This is the time of year when losing weight becomes an imperative for some people bent on creating instant beach bodies.
Beware, though, crash dieting can wreck your health, nutritionists believe.
"These diets can be dangerous," said Indi Maharaj, a registered dietitian with Erlanger's Chattanooga LifeStyle Center.
"They slow down your metabolism which will, in the long run, make you gain the weight back," she said.
Back to basics for healthy weight loss
While there are plenty of ways to lose weight, maintaining your weight loss over the long term is often hard. If you've lost and gained the same pounds several times, it's probably time to go back to the basics principals of weight-loss:
* Prevention of weight gain or stopping recent weight gain can improve your health.
* Health can improve with relatively minor weight reduction (5 to 10 percent of body weight).
* Adopting a healthy lifestyle -- eating smarter and moving more -- can improve your health status even if you don't lose any weight at all.
If you want to maintain a healthy weight for the rest of your life, it's all about energy balance which can be achieved by following a diet consisting of the major food groups:
* Whole grains from the bakery.
* Low-fat milk products from the dairy case.
* Lean proteins from the meat/fish/poultry department.
Fast fix: Enjoy one fruit and one vegetable as a snack each day. It's quick, easy, tasty and very nutrient-rich.
-- American Dietetic Association
America is the land of fad diets. There's the banana diet, the maple syrup diet, the cabbage soup diet, Master Cleanse ... the names go on.
What's the rub? Cabbage is good for you, right? Bananas are, too. But health professionals agree: Too much of a single good thing can be bad. Limiting yourself to one food group can eliminate important vitamins from your system. Even adding a multi-vitamin to your diet won't completely fill the gap. You'll still miss some crucial nutrients, according to the American Dietetic Association.
Healthy diet plans aim for a loss of no more than a pound per week, Mrs. Maharaj noted. If you lose weight quickly, you can lose muscle, bone and water. You also will be more likely to regain the pounds quickly afterward, she said.
Cardiologist Dr. David Wendt, of the Chattanooga Heart Institute, said crash diets are bad for the body for several reasons.
First, they can send you into a state of starvation known as ketosis, which, he said, changes the way important enzymes work in your body.
"They slow your metabolism down, and once you start eating normally, your body will work to suck up every calorie it can," he said. Thus, the weight comes back quickly.
"Each fad is propagated by a celebrity or someone who has a book to sell," Dr. Wendt said. "But they can effect your liver, cardiovascular system and cause a stroke. But why put yourself through the risk of these diets when there are proven diets that can benefit your health," Dr. Wendt said, citing Weight Watchers and the Mediterranean diet, both diets that stress long-term approach to appropriate eating.
"What if this region decided that wellness would be a prime factor in how this region lives?" he asked. "We decide that we're going to encourage activity, the use of locally grown produce, not overeating. It takes more than diet. It takes a whole cultural view of things."