At last, diet products and programs must weigh their promises to you. And they may not promise what they can't deliver.
That's why the Federal Trade Commission reached cease-and-desist agreements with the marketers of Optifast, Medifast, and Ultrafast last week. All three subtly or overtly promised that you will not regain weight lost while using their products.
And no one can promise you that.
Not even your doctor or your dietitian.
The truth is, no one understands the mechanisms of weight loss very well. And we understand rebound weight gain even less.
As you listen to diet claims, remember what we know, summarized here from a recent issue of the FDA Consumer:
* Genes are probably the biggest determinant of weight. For example, identical twins raised apart are more likely to achieve the same adult body weight than fraternal twins raised together.
* Higher-fat diets appear to increase body fat storage.
* LPL (lipoprotein lipase), an enzyme produced by fat cells to increase fat storage, increases after dieting, making it easier to regain weight.
* Various body fats are not created equal. Abdominal fat is riskier than hip and thigh fat.
* Successive diets appear to increase the likelihood of repeated weight gain as well as increasing the death rate from heart attack and cancer.
* Eighty-five percent of dieters put the weight back on within two years.
* Exercisers are more likely than sedentary people to keep the weight off, regardless of the type of weight loss program they use.
* Restricting food intake to 1,000 to 1,200 calories is probably doomed to failure. Even well-established weight-loss programs are not individualized enough to account for genetics, past dieting attempts and activity level.
Weight loss is serious business, with heavy consequences. Before you start another diet, make sure you really need it. Then plan a slow attack on fat.
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend losing just 1/2 to one pound per week. Reduce your intake of high-fat and high-sugar foods. Focus on positive nutrition. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and starchy foods. Begin to exercise gently, but regularly.
Chances are, this time next year, you'll look better, feel better, and be a little thinner.
But I can't promise.
For a list of ineffective diet aids write to: FDA, HFE-20, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, Md. 20857.
Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore and director of Eating Together in Baltimore