I've been going a bit mad with the old exercise mags at the moment. Most of them are great (I'm looking at you, Womens Health and Ultrafit) and promote a sensible diet and give really useful advice on exercise which you can actually follow. They also use fitness models, people who granted, have little body fat but also look strong, defined and well, healthy.
At the train station this weekend I picked up a magazine with 'fitness' in the title, thinking it would be similar to the ones mentioned above. Nu-uh, skinny malinki models with bad form pictured doing the exercises and a feature on detox diets.
So people detox to 'give their body a break'. From what? Eating meat and grains, the very thing our bodies are designed to do? If you eat a healthy, balanced diet you don't need to detox. Want to know why these 'diets' work? Because they involve the consumption of very little calories. When you hardly eat, you lose weight. Who knew?
Our bodies need a minimum amount of calories to function. To keep our heart beating, organs working and brain functioning. If we don't get these calories from food, we go into 'starvation mode'. Because this energy is so important, our bodies actually cling to the fat stores (to keep as an energy reserve as it thinks it's not getting any from food) and instead burn muscle.
Let me tell you about muscle. It is active tissue and acts as a metabolic engine room. It burns calories, even at rest (unlike fat) so the more we have, the more calories we burn throughout the day. Sounds good, yes? Now, imagine what happens if you lose this muscle mass due to extreme calorie deficit? Yep, your metabolism plummets and your body actually uses less calories than before. This here is the very reason why people often put on more weight when they return to normal eating after a fad diet.
So with all these faddy diets, the only reason they work is that you're creating a massive calorie deficit. Nothing more to it I'm afraid. No science, no miracle solution.
The only way to lose fat is to burn more calories than you consume. 1lb of fat equates to 3500 calories. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn't go below 1200 calories a day to avoid 'starvation mode'. Reduce your calorie intake by 500 per day (as long as it doesn't take you below the 1200) and you could lose 1lb a week.
Better still, add in some exercise and your body will burn more calories, resulting in greater fat loss. A steady loss is advisable, no more than 2lbs a week for a sustainable loss.
Even better again is to add strength training to your regime to give your metabolism a boost so even after exercise your calorie burn will be elevated, burining more calories as you work, eat your dinner and sleep. No, you won't bulk up. Any bodybuilder will tell you how hard it is to build muscle mass, these guys work incredibly hard and nutrition plays a huge role.
So pardon my rant but the bottom line is fad diets? Don't do it. Eat sensibly, stay active and be patient and you'll get proper results which stay with you.