Friday, August 10, 2001

Weight loss and the gimmicks, don't fall for them

There are many reasons why an individual decides that it is time for them to lose weight; among the most popular are physical appearance and health. Deciding to lose weight is a healthy change, but how the person loses the weight can be healthy or harmful. The convincing claims found on weight-loss products suggest that it is easy to lose weight. Just take the latest weight-loss pill craze, or try a celebrity-endorsed diet plan, or sit in the sauna, or exercise in a rubber suit. As a result of using the product or plan, you are guaranteed to be at least five to 10 pounds lighter in just a week! Sound too good to be true? It is. Did you gain 10 pounds in a week? No, of course not, and you cannot expect to lose 10 pounds in a week safely. If losing weight was that easy, then weight-loss products, advertisements and cosmetic surgery would not make up over a $50 billion market.

When it comes to weight loss, there is no such thing as a quick fix or easy solution. People do not get overweight in a day, but instead over many days, months and years. It is unrealistic to think that the weight will disappear in less time than it took to acquire it.

The latest craze seems to be rubber sweat suits. You see them in the gyms and in the sauna. Purchasing a rubber sweat suit is as effortless as taking a trip to a nearby sporting goods store or shopping on the Internet. Those garments range from those that cover the entire body to just the popular trouble spots -- waist, hips and thighs. Don't fall for this or other weight-loss gimmicks, such as diet pills and body wraps. If you want to lose weight you need to exercise and eat fewer calories.

Sweat suits come in rubber, vinyl or plastic but the one thing these various suits have in common is one thing: sweat. The supposed purpose of wearing them is to allow (1) a faster warm-up (2) to sweat for fast water loss. The noted exception is weight loss. There is a difference between fat loss and weight loss. You will lose weight by wearing these suits, due to water loss; you have not lost any fat. The booklet "Losing Weight the Right Way" explains that "water loss is temporary weight loss. As you lose water, you become dehydrated. Slowly, your body loses stamina and as the dehydration becomes more severe, your body loses the fluids it needs to transport its fuel, to eliminate waste materials and to maintain the delicate enzyme and chemical balances that keep you alive." As a result, your thirst mechanism is initiated, therefore beginning fluid replacement. In a matter of time, you will weigh the same as you did before.

In order to lose fat, you must create a caloric deficit. A person can achieve their goal to lose fat by having a larger caloric expenditure through exercising than their calorie intake from eating. Even more reason to not wear these suits is because they prevent the body's ability to cool down. If the body cannot safely expel the heat and body temperature continues to increase, the risk of suffering from heat-related stress injuries also increases. Persons choosing to work out in these garments are doing a great amount of work without permanent results and -- more importantly -- these devices may actually be threatening their bodies and overall health.

Body wraps are another of the so-called "new weight-loss wonders." Don't be fooled by the hype. A consumer can pay anywhere from $45 to $300 per session to get a body wrap. The claim is that they remove toxins from fat cells and cause the fat to disappear like magic. What should be guaranteed is that your money will disappear before the fat goes anywhere.

According to a Food and Drug Administration report, "Wraps have no effect on fat deposits and will not dissolve fat, even temporarily. Fat is not broken down by perspiration. Body fat is reduced only when fewer calories are consumed than are needed to meet the body's energy requirements." (FDA Consumer, Nov. 1982) Furthermore, obesity expert Dr. Caroline Apovian, of Boston University School of Medicine, says that currently there are not any studies or science to support that body wraps provide weight loss or reduce cellulite. (Weight loss: Rips-offs, June 2001)

Pills and creams for sale in magazines and on television, some of which claim you can lose weight by rubbing a cream or lotion on your skin or by just swallowing a pill, are also products that should raise your suspicions.

Are you an informed consumer? As a consumer, you should be aware of what is in that pill or crème made with all natural ingredients. Items available for purchase in health stores are not necessarily safe or good for your health. The Food and Drug Administration admits that the "weight conscious" are on many occasions taking a significant risk when purchasing these "quick fixes" because some of the products on the market are untested or just a placebo. "They appear on the market without FDA approval because manufacturers contend that their product is a food and thus not subject to premarket approval from FDA as a drug would be. Often a product does not come to FDA's attention until it has been used by a substantial number of persons, some of whom may be harmed by it." (FDA Consumer, Nov. 1982)

The best method of weight loss, and the one claim that everyone can agree upon is that permanent weight loss is accomplished with regular exercise and caloric reduction. One of the added pluses of losing weight the right way is that it will not drain your wallet in the process. Give it a try, it is scientifically based and proven to work.

The 11th Medical Group's Health and Wellness Center is here to help you meet your goal of obtaining a healthy lifestyle. For more information about the nutrition and fitness programs offered at the HAWC, call (202) 404-1025 or visit the center any Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.