It's an age-old struggle for humans to have the "perfect" body. Everyone knows that the best way to achieve this is to find a weight that you are comfortable with and maintain it with a healthy diet and regular exercise, as well as having a positive self-image. However, in this mass-media laden society that we as Americans live in, there seems to be a plague of "get thin quick" schemes - I, myself, have fallen prey to several over the years.
1. Binge and purge
Binging is the act of eating until you are sick to your stomach or eating massive amounts of food to combat depression or "bad" emotions, and is often associated with the disorder bulimia nervosa. Purging is the act of ridding your body of all this food, through vomiting, use of laxatives, diuretics or enemas. Both binging and purging are incredibly destructive to your body. Filling your stomach to capacity will stretch out the lining, making it weak, and causing you to be more susceptible to ulcers and/or hiatal hernias - the protuberance of the upper part of the stomach into the thorax through a tear or weak spot in the diaphragm (just to name a couple of problems). Purging can also cause ulcers, hiatal hernias and erosive esophagitis, and if the situation gets out of control, occasional binging and purging can lead to bulimia nervosa, resulting in hair loss, muscle atrophy, tooth enamel weakening, and so on.
2. Rapid Weight Loss Pills
There is a plethora of magic pills on the market today. From Hoodia to Acai Berry, most of the pills claim to be all-natural, herbal, and guaranteed. The truth about these pills is that they are not tested or approved by the Federal Drug Administration, therefore they don't have to live up to their claims, actually contain what they claim to contain, and they don't always have to be safe. For example, a popular weight loss and energy pill once contained ephedra. Ephedra is now banned in the United States, due to the fact that it causes heart attacks, strokes, and even death. There is really no way of knowing what you're getting, and it's frankly not worth it to take your chances.
Perhaps one of the very worst ways to lose weight, starvation is actually one of the best ways to prevent yourself from losing weight! The common thought is that if you don't eat, you won't gain weight, however, this couldn't be farther from the truth. When you discontinue nourishment, your body immediately goes into "starvation mode" in which every single calorie you put into your body is stored and kept for later. It's thought that this phenomenon came from the times in which humans had to go for days or even weeks during harsh times without food or any sort of nourishment. Quite simply, once you're fully into starvation, your fat supplies will be used up followed quickly by muscle and tissue depletion.
4. Liquid Diet
Well, if you need calories to prevent yourself from going into starvation mode, why not get them from liquids alone? That way you don't have to eat and you can still lose weight safely, right? Wrong. Weight loss shakes, juices, water supplements, meal replacement drinks and so forth are sufficient for jump-starting your weight loss, but they are not recommended for long-term usage. Unfortunately many people use them for this purpose. Drinking a shake for breakfast, another for lunch, with a snack and regular dinner will indeed help you lose weight, at first. However, over time your body and your metabolism will adjust to this intake and the moment you stray from the "plan", here come the pounds back on again.
Liposuction, gastric bypass and the lap band all seem like great long-term weight loss options. With liposuction, the fat is literally sucked out of your body - wow! That was easy! Gastric bypass makes the stomach smaller and allows food to evade part of the small intestine, causing less calorie absorption and making you feel fuller from eating less food. The lap band is similar to gastric bypass in that it makes the stomach smaller, but there is no actual cutting/moving of the organs and/or intestines. These three surgery options work, but only temporarily. The stomach has the ability to stretch, so even though you may have a physically smaller organ to work with, it can, over time, stretch back out to the original size. All of these surgeries can leave you with devastating scars and flappy, floppy, hanging skin from ridiculously rapid weight loss. In addition, there is no guarantee that you won't gain all or more of your weight back. And, of course, there's the risk that comes with any surgery - long term health problems, complications, and even death.
6. Fad Diets
We know what they are - Atkins (no carbs!), South Beach (only certain carbs!), the cabbage soup diet, pineapple diet, lo-fat diet, and so on. Fad diets are called this for a reason - they are simply a fad, no different from phone booth stuffing or multiple piercings. Fad diets are generally unhealthy, unsustainable, and promise unachievable results. They rarely allow for balance, and any diet that claims exercise is not necessary really just shouldn't be trusted. On a personal note, I tried the Atkins diet about six years ago when it was first becoming popular. I immediately lost weight; in fact, I lost 25 pounds in the first two weeks. However, I lost more that just weight - I lost the shine to my hair, I lost interest in everyday things I used to find enjoyable, and I lost some basic motor skills. Fad diets are simply dangerous.
Eating like a pig and exercising just doesn't work. You can't work out for three hours a day and then stuff yourself with 3000 calories worth of fried foods, sugar and trans-fats. This process is counteractive to a healthy lifestyle and in the end you could be the slimmest and most buff of all your friends, but you're probably going to be the one who dies of a heart attack at a young age.
Cocaine, meth, some prescription pills, cigarettes and caffeine, to name a few, help with appetite suppression and weight loss. Not only are they often illegal, but they are completely detrimental to your health. They will bring you up and keep you up, but only for a short time, and then you will crash - this is true of caffeine as well, not just illegal "uppers". You will lose weight, you will look pallid and "crack-whorish", and odds are, if you really abuse these drugs, you will become addicted. At that point you will have a much bigger problem than needing/wanting to lose weight, and it's just not worth your life, your family, and your job.
9. Yo-Yo Dieting
"Atkins didn't work, let's try Cabbage Soup - wait, this isn't working either, I think I'm going to start running 7 miles every morning. Dang, I've hit a plateau now, I'm going to have to try something else." Sound familiar? Yo-yo dieting is almost an epidemic. Try one thing, skip to another, always losing weight on each one but always gaining it back between diets. The key to losing weight isn't to diet - it's to make a conscious lifestyle change that includes activity and healthy food as well as healthy portions.
10. Doing it Alone
In any conquest or expedition, support is always necessary for well-being. Tell your friends you are starting a new healthy living plan instead of constantly declining invitations to go out for dinner. Don't be ashamed of wanting to have a better quality of life! Join local groups, whether on-line or in real life, and get the support you need from people who are going through a similar journey.
Overall, you need to do what's best for you. Keep in mind that if it sounds too good to be true, odds are it really is.