As summer looms many of us are tempted to lose weight by trying the latest “get slim quick” diet plans. I recently appeared on KATU-TV, AM Northwest to explain why fad diets never work, and worse–how they can actually cause harm.

For the direct link, Click Here.

Many people want to drop the weight fast. Anything wrong with going on a quick-weight loss diet?

Everything is wrong with that! Fad diets never teach you how to eat right, so as soon as you go off them, you return to your old eating habits and gain back all the weight, sometimes more. You might lose weight, but if you’re losing more than 1 to 2 pounds a week, you’re losing water and muscle tissue, not fat weight. On top of that, when you gain back the weight, you gain back fat weight, so you end up fatter as a result of dieting. Fad diets also are nutritional disasters, so you sacrifice your health for your waistline, but in the end don’t keep off the weight. The truth is Americans are fatter today than they’ve ever been despite, and probably in part because of, fad diets.

For example, a gluten-free diet is a must for someone with celiac disease. But many, many more people THINK they are gluten intolerant than really are and there is no evidence that a gluten-free diet for those people has any effect on weight loss, unless they also cut calories.

What about the Paleo Diet? The good news it is rich in fruits and vegetables & fiber and low in sugar and white flour, but it’s loaded with red meat and saturated fat, which increases the risk for colon cancer, while being low in some nutrients like calcium. Does it help with weight loss? A recent study that compared successful weight loss across diets found that the Paleo Diet ranked last with few and poorly designed studies to support the claims. Why do these diets work short term? Because you have cut calories. Pure and simple. You can lose weight on any diet, even an all-sugar diet, if you cut calories. It’s maintaining the loss that is important and so far, Americans have tried thousands of fad diets and not one of them has worked long-term!

What does work for permanent weight loss? The National Weight Control Registry has looked at people who have lost a significant amount of weight, and more importantly, maintained the weight loss. They are watching both fat and calorie intake, loading the plate with vegetables, weighing themselves regularly, eating consistently throughout the week and on weekends, eating breakfast, nipping even small gains in the bud by going back to their weight loss efforts, eating breakfast, and exercising a lot!

How do we put healthy weight-loss guidelines into practice?

1. Develop your plan and stick with it. You want an eating plan you can live with for life and that will allow a gradual weight loss of no more than 2 pounds a week. Strive for no less than 1,500 calories if you are short or relatively inactive (add an additional 500 calories if you are tall and/or active). You should increase exercise, not cut calories further, if you can’t lose weight on this low-calorie plan.

Your ultimate goal is not just a certain figure or a number on the bathroom scale, it is a lifelong commitment to be the best and healthiest you. This plan requires a lifetime commitment, not to lose weight and keep it off, but to modify habits so they support health and, ultimately, maintain the best weight for you.
Keep in mind that people who are most likely to successfully lose weight and maintain the weight loss:

1) keep a daily food journal to monitor their eating habits,
2) learn from their slips and return quickly to balanced eating and exercise patterns,
3) follow a low-fat, moderate-calorie eating plan, and
4) exercise regularly.

2. Focus on Plants: The basis of a successful weight-management eating plan is to emphasize fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, with moderate amounts of calcium-rich (nonfat milk) and iron-rich (extra-lean meats, chicken, fish, or legumes) foods. Plan your meals and snacks around fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes so that they constitute at least 3/4 of the foods in your eating plan. Or, just include two fruits and/or vegetables at every meal and snack. I’ve had clients lose up to 30 pounds just doing that alone. By doing this, you will automatically cut back on fat, sugar, and unnecessary calories. However, even the best diet can’t guarantee optimal intake of all nutrients when it drops below 2,000 calories. So, consider taking a moderate-dose, well-balanced vitamin and mineral supplement.

3. Be Calories and Fat Conscious: You must find the right mix of calories in (from the diet) versus calories out (from exercise and activity) to result in a gradual weight loss of no more than 2 pounds a week. That usually is somewhere around 3,500 calories/pound. Keep in mind that while you cut calories, you don’t want to sacrifice your health by cutting vitamins and minerals. That means making every bite count; so, don’t waste priceless calories on foods high in sugar and fat and low in nutrients.

Salad dressing are the number one source of fat in women’s diets. A ladle of dressing poured over a salad can add up to 300 or more calories. A solution is to serve dressing on the side and dip fork into the dressing and then into the salad. You get the same taste, but for far fewer fat calories. Or, try the many fat-free vinaigrettes on the market.

4. Eat Frequently: When you eat those calories also is important. Large, infrequent meals might set up a feast-or-famine scenario where the body stores more calories as fat as a safeguard against what it perceives as a famine. In contrast, dividing the same amount of calories into five or more little meals and snacks encourages the body to “burn” the food for immediate energy rather than store it in the hips and thighs. Space your meals, starting with breakfast, so that no more than 4 hours goes by between a light meal or snack.

5. Keep a food journal: Write down everything you eat, how much, and when. Then, take a hard look at what you are eating. You want to attain a desirable weight, but you don’t want to sacrifice your health in the process. You do want to cut out the unnecessary calories, while stockpiling the nutrients. Are you consuming at least 5 fruits and vegetables, 3 glasses of nonfat milk, 5 whole grains, and 2 servings of meat or beans every day? When are you eating? Are you eating erratically, skipping meals and overeating later in the day? What do you snack on? Is it high-fat convenience snack foods or crunch carrots?

Food records also help you clarify why you are eating. For some people, weight problems stem from reasons why they are eating. The following questions may help you identify if managing your emotions, thoughts, and stress should be at the forefront of your weight-loss plan. If you are eating because you’re stressed, lonely, depressed, fatigued, or angry, you need to find a nonfood outlet for these emotions.

6. Set specific, realistic, and flexible weight-loss goals: Instead of a vague goal to “exercise more” or “reduce fat intake,” write specific goals that include what, when, where, and how, such as “I will jog for 30 minutes during my lunch hour, five days a week, for the next six months,” or “To reduce my fat intake, I will spread apple butter instead of butter on my toast in the morning.”

7. Exercise: Even if you can lose weight on diet alone, you can’t maintain the loss unless you exercise, daily and for at least 45 minutes. Start small with 10 minute walks, for example…then work up to a 4-mile walk or the equivalent every day. No strolling! You need to walk briskly.