Truth About Fad Diets

How are your New Year’s resolutions coming along? If you are one of the lucky few who have stuck to a healthier diet or more consistent workout routine, good for you! But if you are among the 80 percent of people whose New Year’s resolutions failed by February (according to the U.S. News and World Report), then don’t worry: spring is the perfect time for a fresh start.

If you want to change up your diet for the better, the key is to find something that will work for you long term – and avoid fads. We talked to Martha Rodriguez – Ruiz, D.O., FAAFP, who practices at the new Dallas Medical Center Primary Care Clinic, to discover the truth about some of this year’s most popular diets.

“There are many diets out there; some of them are better than others depending on your point of view and what goals you have in mind,” said Ruiz. “The most important thing to understand about dieting is that famous diets are only short-term solutions to a more long-term problem. Interestingly, the original word ‘diet’ meant the food that is habitually eaten. However, modern day ‘diet’ is a restriction in foods in order to lose weight. Most diets last 40 to 90 days and have the potential to help you lose 30-50 pounds. The problem with these diets that that they are short-lived, and most people end up gaining their lost weight back with additional pounds once they are back to their normal eating habits and lifestyle.”

Ruiz named the Atkins, Zone, Ketogenic, vegetarian, vegan, Weight Watchers and Mediterranean diets as the most popular right now. Atkins focuses on controlling insulin by limiting carbohydrates, which helps you lose weight but can also increase your risk of kidney problems and colon cancer, according to Ruiz.

The Zone diet is based on certain proportions of nutrients a low glycemic index; however, it can be difficult to follow and very time consuming. The Ketogenic diet is also a low carbohydrate diet, where patients follow a restrictive Keto-friendly food list. Ruiz explained that this diet “has been linked to a number of health benefits for people, such as children with epilepsy and adults with metabolic syndrome; however, it is very challenging to stick to and it increases your risk of kidney stones, constipation and nutritional decencies.

Although it has been around for decades, the Weight Watchers diet is still very popular. “It encourages a slow and steady weight loss, flexibility with your foods as well as exercise and portion control,” said Ruiz. “On the other hand, it is costly and requires group meetings, weekly weigh-ins and counting calories, which can be quite tedious.”

Vegetarian and vegan diets are naturally low in fat and high in fiber, but there is a risk for nutrient deficiencies unless meals are planned to include fortified foods. Finally, the Mediterranean diet is a heart healthy diet where a large percentage of fat is from monounsaturated fat, which emphasizes cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables and a decreased amount of sodium. On the down side, Ruiz mentioned that serving sizes, calorie totals and physical activity parameters are not clear, which can be confusing. Also, it encourages moderate alcohol consumption, which may not be advisable for people with certain conditions or when taking certain medications.

“I usually do not recommend specific diets for my patients unless there is a need of rapid weight loss or a particular goal or concern for that individual,” said Ruiz. “My recommendation typically includes a well-balanced, sustainable approach with a focus on exercise, boosting metabolism, identifying nutritional and hormonal imbalances and creating a healthy lifestyle that will result in an ideal weight, an improvement or resolution of the patient’s chronic medical problems and optimal health for that individual.”

Of course, you should always talk to your doctor before starting any new diet plan to get the best recommendations for your health. Learn more about Ruiz’s diet and health recommendations by visiting her at the Primary Care Clinic on Valley View Lane in Farmers Branch, where walk-ins are always welcome and same-day appointments are available.

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