Each year, the top New Year’s resolution is to “lose weight.” And the usual way to do this is to “go on a diet.” Let’s make “ditch dieting” the top 2015 resolution! Last year, at this time I wrote about diet quick fixes as part of my mind-body Think Healthy Lifestyle series. And again, I’m dedicating another blog to the topic because so many people are asking me about cleanses, supplements and other diet quick fixes.
Mind-Body Healthy Lifestyle
Let’s start with my simple mind-body healthy lifestyle equation: energy = food + fitness + sleep as being your best long-term weight management strategy. Why else do you think there are about a million diets on the market? Quick fix after quick fix comes out with the same promises, yet there is no quick fix or perfect diet. Diets are a short-term fix at best. Now, let’s debunk three diet crazes I’m tired of hearing about…
When I think about cleanses, I compare them to buying lottery tickets. If you’re expecting a onetime event like winning a lottery for financial stability – that’s not a reliable long-term strategy. The same with cleanses, if you’re relying on a cleanse to compensate and fix poor dietary habits, again not the best long-term solution!
Cleansing diets are advertised to flush the body of toxins, improve bowel health by increasing healthy intestinal bacteria, reduce risk of colon cancer, and promote significant weight loss. The problem is credible scientific evidence to verify any of these benefits claimed about cleansing don’t actually exist (1). Plus, there are the negative side effects associated with it. The harmful side effects can include cramping, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and dizziness (2), plus disruption of your gut microbiome. Who wants to put their body through that? Think long-term and take care of your body, so you don’t need to think about spending the money or time on cleanses.
What about the Alkaline Diet?
I always find it fascinating when I’m at a meeting, an appointment or a social event and I hear people explain the next miracle food or diet. The most recent one that intrigued me (as a scientist) was a former real estate agent, now selling a water apparatus and supplements to support the Alkaline Diet theory. I was solicited by her aggressive close the deal in 20 seconds sales approach on the miraculous, silver-bullet benefits of this diet, while I was getting a manicure. Not impressed! Advocates of the Alkaline Diet have put forth different theories about how acidic foods can harm our health resulting with increased risk for chronic disease such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes (3).
The more ridiculous claim is that we can change the pH of our blood by changing the foods we eat, and that acidic blood causes disease while alkaline blood prevents it. This is incorrect. The body tightly regulates the pH of our blood and extracellular fluid, and we cannot influence our blood pH by simply changing our diet. Just think of all that mental energy you’re using to identify if the foods are acidic or alkaline…and how could your time and energy be better spent!
What the Heck is Garcinia Cambogia and Does it Work?
Dieters are buzzing about the extract from this tropical fruit. The proclaimed weight loss supplement Garcinia Cambogia contains hydroxycitric acid (HCA), which is a compound believed to help with weight loss by decreasing appetite (4). Does it live up to its hype? Maybe a little, but it’s not worth it. Actual weight loss results aren’t impressive. Multiple studies have shown minimal or no significant difference in weight loss between participants taking the supplement and participants taking a placebo (4, 5). It’s promoted to people with diabetes; however, there is inclusive data that Garcinia Cambogia makes it easier for the body to use glucose.
In addition, many side effects of Garcinia Cambogia have been reported by dieters. They include dizziness; dry mouth; headaches; upset stomach and diarrhea. Plus, Garcinia Cambogia may interact badly with diabetes and lipid medications. Further research needs to be conducted regarding the effectiveness of this supplement for weight loss, blood sugar control and other health benefits. And whether there are long-term side effects associated with it. Since study results are mixed, you’re probably wiser to spend your money on learning how to cook healthy meals!
The on-again, off-again nature of diet quick fixes sets you up for an all-or-nothing mindset. This type of thinking and unhealthy behaviour is an expensive, stressful and complicated form of managing the weight loss. It’s a journey that fails to acknowledge the importance of lifestyle changes including healthy habits (with food, fitness and sleep) plus coping mechanisms to minimize emotional eating behaviours. A truly healthy life with a long-term plan for a nutrition (learn how to cook!), fitness (pick activities you enjoy!) and sleep (aim for 8 hours of restful sleep!) strategy allows for all the foods you enjoy in moderation.
- Acosta RD, Cash BD. Clinical effects of colonic cleansing for general health promotion: A systematic review. Am J Gastroenterol. 2009 [cited 2015 January 19]; 104(11): 2830-2836.
- Dietitians of Canada. Information on cleansing diets. Resources. 2013 [cited 2015 January 19]. Available from http://www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Gastro-Intestinal/Cleansing-Diets.aspx
- Zhang L, Curan GC, Forman JP. Diet-dependant net acid load and risk of incident hypertension in United States women. Hypertension. 2009 [cited 2015 January 19]; 54(4):751-5.
- Soni MG, Burdock GA, Preuss HG, Stohs SJ, Ohia SE, Bagchi D. Safety assessment of (-)-hydroxycitric acid and Super CitriMax, a novel calcium/potassium salt. Food Chem Toxicol. 2004 [cited 2015 January 20]; 42(9):1513-1529.
- Kovacs EM, Westerterp-Plantenga MS, de Vries M, Brouns F, Saris WH. Effects of 2-week ingestion of (-)-hydroxycitrate and (-)-hydroxycitrate combined with medium-chain tryglycerides on satiety and food intake. Physiol Behav. 2001 [cited 2015 January 20]; 74(4-5):543-549.