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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Crazy Weight Loss Methods

Olympic Athletes, like some dieters at large, try crazy, dangerous weight loss schemes, such as those outlined in this article.

These are not new wacko methods, either. I had a boyfriend in high school who was on the wrestling team, and he did the rubber-suit thing and the spitting up and the water pills before weigh-ins. (He was also on the softball team, but didn't do crazy stuff for that, that I can recall.)

Some THE BIGGEST LOSER finalists use nutty methods to get low, low, low for the final weigh-in--including eating lots of asparagus and taking water pills. They can gain as much as 32 pounds in the days after that last weigh-in, because it was water loss, not fat.

It's lucky none of them collapsed from heart failure.

A distressing number of us dieters have at some time come to rely on pills (water or "speed" or laxatives), saran wrap (my boyfriend in high school's sister would sit around all day before a big date wrapped in plastic wrap to fit into her dress better!), eating only X meal bar, drinking only X protein shake, etc.

Anything that is dehydrating is causing you to lose water, not fat. We don't need to lose water, generally. (Some folks have a medical condition that causes excessive fluid retention, and they DO need to lose water.) Even when we eat Chinese or high-sodium, what we need to lose is SODIUM, excess sodium, not water. Water just happens to wash it out, so ironically, we need to drink MORE water to lose excess water weight.

One of the things that causes some of us to overeat is THIRST--ie, not recognizing the mouth-hunger we feel is for water, fluid, not solids, food.

So, getting dehydrated will backfire for dieters. You lose the water, you'll feel thirsty, you end up maybe EATING MORE than you would have, and the water comes back, along with some pounds.

Anything that is very-low-calorie is setting you up for a binge, a fall, a lower metabolism. Anything that is not real food in life-long sustainable meal plans is not gonna cut it except for short term.

And even when something seems safe, cause your doctor gives it to you, is NO GUARANTEE. Remember Fen-Phen? It killed the wife of a former mayor of my city some years ago.

Rely on anything other than good food in smaller portions and near-daily to daily exercise (calories in, calories out), and you may be stepping into the long and wide danger zone of side-effects.

I can understand why these athletes and dieters get crazy. Don't we all wish we could find the magic bullet? Sigh.

But I think some things should not be faciliated. In athletics, for instance, weigh-ins should be minutes before an event, to make sure athletes are discouraged from doing these things. Trust me, no athlete is going to be ABLE to compete dehydrated. They'll pass out. They'll learn to calibrate those scales and stay well enough under that even a scale change gets them in their class.

In real life, I think doctors should be discouraged from offering pills until after a patient has had a round with 1. dietitians 2. behavioral therapists 3. a personal trainer or someone who can confirm they are exercising. In other words, I think taking pills should have the same sort of tough accountability as, say, getting bariatric surgery (where you have to have psych assessments, go on a diet first, etc).

Pills shouldn't be easy. Pills like this should NOT be over the counter, either. That's asking for folks to abuse them. Like Sudafed is now (cause of Meth issues), water and other diet pills should have to go through a pharmacist.

Sounds tough, but I'd rather not have dieters (and athletes) ruin their kidneys and hearts for something bound to fail.

No diet pill has been shown to lead to successful long-term weight loss. And many have side effects that mean folks can't stay on them long. You probably know (or have been) someone who tried some and gained back the weight.

Diets fail regularly, too, we know; but at least being on a sound weight-loss plan means you're focusing on good nutrition--veggies, fruits, lean dairy and proteins, clean water--and not just popping some chemical that'll make you buzzed-hyper (cause it's either got enough caffeine for 12 cups of coffee or has ephedra or has some other "speed" drug) or make you poop your pants.

If you wouldn't let your kid take an iffy drug, why would you let yourself take it?

It's hard to learn to do it right, to put up with gradual losses rather than "superfast weight loss", to tolerate 1 to 2 pounds a week (or less), to plateau. But that's how you do it SAFELY.

And as a bonus, that's one way to maybe avoid the maximum amount of sag. If you lose very slowly, you have a better chance to being able to tone up and minimize the hanging skin (though for folks like me, who got to morbid obese status, there's about a ZERO chance of our evading the hanging, loose, wrinkled skin that losing weight leaves behind. One good reason never to get heavy to start. I wish I had known before about that. Honest to God, I didn't until a few years ago. It's horrifying to me! It might have kept me under 200, those pics!)

Getting to 299 was the big awakening I needed to stop the upward creep and start the slow downward trek. (Very slow, as it turns out.) I did not want to see 300 on my home scale. I didn't. (Though I did with clothes on at the doc's office: 303!)

People have died from using diet pills and water pills. People (including athletes) have died from extreme weight loss measures. People even die on the surgical table for legitimate and medically-okayed bariatric surgery (a small %, but it's a risk, always, to go under the knife.)

Let's find a way to do it safely--all of us. Let's think long-term, not "this week!" Let's not die in our quest to be healthy. Let's be sane.

And when you're tempted to speed things up with an iffy method, remember Karen Carpenter, remember Steve Bechler, remember Patricia Mishcon.

Leave extreme dieting to reckless thrill-seekers...and dumb-ass Olympians.



Heather said...

thanks for this because its important for people to know. especially about the biggest loser...those giant numbers they lose arent real, and no one should hold themselves up to those types of standards. my sister kicked off her eating disorder by using laxatives and abused them in the worst way. she deprived her body of so much water and has ended up the hospital so many times. currently she has kidney stones (and she is only 23) many times in her short life and already has had to have a stent put in. thats what happens when you abuse your body with laxatives and diet pills, in addition to the posisbility that you could put yourself in a coma after your brain shuts down from dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.

Chrissie said...

I totally agree with you. A lot of people go to extremes to lose weight. I think losing it slowly is the best way.

Paint-Me-Dioxazine said...

AAAAAAAAAACKKK! Saggy skiiin! Now THAT'S a motivator!

BG said...

My goodness. I do wonder/think myself if I would have let my body creep to 300 if I could have kept a saggy-skin motivating image in my mind. It really is horrifying.

Zantrex 3 said...

ohh man that picture is gross. and i still cant believe that michael phelps really eats 10,000 calories a day. that just seems like sucha big number :/

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rebeka said...

thank you for this kind of simply because its very important to people to realize. especially about the largest loser...those huge figures they lose arent genuine, with no you ought to hold themselves up to those types of standards. my own cousin started the woman's seating disorder for you by utilizing stimulant laxatives as well as abused all of them inside the most detrimental method. thans cabbage diet...