The summer holidays are here and with it the pressure to look good on the beach. Sadly some feel that they need instant results. The New York Times reports that some unethical doctors are charging patients nearly £1,000 for 30 days worth of injections of hCG (human gonadotrophin) - a pregnancy hormone. The use of hCG, derived from the urine of pregnant women, is supposed to enable patients to lose a pound a day without feeling hungry. But to do so they need to restrict their calorie intake to 500 a day (NHS guidelines for an average woman are 2000 calories a day and 2500 for a man).
David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Centre says: "We are so desperate to have good solutions for weight control that a lot of people with good common sense literally suspend it when they confront weight loss claims." He adds: "'When you restrict calories to that level you are not providing your body with enough essential amino acids so it scavenges itself. In some instances it can cause the body to scavenge from critical places, like the heart."
This story illustrates the more desperate measures dieters undertake in order to lose pounds. But is crash dieting ever successful and is it safe?
According to Disordered Eating , a website that deals witheating problems, "Crash diet behaviours are not restricted to people with eating disorders but can be a slippery slope to acquiring an eating disorder." Although results may be seen on the scales, a lot of water and muscle mass as well as fat will be lost.
And even more serious consequences could result in impaired immunity, electrolyte imbalances, reduced red and white blood cell counts, organ failure and osteoporosis. Then when a dieter returns to "normal eating", the body will try to replenish its fat reserves which could result in a higher percentage of body fat than before.
So how to lose weight and keep it off? A total change in lifestyle combining exercise and eating healthily is certainly the way forward. Exercise may be daunting if all you do is walk from the car to the shops. But you can begin gently with good walk, a swim in a warm pool or tai-chi.
To help the weight loss progress, some dieticians recommend keeping a food diary - in this way you will see the difference that odd biscuit or slice of cake can make to your calorie intake. Apart from that, look at your fats, sugar and salt intake.
We all need good fats containing valuable nutrients like those found in fish oils and good plant oils found in nuts, seeds and avocados. But try cutting down on saturated fats - found in high-fat dairy foods, fatty meats, sausages, wurst, high fat cheeses and particularly in junk food which is usually high fat, salt and often sugar. Substitute with fruits and vegetables. Create salads with masses of chopped vegetables tinned beans and seeds. You will be amazed how filling these can be.
Enjoy a good breakfast, for example a bowl of porridge made with skimmed milk and a banana. Think wholemeal or granary bread rather than white stodgy and begin cooking the old grains that our forefathers enjoyed such as brown rice, barley and kasha - wonderful in soups and stews.
Still enjoy the occasional glass of wine, shmeer of cheese, or a square of dark chocolate. This will keep from feeling deprived. And do not think if you have one day of dieting disaster that it is a lost cause. Just put it to the back of your mind and start again with renewed vigour.
The best way is to enjoy the foods you should eat – revel in slices of melon, enjoy your breakfast, love your grains. eat the skin on a jacket potato. Then the added fibre, plus the lower GI rate of the healthier foods will show lasting results on the scales, your waistline and fitness.