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Can Fad Diets Work?

Many dieters are still trying to find the magic bullet to weight loss. WebMD gets the skinny from experts on the latest quick-fix diets.

Eating From the Bible

Another currently popular program, the Maker's Diet, created by Jordan S. Rubin, is based on the theory of a "biblically correct diet and lifestyle," including modest portions of whole foods from sources consumed in as close to a natural (unrefined and unprocessed) state as possible. Rubin's plan also focuses on emotional and spiritual health. His diet's seven keys are: eat to live; supplement diet with whole foods, living nutrients, and superfoods; practice advanced hygiene; condition your body with exercise and body therapies; reduce toxins in your environment; avoid deadly emotions; and live a life of prayer and purpose.

Clinical dietitian Janet Basom of the Joe Arrington Cancer Center (JACC) in Lubbock, Texas, says that just because a diet plan -- more specifically, this particular diet plan -- is on the best-seller list, doesn't mean that it doesn't work or that it's not sensible.

"Through both my professional and personal experience, this plan is in tune with what I believe to be true," says Basom.

"This isn't a 'far-out' diet," Basom adds. "The goal of the program is to help people make permanent lifestyle choices, not necessarily to lose weight. It's more about teaching people to make the best selections, not only in what they eat, but in how they live."

Basom has been so encouraged by the results of the Maker's Diet that she has received a grant to conduct a research trial on the program among the 100-plus employees at JACC.

Recognizing the Fads

Not every popular, new diet can be classified as a "fad" diet, says Basom, which she defines as one that is more of a "quick fix" that is not going to lead to improved health, and that can't be pursued on a long-term basis.

There are several ways to recognize a fad diet, suggests Steagall. A fad diet:

  • Doesn't include the variety of foods necessary for good health and/or doesn't teach good eating habits.
  • Claims you can "trick" the body's metabolism into wasting calories or energy.
  • Makes dramatic claims for fast and easy weight loss.

"In reality, all of the glitz and glamour approaches will probably not be effective for safe and long-term weight loss if they don't incorporate a balanced, healthy diet and increased physical activity," says Steagall.

Fat Smash Diet

One popular diet that vigorously promotes exercise is the Fat Smash Diet, seen by TV viewers on VH1's Celebrity Fit Club. Host -- and author of the diet -- Ian Smith, MD, has made exercise an important focus of the program, with a "prescription" for 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week, in the initial stage of the program, and an increase in activity in each of the remaining three stages.

Smith has said that the 90-day program is designed to change our approach to eating and exercising by making lifestyle changes. You first "detoxify" by eating mainly fruits and vegetables for nine days, with no meat, bread, cheese, coffee, or alcohol allowed. During the "foundation" phase, which lasts three weeks, more foods appear on the permissible list and exercise is kicked up 10% to 15% above phase one. The four-week "construction" phase allows for an occasional treat, and exercise jumps 25% over phase two. Once dieters reach the lifetime "temple" phase, Smith claims they will have constructed a routine of good habits that will last a lifetime.

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