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Food for Thought: Dangerous diets: Losing more than just weight

Sharla Paino | Interrobang | Lifestyles | October 26th, 2009

No one is really comfortable with their body image. Whether we want to lose weight, look younger, grow taller, be more muscular, curve less or curve more, we are never completely satisfied with the way we look. Even the most attractive of supermodels have something they dislike about themselves. This is why we use products and diets in an attempt to remedy what we think are flaws about ourselves. People are so set on finding a quick fix to their appearance that they don't stop to investigate if what they're using is actually good for them, or if it can be quite harmful.

Some popular diets people are trying out include: The Cabbage Soup Diet, Atkins, Herbal Magic, Weight Watchers and The Master Cleanse. After doing research on some of these diets, I've realized that just because they succeed at making you lose weight, doesn't mean they have a positive impact on your body.

The Cabbage Soup Diet
A seven-day diet that consists of mainly eating a soup made with cabbage. The diet rules allow as much of this non-fat high fibre soup as you like, with addition to a few other foods (which differ every day) for seven days straight. This diet is designed to cause rapid weight loss for a special occasion or event. The way it works: When a day's meal plan contains no fat and negative calories (taking in less calories than your body burns up in a day) the body starts to find energy from other stores. This means you will start relying on your body fat to be converted into the energy your body needs, which results in a loss of body fat. What people don't know is that the energy is also taken from muscle tissue, which causes muscles to deteriorate. When your body looses weight this quickly, it goes into starvation mode. This means that after the diet is over, you body will try to store as much energy and fat as possible making you gain the weight back and more even quicker.

This diet works in a similar way to the cabbage soup diet though it's designed for a longer period of time. The Atkins diet eliminates the carbohydrates normally consumed and replaces them with protein and fibre. Carbohydrates convert into glucose (which our body likes to use as energy) when they're digested. If the body isn't getting a sufficient amount of glucose, our insulin levels go down. Once this happens, the body again takes energy from our fat stores. In this diet, the muscle tissue is not in as much danger because of the protein being consumed helps build and repair. But I don't agree with this diet either because of the lack of natural vitamins, mineral and other nutrients our bodies are missing out on by excluding a lot of fruit and vegetables. The meals are really hard on the digestive system too.

The Master Cleanse
We've all heard of this diet. Lots of people think that they need a system flush or detox diet and decide to try out the master cleanse. What these people don't know is that their body is quite capable of detoxifying itself, and the diet is actually one of the most dangerous to your health.

The cleanse involves only ingesting a mixture of water, lemon juice, cayenne spice and maple syrup. That's it. These diets can last anywhere from one-three weeks. You can have as much of this mixture as you like during the day, but you can't eat anything else.

How it works: The water prevents dehydration, the lemon juice adds a bit of vitamins, The cayenne adds flavour and helps you feel full and the maple syrup gives a few carbohydrates so your body has some energy and you won't pass out. Supposedly, this diet will cause your to purge any toxins and flush out any leftover stuff in your intestines (and not in a pretty way). The dangers of this diet include fainting, loss of concentration, blurred vision and neurological damage. And all for something your body does naturally.

Truly, if you want to be healthy, lose weight and still have energy; make sure you are eating unprocessed foods, following Canada's Food Guide to get all the servings of each food group you need, get active and exercise for 20-30 minutes every day (even if it's just a walk around the neighbourhood), eat plenty of fibre and drink plenty of water. Most importantly, learn to love the way you look! Everyone is shaped differently and the only ideal body is a healthy one. Strive for that!
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