The Truth about Strict and Quick Weight Loss Diets

By Alan Frost, updated November, 2013

man rides mountain-bikeThese days there are a multitude of diets that seem to come into fashion and then disappear, often to re-emerge later in a modified form. You have low carb diets, low fat diets, detox diets, and a huge variety of fad diets (cabbage soup anyone?), with hundreds of variants spun by TV personalities, nutrition systems, fitness gurus, and so on. They all promise quick weight loss and results that seem too good to be true.

So, which one is right for you? The short answer is none of them. Dieting is bad for you, and I will explain why. But first, let me look into the sort of results you can get with these kinds of quick weight loss diets.

The low carb diet

The low carb diet is an excellent example as it will achieve quick weight loss, at least in the beginning. The problem is that it will rarely achieve sustainable results. The reason for this is that it does not offer a cure for your problems — it does not teach you how to eat right, how to manage cravings, how to get optimal energy from your diet (energy that can be used to exercise), and so on. Low carb diets will yield sub-optimal physical and mental performance (since your brain also needs carbs).

There are many varieties of low-carb diets. Some let you eat very poorly, allowing large intake of saturated fats from unhealthy animal products — something that is outright dangerous in the long-term. Some are stricter, but all of them are short-term remedies. When you go off them, you have no tools with which to cope and your body has not become used to proper nutrition. The result is a yo-yo effect, which is unhealthy and a perfect example of why dieting is bad for you. You can also see this with celebrities that go on and off these kinds of diets.

The low fat diet

Low fat diets are less common these days than they used to be years ago, when it was more common to regard fats as inherently bad. The main problem with these kinds of diets is that the body needs fat in moderation. Fat sources provide vitamins like A,D, and E. Also, some fats are vital for our health; these are called essential fatty acids (EFAs) and are typically found in fish, nuts, good oils, olives, avocado, etc. These fats cannot be synthesized by our bodies and must be obtained from our diet. They have countless health benefits, affecting our cardiovascular system, our immune system, etc.

This is not to say that all fats are created equal, and certainly eliminating trans-fats and maintaining a low percentage of saturated fat in your diet is regarded as beneficial. But this is what eating balanced is all about — and any diet that regards fats as inherently bad is just plain wrong.

Detox diets

I will spend little time on these fad diets. I only included them because of how common they seem to be. These diets claim that the body needs to be cleansed by adhering to a diet that consists of little or no solid food. What the participant intakes varies from diet to diet. It may be juice or juice-based, it may be some sort of home-made concoction, it may be a commercially purchased powder, etc.

Bottom line is that this nonsense is unsupported by science. They claim otherwise, but that is simply not true. It is on par with homeopathy and about just as effective.

Can you achieve quick weight loss with this? Of course, you are starving yourself! You will happily digest your muscle mass until you are skin and bone, and then, once you stop, your metabolism will be damaged and that weight returns in no time. Only now, it will be even harder to lose.

So what is the answer?

The short answer is that quick weight loss diets are simply no good. The remedy is what it has always been — the one constant that most doctors know and have known for decades: a balanced diet (henceforth referred to as "nutritional program", so as to avoid this word). There is little more to it than that. Our bodies operate best when we get all our macronutrients (proteins, carbs, fats) in the right proportions, with enough calories to fuel our activities optimally.

There are many sound nutritional programs that one can follow. One excellent macronutrient ratio is the 40-30-30, where 40% of your calories come from carbs, 30% from protein, and 30% from fats.

For now, understand that only a balanced nutritional program (particularly in combination with exercise) actually teaches you how to eat right, re-programs the body's natural set-point so that your metabolism is elevated, helps reduce your sugar cravings, and therefore offers results that ensure optimal performance, optimal health, and long-term sustainability.

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