Diet Don’ts

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Obesity is a serious problem in the United States. Obesity rates are more than 30% of the population of some states and the problem appears to be growing. The increase in obesity rates has many people re-thinking their diet and fitness habits. Some may even take extreme measures to lose weight or to prevent weight gain. Extreme measures to control or lose weight can lead to serious health problems and are not advised. 
Don’t do extreme dieting. Extreme dieting is a common method employed by many people who want to quickly lose weight. Starvation diets, skipping meals, cutting entire food groups from the menu or relying on diet shakes for nutrition can result in malnutrition and loss of muscle mass. Your metabolism will also slow down, which  defeats your weight loss goal. The average person needs at least 1,200 calories every day to stay healthy.  Eat a variety of foods, including dairy, fruits and vegetables to get the nutrition you need and to avoid hunger. Avoid fad diets that limit the variety of foods you can eat or restrict your menu to only a few foods from one or two food categories. 
Don’t count on diet pills or shakes to help you lose weight. Diet products that promise you will lose tens of pounds in just few weeks are unlikely to live up to this claim and may actually harm your health. Most diet pills are a combination of diuretics and caffeine, which cause you to lose water and can result in dehydration. Overuse of diet pills can result in electrolyte imbalance, too. 
Over-the-counter diet pills may not appear to be dangerous , but they can still cause harm. “Most diet pills are nothing more than a quick fix loaded with caffeine and diuretics that can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance,” says Diekman, director of nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis. Diet supplements and over-the-counter diet pills do not receive the same level of scrutiny by the Food and Drug Administration as prescription drugs, so their safety and effectiveness is not assured. 

Don’t do colon cleanses or detox programs. Colon cleanses can cause you to lose some weight initially due to water loss and the complete emptying of the bowel. Water loss from colon cleanses can cause dehydration. Detoxing your body by drinking only juice or water for days can lead to a lack of nutrients, decreased metabolism and may cause other health problems. It’s best to drink lots of water and eat a high-fiber diet every day. 
Don’t purge. Purging, like vomiting or using laxatives are unsafe and can lead to serious, sometimes life-threatening, health problems. When you force yourself to vomit shortly after eating, strong stomach acids can cause erosion in the lining of the mouth and esophagus. Tooth enamel is also damaged by stomach acids. Purging can lead to the severe eating disorder bulimia. 

Over-the-Counter Diet Pills: Do They Work?

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Most of us have seen the late-night infomercials advertising a miracle diet pill that promises amazing weight-loss results with little or no effort. Before you use an over-the-counter diet pill, educate yourself about the ingredients, the actual effectiveness of the product and consult with your doctor. Diet pills that are sold over-the-counter are not subject to the same testing standards as prescription weight-loss pills. Diet pills can be sold with little proof of actual weight-loss. The safety of the pills are monitored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after the product is placed on the market. The FDA recalls or bans diet pills that are dangerous after consumers use the product and report serious side effects. 

One popular diet pill is called a “fat trapper.” Fat trappers are made from the ground shells of shellfish like crabs that contain chitosan. Chitosan allegedly binds to fats in the digestive system and prevents your stomach and intestines from digesting and absorbing the fat. There is some evidence that chitosan prevents fat absorption, but the effect is minimal. Moreover, chitosan can prevent your body from absorbing nutrients that are fat-soluble. Fat-soluble nutrients include the essential vitamins A, D, E and K. If you intend to take an over-the-counter fat-blocker, see your doctor first and limit your use to less than 3 months.
Over-the-counter diet pills advertised as “fat burners” usually contain stimulants derived from herbs and a combination of ingredients like hydroxycitric acid, which is an appetite suppressant. Stimulants found in these pills often include caffeine and ephedrine combined with aspirin. Fat-burners can work when combined with a healthy diet and exercise, but there can be some serious side-effects. Caffeine can increase your heart rate. Ephedra may elevate your blood pressure to dangerous levels. You can lose weight by supplementing your diet and exercise program with a fat-burner, but there are health risks. Always consult your doctor before using an over-the-counter fat-burner diet pill. 
Most over-the-counter diet pills are expensive, the results are minimal and the side-effects can be serious. There is no magic pill that will help you reduce your weight and burn fat. Healthy eating habits, a balanced diet that includes vegetables and fruits and regular exercise are the essential elements to a healthy weight. 
For more information about diet pills, see:
WebMD, The Truth About Weight-Loss Pills, by Alison Palkhivala, reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD, 2001