With Spring Break around the corner, students are attempting serious dieting to whip their bodies back into shape. But beware, diets can only go so far before they become dangerous.
Many try popular diets like WeightWatchers and The Zone to lose weight. Those diets count calories, limiting participants to 1000 to1400 calories a day, and avoid carbohydrates or certain sugars. Rachel Abair, a personal trainer and instructor for exercise science classes at GW, said these diets may work, but only in the short run.
“Most health professionals would not recommend these diets,” Abair said. “When your body gets used to avoiding certain foods, the weight is gained back quickly when you start eating them again.”
So what would health professionals recommend? Portion control and the good old food pyramid.
Abair said enjoying all foods without overdoing it can help you shed a few pounds and keep it off without going on and off diets. These simple steps also work for all body types, unlike fad diets.
Going on a diet to drop pounds quickly can lead people down a dangerous path. Freshman Tamara El Waylly took her diet so far she passed out.
“I started out trying to lose a few pounds by being vegetarian,” El Waylly said. “When I saw how quickly I was losing weight, I kept taking it further.”
After dieting for five months, El Waylly was at the point where she would only eat an apple and a few pieces of lettuce everyday.
El Wallay got most of her energy from coffee. Susan Haney, director of Student Health Service, said quite a few students visit Student Health for feeling sick after skipping meals and drinking a lot of caffeine. El Waylly experienced this consistently.
Most students who go into Student Health for nutrition trouble are simply eating poorly and not keeping a balanced diet, filling up on carbohydrates and not eating enough protein.
“Mostly students are just not eating properly,” Haney said. “Occasionally we’ll see students who aren’t eating enough calories to try and lose weight. They come in for feeling shaky or weak.”
Student Health doctors try to help students who come in for unbalanced diets by figuring out realistic health plans or even referring them to a nutritionist in the area. The Lerner Health and Wellness Center also has a dietician.
“I’m eating regularly now but every time I eat, I think I’m eating too much,” El Waylly said after adopting her own nutrition plan.
Abair said a healthy weight loss is .5 to 2 pounds a week; this can be achieved through a balanced diet and exercise. She suggests five workouts a week at 30 minutes per session.
With support, El Waylly has kept the weight off while eating the proper amount of calories.
“Watch out when you diet! That can really mess you up!” she advised.
This article appeared in the March 9, 2009 issue of the Hatchet.