Trying to diet

Originally Published: December 16, 1994 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: April 22, 2011
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Dear Alice,

I've been trying to diet for over two years. My goal is to lose about 25 pounds, but the most I've been able to get is 15, and I can hardly keep it off. I concentrate on eating very little and since exercise is so hard to keep up, I pretty much starve myself to death. I manage to maintain the weight for a month, and then I lose control again. I've been thinking about the various diet products in the market, such as diet teas, herbs, meal- substitution shakes, and other medical products. I'd like to know what kind of side-effects they have, and how effective they are. (Some boast a seven-day plan, but that seems hardly believable.) Also, I'd like to know how well-researched the information is on these products, i.e., are they long-term enough to cover all the side-effects? As for aspartame, is it really harmless, or is it just not researched yet?

--Trying to Diet

Dear Trying to Diet,

Let's start with aspartame. Despite controversy over its potential health risks, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains that aspartame is a safe sugar substitute. There is one exception: people with phenylketonuria (PKU) should avoid aspartame because it contains phenylalanine, an amino acid that's difficult to metabolize for people with this condition. A large body of research refutes the claim that aspartame increases the risk of cancer.

When it comes to diet products, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is! There are no miracles or secrets to thinness out there, so be wary of diet fads and gimmicks that want to sell you a "quick fix." Some diets and weight-loss products are more effective or more risky than others, so you may want to check out the specific reviews in the Related Q&As below. It takes commitment and willpower to lose weight the old-fashioned way, through healthy eating and regular exercise, but these habits will keep you fit and firm for the long haul. Here are some tried-and-true tips for good nutrition and fitness to help you safely lose weight and improve your overall health:

  • Set realistic weight loss goals (perhaps you've already reached a good weight for your body type).
  • Ditch diets in favor of consistent, healthy eating and exercise habits.
  • Listen to your body (i.e., eat when you feel hungry and stop when you feel full).
  • Feel free to treat yourself once in a while.
  • Avoid extremes like starving and out-of-control bingeing, and lastly…
  • Aim for moderation — both in terms of calorie intake and exercise

Before making any changes in your diet or exercise routine, it's smart to talk with a health care provider or a nutritionist. The provider can answer questions about food and exercise, and help you design a plan that meets your needs. Students at Columbia can make an appointment by calling  Medical Services at x4-2284 or visiting Open Communicator.

To get the skinny on healthier eating and exercise topics, you may want to peruse the Go Ask Alice! Fitness and Nutrition archive. Here's to doing away with diets!

Alice

November 15, 2002

20460
Dear Alice,

Thanks, Alice, for busting some diet myths for me.

WoW, finally. Thank you for all of your info, very helpful, and without a doubt, the most helpful website that I have found...

Dear Alice,

Thanks, Alice, for busting some diet myths for me.

WoW, finally. Thank you for all of your info, very helpful, and without a doubt, the most helpful website that I have found in more than 10 months of research. (A little info about me: 73 inches tall, big broad build, and trying hard to lose weight cross training, weight lifting(light), and reduced calorie(and fat) diet. I joined a gym 12/15/01 and have lost 25 pounds since (11/12/02), but I seem to have hit a rut and I'm not sure where to turn.) This site helps out a lot. Now that I know what does not work, I have an even better idea of what does, thanks. I will be back.