The first rule of a successful weight-loss program is that there is no quick-fix solution. With any new fitness regime, it may take time before you see significant results.
More importantly, a complicated or high-intensity program does not necessarily mean you’ll lose more weight in a shorter period of time. In fact, changing one’s lifestyle drastically could actually do more harm than good – our bodies may react adversely to sudden changes within a short period of time. It’s also important to understand that each individual’s metabolism, or the rate at which our bodies break down glucose into energy, varies greatly from person to person. So there’s no one-size-fits-all diet or exercise plan.
But as you’ll notice, there are many popular fitness and weight-loss trends out there that may not actually be effective in helping you achieve your goals. Here are a few to watch out for:
1. Low-carb or no-carb diets
Numerous studies have shown that lowering carbohydrate intake in our diet can have a significant impact on reducing fat in the body. How does this work? Eating less carbohydrates, which are the main energy source for the body, lowers the amount of insulin produced by the body. Since insulin is needed to help glucose – carbohydrates that have been broken down – enter the body’s cells, less insulin causes the body to burn stored fat for energy instead, which can lead to weight loss.
Some nutritionists recommend a low-carb diet richer in proteins like meat, poultry, fish and eggs. Some people opt for more extreme measures and eliminate carbohydrates from their diet altogether. But for those who may be used to eating carbohydrates regularly, a sudden change in diet may not be the best option. For example, cutting carbohydrate intake to less than 20 grams a day could result in a condition called ketosis, where chemicals called ketones build up as a result of the body breaking down stored fat for energy. This can cause nausea, fatigue and headaches.
Benson Poh, a fitness trainer with nine years of coaching experience, proposes another alternative to the low-carb diet. “Increasing the quality of carbs [you eat] by [focusing on] fiber content allows your body to process them [and] produce energy better than simple sugar foods. Your blood sugar level also remains consistent instead of experiencing a huge surge followed by a big dip, which does not make sense,” he says. Brown rice and whole wheat bread are examples of healthy foods rich in fiber content.
“More importantly, fiber makes you feel full more quickly. So ultimately you will eat less and lose more weight.”
Juicing has become a popular weight-loss trend, especially among those who may not eat enough fruits and vegetables in their diet. Although blending a salad or fruit bowl, or both, into a cup of juice is a convenient way of getting your vitamins, the loss of fiber through the process of juicing means that your body in fact does not receive all the nutrients from the fruits and vegetables that it should.
Juicing as a meal replacement is an even more extreme method of losing weight. Although you cut down on fat, you may be missing essential amounts of protein and other minerals, which is not recommended. Any weight loss that follows doesn’t last long, either.
“Juicing [can work] very well as a detox,” says Poh. “But one should still not solely depend on it as a weight-loss program.” Poh also recommends consuming fruits and vegetables whole instead of drinking them in juice form, to reap their vitamin and fiber-rich benefits.
3. The corset diet
Kim Kardashian and Jessica Alba have popularized this extreme method of weight-loss for women. Wearing a tight corset can prevent over-eating, because the tight constriction around the waist prevents the stomach from expanding. This leads to feeling fuller, faster and eating less, hence losing weight over time.
But the reliance on an external device to trick the body means that the weight loss doesn’t last for long, says Poh. “The stimulus to eat less should be physiological, not physical. In other words, instead of using something to keep us from eating so much, we should instead solve why are we eating so much in the first place.”
Dr. Melvin Look, a consultant general surgeon who specializes in gastrointestinal and laparoscopy surgery, adds that wearing the corset does not yield scientifically proven results and can actually be harmful to the body.
“It is probably safe if it is not excessively tight or used for prolonged periods, and the risk of internal organ damage is small in healthy adults. [But it’s] not advised for people with lung problems, as it may limit their respiratory movement of the rib cage, and it may also worsen heartburn in patients with gastroesophageal reflux.”
A safer alternative to the corset diet, which Dr. Look stresses is not an actual diet plan, is to eat a sensible balanced diet and incorporate physical activity regularly.
Crossfit, and other high-intensity strength and conditioning fitness programs have become very popular in recent years. Their classes consist of a mix of aerobic exercise, body weight exercises and Olympic weightlifting.
Many individuals choose programs like Crossfit to build muscle mass, and because the exercises tend to be short and high intensity, you can burn a lot of calories too.
Unfortunately, this popular exercise regime has seen some controversy, as the high intensity exercises and heavy weight lifting have resulted in a large spate of injuries.
The most dangerous aspect of Crossfit and other similar programs is the lack of proper individual programming, explains Poh. High-intensity workouts should be customized based on your individual strength and skill level, and proper adjustments to certain moves should always be provided if you’re unable to perform a certain move, or lift a certain amount of weight.
Many of the workouts, including weight lifting and strength-training exercises, take place in a single plane of motion – there is no lateral or rotational motion in the participant’s body. Therefore, it is not a complete program, says Poh.
“Our bodies are designed to move in a ‘sphere’ – not one dimension. No muscle in the human body is built to move vertically.”
Playing a sport is one of the best ways to work out in a three-dimensional motion because you are forced to move about and vary your body’s stance, advises Poh. Constantly standing or squatting in only one position and moving in just one direction does not offer a complete workout, and the stresses on one point could in fact lead to injury. But he also offers a simple alternative to existing exercises – try varying your hand and foot positions so that your body’s movement isn’t limited. For example, an exercise like squats can be done with variations, strengthening different muscles.
When it comes to losing weight, it’s important to have patience. The most important thing is not to rush a program or do something too complicated or potentially dangerous, Poh advises. “Just do one simple thing, be it a [new] exercise [regime] or a change in your diet, and do it consistently. That is the most effective.”