The skinny of dieting frenzies

Imagine ordering a pizza with bacon, pepperoni, sausage and extra cheese. All the ingredients of a great pizza – except the crust. Sound healthy? According to the Atkins diet, it is.

The Atkins diet is one of many diets students said they have tried as a quick fix to shed extra pounds. But most health experts warn these fad diets are often unhealthy and rarely offer lasting results.

Many students at GW have known people on the Atkins diet, which calls for eating high-protein food and eliminating carbohydrates.

“I think it is really unhealthy,” senior Jessica Sultzer said.

Because of the imbalance between the intake of protein and carbohydrates, the risk for heart disease increases for people on the diet, Outreach Coordinator of Student Health Services Susan Haney said.

“Initially people experience good weight loss, however there is no evidence that the weight loss is maintained,” Haney said.

Haney said many GW students don’t have the patience to take in a traditional regiment of nutritious food and exercise because it takes time to see results.

A few GW students have made up their own diets, such as the “Jamba Juice diet.”

Sophomore Laurie Rines said she has friends who have tried the juice diet. Like Slim Fast, students drink Jamba Juice smoothies throughout the day and then eat a sensible dinner.

“People tend to forget that a single Jamba Juice smoothie still has hundreds of calories despite the fact that they are made of fruit,” Rines said. “Since these smoothies are made of fruits, which are healthy, many people are fooled into thinking that they cannot gain weight from them.”

Senior Heather King said she experimented with the Zone diet to loose weight. Instead of removing an entire food group from a person’s diet like the Atkins diet, the Zone diet limits intake of all types of food.

For example, a serving of meat should be no larger than the palm of one’s hand. Although the Zone does not advise to completely cut carbohydrates, it does recommend to eat less and healthier carbohydrates. For example, dieters replace white breads and pastas with wheat.

“I didn’t stay on it long enough to see the results,” King said.

King said she believes the diet would have worked had she stayed on it. She said she thought the Zone was the best diet if the choice has to be made.

“It was much more moderated than the Atkins diet,” King said.

Diet pills are another popular way to lose weight without the effort. But they, too, have side effects.

Freshman Reena Patel said she has friends who have taken pills to lose weight and noticed detrimental side effects.

“They couldn’t stomach food very well, and they would fill up if they ate one meal,” said Patel.

She said she feels that the strong desire in so many females to lose weight is driven by society’s image of the perfect and very slender women.

Phentermine, a prescription diet pill, and Matabolife, an over-the-counter diet pill, both come with side effects including stomach pains, vomiting and heart problems.

While some students may not put themselves on a diet, dietary supplements are used to accompany exercising and weight lifting. Sophomore John Costanza noticed a difference after only a few months of lifting.

“I take supplements of protein before and after lifting weights because they help to improve muscle mass,” Costanza said.

These supplements consist of protein bars and powders.

Dr. Wayne Miller, assistant professor of exercise science, said all types of fad diets and weight loss pills should be avoided.

“I think most students attempt to lose weight, but they don’t know what they are doing,” he said.

Students often get advice from friends about diets that promise quick weight loss rather than consulting a professional nutritionist, Miller said. “Anything to limit your intake of one certain type of food is unhealthy,” he said.

Miller said moderation and exercise are the keys to healthy weight loss.

“In fad diets, you lose weight temporarily but gain it back,” Miller said.

Many students do not choose to go on diets. But they also notice the many difficulties of eating a healthy range of foods while staying on campus.

“If you want to eat healthy, it is definitely hard,” senior Jessica Gordon said.

One of her main complaints is that J Street replaced the salad bar with a sushi bar. She said that was where she was able to find a nutritious meal. Gordon also notices that Provisions often has a low quantity of fresh fruits and vegetables.

For most upperclassmen, having a kitchen makes creating a wholesome meal much easier.

“You have to go to Provisions and make your own food to be nutritious,” Rines said.

A popular diet promoted on television isn’t always the only choice for weight loss. With a little bit of creativity, students at GW have been able to create healthy meals from ingredients that can be found in Provisions. All it can take is a little bit of willpower to walk past the fast food vendors at J Street.

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