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Permanent, safe weight-loss does not have any shortcuts

February 06, 2008|By LYNN LITTLE

This time of the year - after many of us have determined to lose weight or get in shape - magazines, newspapers, television and radio bombard us with diet and weight-loss options. Diets are promoted through books and over the Internet.

Be skeptical. Some are more hype than substance. Some are downright dangerous.

Fad diets can usually be recognized by promises made by promoters. As you review the information about a particular diet plan or weight loss product, ask yourself, "Is it too good to be true?"

Unfortunately, many diets are empty promises. Beware of diet plans or weight loss products if:

· Miraculous, fast results are promised.

· No time or effort is said to be required.

· Claims are made that calories don't count.

· Eating a variety of foods is not stressed.

· Claims are made that diets either high or low in certain nutrients have special weight-reducing powers.

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· Certain foods have special powers to cause selective weight loss (for example, hips and thighs).

There is no dietary shortcut to weight control and long-term health. The magic pill, cream, skin patch, wrap or dietary supplement for weight loss does not exist. You have to be active enough to burn 3,500 calories to lose a pound of body fat. Fast weight loss (more than one to two pounds per week) reflects water - not fat - loss. Your plan should be to eat well and enjoy some type of physical activity daily.

The USDA's "Dietary Guidelines for Americans," released in 2005, recommends consuming a variety of nutrient-rich foods and beverages from the basic foods groups and meeting calorie needs by balancing food intake with activity.

Fad diets that ignore the principles of the Dietary Guidelines - available at www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines - might result in short-term weight loss, but might do so at the risk of your health.

Your goal: permanent weight loss

How you go about managing your weight has a lot to do with your long-term success. Gradual weight loss should be your goal, unless your physician says your health is seriously at risk due to complications from being overweight or obese.

Permanent, safe weight loss involves permanent lifestyle changes in which you consume fewer calories and become more active. It also is very important that before beginning any weight-loss program, you talk with your doctor.

For more information about weight loss and weight management, visit the Web site of Partnership for Healthy Weight Management at www.consumer.gov/weightloss.

For general guidelines on eating nutritious foods and getting enough physical activity, visit www.mypyramid.gov. You can use the MyPyramid Tracker to do an in-depth assessment of your diet quality and physical activity status.

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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