Nutrition and Weight Control - Diet fads

There are many fads and fallacies about losing weight. Everyone wants an easy solution; cosmetic and food product manufacturers know this and develop products that play to this desire. Thus we have pills that are supposed to burn fat while we sleep; machines that are supposed to give us a “workout” while we're lying down by electrically stimulating our muscles; plastic suits that we wear while exercising that are supposed to produce dramatic weight loss; and special creams and body scrubbers that are supposed to take away unsightly cellulite.

The truth is that a pill will not burn calories for you, a machine will not do your exercise for you, a plastic suit will only make you lose water, not fat, and the idea that there is a special kind of fat called cellulite is a myth.

Cellulite, in fact, is fat, plain and simple; there are no special varieties. Much of the body's fat is stored directly beneath the skin where there is also a sheath of connective tissue, which tends to compartmentalize the fat cells. The more fat the more this tissue is stretched and the more the fat bulges around and through it, producing cellulite's characteristic dimpled effect. Women tend to have thinner skin and less flexible connective tissue, making them more “prone” to cellulite than men. There is no point in spending money on special creams or brushes; you cannot scrub away excess fat. You have to reduce your intake and burn it through exercise.

Similarly, most diet programs that consist of pills, powders, or foolish eating habits are ineffective and usually harmful. Many of them are addictive and those who benefit from the diet programs often gain back the weight lost once they return to their “normal” eating habits.

One drug often used in diet pills is phenylpropanolamine hydrochloride (PPA). PPA is a decongestant, but it also acts as a stimulant and an appetite suppressant. Its side effects include dry mouth, nausea, insomnia, increased heart rate, and increased blood pressure. When PPA is used at the same time as certain other drugs, the elevation of blood pressure can be dramatic, increasing the risk of stroke. PPA can also aggravate glaucoma and kidney disease.

Benzocaine, an ingredient in diet products such as gums and candies, is a local anesthetic that numbs taste receptors, which may briefly suppress the urge to eat. Benzocaine, however, can cause potentially fatal allergic reactions in some individuals.

Although there is no substitute for regular exercise and eating healthfully, obesity, which increases the risk of serious health problems, may be managed with the help of physician-prescribed appetite suppressants. These drugs, such as sibutramine (brand name Meridia), may be used for a short time to achieve a loss of ten percent of body weight, an amount thought to reduce health risks. They are not a substitute for long-term behavioral changes in diet and exercise.

Anybody interested in losing a substantial amount of weight should consult with his or her physician. The physician will know of a nutritionist who can provide a healthy program for weight reduction.

Weight loss involves a complete change in one's lifestyle. The solution includes eating balanced meals, reducing the intake of fat, increasing proportionately the consumption of carbohydrates, and exercising three or four times a week. It is a slow process that does not offer the quick yet temporary loss offered by over-the-counter diet programs. Rather, it is a permanent commitment to a healthy way of life. Only then, can a person maintain an optimal weight.

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