Mills-Peninsula Health Blog

Be Well, Be Well Informed

How Not to Diet

Posted on Dec 30, 2013 in Weight Management

Feet on BathscaleWith New Year’s around the corner, many of us may be making resolutions to lose weight and eat healthier. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to diet.

“Weight loss theory is very straightforward,” Mills-Peninsula primary care physician Lisa Hladik, M.D., says. “The less calories in, the more calories out through exercise – the weight comes off.”  But as simple as that sounds, Dr. Hladik says, “Unfortunately, people have a hard time controlling what they put in their mouths.”

Dr. Hladik and bariatric surgeon Albert Wetter, M.D.,  have heard thousands of stories from their patients about weight loss. Here are some of the most common mistakes people make:

• Using a crash diet. “The cabbage soup diet, for example, was a popular fad, claiming a weight loss of up to 10 pounds in one week,” Dr. Wetter says. “People did lose weight, but quickly gained it back. Then after the week was over, they couldn’t stand the taste of cabbage ever again.”

Skipping meals, particularly breakfast. While omitting a meal seems like an obvious way to cut calories, the result is often insatiable hunger, which leads to unplanned, unhealthy snacking and super-sized portions at lunch or dinner. (Read our story about the importance of breakfast on page 3.)

Cleanses. “There is no scientific evidence that supports the need to ‘cleanse’ your intestinal tract or ‘reset’ your metabolism,” Dr. Hladik says. “Drinking lemon juice, cayenne pepper and honey for three days makes no sense.”

Mindless snacking. “Snacking in between meals doesn’t boost your metabolism, it just adds calories,” Dr. Wetter says. “If you’re eating three balanced meals a day, there’s really no reason to snack.”

Drinking excess calories. Soda, alcoholic beverages and sweetened coffee drinks can add calories without curbing your hunger or providing nutritional value. “Even fruit juice should be consumed sparingly,” Dr. Wetter says. “It takes five oranges to make a glass of juice. But eating half of one fresh orange is plenty to make you feel satisfied.”

Using food as a reward. Some people will stick to their diet one day “and then pig out the next as a reward,” Dr. Wetter says. “All this does is throw the body in and out of a state of deprivation and intensify cravings.”

Making excuses. Having a “slow metabolism” is a frequently cited reason for not losing weight. “This excuse drives me nuts,” Dr. Hladik says. “If your lab tests show that your thyroid is normal, then so is your metabolism. You don’t have to be a victim of your personal or family history. You can make changes.”

So what should you do? Dr. Hladik suggests choosing components from diet plans that seem balanced and healthy, and adapting them to work for you. “Pick the strategy that is closest to the foods you naturally enjoy so every meal doesn’t feel like work or deprivation,” Dr. Hladik says. “Remember, it’s not a ‘diet,’ it’s a lifestyle change,” she continues. “So it needs to be sustainable to be successful.”