Currently there are 6 groups of popular weight control methods:
2) Selective diet
4) Herbal products
6) Surgical methods
Let us look closely at each one of them.
There are two types of fasting. One is pure fasting where you do not eat or drink anything except for water for a certain period of time. The period ranges from one week to 15 days. The other fasting method is to take water, vitamins, and some minerals while excluding everything else. Partial fasting may also include some foods. Anyhow, all fasting has the same idea of drastically reducing food intake.
Fasting reduces fat by about 1 lb. (500g) per day. We require quite a bit of energy just to maintain our body temperature and basic biological functions such as pulse and breathing. When there is no food intake, the body takes out the needed energy from the fat previously stored. Therefore, fasting may look like a very effective weight loss method if we just look at short-term weight reduction. However, it is not that simple. Fasting is very difficult and traumatic on you. Also fasting severely curtails your energy levels making it almost impossible to perform daily activities. The most serious side effect of fasting is it often destroys our normal energy metabolism. This destruction works as follows. When you begin to fast your body's metabolism reacts by slowing down and trying to conserve the present fat storage. Even after fasting, your body's basic metabolism does not return to normal for some time. Therefore, after a fast people tend to gain back all the weight lost at even a faster pace because their slow metabolism is not burning off the normal amount of calories. This process can be compared to people who have experienced financial difficulties. They begin to conserve their pennies and save more. Fasting is similar; the body becomes more efficient at saving calories to add on new fat deposits. Almost always the weight lost comes back very quickly. Most of the weight loss achieved during the fasting period comes back within two to three weeks even with normal eating. Remember the body is desperately trying to store energy since it has been fooled into believing there is a lack of food available for consumption. In most cases, obesity levels after fasting are more serious than pre fasting levels. The body's basic metabolism has been altered and it is more prone to adding weight. The capacity to burn calories is severely damaged.
Due to the physical and mental strain of a fast, a serious fast may lead to a serious depression. This state of depression may cause individuals to overeat after fasting. Fasting may also cause permanent damage upon key organs due to the lack of nutrition consumed during the fast. Considering all these points, we do not recommend fasting as a suitable weight loss method.
2) Selective Diet
After fasting, the next weight control method is maintaining a selective diet. That is, eating smaller portions of select things. For example, if the daily intake of calories is reduced to 1000cal, weight can be reduced by 8-10kg in the first month and 15-20kg in the next three months. Two popular examples of this method is the 'Hollywood 18-day diet' and 'The Scarsdale Medical Diet'. Selective diets also include the one food diet. The one-food diets allow you to eat regular to plentiful amounts but only few kinds of food. A few common examples are the 'Emperor's Diet' which allows you to eat only meat or the "Grape Diet" where you can consume as many grapes as you like.
Selective diets should be evaluated using the same guidelines that we use to determine a healthy balanced diet. Thus selective diets are normally deficient in one of two ways. First they cause a disruption in our basic metabolic system, because like fasting they drastically reduce our food intake. The body's reaction is always the same - it slows our metabolism further. This causes future weight gain to be even larger. Second, these selective diets can cause a malnutrition problem because your diet is no longer properly balanced. Eating all the meat that you want may sound appealing to the dieter but it will cause a nutrition imbalance. The body's cells will react to this nutrition imbalance by demanding further food. This will eventually lead to additional eating. We are not suggesting all these selective diets are harmful to you, however, please be careful. They can be very similar to fasting methods and leave permanent changes on your basic metabolism that will lead to long-term weight concerns.
3) Medication (pills and drugs)
Some people use drugs to control their weight. There are drugs which suppress appetite, drugs that act as diuretics, and drugs for many other purposes. When taking any drug you should always be concerned about side effects and dependency.
Here are a few of the most common drug groups that suppress a person's appetite:
1) Catecholamine which are sold under the brand names Phenthermine, Mazindol, Diethylpropion, Phenylpropanolamine. The Catecholamine drug group works by stimulating the 'satisfaction' nerves in our brain or by numbing our 'appetite' nerves. The side effects of this drug group is they raise a person's blood pressure and may cause an irregular pulse.
2) Serotonon which is sold under the brand names DL-fenflurammine, Dexfenflurammine, Fluoxetine, or Fluvoxamine. The Serotonon drug group stimulates the secretion of Serotonin which increases the feeling of fullness. On the average, these drugs tend to decrease meal sizes by 15%. The side effects of this medication are sedation and low blood pressure.
3)PhenFen is also known to reduce appetite. It was very popular in the North America but it has now been shown to have serious side effects on the heart.
There are drugs that act as diuretic agents to stimulate urination. Healthy urination is vital to the body because it secretes all kinds of accumulated wastes out of the system. Urination is the body's cleansing system. Most medicinal herbs contain diuretic ingredients. Diuretics are often used to treat high blood pressure and swellings from high blood pressure and kidney diseases. Also, most diuretic agents are known to have some weight controlling effects. Some diuretic agents produce weight loss by reducing only the amount of water in the body, and some agents remove other things too. It is natural to consider diuretic agents as a method to control weight.
However, there are many kinds of diuretic agents. If too much or the wrong diuretic agents are taken, the body develops certain resistance toward the specific diuretic stimulation. Also, the body starts to depend on diuretic stimulation even for normal urination. Our bodies are known to develop resistance to all chemical diuretic agents. Also, chemical diuretic agents are known to have other serious side effects. Some key nutrients also go out of the body in the diuretic process, occasionally resulting in malnutrition. Therefore, we have to be careful before using diuretic agents for weight control. Weight loss that results from diuretics is mostly temporary water lose, anyway. Weight loss incurred by diuretic agents certainly comes back quickly. However, diuretic agents are very important and valuable tools for many purposes, but can not be relied upon as a means of safe and permanent weight control.
Recently, there have been a few popular drug weight lose products. One of them is called Xenical marketed by Hoffmann-La Roche. Xenical has been a tremendous success of the pharmaceutical industry. It claims to be the first 'non systemic lipase inhibitor'. This means that it prevents the body from absorbing fat. This is a fantastic claim, however it is a new product. We need more time to really evaluate the product. According to Dr. Morton Maxwell at UCLA's Obesity Center, only one third of the users have seen positive effects. It is expensive - $4-5 dollars for a day's dosage. It can cause nausea. Xenical is a prescription drug. We believe that once the body is accustomed to Xenical, the body will become dependent upon Xenical for handling fat. The body's metabolism will also be reduced and the individual will become more obesity prone. As its effects are still short term, we will have to continue to monitor this drug.
Cellasene is another recent commercial success. In some countries, it is not considered a drug. In these countries, it is sold as a dietary supplement. It is made of a few herbs that have a well-known efficacy to help the circulation of the capillaries. One of these herbs is Ginko Biloba. It should be taken three times a day for eight weeks. After this it should be taken one time per day for maintenance. Cellasene claims to tighten up those lose fat parts on the hip and thigh areas. But, it does not control weight. It just tightens up those lose areas. The manufacturer stresses, "you may not lose weight, but you will lose inches". Some doctors who have used it say that it actually does make people lose inches in just four weeks. Side effects such as dry mouth have been reported. This product does not stress weight loss but instead becoming more compact or losing inches.
Well, you will hear about several new kinds of drug products every year. Some of them may be good while most usually have long term side effects. Later in this booklet, we explain some guidelines to determine which of these 'wonder drugs' and 'miracle treatments' are truly sensible weight loss methods.
4) Herbal Products and Dietary Supplements
Recently, various Chinese herbal medicines have been introduced to western countries. Chinese herbal medicines claim to be different from western pharmaceutical drugs. They claim to work on the whole human body. Thus their goal is to improve a person's general health while treating obesity. Many Chinese herbal medicines claim that they are free from side effects because they are made from natural plants.
We agree with the goals of Chinese herbal medicine. A person's general metabolic condition must be improved if we are to properly treat obesity. This requires a whole body approach. However, we emphasize that all the claims of these Chinese herbal medicines should be reviewed carefully. For example, being 'natural' itself does not guarantee safety. There are many natural substances that are quite dangerous. Also when a product is produced in China there is a concern about the lack of quality control. One should investigate 1) whether any herbs are contaminated by herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers 2) whether the Chinese herbal medicine was manufactured under the correct environment and scientific controls and 3) whether the herbs listed are truly what is being provided. One extreme example is that a small percentage of Chinese medicinal herbs have been shown to contain traces of herbs such as Mahuang (Ephedra). Mahuang is known to be a strong narcotic.
Some Chinese herbal medicines used for weight control contain the aforementioned Mahuang and other herbs whose narcotic ingredients heighten metabolism. Increased metabolism stimulated by narcotic agents will surely lead to weight reduction. But, this is obviously not a healthy method of weight control.
Some countries put these herbal medicines on their black lists. The side effects can be quite severe for example they may cause permanent kidney and liver damage. It is wrong to believe that something is 'safe' because people say that the product is 'natural'.
Another group of herbal products, which deserve comments are 'thermogenic' products which are based on herbal extracts such as Guggulipid, Fucus, Cola Nut, and Ginger. The name 'thermogenic' stands for the herb's ability to raise body temperature. The way these herbal products work is by changing how the thyroid gland works. We have indicated already that changing the hormonal balance of a person in general may be dangerous. Even though this particular hormonal change was not yet extensively studied, changing how this thyroid functions may have very serious long-term side effects. The brand names of this 'thermogenic'group are Thyrolean, TLN, Natural Balance, Reduce 7 in 1, and Metabolean.
Other herbal products and dietary supplements have some weight control effects, simply because they block the digestion process. Some work because they induce diarrhea and others induce constipation. Some make food expand inside the stomach. Some claim that they assist the coagulation of fats and then these fats leave the body. All of these products have side effects. As long as these products fail to address the basic metabolic problem (the vicious cycle of obesity), these products effect will only be temporary. Temporary effects but your body may be exposed to several dangerous side effects.
5) Weight Loss Machines
Steam sauna boxes, motorized massage machines, electronic muscle stimulating machines, etc. are constantly being promoted on TV's shopping channels. Again, fancy names are very common - the Fitsizers, Enercisers, Abbusters, Metabosizers are just a few. These products' promises are also common: "5 minutes a day, will loss you 10 pounds a month". If these machines would actually build up your muscle mass then they might really burn off the fat they promised. The increased muscle cells will demand additional blood sugar fuel, this will reduce a person's fat level as long as they maintain a steady diet.
However "5 minutes a day" will never create enough new muscle mass to reduce "10 pounds a month". Increasing your muscle mass does not happen this easily. Metabolism changes do not happen like that, either. Tummies do not go away in 5 minutes either. We do not wish to discourage anyone from exercising, even if it is just 5 minutes per day. Some of these products can be quite helpful. We recommend those machines which actually allow smooth and well regulated aerobic exercises (bike machines, treadmills, cross-country ski machines). Remember, as with all exercise programs, you must approach them in a positive and consistent manner. Or else, your exercise machines will being to collect dust and be a worthless piece of equipment.
6) Surgical Procedures
We feel strongly that nothing positive can be said about surgical procedures. They can be extremely damaging to your body in the long run. In sum, they are also expensive, painful and permanently harmful. Having indicated our opinion, let's describe briefly some of your surgical options:
1) Vertical Section of Stomach: This operation makes the stomach smaller by cutting the stomach vertically.
2) Stomach Stapling: The stomach and the upper intestines are stapled together to prevent the absorption of nutrients in the small intestines.
3) Jaw Wiring: This operation makes food intake more difficult by binding up the chin and allowing food intake only through a straw.
4) Liposuction: Suction of the body fat using a thin tube. Of the surgical methods, this is most popular because in theory the problematic fat areas can be removed separately, and instantly.
Once again, our biggest problem with these surgical procedures is they do not address the metabolic problem. Stapling and making the stomach smaller is a very harsh reaction to stopping overeating. So is jar wiring. Over time the stomach expands as the body craves more fuel and nutrients as it is being staved by this restrictive diet. The surgeons understand this but hope that the person loses a great deal of weight in the initial weeks. We have already described how dangerous liposuction can be. These surgical methods should only be used for extreme cases.
Criteria for Judging Sensible Weight Control Methods
As the obesity problem is a global problem, we will hear about many novel weight control methods. We must always be in a position to know how to evaluate these methods. In this section, we introduce a few criteria to properly evaluate these methods.
We should not chose a weight control method by looking at just one criteria - weight loss. We must be informed and evaluate all methods by several key criteria. The true objective of weight control is recovering a healthy body metabolism as this will lead to weight loss and looking and feeling better. Weight loss is just a measurement one small indicator of how we are progressing toward this objective. If we keep this in perspective, then it is possible to make the right weight loss choice. Generally, a sensible weight control method should meet the following seven requirements.
- Whole Body Approach - The method should be effective on the whole body, as opposed to concentrating on only a few parts. In other words, if some methods promise that certain parts of our body only will be affected, we should be more skeptical. Side effects are more likely as the method focuses on one region. Obesity is a problem that effects a person's whole body and so the solution must address the whole body. If it only addresses a certain area of the body you should expect a limited or temporary weight loss effect.
- Basic Metabolic Normalization - They should improve and normalize the body's overall basic metabolism. This is the central theme of this booklet. Otherwise, the method is considered cosmetic or plain harmful to the long-term health of the individual.
- Pain & Effect on Outlook - The method should be low in pain. There is no reason why for most people this problem needs to be treated in a manner that involves a great deal of pain. The Method should not cause depression or have a large negative effect on the person's outlook.
- Lack of Side Effects - There should be no side effects. The method should be safe. Toxicity and other contaminants like herbicides, insecticides and chemical fertilizers should be monitored closely. Remember even if it is a natural product it may not be safe.
- No Resistance or Dependence - The method should not cause either resistance or dependence to be developed. We should avoid all methods which induce the body to become dependent upon something unnatural on a permanent basis. In the above sections, we gave a few examples of these drug dependent situations. In obesity cases, when a person's metabolism becomes dependent upon a drug, this leaves the body permanently in need of this drug. As the body, in turn, becomes more resistant to this drug the person begins to need additional quantities. For example, if the diuretic agents are used too much, such a vital biological function as urination becomes dependent upon a drug. The long-term consequences of the unnecessary dependence can be quite severe.
- Long-Term in Nature - The methods should result in long-term weight loss and control. Once some weight is lost, it should stay lost at least for a long time and hopefully permanently. Short-term fluctuation of weight is not healthy. Sensible weight control methods should enhance the level of metabolism to a higher state, then, the weight control effects will stay for the long term. Otherwise, weight control effects are short-lived.
- Convenience - The method should be relatively easy to acquire and use.
We believe that there are sensible weight control methods that meet all the above seven criteria.
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