The Herald Bulletin

January 30, 2013

Fighting the fat without fad diets

‘Quick and easy’ dieting can compromise your health

By Abbey Doyle
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Promises of “quick and easy” dieting just don’t work, said Dr. Charles Williams.

“Many people want the quick and easy way out,” said Williams, a physician with Community Hospital’s Anderson Family Health Specialists.

Over-the-counter weight-loss supplements are not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration and can have adverse affects including liver and cardiac failure, he said.

Most fad diets are typically limited in their food options which can lead to deficiencies in certain areas, Williams said.

“Limiting diets without professional supervision has the potential to compromise one’s health,” he said. “I recommend anyone who is serious about controlling their weight or making a lifestyle alteration to meet with their physician to see what they are cleared to do and coaching ideas.”

In addition to his family practice, Williams is a weight loss doctor. He’s noticed that many fad diets may work but a dieter’s difficulty is sticking with them.

That’s something Amy Mercer — St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital clinical registered dietician — also noted.

“There are a plethora of diets out there — how does someone know if it is a fad diet?” she asked. “What I tell them to ask themselves is this, ‘Is this something I can sustain for the rest of my life?’ If the answer is, ‘No,’ then it is a fad diet.”

Instead of diets — which have an “on and off” nature for some folks — Mercer suggested that those who want to lose weight should think about lifestyle changes. Anyone making those choices should find something they can stick with permanently and be more effective for overall health.

Williams’ two biggest pieces of advice: exercise and eat less.

“No matter what you eat, eat less,” he said. “We overdo it in America. And never skip a meal. If you skip, you will gain weight, studies show. And start the day with a wholesome breakfast.”

Mercer stressed that any diet or food plan that demonizes a single food group is never a good idea. There is a reason that a well-balanced diet including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean protein and fats is recommended. Each group provides dietary requirements, she said.

Consequences of fad diets can have severe effects including less energy, fatigue, loss of hair, skin issues, cardiac or liver failure.

Diets that cut out fat altogether can cause a deficiency in essential vitamins that are fat soluble such as vitamins A, D, E and K.

“Adopting a healthier lifestyle is a great idea,” Williams said. “That is something physicians love their patients to do — not be on a specific diet, instead be conscious about eliminating things that have a high amount of sugar, simple carbohydrates and eat less. And exercise whenever you can — walk, jog or whatever is effective for you.”

Mercer said programs with a positive focus (stressing the things that are good for you) as opposed to a negative one (“don’t eat this because it is bad for you”) is a great way to get started.

The American Dietetic and Nutrition Academy recommends “eating the rainbow,” she said, referring to fruits and vegetables. The deeper the color of the produce, the higher the nutritional value.

Fads like a high protein, low carb diet are popular because some people lost weight rapidly, Mercer said. The problem, though, was that the diet could not be maintained long-term. When people got off the diet, they not only gained back what they lost but typically gained an additional 10 percent.

“It’s a balancing act,” she said. “You want to get the right amount of things. Carbs aren’t bad. Protein isn’t bad. But too much of anything is what is the problem. Fat needs to be there but it needs to be there in small quantities.”

Find Abbey Doyle on Facebook and @heraldbulletin on Twitter, or call 640-4805.