When it comes to fashion, trends are key. When it comes to healthy eating though, quite the opposite is true. The trendiest diets tend to be purported quick fixes that make you think you can circumvent the truth – that being healthy involves eating well day in and day out – for life. Every year, new diets emerge (or old ones re-emerge) with promises of fast results if you do some very specific things. I’m waiting for the diet where you have to cut your hair, wear only navy blue, and drink nothing but lychee juice Monday – Thursday. You laugh, but people would BUY this!
This year, some of the hottest diet news centered on the HCG Diet, the Dukan Diet, the Paleo Diet, and Gluten-Free Diets. They’re tempting because we ALL want to find the shortcut to weight loss. But I urge you to resist the temptation. You know what works – a balanced diet comprised of real food with indulgences only in moderation. Couple that with a robust exercise plan and you have a recipe for a lifetime at a healthy weight. So what are these diets and what’s my issue with them?
HCG Diet – This diet is one in which the pregnancy hormone, HCG, is injected into women or taken orally to “trick” their metabolism. During pregnancy women get a natural metabolic boost, so this diet capitalizes on that plus a highly restrictive 500 calorie/day regimen. The presence of HCG is supposed to enable your body to survive on 500 calories a day and result in weight loss of 1-2 lbs/week. However, any diet that low in calories can be dangerous…and can trigger substantial weight gain when you once again begin to eat normally.
Dukan Diet – the French Dr. Dukan’s diet gained popularity when it was rumored that Kate Middleton followed it to lose weight before her May 2011 wedding to Prince William. The diet is Atkins-like in its do’s and don’ts – it recommends a protein and vegetable based diet…with oat bran for fiber. High protein diets can help you lose weight quickly but they can rob you of much-needed energy and trigger cravings due to the absence of carbohydrates.
Paleo Diet – the Paleo diet focuses on foods our ancestors would have consumed as hunter-gatherers. These are largely vegetables, fruits and lean meats. The diet eschews dairy, starches (including starchy vegetables), and processed foods. While generally accepted as safe in the short term, the elimination of most carbohydrates can drain your energy and lead to unpleasant side effects like constipation if you don’t take in enough fiber.
Gluten Free – Gluten is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and several other grains. It is the substance that makes bread dough so delightfully chewy! For people with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, though, it can lead to GI distress. The diagnoses of celiac disease and gluten intolerance have become more prevalent, and many people have also self-diagnosed with these conditions, leading to a proliferation of gluten-free products in the grocery store aisles. This is a blessing for those suffering from celiac disease, but for the rest of us, it can be yet another marketing trick. There’s simply no reason to avoid gluten unless you have an intolerance! There’s nothing inherently unhealthy about it and eliminating it won’t lead to weight loss (unless doing so is what helps you give up extra servings of breads and baked goods).
It can be so tempting to try the latest weight-loss craze, especially when everyone is buzzing about it. My advice? Steer clear of fad diets; instead discover what works best for your body and stick with it. Leave the trends for the runway.