Losing weight isn’t easy, and some people will do almost anything to get down to their ideal body weight, including adopting practices harmful to their health. As a 2015 study points out, people look for quick-fix solutions to weight control and are willing to tolerate the risks just to get to their ideal body weight. The number one rule of weight loss is to do it in a safe, sustainable, and healthy manner. Here are six weight loss practices to avoid.
Believe it or not, some people sip laxative teas in hopes of a fast slim down. Celebrities who claim to keep their own figures slim by sipping these concoctions are fueling the trend. What’s in them and do they help with weight control?
An ingredient in some laxative teas is senna, an herb and stimulant laxative, that irritates the lining of the bowel wall. This irritation causes walls of the large intestines to contract spasmodically and move waste out of the intestines. Some laxatives contain senna, but these products warn you not to use a stimulant laxative for over three days. If you use a stimulant laxative for a long time, your intestines become “lazy” and deconditioned, leading to chronic constipation. Plus, laxative teas cause loss of fluid and electrolytes, and using them can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
How effective are these teas? Laxative teas lead to fluid loss, not fat loss. Any weight that you lose will be water weight or waste that’s accumulated in your colon. Not to mention, a common side effect of teas and laxatives that contain senna is abdominal cramping.
Overdoing the Cardio For Weight Loss
Some people approach weight loss by trying to exercise off the extra pounds of body weight. To achieve this goal, they do hours of cardio hoping to maximize calorie burn. However, hours of cardio eventually take its toll on your motivation and energy level. Plus, if you rack up too many hours of cardio, it can trigger a rise in the stress hormone cortisol. Chronically elevated cortisol isn’t healthy, and it has a negative impact on your body composition. Elevated cortisol triggers muscle breakdown and fat redistribution with a shift of body fat toward the tummy and midsection. Plus, cortisol reduces insulin sensitivity, creating metabolic issues.
Exercise is essential for maintaining a healthy body composition when you’re losing weight. Moderate exercise can prevent excessive loss of muscle. However, you need a balanced exercise routine that includes strength training. Working your muscles against resistance helps prevent muscle loss. It’s body composition that matters, not the number on the scale. Overdoing the cardio will not help you get or maintain a healthy body composition. At worst, it can lead to chronically elevated cortisol that is harmful to your immune system and to the health of your bones.
Weight Loss Supplements
There’s no shortage of ads for weight loss supplements with compelling promises and testimonials. Many include impressive before and after photos to motivate you to buy. According to the FDA, weight loss supplements are the riskiest form of supplement from a health standpoint. For example, the FDA points out that some “natural” weight loss products contain prescription weight loss medications, including ones linked with heart problems. These products are marketed using compelling language, like “breakthrough weight loss,” and may use endorsement by celebrities and social media influencers. Some of these products contain ingredients never tested in human studies. It’s not worth jeopardizing your long-term health to lose weight. Just say no to quick fixes in a bottle.
Obsessively Counting Calories
Obsessive calorie counting isn’t healthy or sustainable. Of course, you shouldn’t throw caution to the wind and eat whatever you want but obsessing over each calorie you take in won’t serve you well in the long run. For one, calorie tracking creates stress, and for some, it can turn into an obsession. Also, ask yourself whether you plan on counting each calorie from now on. Remember, the changes you make must be sustainable!
Most people can track their calories short term but will eventually become frustrated and quit. Think beyond diet to lifestyle A better approach is to focus on the quality of what you eat. When you choose whole, fiber-rich foods and lean sources of protein and eat mindfully, the calories will take care of themselves.
Using Cleanses or Detoxes For Weight Loss
Laxative teas are one type of detox program that’s popular, but there are others, including a popular one promoted by a celebrity that combined lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne. Can you imagine yourself drinking that concoction every day? Detoxes and cleanses may help you transiently lose weight, mostly water weight because they contain so few calories and you’re using them as a substitute for real food. But what happens when you stop? The pounds come right back on and you’re back to square one. Such gimmicks don’t teach you the basics of healthy eating. If you use them long enough, you’ll also lose lean body tissue too.
Also, the whole idea that these cleanses detoxify is misguided. Your liver and kidneys are much more capable of removing toxins than a fad detox cleanse. The key is to support these hardworking organs with whole foods and skip the ultra-processed junk and liver toxins, like alcohol. If you make detoxes and cleanses a large part of your diet, you could end up with nutritional deficiencies.
Focusing on a Few Foods For Weight Loss
Many fad diets promote a single food or a narrow group of foods. For example, the cabbage soup diet recommends that people consume large quantities of cabbage soup. As healthy as cabbage is, cabbage soup alone doesn’t provide the full spectrum of nutrients your body needs. Consuming a narrow range of foods can lead to nutritional deficiencies and, again, sustainability is an issue. Can you see yourself eating cabbage soup every day from now on?
The Bottom Line
Skip the “quick fixes” and focus on healthy habits you can sustain. Real change must be sustainable and something you can see yourself doing for a lifetime. Most of the gimmicks have a profit motive and are something you shouldn’t buy into. Make smart dietary choices and skip the cleanses, teas, restrictive dieting, and any other extreme approach to losing weight.
· U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Beware of Products Promising Miracle Weight Loss”
· Clin Med Insights Endocrinol Diabetes. 2015; 8: 7–11.