The Military Diet

The Military Diet, sometimes called the 3 Day Diet, is a quick way to lose weight. Proponents claim that you can lose 10 pounds in only three days. The actual connection between this diet and any branch of the military is a bit sketchy, but hey, who doesn’t want to look like a Marine recruiting poster?

The military diet is a very low calorie plan. Too low, in the eyes of the government, in fact. Over the course of three days, you will eat about 2,800 calories. Safe dieting guidelines typically suggest eating at least 1,200 calories a day, so this plan falls short. This is definitely not an eating plan for the long term.

This is also a very prescriptive diet. You are told to eat very specific foods in very specific quantities.  Some people believe that these specific food combinations trigger chemical reactions in our bodies that help with weight loss. There is no science to support that hypothesis, though.

For day one, you get to eat a whopping 870 calories. For breakfast you get coffee or tea (unsweetened or sweetened with zero-calorie sweetener), half of a grapefruit (people taking blood pressure medication: beware!), and a slice of toast with peanut butter (1 tbsp). Boom! 220 calories or so, and your day has begun.

For lunch you get half a cup of tuna (or alternative low-fat protein less than 100 calories), another slice of toast (but no peanut butter this time) and coffee or tea again. This sumptuous meal weighs in at about 180 calories.

Brace yourself, because for dinner you are allowed 470 calories! These calories come from your choice of lean meat (as long as it’s under 100 calories), a cup of green beans, a cup of carrots, a cup of vanilla ice cream (finally something I can get behind!), an apple and the coffee or tea that we’ve seen all day. Congratulations, you’ve made it through day one. Day two should be easier.

The second day of the military diet balloons our intake to 1,150 calories! For breakfast you get one egg (any style, just watch the preparation to avoid any added fat), a slice of dry toast, a banana and that wonderful cup of coffee or tea. Nearly 50 calories more than yesterday’s breakfast. Feeling full?

For lunch you will eat a cup of low-fat cottage cheese, five saltines and a cup of coffee. Surprisingly, this is nearly 100 calories more than day one’s lunch, so you should really celebrate that cottage cheese!

Dinner features to hot dogs (do the military still love their hot dogs?), a half cup of carrots, a cup of broccoli, a banana, a half cup of vanilla ice cream (thank you!) and coffee or tea. This meal is a massive 150 calorie jump over yesterday’s dinner intake. Better let out your belt.

Day three is the hardest, with only 860 calories all day. The end is in sight though, so stay strong! For breakfast you get five crackers, a slice of cheddar cheese, a small apple (who buys small apples?) and a cup of coffee or tea. Tough? Yes, but just wait for lunch.

For lunch you will eat one hard boiled egg (which actually requires more calories to digest than it delivers), a slice of dry toast and coffee or tea. Take your time eating this meal. It claims to deliver 160 calories, but it won’t feel like it.

For dinner you get another cup of tuna or equivalent lean protean, a cup of carrots, a cup of cauliflower, a cup of melon, and a blessed half cup of vanilla ice cream. Plus, of course, your coffee or tea.  This is about the same calorie load as day one’s dinner, but by now you are biting your fingernails for nourishment, so who’s counting calories?

If your will power (or your diet buddy) will support you through this three day diet, you will lose weight. The military diet is so low calories; there is no doubt that pounds will be shed. Staying on the military diet for more than three days is not safe. After the rigors of following this diet, the next most difficult task will be keeping the weight off. That is the central flaw in the military diet (beyond the unsafe calorie restriction, that is), you have not learned any new skills for long-term healthy eating. You will probably snap back to your old eating habits and the weight will come back.

The military diet might work in some situation where you need to lose weight quickly for a special event. For most of us, though, there are many healthier options. Check out the Diet Picker at PickMyDiet to find the best diets for you and your lifestyle. The military diet is unlikely to be the best one for you.

The Qsymia Diet Pill Receives Approval

It has been a busy season in the drug approval department at the FDA. Last month they approved Belviq, the first new weight loss drug in well over a decade. Now comes approval of Qsymia aimed at the same market.

Qsymia is made by Vivus Inc. It was originally named Qnexa, but the FDA requested a name change, fearing confusion with similar names. Qsymia combines two established drugs: phentermine and topiramate. Phentermine, half of the now-withdrawn Phen-Fen combo, is an appetite suppressant and mild stimulant. Many people take phentermine by itself to help them keep to their diet. Topiramate has been used for years as an anti-seizure medicine. It is commonly taken by people suffering from epilepsy. It has the beneficial side effect that is used in Qsymia of making you feel full. Combining an appetite suppressant and a fullness trigger can be a real boon for dieters.

Qsymia is not a silver bullet. It can support a reduction in calorie intake by making the dieter more comfortable. Without an actual reduction in eating coupled with sensible exercise, though, no weight will be lost.

If you combine Qsymia with a reduced calorie diet and sensible exercise, you will lose weight. When Qsymia was being tested, people lost between 8% and 10% of their total body weight. Most of this weight loss happened during the first 90 days. In fact, taking Qsymia for an additional 90 days only contributes an average of 3% additional weight loss.

Qsymia is also not for everyone. The FDA has approved Qsymia for people with a body mass index (BMI) of at least 30 (defined as obese), or a BMI of at least 27 and a weight-related health issue such as highblood pressure, high cholesterol or type II diabetes.

Like all medications, Qsymia can have side effects. The worst side effects are heart problems and birth defects if taken while pregnant. It can also cause increased heart rate and hyperventilation.

With two new drugs on the market, how can you choose the right one for you? A comparison of side effects seems to favor Belviq, with less severe/scary reported side effects. On the other hand, Qsymia users reported losing more weight than Belviq users. Your mileage may vary.

Whichever drug you select, it is critical to be under a doctor’s care during the entire course of treatment. Modify your lifestyle to reduce your daily calorie intake, and adopt a life-long exercise program. The combination of these elements can lead to a trimmer, healthier you!

The Tyranny Of BMI

It seems that everyone knows their body mass index or BMI. So much of our self-image is driven by this one number! The BMI was created to relate our height and weight to a universally accepted ratio of body fat. Did you know that the rules changed without anyone telling us?

Your BMI is defined as your weight, times 703 divided by the square of your height in inches. Before 1998, the meaning of the resulting number in the US  was not aligned with the scale used by the World Health Organization. That change was pretty tough on Americans.

Looking at the world as a whole can lead you to believe that the “average” human is a pretty lean individual. Life in America is a bit different. The BMI scale does not consider these cultural and dietetic differences.

Under the post-1998 scale, about 55 percent of the U.S. population is in the “overweight” category of the BMI scale. Ouch, that’s pretty harsh. It might make you feel better to know that pro baseball MVP Cal Ripken Jr. is also overweight using this scale. Really?

The creeping danger of this sliding BMI scale is apparent when you visit your doctor. Let’s suppose you have a sore knee. Is your BMI in the overweight category? If so, you will probably be told that you need to lose 20 pounds to make your knee better. That’s it. If you have a BMI of 25 you are now responsible for every ailment because of your weight. Bam. Forget an MRI or an anti-inflammatory, you need a diet before you can get real medical help. If you had the same doctor’s visit in 1997, you wouldn’t be overweight and the doctor would actually work to solve your issue.

This tyranny of the BMI is slowly becoming visible to the public and academia. Some doctors have moved beyond knee-jerk assumptions around BMI ranges and resumed treating their patients as individuals instead of numbers on a graph. In many cases, however, the American populace, now judged overweight, skips doctor visits to avoid being told, “lose 20 pounds and come back to see me.”

Without question, obesity is a real health issue, especially in the U.S. But one’s BMI should be given no more credence than a blood pressure reading when treating a patient. It is time for doctors to reopen their eyes.

The Dolce Diet

Former mixed martial arts champion Mike Dolce has turned his personal approach to “making weight” into a diet. The Dolce Diet is a three week plan to drop weight quickly, as though you were about to enter a championship UFC match. Mike Dolce says that his use of this plan let him drop from 212 pounds to 170 to qualify in his weight class. Here are the details.

Mike’s book is very clear about the goal: rapidly losing weight for some event. Although you will learn valuable lifestyle lessons about eating better, this is not a general life-long eating guide. However, if you need to shed weight quickly for an event, this might be tailor-made for you.

The meal plan itself looks a lot like the Atkins plan coupled with a very specific and challenging exercise regimen. You eat primarily protein and very little carbohydrates. Fat is quite restricted, so think in terms of chicken breast and fish for your entrees.  You get lots of veggies and certain fruits, too, so the nutritive balance can be good.

This is not a diet for wimps!  The calorie restriction is harsh (a reduction of about 1/3 of your typical intake) and the workout routines are very challenging. You may not be making weight for a cage match, but you will be prepared for one anyway by the end of the three weeks.

The diet has a rather odd relationship with water. During the bulk of the three week plan you are encouraged to drink water, lots of it. During the final phase, you cut out liquids as you zoom down to your final weight. Clearly, if you aren’t targeting a specific weight on a specific day, it doesn't make sense to eliminate the water weight, it will just come right back once you start hydrating again.

Is the Dolce Diet for you? Do you have a special event coming up and you REALLY want to a size or two smaller, regardless of the pain involved? The Dolce Diet can deliver the results. Plus, you will learn about eating healthy and tone up those muscles a bit, too.

The OMG Diet

The latest diet import from England is the OMG (for “oh my god”) diet. This diet is inspired by a British reality show The Only Way is Essex. This diet promises that you will drop 20 pounds in six weeks. You even get to blow up balloons!

This diet is the poster child for fad dieting. It has all the components: a book Six Weeks to OMG, celebrities (OK, reality celebs, but they count) and huge results in short order based on pretty crazy ideas. What more do you need?

The OMG diet has a few (somewhat bizarre) rules. First, you should limit your carb intake to 120 grams a day. The book suggests drinking cola instead of eating broccoli, but that could just be personal taste. Given the six week duration of the diet, skipping veggies for such a short time isn’t too terrible.

Rule two: stay away from smoothies. Not really a Jamba Juice hater, but the diet says that the fructose (fruit sugar) that is in smoothies suppresses your natural feeling of fullness. This makes you eat more food than necessary, hurting your weight loss goals. Not too crazy, it is scientifically sound and doesn’t really have a down side. Sorry Jamba Juice.

The third rule is pretty much my favorite: take an ice water bath every day. Wow, talk about suffering for your weight loss! Sure, sitting in ice water will burn calories as your body tries to avoid death by freezing, but really? The increased calorie burn is negligible compared to the discomfort and potential health risks.

Rule number four: skip breakfast and work out instead. Moderate exercise is a good thing for most people (only your doctor knows for sure). But breakfast is an important way to kick-start your metabolism. Breakfast eaters burn more calories while at rest than those who skip breakfast. This is a dumb rule. Instead, have a low calorie, high fiber breakfast then THEN work out.

Rule five says to drink two cups of coffee before you exercise.  This can actually work, as long as you don’t trick out your coffee with sugar, crème or other accoutrements. The caffeine acts as a stimulant and increases your “at rest” calorie burn rate. It won’t make you burn more calories while you exercise, but it might jack you up enough to work out a few more minutes, anyway.

Rule six makes sense, too. Eat three meals a day but don’t snack. Several studies have shown that people who snack end up eating more calories than people who don’t. So eat three low-calorie, well balanced meals and avoid that bag of chips on the couch.

Rule seven proves that you can’t make this kind of thing up. The OMG diet recommends blowing up balloons. Yes, balloon inflation as exercise. OK, it does strengthen your transverse abdominal  muscles, but really? Why aren’t clowns skinnier then?

So will the OMG diet help you “get the skinny on” in six weeks? Any crash diet is dangerous. Attempting to lose 20 pounds in six weeks WILL put your health at risk. About half of the rules are in the sketchy-to-bonkers range, but the others (I’m looking at you, 2, 5 and 6) have been employed safely by dieters for quite a while. I’d leave this diet to desperate Brits and find a better diet over at PickMyDiet.  Good luck!

HCG Drops For Weight Loss?

It is difficult to search for weight loss tips without encountering HCG. This wonder drug is said to trigger fat consumption within your body, while it suppresses your hunger, nearly eliminating the need to eat. Oh, but there is one small problem: HCG has never been scientifically proven to help with weight loss. Ever. Now there are dozens of web sites selling HCG drops. They claim all the efficacy of HCG injections in an eye dropper to drip under your tongue. Can you guess how this new angle works out?

Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone that is produced naturally during pregnancy. It is also secreted by some cancer cells. The FDA has approved injected HCG for the treatment of infertility. No other use of HCG is approved by the government. In fact, any representation to the contrary is a violation of Federal law.

HCG injections don’t promote weight loss. “Every single well-done trial showed that the HCG injections were no better than injecting a saltwater placebo,” said Dr. Cohen, of the Harvard Medical School. People who followed the HCG diet plan and were injected with saltwater lost the same amount of weight as those who were injected with HCG hormone.

Because HCG has one valid and approved use, doctors can prescribe it for their patients. Because the hormone is digested and rendered inert, it must be injected to remain medically viable. This is a real deal-breaker for many people, efficacy aside, so the oral drops, sometimes called homeopathic HCG,  were a hot commodity as soon as they appeared on the market.

Once the market demand for HCG drops reached a fever pitch, the government stepped in. There are no FDA-approved HCG products for weight loss. Real HCG is available only by prescription. The sites selling HCG drops are selling solutions that contain so little actual HCG (think droplets per gallon) that the FDA doesn’t even consider them a drug.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), though, takes a dim view of unsubstantiated claims of benefit for anything that is sold. That has caused pretty much every web site selling HCG drops to get warning letters from the FTC notifying them that continued sale of HTC drops promoted by claims of weight loss is a violation of Federal law.

Given that HCG drops are essentially HCG-free, there is no real danger using them. The starvation diet that is part of the HCG protocol is dangerous, though.  Eating only 500 calories is not safe under any circumstance. The government’s guidelines for safe dieting recommend 1,200 calories per day. Your body will quickly shift into starvation mode as you begin the HCG diet. Every calorie that you eat will be cherished. Once you stop the diet, your body will frantically store away every spare calorie into fat cells. It is almost certain that your weight will rebound, probably leaving you heavier than when you started.

What can you do? Pick a diet that is safe and fits your lifestyle. If you want some ideas, check out PickMyDiet for a customized Top 5 list, based on your individual preferences. Then get a diet buddy to keep you accountable and lose that weight sensibly!

Belviq: The Best Diet Pill?

For the first time in over a dozen years, the FDA has approved a new diet pill. Arena Pharmaceuticals calls their drug Belviq, which is a lot easier to say than lorcaserin, the technical name for the drug. Could this be the “magic” that has so long eluded us?

Belviq helps you lose weight by reducing your appetite. If you aren’t hungry, you eat less. Pretty simple approach, right? It does this by affecting your brain’s reaction to serotonin. Serotonin plays a role in your feelings of fullness, satisfaction and overall mood.

The Belviq diet pill was put through exhaustive clinical trials. A previous attempt to limit appetite by targeting certain serotonin receptors, called fenfluramine or “fen” had a nasty side effect of damaging heart valves and was withdrawn from the market. Meridia, another appetite reducer drug, was removed from the marketplace because of side effects such as stroke and heart attack. The Belviq trials went much better.

In the trials, about half of the people who took Belviq lost at least 5% of their body weight. Only about one person in five who took a placebo enjoyed this kind of weight loss. And 20% of Belviq users lost 10% or more of their body weight. Woo hoo! The Belviq users also reported that long-term use of the pill allowed them to keep the weight off following the diet phase.

Belviq is only approved for BMIs over 30
The approved treatment plan for Belviq calls for using the pill for 12 weeks. This is the recommended duration because the clinical trials found that few people lost any real weight after 12 weeks.

Could Belviq be right for you? Clearly, only your doctor can really answer that question. The FDA recommends Belviq only for people who are obese, which is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. Of course, there are reported side effects, like headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, dry mouth and constipation. Even the placebo can cause some of these side effects!

Pricing is not yet available from Arena Pharmaceuticals, but expect this to be a major player in the diet marketplace.

The Low Glycemic Diet

Everyone knows that the food we eat becomes energy for our bodies. It turns out that different foods turn into energy at different rates, and this difference in the rate of digestion can make a big difference when we’re trying to lose weight. Learn about the glycemic index and its impact on your body.

The glycemic index refers to the rate that a particular food converts into blood sugar. The higher the number, the faster your blood sugar rises. So orange juice has a higher glycemic index than oatmeal, for example.

The concept behind low glycemic index diets, called low glycemic diets or GI diets, is that avoiding sharp rises in blood sugar can help you lose weight. An increase in blood sugar triggers increased levels of insulin, the hormone that allows muscle cells to use blood sugar. Higher insulin levels are associated with increased conversion of glucose (blood sugar) into fat. So less insulin could result in less fat.

Eating low glycemic index foods avoids blood sugar spikes and insulin secretion spikes. This is thought to help reduce obesity, high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. Possibly, putting our bodies through these insulin spikes could lead to insulin resistance, the key driver for type II diabetes.

The low glycemic diet recommends that you eat foods with a low glycemic index. BAM! That’s it. No calorie counting or strange recipes, just stick with low GI foods.

So what kinds of food have a low glycemic index? Think nuts, beans, lentils, cereals, proteins and lots of fiber. Eat more whole grain bread rather than the wonder variety. Skip the potatoes and have some kidney beans instead.

Most people find that eating a low glycemic diet is easy, and that over time their food cravings go away. Many doctors believe that food cravings are a side effect of insulin spikes, so this makes sense. The GI diet doesn’t force you to give up food, just select different foods in some cases. You don’t go hungry; you just fill up on food with a lower glycemic index. Nice!

Could the low glycemic diet work for you? There’s no medical proof that you will lose weight just because you eat low GI foods, but reducing cravings can certainly help you binge less. That can’t hurt your weight loss goals!