Physical Health

Is Your Diet Sabotaging Your Wallet? Or, Worse – Your Health?

February 9, 2012

Remember: If it’s “too good to be true”…it’s too good to be true. That’s the reality when it comes to weight loss. We are inundated daily with advertisements encouraging us to buy all kinds of devices, powders, books, DVDs and creams – that don’t work.

For $9.99 you can have a flat stomach! Look 20 years younger! Find eternal happiness! The incontrovertible proof is in the dramatic “before” and “after” pictures.

Here are some of my favorites:  Body wraps that help you lose weight. Lotions and creams made out of natural extracts (so they must be good for you). Hormone injections…that have been proven in double-blind studies to have no effect on weight loss. (These injections are typically coupled with a 500-calorie, dangerously nutrient-lacking daily diet.) And, of course, those protein shakes that don’t build muscle any more than eating a nice piece of grilled chicken or salmon.

Americans spend a whopping 40 billion dollars each year on weight loss gimmicks, products and programs. And what a terrible investment that is: 97% of these people will gain back everything they have lost – if not more – after 2 to 3 years, if not sooner.

To avoid falling into the “magic-wand” trap, the experts at Sparkpeople (the largest online diet and healthy living community) have identified 12 key phrases to be wary of:

1. “It’s so easy to lose weight without dieting or exercising!”
2. “Eat whatever you want and still lose weight!”
3. “Lose weight forever…you’ll never need to diet again.”
4. “Block the digestion and absorption of fat, carbs, or calories.”
5. “Rapid weight loss: Lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks!”
6. “Finally, a weight loss formula for everyone!”
7. “Lose weight with this miracle diet patch, cream or gel!”
8. “Scientifically Proven! Doctor Endorsed!”
9. “Money-back guarantee!”
10. “100% safe!”
11. Convincing testimonials
12. “A miraculous breakthrough!”

If you hear any of these phrases, watch out! None of the products being sold in this manner can work for long-term and permanent weight loss.

These products may even sport a great hechsher, and maybe the health ministry deems them “safe.” Recently, someone reported spending 1,500 shekel on a popular and well-advertised weight loss supplement…only to see absolutely no result. It hurts me to see so many people spend money they hardly have on products that do nothing.

So, how do we lose weight and keep it off? The answer will always be the same. More calories out than in.

Make a calculation as to what your resting metabolic rate is. Determine your level of activity and calories expended there (there are tools online that can help you do this). Then see how much you need to eat in order to lose weight – without getting hungry or slowing your metabolism.

And remember: calories count!  You can gain weight even if you eat healthy food. But it is important from a health perspective to include vegetables, fruits and whole grains in your diet. Just as important are monounsaturated fats and omega-3s.

To ensure that your initial food and exercise programs are safe and effective, it’s extremely helpful to see a weight loss professional such as a registered dietician and/or a personal trainer. Remember that doing radical things, such as liquid fasts, detoxifying, very low-calorie, very low-carb or very low-protein diets won’t help you – and may even be harmful. The same goes for eliminating a whole group of food.

Eating well and exercising will not only promote weight loss – it will help you stay healthy and prevent the onset of many diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and depression.

Yes, the process may take longer than a week, month, or even year (gasp!), but slow and steady wins the race to permanent weight loss and long-lasting health.

Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. Certified Personal Trainer and a Lifestyle Fitness Coach with over 16 years of professional experience. He is the co-director of the Jerusalem-based weight-loss and stress-reduction center Lose It! He can be reached at 02-651-8502, 050-555-7175, on his USA Line 1-516-568-5027, or by email at alan@loseit.co.il.