Teryana Sledge: With new year comes fad diets

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It’s 2014. It’s a brand new year with brand new opportunities, experiences and goals to be met. And as we all know, the new year brings out the “new me” in everyone. With every new year, there are millions of resolutions that people strive to fulfill. While some are nice and sweet, others are outrageous and ridiculous, but people want to complete them so badly that they fail to realize these expectations are completely unrealistic. One of the biggest New Year’s resolutions is weight loss, and many will go to extreme measures to do so, even if it includes fad dieting. And individuals and corporations alike are ready to capitalize on your resolution.

A fad diet is a diet that is extreme in its nutritional deprivations, typically restricting calorie intake. It is meant to achieve rapid weight loss and is only one step short of just outright starving yourself. It is not meant to last for long periods of time, a few weeks at maximum. Importantly, the diet specifically implies a lack of concern for proper nutrition. Fad diets are also known as “crash diets” and are often seen as quick-fix solutions. Contrary to the belief of many who start this sort of diet, this form of dieting is neither healthy nor successful in achieving long-term weight loss as it causes a decrease in the body’s basal metabolic rate, the amount of energy used at rest. While some initial weight is often lost, the weight is usually regained quickly in the weeks that follow, as the individual reverts to their original pre-fad diet. It often becomes a vicious cycle in which the weight that is regained is often more than the starting weight, causing the dieter to revert to the crash diet, lose weight, regain the weight and so on.

“Every year, people throw millions of dollars down the drain to no avail following one fad diet or another,” said Oxford University professor Susan Jebb.

Facing constant societal pressure to be thin, some girls and women will go to extreme lengths to fit the unrealistic standards of beauty portrayed in the media. The latest fad that some people are falling for is the so-called cotton ball diet, which can pose serious threats to one’s health. Videos are being uploaded to social media websites showing teens, particularly young women, portraying how to do the diet, which involves dipping cotton balls into orange juice, lemonade, smoothies, or gelatin before swallowing them whole. The idea is that the cotton balls will make them feel full and satisfied so that they eat less and lose weight. “Your clothing is made of polyester, so swallowing a synthetic cotton ball is like dipping your T-shirt in orange juice and eating it,” says diet expert Brandie Koskie.

Who hasn’t tasted baby food once or twice in their life? But could you imagine eating it 14 times a day for every meal? Following a fad diet called the Baby Food Diet, people make baby food a staple for weight control and food cravings. Positive factors include healthier, natural foods and portion control. Although the diet doesn’t have many cons, several experts seem to agree that the diet’s up-sides to other diets don’t make it a solution. Replacing meals with baby food could result in nutritional imbalances and taking in very few calories. Because protein, fiber and the act of chewing food help you feel full, you may find your stomach grumbling after a “meal” on this diet, depending which foods you choose and how much you eat.

Last but not least, the grandmother of all fad diets, the cabbage soup diet, is a very low-fat, low-calorie plan that you follow for seven days. It’s meant to help you lose weight quickly. And it’s been around forever.

This diet involves eating cabbage soup two to three times a day for a week. There are some exceptions as to what else a person may eat on selected days. For example, on day two a person following this diet can eat leafy green vegetables along with cabbage soup. But before people stock up on cabbage, they need to know that this crash diet won't help in the long run, and it doesn’t give the body the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Since the body is only getting a few calories, the pounds come off quickly. People mainly lose water weight. Chances are many will gain it all back, and possibly more, as soon as they return to their normal eating pattern again.

The nutritional deficiencies that fad diets cause can also lead to health conditions like hair loss and muscle loss. Your hair requires a good deal of protein in order to grow and thrive. When you are not getting enough protein in your diet, your hair eventually loses its health. Poor hair health leads to brittleness which can turn into breakage and shedding. Muscle loss is another negative effect of fad dieting. Since your diet is very low in calories, it will look for other ways to get energy. One of these ways is by digesting your muscle tissue. This is actually detrimental to weight loss because muscles help burn calories even when the body is at rest.

You may be looking for a fast way to lose weight, and there’s no shortage of fad diets around, but these diets may provide short-term results and may be difficult to sustain. They will ultimately deprive you of the essential nutrients that only balanced eating can offer. Of course, some medical conditions may require special eating plans. In those instances, any recommendations from a doctor should be followed.

People need to know that they shouldn’t accept the unrealistic images portrayed in the media. At times, there are pressures on top of work, school or family which make it harder to maintain a healthy lifestyle. But adopting good eating habits can often help one feel better about themselves. Fad diets may seem like the way to go but they’re absolutely not. They’re just a pressure that people don’t need in their lives. Being healthy includes feeling good about yourself, so fad diets are not important for you to be happy.

TERYANA SLEDGE is a sophomore at Ponder High School and a participant in the Denton Record-Chronicle’s “Speak Out Loud” program for student journalists.

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