Myth: Fad diets work
for permanent weight loss.
Fact: Fad diets are
not the best way to lose weight and keep it off.
Fad diets often promise quick weight loss or tell you to cut
certain foods out of your diet. You may lose weight at first
on one of these diets. But diets that strictly limit calories
or food choices are hard to follow. Most people quickly get
tired of them and regain any lost weight.
Fad diets may be unhealthy because they may not provide all
of the nutrients your body needs. Also, losing weight at a
very rapid rate (more than 3 pounds a week after the first
couple weeks) may increase your risk for developing gallstones
(clusters of solid material in the gallbladder that can be
painful). Diets that provide less than 800 calories per day
also could result in heart rhythm abnormalities, which can
Tip: Research suggests that losing 1/2
to 2 pounds a week by making healthy food choices, eating
moderate portions, and building physical activity into your
daily life is the best way to lose weight and keep it off.
By adopting healthy eating and physical activity habits, you
may also lower your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart
disease, and high blood pressure.
diets are a healthy way to lose weight.
Fact: The long-term
health effects of a high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet are
But getting most of your daily calories from high-protein
foods like meat, eggs, and cheese is not a balanced eating
plan. You may be eating too much fat and cholesterol, which
may raise heart disease risk. You may be eating too few fruits,
vegetables, and whole grains, which may lead to constipation
due to lack of dietary fiber. Following a high-protein/low-carbohydrate
diet may also make you feel nauseous, tired, and weak.
Eating fewer than 130 grams of carbohydrate a day can lead
to the buildup of ketones (partially broken-down fats) in
your blood. A buildup of ketones in your blood (called ketosis)
can cause your body to produce high levels of uric acid, which
is a risk factor for gout (a painful swelling of the joints)
and kidney stones. Ketosis may be especially risky for pregnant
women and people with diabetes or kidney disease.
Tip: High-protein/low-carbohydrate diets
are often low in calories because food choices are strictly
limited, so they may cause short-term weight loss. But a reduced-calorie
eating plan that includes recommended amounts of carbohydrate,
protein, and fat will also allow you to lose weight. By following
a balanced eating plan, you will not have to stop eating whole
classes of foods, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables—and
miss the key nutrients they contain. You may also find it
easier to stick with a diet or eating plan that includes a
greater variety of foods.
Myth: Starches are
fattening and should be limited when trying to lose weight.
Fact: Many foods
high in starch, like bread, rice, pasta, cereals, beans, fruits,
and some vegetables (like potatoes and yams) are low in fat
They become high in fat and calories when eaten in large
portion sizes or when covered with high-fat toppings like
butter, sour cream, or mayonnaise. Foods high in starch (also
called complex carbohydrates) are an important source of energy
for your body.
Tip: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans
recommends eating 6 to 11 servings a day, depending on your
calorie needs, from the bread, cereal, rice, and pasta group—even
when trying to lose weight. Pay attention to your serving
sizes—one serving is equal to 1 slice of bread, 1 ounce of
ready-to-eat cereal, or ? cup of pasta, rice, or cooked cereal.
Try to avoid high-fat toppings and choose whole grains, like
whole wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, and bran cereal. Choose
other starchy foods that are high in dietary fiber too, like
beans, peas, and vegetables.
Myth: Certain foods,
like grapefruit, celery, or cabbage soup, can burn fat and
make you lose weight.
Fact: No foods can
burn fat. Some foods with caffeine may speed up your metabolism
(the way your body uses energy, or calories) for a short time,
but they do not cause weight loss.
Tip: The best way to lose weight is to
cut back on the number of calories you eat and be more physically
Myth: Natural or
herbal weight-loss products are safe and effective.
Fact: A weight-loss
product that claims to be “natural” or “herbal” is not necessarily
These products are not usually scientifically tested to prove
that they are safe or that they work. For example, herbal
products containing ephedra (now banned by the U.S. Government)
have caused serious health problems and even death. Newer
products that claim to be ephedra-free are not necessarily
danger-free, because they may contain ingredients similar
Tip: Talk with your health care provider
before using any weight-loss product. Some natural or herbal
weight-loss products can be harmful.
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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND
National Institutes of Health
NIH Publication No. 04-4561