Weigh options before considering fad diets


    Students often look for a quick and easy way to lose weight, stay awake or perform better, but these results are not usually long-term, according to health experts.Fad diets are identified as weight-loss plans that offer quick and easy methods to lose a lot of weight in a short period of time, according to familydoctor.org.

    Fears such as the “freshman 15” contribute to the pressures of dieting, said Laura Crawley, the assistant dean of Campus Life.

    However, she said, according to a recent study of the American College of Health Association, the average weight gain is only five to seven pounds, and that students don’t always gain weight.

    Crawley said fast weight loss however, is not always healthy.

    “You lose weight too quickly, and that’s going to mess up your metabolism and in the long run, it’s not going to be what’s good for you,” Crawley said.

    Nutritionists say that stopping a fad diet can contribute to more weight gain.

    Stephanie Dickerson, a nutrition counselor for Sodexho, said people are just looking for the easy way out and do not really want to change.

    “The majority of the time, you’re going to gain double that back because you didn’t learn how to eat properly,” Dickerson said.

    Crawley said another problem with fad diets is they do not provide information on how to eat healthy after the program.

    “You still haven’t learned how to manage your own portion control,” Crawley said. “You’re going to go right back to your eating in The Main or going over to Fuzzy’s Tacos.”

    Some popular fad diets and methods right now include the South Beach Diet, the Sonoma Diet, WeightWatchers, Jenny Craig, a raw food diet and vegetarianism.

    High carbohydrates and high protein diets such as Atkins allow for the consumption of unhealthy ingredients, said Gina Hill, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences.

    “Atkins is a free ticket for eating a lot of saturated fats and cholesterol because it doesn’t really matter where your protein source comes from,” Hill said. “A lot of people tended to eat higher amounts of sodium and cholesterol and other things we recommend people moderate their intake of.”

    Hill said the Sonoma Diet and the South Beach Diet are not as bad because they allow some more variety.

    “It includes a lot of whole grains and vegetables,” Hill said. “Compared to some other diets, it does have more beneficial components to it. It is still somewhat of a high protein diet, but it does incorporate some more veggies and healthier carbs.”

    Crawley said programs such as WeightWatchers do teach some sort of method of portion control.

    “Anytime you can assert some control over what it is you’re eating and you can balance the diet yourself and you learn those tools, I think you’re going to be in better shape,” Crawley said.

    A vegetarian diet, unless used properly, is not necessarily a healthier choice, Hill said.

    “If they have a lot of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, then that’s a healthy diet,” she said. “However, you can be a vegetarian and live on chips, candy, soft drinks and stuff like that. It’s not a healthy diet even if you are a vegetarian.”

    Another method to lose weight quickly and be healthier are weight-loss supplements and vitamins. Health experts advise to take caution with the contents of supplements.

    Some vitamins can interact with certain prescription medications, and people should consult a doctor before taking them, Crawley said.

    “They may or may not be able to prescribe something for you until some of that stuff’s been worked out of your system,” she said.

    Crawley said vitamins that are supposed to calm someone down, such as St. John’s Wort, particularly affect students who are taking medication for anxiety and depression.

    Hill said taking too many vitamins, either through supplements or in beverages, can cause levels of toxicity.

    For example, Red Bull has 250 percent of the recommended daily dosage of vitamin B6.

    “If you get toxic levels of B6 in, you can actually start losing feeling in your extremities, your fingers, your toes, and if you do that long enough, it can become irreversible,” Hill said. “If people drink enough of that stuff, it potentially, theoretically can happen.

    There are high levels of sodium in energy drinks, which can cause hypertension Dickerson said. She also said that recently scientists have found that too much caffeine can affect the development in women.

    Hill said the best way to lose weight is to eat a large variety of healthy foods, eat less junk food and exercise.

    “I think people have heard it a lot, but putting it into practice is a lot different than just doing it over and over,” she said.

    Crawley said the best way to find the right diet is to speak with a physician.

    Dickerson said some Web sites with useful information on how to eat a proper diet are balancemindbodysoul.com or mypyramid.gov.