No magic pill for weight loss

A dietitian says your best bet is to avoid gimmicks and fad diets—and stick to the basics.
As much as some folks wish it were true, there’s simply no magic pill to shed pounds. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

The great news—researchers have discovered the secret formula for weight loss.

The bad news—the formula consists solely of diet and exercise.

As the obesity rate continues to climb in the U.S., more Americans are looking for a quick fix to shed the extra pounds.

But registered dietitian Kelly Buxman, at Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital, reminds people there’s no magic pill, patch or shake for losing weight.

“Just as the weight didn’t appear overnight, it’s not going to disappear overnight, either,” Buxman said. “A lot of people are turning to fad diets and weight-loss gimmicks, but losing weight takes time and dedication through diet and exercise.”

A report from Marketdata Research shows Americans are spending more than $60 billion a year on weight-loss products.

While some of those costs are associated with gym memberships and healthy food, a sizable chunk is spent exclusively on products that offer quick fixes and miraculous weight loss.

“If people could just take a pill, wear a patch or drink a shake to lose weight, then doctors would be prescribing these products to their patients,” Buxman said. “But the fact is, these products aren’t regulated by the FDA and are not backed by any scientific evidence.”

“Most of the time, these products are complete gimmicks that use creative marketing to convince people to spend their money on products that simply do not work,” she said.

Spot a fad

While fad diets are also popular with people who want to lose weight quickly without exercise, Buxman says they simply do not offer realistic long-term results. Moreover, the weight often comes back once a regular diet is resumed.

Buxman offers the following tips on how to spot a fad diet:

  1. It promises miraculous weight loss in a short period of time. About 1 to 2 pounds per week of weight loss is considered healthy. Anything more may be too restrictive and lacking in essential nutrients.
  2. It eliminates a whole food group. If a whole food group is eliminated, the diet could be missing important vitamins and minerals.
  3. The diet is not based on scientific evidence. Sometimes, a diet’s creator will only use dieter reviews to tout the effectiveness.
  4. The diet requires you to buy a company’s product, such as a pill, patch or shake formula.
  5. The diet includes a “cleanse” or “detox.” Many of these diets are low in calories, which can be dangerous to follow even in the short term. Also, your body is able to naturally detox itself through the liver and kidneys.

“Basically, if the diet seems too good to be true, then it likely is,” Buxman said. “Instead of a fad diet, people should aim for a healthy, balanced diet that includes all of the food groups.”

For those who like a little more structure, Buxman recommends healthy diet options that are supported by scientific evidence, such as the DASH diet, MyPlate and Weight Watchers.

Speak with your doctor before starting a diet or exercise plan. For information on outpatient nutrition counseling services at Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital, or to speak to a dietitian, call 231.845.2369.

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