Quack Diet Red Flags
Warning: Quick Weight Loss! No Effort Required!
Lose that weight -- you know you should. But the sheer numbers
of weight loss programs sometimes confuse the issue.
The cabbage diet! The rice diet! The blood type diet! Atkins!
South Beach! No carb! Low carb! There's even a Jesus diet (sans loaves
"People who want to lose weight are a very vulnerable group
because they're very frustrated," Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD, director of
nutrition for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic, tells WebMD. "Weight loss is
hard, and everybody is looking for a silver bullet."
How can you discern which weight loss claims are true or false?
Here's some advice from Zelman and from the Federal Trade Commission:
Does the diet promote rapid weight loss?
That's a clear signal it's unrealistic, says Zelman. When you
start a diet, water weight is the first to go, she explains. If you lose much
more than two pounds a week, you're drawing from both fat and muscles.
That's not good, because muscle is one big factor that controls your
metabolism. If you lose muscle mass, your metabolism will slow down. That's how
the yo-yo cycle begins -- and that's one reason why some diets don't work, she
"That's why we advocate losing weight slowly and gradually,
so you're losing one to two pounds per week," Zelman says. "You're
eating more food than diets allow, but you're tapping into stored fat more
Does the weight loss program involve eating just one food -- or eliminating whole food groups?
"That's crazy," says Zelman. "No one can stay on
those diets very long."
Sure, you can do it in the short term -- with some success, she
says. "If you're eating all the cabbage or meat you want, you go into a
state of ketosis. This causes your appetite to go away, so ultimately you don't
eat as much -- probably you're down to a 1,000-calorie diet. Anyone on a
1,000-calorie diet willlose weight.
"Even the strangest diets will pull weight off you, because
the basic formula to weight loss is burning more calories than you
Does the program help you change long-term eating habits?
If not, you'll just get caught up in a never-ending lose-gain
cycle -- better known as "yo-yo" dieting.
Most diets are short-term fixes for a long-term problem, says
Zelman. "People who get slim and stay that way have changed their eating
habits and attitudes toward food."