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Dangerous diets

Slimming down for summer? 6 diets you should avoid

The days are getting longer and temperatures are on the rise. Are you longing for summer days or dreading the thought of wearing shorts and swimsuits?

With spring break just around the corner and summer on its heels, many people have a renewed energy to lose a few pounds – and fast.

“It’s tempting, especially when you have a trip or an event coming up, to try to lose weight as quickly as possible, but in most cases, the rewards just aren’t worth the risk,” said Dr. Genevieve Brauning of Novant Health South Park Family Physicians.

According to Brauning, the following six dangerous diets should never make the cut, no matter how teeny your bikini:

1. Starvation, fasting or very low-calorie diets. While it’s true that cutting calories will result in weight loss, but unless medically supervised, don’t cut calories below 1,200 per day. “When you cut calories dramatically, you will see a loss on your scale, but you will likely be losing muscle along with fat and can put yourself at risk for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes,” Brauning said. “Plus, studies show that the more quickly you lose the weight, the more likely you are to put it back on.”

2. Weight loss supplements. “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” Brauning said. “Companies that make supplements don’t have the same strict regulations that prescription drug companies do to protect consumers from unsafe products.” If you’re struggling with weight loss, always consult your doctor before reaching for a pill bottle.

3. Cleanses or detox plans. Brauning warned that at best, any weight loss you experience from cleanses is likely water weight, and that can be dangerous. “Cleanses come with a high risk for dehydration,” she said. “As long as you have no underlying medical conditions, your body already knows how to detoxify itself. Try reaching for high-fiber foods instead.”

4. Purging. Purging includes all forms of making yourself vomit, chewing food and spitting it out and abusing laxatives, and it’s never a safe option. “Aside from serious health risks like acid erosion of the esophagus and teeth or dehydration, using syrup of ipecac to induce vomiting can lead to cardiac arrest,” Brauning said. Purging can also lead to chronic eating disorders. “If you ever feel the need to engage in these kinds of behaviors, please see a medical professional who can help you reach your goals in a healthier way,” she urged.

5. Extreme exercising. The American College of Sports Medicine and American Heart Association recommend getting at least 30 minutes of moderately intense cardio exercise five days a week, or 20 minutes of vigorously intense cardio exercise three days a week, as well as strength-training exercises that work all the major muscle groups two to three times a week. But more isn’t always better. Adding too much exercise too quickly can lead to severe wear and tear and increased risk for injury, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. “I applaud all of my patients who want to incorporate a healthy amount of exercise into their routine, but for some people, obsessive exercising can become just another form of purging,” Brauning explained.

6. Smoking. Everyone knows that smoking and other addictive substances are not good for you, but it might be tempting to use them as a diet aid. “Nicotine is a proven appetite suppressant, but it also does serious damage to nearly every organ in your body,” Brauning said. She added that potential weight gain should not deter smokers who are trying to quit. “It’s true that being at a healthy weight makes a huge impact on your overall health, but regular use of nicotine and other addictive substances erases all of those great benefits.”

Instead of reaching for these quick and unsafe solutions to achieve your beach body, Brauning recommended you talk to a medical professional.

“Your doctor can help you set an appropriate goal for the amount of time you have, usually 1-2 pounds a week, and put together a healthy plan of action,” she said. “For most people that means a balanced diet and moderate exercise. If you’re sticking to the plan and still not seeing progress, your doctor can investigate if underlying conditions are at play.”

Published: 3/6/2015