There are thousands of medications that help people live healthier longer, but unfortunately, there is no magic pill for weight loss. Instead, your weight depends on the number of calories you eat and drink, how many of those calories you store, and how many you use. Quite simply, if you consume more calories than you expend, you’ll gain weight.
Many diets try to crack the code for weight loss. But unfortunately, some aren’t sustainable long-term, while others are downright dangerous.
Do Fad Diets Work?
You probably know someone who’s following a fad diet, and they’ve probably lost some weight. But restrictive diets are hard to follow forever, and sticking to an eating plan that’s unbalanced can cause health issues.
“Most fad diets have some aspects that work and provide results but not every plan that helps you lose weight is healthy,” explains Seun Sowemimo, MD, Director of Bariatric Surgery at the Bariatric Center at CentraState Medical Center. Here are some of the fad diets you should avoid if you are looking for long-term weight loss success.
Ketogenic (Keto) Diet
The ketogenic or “keto” diet can be dangerous, according to Dr. Seun. This low-carbohydrate, high-protein eating plan forces your body into using ketones (a type of fuel that the liver produces from stored fat) instead of the sugar (glucose) that comes from carbohydrates.
“The keto diet puts your body in a perpetual fat-burning state called ketosis,” says Dr. Seun. “But eating primarily proteins, including a lot of red meat and bacon, means you’re eating too much saturated fat.”
The risks of a keto lifestyle include high cholesterol, clogged coronary arteries, kidney disease, electrolyte imbalance, non-cancerous growths and even cancer.
While drinking fruit and vegetable juice may seem like a healthy weight-loss solution, Dr. Seun also cautions against juice cleanses. While you likely consume far fewer calories a day on a juice cleanse, by not eating whole fruit—the skin and pulp, too—you’re missing out on fiber.
“Whole fruit includes fiber, which can help you feel fuller longer,” he explains. “Drinking juice—pure sugar—will not fill you up, but eating fruit will. Unfortunately, drinking juice is just as bad as drinking a can of soda.”
So, What Does Work?
Whether it’s the potentially monotonous cabbage soup diet or one that relies on prepackaged, processed foods, fad diets may offer quick weight loss, but the gains aren’t sustainable over time.
“Long-term, maintainable weight loss requires a multi-pronged approach. This includes exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet that is low in calories, animal proteins, and processed foods, and rich in whole fruits, vegetables, and whole grains,” says Dr. Seun.
Weight-loss surgery can help people who are severely overweight lose weight gradually and keep it off. It also can reduce or even eliminate the health risks associated with obesity. The two most popular procedures are gastric bypass surgery and gastric sleeve surgery. During gastric bypass surgery, surgeons reconfigure the stomach and small intestine to reduce the amount of food patients can eat and digest. In gastric sleeve surgery, the size of the stomach is reduced to a smaller banana shape, which limits food intake and cuts down the production of the hormone that causes hunger.
With these procedures, patients require less food to feel full. In addition, weight-loss surgery creates a metabolic effect, whereby gastric hormones drive weight loss.
“Paired with a healthy diet and lifestyle, bariatric procedures help patients lose weight by making them feel full on only a small amount of food,” says Dr. Seun.
To be eligible for weight-loss surgery, you must have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 40 (about 100 pounds over ideal weight) or a BMI of 35 or higher with complications related to obesity, such as high blood pressure or sleep apnea. In addition, the ideal candidate should be motivated to lose weight, committed to changing their lifestyle, and understand the risks and benefits of surgery. Attending a support group and working with a nutritionist helps patients stay motivated.