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The dangers of popular diets



An increasing number of diets are promoted in Quebec. At first sight, many seem appealing, but they are in fact unhealthy. Be aware that every time you see a quick fix that includes the word ”diet”, you should be suspicious. There are three typical signs indicating that a diet can be harmful to your health:

1- The diet is universal and supposedly fit for everybody;

2- There is no mention of the importance of being active and exercising;

3- The suggested caloric intake is lower than the requirements of the basal metabolism (which can be harmful to your health).

In some cases, a restrictive formula that is supposed to work for anybody is suggested. These diets impose an identical caloric deficit for everybody, regardless of differences such as age, sex, weight, level of daily physical activity, and basal metabolism. This approach is neither desirable nor realistic, because each individual has a particular lifestyle and a unique genetic composition, two factors that have to be taken into consideration to achieve a lasting and healthy weight loss.

Be wary of diets that do not mention the importance of physical activity in the weight loss process. A program that focuses only on the daily caloric intake cannot be maintained on the long term. Regular physical activity is a decisive factor for those who want to lose weight without gaining it back. Although cardiovascular activity stimulates caloric expenditure, the development of muscles will insure that most of the lost weight will be fat. It is essential to avoid using muscle mass as a source of energy. Therefore, physical activity, including weight lifting, is an essential part of weight loss.

Likewise, if a diet doesn’t consider the activity of your basal metabolism (the quantity of calories that your body uses when you are doing nothing else than living), consider this a bad sign. Determining the level of your basal metabolism is essential, because a diet that prevents you from ingesting enough calories to meet your basic needs (breathing, thinking, making your heart beat and other such survival functions of the organism) can create adverse effects such as a loss of energy, tiredness and nutritional deficiencies. Eating less than the requirements of your basal metabolism could eventually lower it.

The reason for this is that the organism will get used to functioning with fewer calories and will begin storing them as fat, anticipating a future period of starvation. The basal metabolism will then be decreased even more through the loss of muscular mass caused by the insufficient caloric intake. This explains how these diets can cause a rapid, but temporary loss of weight, because they do not target fat cells exclusively. These attempts invariably end with all the extra pounds coming back as soon as the diet is over. This physical phenomenon, commonly referred to as he ”yo-yo” syndrome, is responsible for a variety of inconveniences in its victims.

The combination of healthy eating habits and regular physical activity is an effective strategy for reaching a healthy weight or beginning a weight loss program. For all these reasons, you should be wary of the different diets offered, and most of all, use your judgment. You will avoid nasty surprises that could be harmful to your health on the long term. Be careful!


By Karine Larose

Karine Larose, M.Sc.

Karine Larose is a kinesiologist, Director of Marketing and Communications and Spokesperson for Nautilus Plus who specializes in fitness motivation. She authored The Guide to Healthier Living, penned the book 10-4 The Healthy Way to Lose 10 Pounds in 4 Weeks and released her third work called Zero Diet: Delicious and Healthy Recipes for Success, all by Les Éditions du TRÉCARRÉ. Karine has launched a series of exercise DVDs entitled 30 minutes par jour pour Vivre Plus and is featured on the ULTIME FIT online platform. Many TV shows and radio stations regularly request Karine’s point of view on physical exercise issues and points of interest.

The dangers of popular dietsis a post from I'm taking charge. I'm taking charge is a blog that aims to help people in their journey to fitness through articles on training, nutrition, motivation, exercise and healthy recipes.
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