Over the years I have seen many fad diets come and go. These include grapefruit diets, shake diets, cookie diets, soup diets, low carb diets, and HCG/hormone diets. Most work by limiting the number of calories you consume. Many HCG versions allow only 500 calories a day. Other diets are so restrictive, that you naturally eat less calories while on the diet. Diets that are too restrictive can be almost impossible to maintain long term. Unfortunately, once people stop the diet and resume their normal eating habits the weight comes back and usually returns very quickly. If we try to lose weight too quickly, our bodies think we are starving. Our bodies have survival mechanisms to avoid starvation. One such mechanism is to lower our resting metabolic rate to avoid continued weight loss. This is why losing those last 5-10 pounds can be so difficult. Furthermore, a significant problem arises when you resume eating your normal diet which includes more calories. Even though you are now taking in more calories, your metabolism still remains low. Thus, you regain the weight quickly and may end up even adding an extra 5-10 pounds more than you started with. Furthermore, when you lose weight quickly, you lose both fat and muscle. Unfortunately, when you regain the weight it tends to be all fat. Since fat is much less metabolically active than muscle, your resting metabolic rate drops even further, which makes it very easy to add extra pounds. The bottom line is that fad diets do not work long term and make it very easy to actually gain weight over time. Your goal should be to lose a few pounds a month. The best way to achieve this is a low fat, whole foods lifestyle, that includes a lot of fiber and avoids simple, highly processed carbs and saturated fats. Regular aerobic exercise is also important. The idea is to make long term goals, stay committed to these goals, and to not get frustrated and give up. Your goals are absolutely achievable over the long term!
I frequently hear from people who are having difficulty losing weight despite not over-eating. Many people seem to eat very little but still have difficulty losing weight. For some people, this may be related to the composition of their diet. Eating a large percentage of calories from simple carbs and processed foods leads to increased insulin levels. Increased insulin levels lead to weight gain and obesity. One type of sweetner is especially harmful – high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). It is found in a large number of food products today as it is fairly cheap and quite sweet. A large concern about excess sugar in general, and specifically HFCS, is the impact on weight gain. Normally, our appetite is governed by a finely tuned hormonal system that drives us to eat just enough to meet our metabolic needs. Ghrelin is a hormone secreted by the stomach which tells us when we are hungry. Leptin is a hormone which signals our brain to tell us we are full. The problem is that when HFCS is consumed, it does not shut off ghrelin, so we continue to feel hungry. In addition, the leptin signal is not triggered, so we don’t feel full. This drives overeating and contributes to obesity. The excessive consumption of HFCS may be a main contributor to the increasing incidence of diabetes. HFCS leads to increased insulin levels and insulin resistance. HFCS, when consumed in excess, also increases the triglycerides in the bloodstream and increases the risk of heart disease. But what about naturally occurring fructose? Fructose occurs naturally in fruit. Isn’t fruit healthy? Absolutely! The fiber present in fruit slows the absorption of fructose. This keeps insulin levels down. This is why it is better to eat an orange than to drink orange juice, which is concentrated sugar. Furthermore, fruit is loaded with phytonutrients to help prevent chronic disease and cancer. If you are having trouble losing weight, start looking at labels. Avoid food products with added HFCS. You may find that your weight finally starts decreasing.