has
seized millions of these products from
manufacturers and promoters.
blockers" purport to physically absorb
fat and mechanically interfere with the fat a
blockers" promise to block or impede
starch digestion. Not only is the claim
unproven, but users have complained of nausea,
vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pains.
diet pills allegedly "flush fat out of
the body." The FTC has brought legal
action against several marketers of these
- Glucomannan is
advertised as the "Weight Loss Secret
That's Been in the Orient for Over 500
Years." There is little evidence
supporting this plant root's effectiveness as
a weight-loss product.
- Some bulk
producers or fillers, such as fiber-based
products, may absorb liquid and swell in the
stomach, thereby reducing hunger. Some
fillers, such as guar gum, can even prove
harmful, causing obstructions in the
intestines, stomach, or esophagus. The FDA has
taken legal action against several promoters
containing guar gum.
- Spirulina, a
species of blue-green algae, has not been
proven effective for losing weight.
million Americans a year enroll in some kind of
structured weight-loss program involving liquid
diets, special diet regimens, or medical or other
supervision. In 1991, about 8,500 commercial diet
centers were in operation across the country, many
of them owned by a half-dozen or so well-known
Before you join
such a program, you should know that according to
published studies relatively few participants
succeed in keeping off weight long-term. Recently,
the FTC brought action against several companies
challenging weight-loss and weight-maintenance
claims. Unfortunately, some other companies
continue to make overblown claims.
The FTC stopped one
company from claiming its diet program caused
rapid weight loss through the use of tablets that
would "burn fat" and a protein drink mix
that would adjust metabolism. The FTC also took
action against three major programs using
doctor-supervised, very low-calorie liquid diets,
and they agreed to stop making claims unless they
could back them up with hard data.
Before you sign up
with a diet program, you might ask these
- What are the
- What data can
you show me that proves your program actually
- Do customers
keep off the weight after they leave the diet
- What are the
costs for membership, weekly fees, food,
supplements, maintenance, and counseling?
What's the payment schedule? Are any costs
covered under health insurance? Do you give
refunds if I drop out?
- Do you have a
maintenance program? Is it part of the package
or does it cost extra?
- What kind of
professional supervision is provided? What are
the credentials of these professionals?
- What are the
program's requirements? Are there special
menus or foods, counseling visits, or exercise
Clues to Fraud
It is important for
consumers to be wary of claims that sound too good
to be true. When it comes to weight-loss schemes,
consumers should be particularly skeptical of
claims containing words and phrases like:
- new discovery
Losing weight may
not be effortless, but it doesn't have to be
complicated. To achieve long-term results, it's
best to avoid quick-fix schemes and complex
regimens. Focus instead on making modest changes
to your life's daily routine. A balanced, healthy
diet and sensible, regular exercise are the keys
to maintaining your ideal weight. Although
nutrition science is constantly evolving, here are
some generally-accepted guidelines for losing
- Consult with
your doctor, a dietician, or other qualified
health professional to determine your ideal
healthy body weight.
- Eat smaller
portions and choose from a variety of foods.
- Load up on foods
naturally high in fiber: Fruits, vegetables,
legumes, and whole grains.
- Limit portions
of foods high in fat: dairy products like
cheese, butter, and whole milk; red meat;
cakes and pastries.
- Exercise at
least three times a week.
As you lose weight,
a proportion of the weight you lose will be from
muscle. It is important to maintain muscle mass.
Besides being important for your level of
strength, muscle is a metabolically active tissue.
This means that even at rest, muscle is using more
energy than other tissues. If you lose muscle, you
will need to decrease your calorie intake even
further to continue to lose weight and to maintain
using weights can play an important role in your
overall weight loss program. Weight training can
be very important in maintaining muscle mass. It
also improves strength and appearance, both of
which can provide a great deal of motivation and
encourage a person to maintain their physical
Weight Loss vs.
I would like to
stress again the importance of physical activity
in maintaining weight loss. Most people who try to
lose weight end up gaining most of the weight
back. The best way to keep the weight off is to
continue a physical activity program even after
the initial weight loss program has ended.
Numerous studies have shown that that people who
keep their weight off are the ones who continue
with physical activity programs even after their
diets are over.
activity is only one component of a weight loss
program. Exercise by itself will not result in
meaningful weight loss unless it is combined with
dietary changes. In choosing physical activities
and setting activity goals, remember that
consistency is extremely important. Consistency is
what will provide you with the important long-term
benefits from the physical activity. Chose
activities that you enjoy, start slow and increase
your intensity as you are able.
activity needs to be a lifelong lifestyle change.
Although it is an important part of a weight loss
program, physical activity is even more important
in keeping the weight you lose from coming back.
The benefits from physical activity do not end at
weight loss. They include increased emotional well
being, increased strength, increased endurance and
most of all, improved overall health.
As always, before
starting a vigorous physical activity program,
consult your physician.
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