Most of us hope just to get through the holiday season without adding too many extra pounds. But once January 1st hits, many will make a resolution to lose weight before summer bikini season. Nutritionists have long told dieters not to fall for any of the empty promises of fat diets, yet some still try them in hopes of quick weight loss that they will later sustain with better eating habits. Unfortunately, that almost never happens.
It is estimated that 50 million Americans go on a diet each year, but only about 5% manage to keep the weight off. At any one time, more than 66% of Americans are actively trying to lose weight or maintain their current weight.
Experts with the British Dietetic Association have evaluated several celebrity diet plans, which they noted were becoming “more extreme” and “increasingly involving medical intervention,” and listed the top five worst of 2012:
5. The Six-Week OMG Diet – Get Skinnier than All Your Friends
This book, authored by British writer Venice Fulton (a pseudonym for Paul Kannah), first suggests that one exercise first thing in the morning after drinking only black coffee. Exercising on an empty stomach has had some positive research on its ability to burn fat faster, but most experts suggest that a small snack may help you sustain the exercise session longer (you may not fatigue as easily), so in the end it is what you are most comfortable with.
Fulton also suggests continuing to fast up to three hours after exercise to continue the fat burn. This is not supported by nutritional science, which suggests eating within one hour after exercising encourages optimal recovery so that you can exercise regularly.
There is also some studies that support morning exercise as being the time least likely to be interrupted by other tasks, so people may stick with the program longer. Again, most fitness experts will say to find the time to exercise when is best for your individual schedule. The key being – just get out there!
While this component of the OMG diet isn’t too controversial, some of his other guidelines most certainly are. For example, to rev up your metabolism, Fulton suggests taking an ice bath every morning. While it is true that our bodies need to increase the amount of energy it uses to warm the body back to normal temperature, this effect does not last long, and likely does not make any difference in overall weight loss.
Mr. Fulton also is on the no-carb-whatsoever bandwagon. Even fruit is off-limits because the body “does not know the difference between chocolate cake and an apple.” While studies continue to go back and forth about reducing the amount of overall carbs currently recommended in the daily diet for optimal health, most experts would agree that chocolate cake is not the same as an apple, nutritionally speaking. A healthful diet consists of a variety of foods, such as whole grains, lean protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and nuts/seeds.
4. The Alcorexia / Drunkorexia Diet
It is believed that there are several top models and other red carpet celebrities are fans of this very dangerous diet where you literally starve yourself during the day, saving the calories for alcohol later in the evening. In the US, individuals most likely to follow this type of eating pattern are college-age females who are bulimic and who binge drink.
Victoria Osborne, assistant professor of social work and public health at the University of Missouri who explored the practice of drunkorexia, has said, “depriving the brain of adequate nutrition and consuming large amounts of alcohol can be dangerous.” Both behaviors can lead to “short- and long-term cognitive problems” as well as an increased risk for alcohol poisoning and death.
3. The “Party Girl” IV Drip Diet
In clinical nutrition, parenteral nutrition (PN or TPN for total parenteral nutrition) is when a patient is fed through an intravenous drip because of their inability to eat normally. It is reserved for critical cases to prevent malnutrition when a patient cannot effectively use his or her gastrointestinal tract. There are potential complications, including an increased risk of infection.
So why would anyone willingly follow a plan that suggests eating nearly nothing all day and then going to a clinic for an IV nutrition drip? Apparently several celebrities have jumped on board with this quick weight loss “secret” in the days to weeks preceding an “important” event, so they can fit into a certain dress or pant size.
An IV drip, much like a nutritional supplement, does not supply the body with every nutrient it needs to be healthy. While you may lose a quick 15 pounds, there is no health advantage to be gained by following this fad diet.
2. The KEN (Ketogenic Enteral Nutrition) Diet
Again, certain “routes” of feeding patients clinically should not be options for healthy individuals. In addition to the IV drip diet above, some clinics will also offer enteral nutrition feedings, another option given to critically ill patients who cannot eat adequate amounts in the normal fashion.
Again, a dieter will eat nearly nothing for ten days (24 hours a day with only one hour off for bathing and dressing) while sporting a backpack filled with a liquid formula that is pumped into the body via a tube entering through the nose and ultimately ending in the stomach. This tube feeding is essentially a low calorie liquid diet, but without having to drink the formula orally.
KEN works by sending the body into “controlled starvation,” forcing it to use its own fat for energy. It is reported that a person can lose ten percent of their body weight in each 10-day cycle without hunger. Helen Bond comments, “It shocks me that people are willing to have naso-gastric (NG) tubes inserted in order to lose weight. Can you imagine walking into a meeting with an NG tube in your nose?”
1. Dukan Diet
Although around for several years in France, the Dukan Diet was introduced to the world by the bride of Prince William, Kate Middleton. She and her mother, Carol Middleton, were reportedly following this extreme diet in preparation for the Royal Wedding.
The complex, four-cycle diet was created by French physician Pierre Dukan. Each cycle, beginning with a “no-carb, protein only” phase, restricts a certain food category which is said to lead to greater fat burning.
As with most diets, there is little solid evidence that this will lead to sustained, successful weight loss. In addition, the Dukan diet is so confusing, time-consuming, and rigid that for most of us, it is very hard to sustain for any real length of time. Even Dr. Dukan himself warns of lack of fatigue, constipation, and bad breath (due to ketogenesis).
The Bottom Line
As for these five and all other faddy weight loss gimmicks, Sian Porter, a consultant dietitian and spokesperson for the BDA, says: “As much as we all would love it to be the case, there is no magic solution to losing weight and keeping it off long term. There is no wonder diet you can follow without some associated nutritional or health risk and most are offering a short-term fix to a long term problem. It may be obvious, but if you want to lose weight you need to make healthier choices, eat a nutritionally balanced and varied diet with appropriately sized portions, and be physically active. In a nutshell the solution for most is to, eat fewer calories, make better choices and move a bit more!”