By Gerald F. Joseph, Jr, MD, President, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Over the years, countless fad diets—such as the cabbage soup diet, the lemonade cleanse, and the low- carb diet—have promised a path to quick and effortless weight loss. It’s tempting to believe that you can follow a “simple” formula and drop pounds without ever breaking a sweat. But as with many other things in life, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Fad diets are fundamentally flawed. They take the fun out of eating, often banning or severely limiting certain foods or types of food (such as fats or carbohydrates) or relying too heavily on the supposed weight loss powers of specific foods (such as celery or grapefruit). Many quick-fix plans also de-emphasize the importance of exercise in losing weight.
Those who are able to stick with rigid weight loss programs for more than a few weeks may drop some pounds, but often struggle to maintain their new weight once they return to eating normally. Additionally, fad diets may cause nutrient deficiencies if followed for long periods and can contribute to other problems such as body image issues.
Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is a worthwhile goal. Having a body mass index within the normal range of 19–25 may reduce the risk of many health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, infertility, and a variety of cancers, including breast, endometrial, uterine, and colon cancers. But losing weight the right way is just as important to your health overall.
To achieve healthy and lasting weight loss, the tried-and-true equation still stands: burn more calories than you eat. It may not be the fastest, most glamorous, or easiest way to lose weight, but it is safer and more effective in the long term.
Losing weight through healthy eating and exercise does not have to be boring or monotonous. Focus on eating more foods that sustain and energize you and choosing fewer foods that make you feel tired and sluggish.
Eat a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. Experiment with an unfamiliar grain such as quinoa or barley. Seek out simple foods—if an item has more than five ingredients, consider skipping it. Add an extra weekly serving of fish or seafood and try to have a vegetarian meal each week. Prepare skinless chicken, lean beef, beans, and other lean proteins as often as possible. There’s even room for the occasional treat, just don’t go overboard.
Make a commitment to exercise consistently and incorporate whatever activities you enjoy such as walking, playing team sports, gardening, or practicing yoga. Any effort to live more healthfully is a step in the right direction—and a step toward reaching your weight loss goals. ?
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