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Saturday, December 03, 2011

500 Calories a Day? The 3 Worst Fad Diets of 2011

From The Tapeworm Diet to The Baby Food Diet to the Cookie Diet, we've witnessed some truly bizarre weight-loss fads over the years.Thankfully, according to the Calorie Control Council's list of the top 5 diet trends for 2011, this year, the focus will shift away from extreme or restrictive diets and onto sustainable lifestyle changes that incorporate healthy eating and exercise habits.
That said, those fad diets will still be around to tempt you. Here are three you're likely to be SPAM-ed about in 2011, and why you should avoid them:
Paleo Diet
Just as it sounds, this diet insists that you should only eat foods that our Paleolithic ancestors indulged in. This includes meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, non-starchy veggies, root veggies, herbs, spices and some fruit and nuts.
Why We're Not Sold While this diet does focus on some healthy options, it also gongs some of our favorite nutritious foods including grains like wheat and quinoa; dairy; legumes and seed-based oils. That means you're cutting out low-fat cottage cheese and low-fat Greek yogurt (calcium), lentils and black beans (a dietician's best friend!), whole-grain carbs and heart-healthy oils. Sure, our bodies weren't originally designed to eat these foods, but we'd like to think we've evolved quite a bit since then.
Learn about two more diets to avoid.
HCG Diet
You take the HCG (yep, the same hormone your body cranks out when you're preggo) for 26 days while eating just 500 to 700 calories and cutting out exercise.
Why We're Not Sold Hormone injections and/or drops and calorie restriction? Well, duh, you'll lose some weight. But it's definitely extreme, not sustainable and potentially dangerous. HCG injections can trigger ovarian cysts and blood clots and can make you more fertile (hello, surprise pregnancy). And no exercise? That's an automatic red flag that there's nothing healthy about this plan. Steer clear, ladies!
As SELF has reported, cleanses and detox diets are all the rage. From chugging maple syrup and cayenne concoctions to buying into fancy juice delivery services, the idea of limiting yourself to a regimen of liquids to flush out toxins has taken off big time. With celebs like Salma Hayek continuing to swear by them — she recently told US Magazine that she's been doing juice cleanses for 15 years — liquid diets will continue to throw around weight-loss promises in 2011.
Why We're Not Sold When SELF's reporters dug into this trend, they found that docs and dietitians agree that detoxing can lead to disordered eating and may ultimately make you fatter. A lack of nutrients can make your body eat into muscle for energy, slowing your metabolism. It becomes harder to burn calories because your body conserves what little energy it gets, explains Peter Pressman, M.D., an internist with the U.S. Navy Medical Corps and a fellow of the American College of Clinical Nutrition. And about the theory that this somehow flushes out toxins? "Clinical evidence shows that the notion of a nutritional scrub is nothing more than highly profitable fiction," he says. We'll trust that our liver and kidneys can handle the job just fine.Have you ever tried a crazy fad diet?
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Friday, December 02, 2011

Is the HCG Diet Safe?

Have you been convinced by the constant barrage of HCG diet testimonials? The diet has recently become the talk of the Internet, even though it was developed over 60 years ago.
The HCG diet claims this: HCG (or human chorionic gonadotropin), a hormone found in pregnant women, is supposedly responsible for releasing stored fat to feed the baby in utero. By restricting your caloric intake while injecting the hormone or taking HCG drops daily (typically for 23 days, but many people stay on the diet until they reach their desired weight), the hormone encourages your body to release its fat stores to keep you nourished — leading to weight loss that can be as high as a pound a day. Sounds good, but is it safe? We spoke with Adam Bornstein, editorial director of, to learn more about the diet and its safety.

Does It Work?
Judging by the amount of success stories seen on TV or on the Internet, the answer is yes. Many users have said that the HCG diet is not only effective, but sustainable. Guests on a recent Dr. Oz show, for example, said that they lost as much as 50 pounds on the HCG diet. Dr. Oz's guests also explained that the diet was only difficult for the first few days, after which the pounds melted away without the users ever feeling hungry.
Experts, however, aren't so ready to give the diet a stamp of approval. For one, there are no studies addressing whether there are long-term side effects in using the pregnancy hormone, and there are no studies that illustrate if the hormone actually helps your body burn stored fat. "There's no research that can actually back up these claims. It's all hypothetical," Bornstein said. The fact that dieters lose weight quickly can most likely be attributed only the dieter's ability to stick to a strict 500-calorie diet and not the HCG hormone itself.
Read on to learn if going on the HCG diet is safe.
Is It Safe?
The issue is not the lack of research on using the HCG hormone for weight loss; the restrictive diet, too, is a big cause of concern. HCG proponents claim that the hormone not only suppresses your appetite but also burns fat stores, providing all the calories you need. But since this hasn't been proven, most experts believe you risk becoming malnourished by following the diet, which only allows you 500 calories a day of fruits, vegetables, and proteins. You may lose weight, but you're depriving your body of adequate calories (which should be at least 1,200 calories a day), and that can lead to starvation. "Your body not only needs calories, but just as important, it requires vitamins and minerals. Creating deficiencies can set you up for a variety of health problems," added Bornstein. "This is glorified starvation."
Another cause for concern — while the injections are only available by prescription, many companies offer HCG drops, lozenges, or sprays online, and the FDA has issued a warning about these products.
Bottom Line
While the HCG hormone injections are FDA-approved for fertility therapy and therefore can be prescribed by a doctor, most health experts are against using the hormone for its weight-loss capabilities. A big reason? There is not enough research proving the diet is safe (or even works). "We know what HCG does in a pregnant woman’s body, but a pregnant woman is much different than a nonpregnant woman," Bornstein said. "Your entire body functions differently, so it’s a big leap of faith to assume that supplementing with HCG will turn your body into a fat-burning furnace." Not only that, but you may be wasting your money. Buying HCG injections isn't cheap, and studies have shown that the same weight-loss effects were seen in patients given a saltwater injection. "[The HCG diet is] manipulating people to give them the sense that they’re receiving something that’s powerful and potent and effective, and in fact, they’re receiving something that’s nothing better than a placebo," Dr. Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, recently explained in The New York Times.
While it may be true that the best answer for weight loss is a sensible diet and exercise plan, the HCG diet is a craze for a reason. Tell us, do warnings about the lack of evidence concerning the diet's safety and effectiveness deter you from trying it, or are you convinced by the HCG diet success stories?
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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Right Way to Strength Train

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Tone the Jelly: 5 Moves Toward Terrific Thighs

The chilly, Winter weather often makes us gravitate toward warm, creamy comfort foods, and baggy, fuzzy sweaters are an easy way to hide the extra poundage in your midsection. Unfortunately, skinny jeans are all the rage making toned thighs the star attraction of wintry fashion. So step it up and incorporate these moves – from easy to difficult – into your gym routine to keep your inner and outer thigh muscles toned up.

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