Boston Medical Center (BMC) reports that roughly 45 million Americans go on some type of diet in an effort to lose weight.
While this means that we should be reducing our waistlines as a whole nationwide, the opposite is occurring. In fact, two out of every three people in the U.S. are now considered obese.
One health expert shares that the diets many are choosing are at least partly to blame. “A theme you’ll see across the board is that these diets are all restrictive in one way or another,” says Kathryn Alexander, a certified personal trainer with a Master’s degree in clinical exercise physiology.
During her coursework, Alexander says that she learned a lot about nutrition and says that, because of this restriction, many of today’s weight loss eating plans “will not contribute all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you need from a moderate but healthy diet.”
So which diet trends specifically would Alexander like to see phased out in the days and months ahead? There are three.
1. Cleanses and detoxes
“Cleanses and detoxes are usually short but extremely restrictive diets that promise a wide range of vague benefits,” Alexander says. With claims that typically include reduced inflammation, the flushing out of toxins, and reduced belly bloat, cleanse and detox diets typically involve consuming only juices or eating certain foods to get the desired results.
The University of California at Berkeley states that many of these diets strive to eliminate sugar, caffeine, red meat, alcohol, gluten and other substances deemed “environmental contaminants” with the end goal of weight loss. Many boast other positive effects as well, such as clearer skin, better sleep and reduced joint pain when following their plans.
“Unfortunately, you can chalk these up to slick marketing,” Alexander says, adding that the human body does a good job of detoxifying on its own via its organs such as the skin, lungs, kidneys and liver. Berkeley agrees, indicating that “the human body is a marvelously efficient detoxing machine.”
Plus, some of these cleanses and detoxes can be downright dangerous according the university, not to mention that many who follow them wind up gaining back all of the weight they lost by doing the cleanse or detox. In some cases, they gain back more.
2. Diets extremely low in calories
Another diet trend that Alexander would like to see disappear is any plan that involves an extremely low-calorie diet. “This might work to help lose some pounds,” Alexander says, “but it might also be deficient in feeding you the amount of calories and nutrients you need.”
Research published in the Nutrition Journal studied this very subject and found that this issue is compounded even more because obese individuals are generally deficient in necessary vitamins and minerals before even starting a diet due to their poor eating behaviors. Thus, by going on a low-calorie diet, they’re often creating even more deficiencies in their already malnourished bodies.
Alexander adds that, instead of following one of these diets and arbitrarily choosing a target number of daily calories based on a friend’s recommendation, an article designed to sell a product, or some type of estimation from an internet site, it’s better to use gas exchange as that is “the only way to truly measure yourself.”
In Ruppel’s Manual of Pulmonary Function Testing, author Carl Mottram explains that, by measuring the amount of various gases in the body (namely V02 and VCO2) and taking into consideration the respiratory exchange ratio, one can arrive at his or her own resting energy expenditure. This is the number of calories needed in a day for the body to simply survive. Additionally, testing urinary nitrogen can also help determine how those calories should be spread out via the three macronutrients, which are fats, carbohydrates and proteins.
3. Low carb diets
While Alexander has some concern about low carb diets and the nutrients they may be lacking, one of her other reasons for not liking these particular eating plans is that “these diets are extremely difficult to maintain.” She finds that compliance tends to be low, “and much progress is lost when people reincorporate carbs back into their daily diets.”
In addition, low carb diets are also typically not the best option for people who live a fairly active lifestyle. They “make them feel groggy and lethargic,” Alexander says. “It is rarely appropriate for athletes or first responders for this reason.”
So, what are some better ways to lose weight in the days and years ahead? “Focus on eating enough protein, lots of vegetables and fruits, and lots of water,” Alexander says. “After that, add in indulgences. You’ll find you’re satisfied with fewer guilty pleasures, but you enjoy each one.”