Weighing the New Diets

Tempted by one of the new fad diets to satisfy your New Year’s weight-loss resolution? Here’s a list of what’s hot, and we asked UNLV registered dietitian Debi Meyer to assess each one—plus offer her own idea of an alternative approach.

The HCG Diet

HCG is a natural hormone created during the first trimester of pregnancy that produces nutrients for the body (and fetus). This program, which involves either a hormone injection or drops, revolves around a 500-calorie diet and lots of water. The hormone tricks your body into thinking it’s getting the normal amount of calories, enabling you to help lose 1-2 pounds a day, and that’s without any exercise.

Expert opinion: This diet has been coming and going since the 1950s, and Meyer has warned people to stay away from it at all costs. The injection sites can leave the skin red and itchy and can even lead to blood clots. This diet also wards its dieters away from exercise, which is basically the worst idea ever. In fact, Meyer compares it to starvation.

The Lemonade Diet

The idea is simple: Whenever you feel hungry, drink the mix of fresh lemonade juice, maple syrup, water and cayenne pepper. In the morning and at night, throw in some laxative. Most people lose about a pound a day, depending on their calorie deficit, and women usually lose more than men. It’s basically fasting for about 10 days.

Expert opinion: Ten days of fasting is too long (one to three days is enough for your body to detox), and mixed with laxatives, it is extremely dangerous because of the loss of electrolytes and liquids.

The Fat Smash Diet

On the VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club, the diet’s author, Dr. Ian Smith (above), guided the show’s famous contestants through the 90-day program split into four phases—the first being a detox stage, which prohibits meats and breads. The idea is to reintroduce proper eating into your routine, with a side of moderate exercise. Unlike other diets, this one doesn’t require calorie counts. Just stick to the rules and you’re on your way.

Expert opinion: Meyer believes this is a fairly balanced approach. It decreases fat in portions through the four phases and it incorporates exercise, which she says is essential. But she dislikes that dieters may have to stay in Phase One for too long, or have to return to the initial phase repeatedly, because that curtails the intake of important vitamins such as B4 and iron. There’s no need to distort your food portions, she says; it’s all about eating a variety of foods but in good moderation.

The Meyer “No Diet” Diet

The word “diet” can take its toll on people, and Meyer thinks you should just get the whole thing out of your head and concentrate on keeping your food consumption and exercise regimen balanced. To get started, Meyer suggests habitually eating breakfast (reduced-fat peanut butter, low-sugar smoothie, even crackers), and keeping a journal of what you eat and how you were feeling at that time. She also warns against standing up or watching television while you chow down; for the sake of digestion and appetite control, it’s better to be seated and face the food as you’re consuming it. And don’t forget daily exercise, even if it’s just 15 minutes in the morning or night.

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