This last point highlights one of the main problems of dieting. It is no use going on strict diets to lose weight if at the end you go back to the eating habits which caused the obesity in the first place. It may be better to cut out just a few things, such as sugar in your coffee or a dessert after dinner, and try to stick to this for good. Your weigt loss may be slow but at least it will be steady and persistent. Studies show that most people who go on ‘crash’ diets may initially lose weight quickly but they simply end up putting the fat back on again.
Crash diets – good or bad?
Crash diets usually result in rapid weight loss, mostly in the first week to ten days. However the loss in this period is mostly not fat but water. Your body keeps an emergency supply of energy in the form of glycogen (animal starch). Every unit of glycogen is linked to three units of water; when the glycogen is used the water is lost from the body as well. Only after the water-loss period do you start to lose fat. (Do not be despondent, therefore , if on your sensible reducing diet your weight loss slows down rapidly after the first week. You will still lose weight if you keep to your diet). On a crash diet it can be harmful to consume less than 800 Calories per day since your muscles start to waste and you can become irritable, light-headed and bad-tempered, and your mental faculties can become impaired. It is therefore inadvisable to go on a crash diet if exams are coming up. Two weeks is long enough on any crash diet before reverting to the 1,200 Calories per day diet, otherwise you start depriving the body of vital proteins, vitamins and minerals. And anyone contem-plating a crash diet should first consult his or her doctor. Not eating at all for a while is also not recommended because it eventually uses up lean tissues without affecting fat tissues, actually increasing the fat-to-lean ratio (the opposite of what was intended).
There have been a number of aids to slimming on the market, such as appetite depressants, slimming tablets, ‘starch-blocker’ pills (which prevent the digestion of starch) and high-protein powders. Scientific evidence has suggested that most of these aids are a waste of money and could even be harmful; any beneficial effects they may have are thought to be primarily psychological. Better psychological support can be provided by joining a slimming group, such as Weight Watchers. Gadgets supposed to ‘massage’ off excess fat are also of no use purely as a slimming aid, and neither are so-called ‘reducing creams’. You can lose weight by taking laxatives, drugs which move food faster through the bowels. But this causes artificial diarrhoea and, because it prevents food from being properly assimilated, it is an extremely un-healthy way of attempting to lose weight. Also, diuretics – which increase the output of urine – and water-avoiding diets or visiting saunas to get rid of water, and hence weight, are not advisable. You simply drink the water again when you are thirsty -which you should do, because thirst is the body’s way of telling you it needs water.
The last resort
Unfortunately, some people who slim down to their ideal ‘healthy’ weight still seem to have excess fat in some places. You may have normal hips and legs but fat arms and shoulders or vice versa. Such tendencies often run in families but it is not known why some people have this pattern of fat distribution. In severe cases the only treatment is cosmetic surgery, in which the fat is simply sliced away, or dissolved by injections of lipolytic enzymes and then literally sucked out using a special tube. Unfortunately the fat is likely to return within a couple of years.
In grossly obese people who want to slim but fail to respond to any form of diet, a reduction in weight can be achieved by reducing the capacity of the digestive system with an operation to by-pass part of the small intestine or part or all of the stomach. This is really a last resort. Other unpleasant methods involve jaw-wiring so only liquids can be taken, and inserting a ‘balloon’ in the stomach to reduce its capacity.
Sudden weight gain
If you suddenly put on a lot of weight for no apparent reason, you should see a doctor because there may be an underlying illness causing the increase. But before seeking medical advice, think whether your lifestyle has changed recently. If you have started taking sugar in your coffee or tea, or taking less exercise, or simply sitting at a desk longer, this may be why you have put on weight. Many women find that they gradually put on weight after the menopause.