Unhealthy side of fad diets

April 3, 2011 

Who says you can't have your cake and eat your way to a smaller waist, too?

MultiCare dietitian Claire Kjeld has invented a sure-fire – not to mention delicious – diet guaranteed to help you lose weight.

Here’s how it works: You consume nothing but the prescribed amount of cake and coffee each day and then you get skinny.

The catch: You won’t get enough protein, fiber or healthy fats.

You’ll also get way too much sugar, you’re muscles are bound to shrink, and you’re metabolism will likely be knocked out of whack.

“Pick and choose anything and as long as you make sure you are in a deficit (eating fewer calories than you burn), you are going to lose weight,” Kjeld said. “That’s the money side of these diets.”

A handful of readers have asked in recent weeks about the hCG diet, a diet that has produced dramatic results in many people who’ve tried it. So I asked a couple of South Sound dietitians for their thoughts.

In a nutshell, they think it makes as much sense as the Cake and Coffee Diet.

The diet requires participants to take doses of the human chorionic gonadotropin hormone (hCG) and live on a diet of as little as 500 calories per day.

Most people need to consume 2,000 or more calories per day.

“HCG injections are not approved for weight loss treatment in the U.S.,” Kjeld said. “Scientific studies have demonstrated that hCG injections do not cause weight loss, and regulatory actions by the Federal Trade Commission and Food and Drug Administration have curbed their use in the United States. ... The weight loss outcome from the hCG diet is from the very low calorie diet, not the hCG.”

Lisa Lovejoy, a registered dietitian at Fircrest’s Innovative Fitness, says super-low-calorie diets are hard to stick with and aren’t healthy.

“It is impossible to get the nutrients you need when you are eating so few calories,” Lovejoy said.

Kjeld adds, “The diet will most likely result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Although weight loss will occur on this diet, much of the weight will come from body muscle, which is counter-productive. We know that muscle mass is correlated with metabolic rate. Less muscle equals slower metabolism. Weight regain is very likely once the diet is discontinued, with the negative outcome of decreased muscle mass and a slower metabolism.”

Both dietitians say if you need to lose weight, you’re better off doing it without a fad diet.

“Exercise and a healthy diet with whole foods,” Lovejoy said. “You need to make changes you can actually stick with to have a healthy lifestyle.”


The Pound For Pound Challenge – pfpchallenge.org – is offering motivation to help people lose weight.

The challenge will donate a pound of food to food banks for every pound you pledge to lose.

According to Samantha Klein, a spokeswoman for challenge sponsor General Mills, the donations will go to designated food banks closest to the zip code of the person making the pledge.

“The Challenge really is a great motivator that can help dieters stay accountable to their health goals,” Klein said via email.

So far, Washington state residents have pledged to lose more than 110,000 pounds, and are the fifth-ranked state. Washington D.C. leads the competition.

Participants can sign up until May 31.


A club called Friends of Capitol Forest is organizing mountain bike rides and volunteer work in the Thurston County forest.

The club is offering beginner rides every Monday and Wednesday nights at 6 and longer rides on Saturday mornings at 10. On the first Saturday of each month, the club meets at 9 a.m. and does volunteer trail work (tools provided) before they ride.

For more information, contact David Snyder at davidsride@yahoo.com.


My eight-week effort to drop 10 pounds is winding down and I’ve found scraping off the last couple of pounds to be quite a challenge. Check out the blog at blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure to read about the journey as well as profiles of local people who’ve had success losing weight.

Craig Hill’s fitness column runs Sundays. Submit questions and comments via craig.hill@thenewstribune.com, facebook.com/adventureguys or twitter.com/adventureguys. Get more fitness coverage at blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure and thenewstribune.com/fitness.

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