In a season filled with ham, mashed potatoes, cookies, and banana nut bread people might want to watch what they put in their mouths. America is becoming increasingly fat, and some of the diets people are choosing to help them lose weight are not what they seem.
Obesity is a rising problem in the United States. Americans are overweight and fad diets are taking over. The low carbohydrate diet that so many people are trying might not be the healthiest choice. The best bet? Wager fewer calories and put your money on exercise.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2001 more than 44 million Americans are considered obese; that is almost double the population of Iraq. So what are people doing about it? They are trying every diet possible; they are trying fad diets.
Meaghan Stankey, OU student who tried the low carbohydrate fad diet, said you will lose weight, but the diet will not work overall.
“You will lose a lot of weight, but it won’t work in the long run because the change in foods is too dramatic,” Stankey said.
Since 1991 obesity in adults has increased by almost 60 percent according to the CDC. Dr. Gerald Zumwalt, private practice M.D., said that at least 50 percent of the adult patients he treats are overweight, and probably 30 percent are obese. Americans can see that they are becoming increasingly overweight and that their health may be in jeopardy.
Weight Loss International, http://weightlossinternational.com/newsletter/obesity-in-america-statistics.html, said that being overweight or obese increases a person’s risk of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and some types of cancer. Lindsay McVay, Nutritional Sciences senior at OU, added such conditions as dyslipidemia, coronary artery disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and respiratory problems.
Americans are trying to lose weight as they become aware of the health risks of obesity, but the diets they are using possibly aren’t the healthiest way to shed pounds.
The American Heart Association said that quick-weight-loss diets usually overemphasize one particular food or type of food. This can be very unhealthy because the best thing to do is eat a balanced diet of different foods.
A very popular fad diet today is the low carbohydrate diet. This diet consists of eating very limited amounts or no carbohydrates, which leads to eating a lot of meat and cheese.
The Dole Nutrition Institute found that the low carb diet is not a healthy way to go about losing weight. Some health risks that the DNI found with the low carb diet include high cholesterol, constipation, kidney stones, increased risk of heart disease, and increased risk of some kinds cancer.
“The main problem with the low carb diet is that it is high in fats, which contribute to atherosclerosis- hardening of the arties, and high in proteins which is potentially a liver problem,” said Dr. Zumwalt. “The other problem is lack of attractiveness, who wants to live without bread and sugar? This results in people sliding back into their old diets.”
Even with all the known health risks of the low carb diet, Americans are still trying it. The “Dole Pole”, from the DNI, found that 36 percent of Americans said they are willing to take the chance of health risks associated with the low carb diet if there is a chance to lose some weight.
“The first day I was on the diet I was fine, the second day I couldn’t work out because I had no energy, and the third and fourth day I could barely move and had bad headaches,” said Stankey. “Eventually I passed out and had to stop participating in the diet.”
While many Americans are giving in to the fad diets some are not buying it. The “Dole Pole” also found that half of Americans have said that no amount of weight loss from a low carb diet is worth the potential health risks.
“The problem with any fad diet is that the person becomes bored with the diet, and resumes old eating habits. This results in yo-yoing of weight which is even more life threatening than the original overweight,” Zumwalt said.
In a 2004 September press release from the DNI, Jennifer Grossman, director of the DNI, said that they have turned a corner in public awareness of fad dieting.
“The more people learn about low carb health risks, the less appetite they have for such dangerous fad diets,” Grossman said in the release.
Since the low carb diet has become so popular many restaurants are participating, and putting low carb options on their menus.
“We decided to put low carb choices on the menu because all of our competitors were coming out with low carb menus, and we were trying to keep up with the low carb Atkins popularity,” Callie Gresham, a waitress at Chili’s restaurant, said.
While Chili’s is offering the low carb menu, Gresham said only about 15 percent of the people she waits on order from the low carb menu.
“The menu isn’t very popular, and the people that order from it aren’t overweight. The obese people always order the stuff that is really bad for you,” Gresham said.
There are healthier and more effective ways than fad dieting to lose weight Zumwalt said. Weight gain is a simple equation of energy out versus calories in. The healthiest way to lose weight is to reduce calories and increase exercise Zumwalt said.
“Not only is this the best way, it is the way that will keep weight off since the habits formed in this manner will continue to be part of a lifestyle,” Zumwalt said.
Lifestyle seems to be the biggest factor among weight gain and obesity. The CDC said the biggest factors in causing people to become obese and overweight is behavior and environment. McVay said she definitely thinks lifestyle plays a big factor in the rise in obesity.
“There are so many conveniences now such as fast food, cars to drive in for transportation, etc.,” McVay said.
McVay also said that the skewed image of portion sizes plays a big role. Most people eat out now rather than eating at home and the portion sizes at restaurants and fast food places are huge McVay said.
“At fast food places you can just pay an extra 10 cents to super size your meal, and most people do that,” McVay said.
Gresham also mentioned portion sizes as a problem. Chili’s portion sizes are almost twice as much as they should be Gresham said.
Being overweight and obese is also a factor among children. It poses potential health risks to them as well.
McVay stressed Type Two Diabetes, saying that this health risk is on the rise among obese children. McVay said that Type Two did not use to be common among children, it was mainly a disease that affected obese adults, but recently more and more cases are seen in obese children.
Dr. Zumwalt thinks that parents play a major role in the health and weight of their children. He said that parents have always dished up too much food and then insisted on a clean “happy” plate.
“Just as parents should teach their offspring morals, they should also instruct them in proper eating habits,” Zumwalt said.
The CDC reported that obesity among children has tripled since 1980. McVay said that a lot of people are afraid that obese children will become obese adults and stay that way for the rest of their lives.
Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, director of the CDC, said in a story from the Mayo Clinic Health Oasis on CNN.com in October 2000, that physical inactivity and being overweight account for more than 300,000 premature deaths annually in the U.S.
“I think it is a serious problem because we are seeing the health risks associated with obesity and more and more of our population is becoming obese,” McVay said.
Zumwalt said the best way to lose weight and fight obesity without fad diet health risks is to continue to eat a well balanced variety of foods incorporating all of the food groups but in smaller quantities.
“This diet insures that the essential vitamins, minerals, etc. are supplied, and it is also a diet that can be continued for a lifetime,” Zumwalt said.
To fight obesity and keep the weight off, fad diets, such as the low carb diet, don’t provide the best answer. So bet on eating healthy with a well balanced diet of foods, along with exercise, and it will bring in the best results.