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Diet Trick or Treat?

Weight loss wonders and nutrition nightmares
By
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

It bursts my balloon whenever I read bogus ads for "miracle" weight loss drugs or watch a commercial promoting the latest high-calorie, high-fat fast-food disaster.

You'd have to be living under a rock not to know that our nation is fighting an obesity epidemic. To the credit of many food manufacturers and restaurants, we're seeing more and more healthful changes on packages and menus. But there are also lots of companies trying to take advantage of overweight people who want a quick fix.

We'd all love to be able to lose weight simply by swallowing a pill or slathering on a cream. But if it were so easy, why would there be an obesity epidemic in the first place?

Of course, it's just not that simple. The only thing simple about weight loss is the math: Calories taken in vs. calories burned = weight gain, weight loss, or weight maintenance.

Over-the-counter pills, potions, and "miracle" cures are, at best, a Band-Aid approach to a very serious problem. At worst, they're just a way to separate you from your money.

Ghoulish Tricks

Nearly every magazine has at least one ad for a magical weight loss potion, promising to help you lose weight while you sleep or detoxify your body and get trim. The ads lure us with powerful testimonials from supposedly successful losers, even celebrities.

But remember that money, not ethics, rules this business. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Here are a few of the nutritional nightmares I've spotted lately:

  • A limited-time-only fast-food sandwich with double bacon, double cheese, and double burger -- otherwise known as a heart attack on a plate. Stick to the grilled chicken sandwich.
  • Low-carb wraps that are indeed low in carbs, but how about the 450 calories and 25 grams of fat?
  • A chicken pot pie that looks like a single serving, but its label information is for two servings. This becomes a problem after you eat the whole thing and ingest 1,140 calories and 32 grams of fat -- gulp! Read the labels before you purchase.
  • Claims that you can cure your wrinkles by avoiding foods with a high glycemic index, such as carrots. They can't be serious! If it were so easy, there'd be no such thing as a Botox party. Don't let anyone discourage you from eating super-nutritious vegetables like carrots.
  • The notion that you can't lose weight because your body is full of toxins, and a pill will solve all your problems. As long as your kidneys work and you drink plenty of fluids, toxic substances are not lurking in your body. Even if they were, they have nothing to do with weight management.
  • Diet pills that are supposed to rev up your metabolism and allow you to lose weight while you sleep. You know you must be dreaming; the only way to boost your metabolism is with exercise that increases your muscle mass.
  • Carb-controlled vitamins whose manufacturers are trying to cash in on the carbohydrate phobia that has swept the nation. Vitamin supplements cannot replace carbs. And your basic daily multivitamin is all you need for good health.

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