We will take advice from just about anybody when we want to lose weight as soon as possible. But remember, weight loss is a multi-billion dollar industry and plenty of unscrupulous 'diet doctors' offer magic pills to cut the fat. Then, there are friends and "well-wishers" who dole out random nutrition and weight loss tips, which may not always be scientifically sound. Weight loss does not offer a one-size-fits-all solution, and some of the advice is are unhealthy in the long run. Don’t blindly follow what you hear and read, but always consult an expert to do things the right way. We asked nutritionists to share the worst diet advice that some of their clients have confessed to in a bid to lose weight quickly.
1. “Eliminate fat from your diet”
DON'T! Because a "balanced" diet includes fat! “How can one completely cut out fat from their diet? Especially good fats that are found in cow’s ghee, coconut, nuts, seeds, unrefined mustard oil, cold pressed olive oil and avocadoes,” questions Mumbai-based nutritionist Naini Setalvad. If you’re on a no-fat diet, you’ll probably eat way too many carbohydrates. This can stimulate the fat-storing hormone insulin, making it difficult to lose weight. “Also, our body absorbs vitamin A, D, E, K thanks to fat. Estrogen levels that reduce during menopause are also absorbed by fat. Reducing fat intake can cause constipation. I have seen many clients who have cut down on fat in their diet and have landed up with thyroid problems, increased cholesterol, fluctuating sugar levels, severe joint pains, depression, bad memory, poor performance overall, brittle and dry skin, to name a few. It’s best to increase your vegetable consumption, add good quality fat and proteins, grains to your diet and binge on local and seasonal foods,” advises Naini.
2. “Swap meals with juice”
NEVER! “The worst self-styled diet tactic I’ve come across is an all-fruits diet for a week for weight loss. While eating fruits is not a bad thing, an all-fruit diet cannot provide the necessary proteins and fat that is required for the body. When protein intake dips drastically, the body makes up by breaking down the muscle cells. Protein deficiency in the long run can lead to malnutrition, edema, hair loss, muscle wasting, etc. There is weight loss too, but not the healthy way. When the person gets back to eating normally, the lost weight comes back,” says Sheela Krishnaswamy, diet, nutrition and wellness consultant from Bangalore.
3. “Eating spicy food will help you lose weight”
STOP! It’s a common misconception that spicy food may help you drop a few pounds by helping to decrease your appetite—it helps you feel full, and less likely to overeat. “I once had a patient who, during his vacation to Thailand, consumed the spiciest chilli sauce in the world at a local restaurant. As a result, he did not want to consume food for the rest of the day. Drawing an assumption from this instance, he purchased a few bottles of the said chilli sauce and continued to consume it even in India, whenever he felt hungry. This controlled his hunger and reduced his food intake leading to weight loss. Ultimately, the spice led to soreness in his tongue and other issues like weakened muscles, low immunity and frequent mood swings due to less consumption of the required nutrients and vitamins,” shares Dr. K. Priya, Nutritionist, Apollo Sugar, Chennai. “Such strange diets affect a person both physically and psychologically. A lot of individuals are looking for quick solutions for weight loss/weight gain. However, they have to understand the fact that weight loss/gain could be achieved only over a period of time and with a proper systematic diet that wouldn’t have adverse effects on one’s health,” adds Dr Priya.
4. “Go on a gluten-free and vegan diet”
ARE YOU GLUTEN INTOLERANT? Many people believe that giving up non-vegetarian food will help them shed the kilos. Regional Head of Dietetics at Max Healthcare in New Delhi, Dr Ritika Samaddar recalls treating a patient once who had gone on one such mono diet that was gluten free and vegan friendly, “This diet caused him to fall sick very often and he came in to see me. When his bio-chemical tests came back and I saw his blood parametres, I was shocked. He had major protein deficiency (because of no meat) and calcium deficiency (because of no milk), along with a deficit in necessary vitamins.” If you have decided to say bye-bye to meat and eggs, which your body is acquainted to, you need to be cautious not to take your nourishment account into negative. Instead, add healthy substitutes to keep the sum whole. “For protein, eat plenty of lentils, low fat milk, tofu, paneer, sprouts and legumes; soya or almond milk, leafy greens like kale and broccoli, and fruits are vegetarian sustenance of calcium,” says Dr Samaddar.
5. “Eat only salads”
NOT BALANCED! Any diet that puts excess focus on one food—salads for every meal—is likely lacking in vitamins and minerals. “You’re cutting out a lot of different nutrients that other foods can offer,” says Kolkata-based nutritionist Pratyasha Agarwal. “Plus, eating only salads can become repetitive and dull, and takes out all the fun from your food and meal time. Such diets only show short-term benefits and cannot be continued and sustained for too long. One of my patients went on such a diet for too long, based on information he found on the Internet, and paired it with rigorous running and high-intensity workouts. Eventually, he ended up damaging his knees. And once he got off the diet, he ended up gaining more weight than he had lost because when it comes to calories, the fewer you consume, the more likely you are to overeat later. Such diets cause your body to go into starvation mode, with your metabolism adjusting accordingly to conserve energy. Also, weight lost during extremely calorie-restricted diets is usually a combination of muscles, fluid, and fat—but if you overeat later out of starvation, the pounds regained are just fat."
6. “Substitute a meal with a protein shake as a detox”
KEEP OFF! We eat a variety of fruits and vegetables that give us an assortment of vitamin and mineral benefits. “But when you replace a meal for a substitute shake, it is pumping our bodies with chemicals,” says Pune-based nutritionist and author Rita Date. “These meal replacements may have macro-nutrients, but they lack fibre, and other essential micro-nutrients like vitamins and minerals. These liquid-form meals are usually had over a small period of time and our body familiarises itself with this specific calorie intake. Once you go back to your normal diet, your body suffers a shock and you tend to gain more weight than you lost,” adds Rita. And when it comes to a detox, let’s face it—our body cleanses itself throughout the day, and there is no scientific evidence to favour detoxes when it comes to cleansing the body internally.
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