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Baby Food Diet? Americans Are Spending $50 Billion a Year Dieting -- And We're Getting Crazier By the Minute

Why our extreme quest for weight loss isn't working.
 
 
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In the United States, 68.3 percent of adults above 20 years of age suffer from obesity or are overweight. Eighty percent of women are dissatisfied with their bodies, and 89 percent want to lose weight. Eight million have been diagnosed with eating disorders. Between the magic pills, supplements, weight-loss drinks, diet books and weight-loss magazines, Americans are spending $50 billion per year on dieting products.

And yet we seem more confused than ever.

As a new diet hits the market, hopeful people swarm to it like moths to a light bulb. The latest fad: the Baby Food Diet. I first became aware of it when I discovered that it was the cause of a lingering foul smell in the women's restroom at a luxury fashion company where I used to work. A number of 20-somethings were desperate to lose weight, and they would turn to anything that promised quick results. Created by celebrity personal trainer Tracy Anderson and reportedly taken up by Jennifer Aniston, the diet requires the consumption of 14 jars of baby food per day followed by a dinner of grilled fish and vegetables. 

“I wanted something where you can eliminate toxicity, break bad habits but still have your digestive system going,” says Anderson. “That is when the baby food cleanse was born."

According to the National Institutes of Health, a healthy functioning body requires the consumption of at least 1,200 calories per day, but the baby food diet offers only approximately 800 per day. When dieters are exercising on top of cutting calories, the results can be dangerous and short-lived.

The reason diets and calorie-cutting often do not work in the long term comes down to basic science. Weight loss can occur when you burn more calories than you consume. But your body always needs a certain amount of energy in order to perform daily functions and keep up a speedy metabolism. When a person cuts calories to below 1,200 per day, the metabolism goes into "starvation mode" and slows down, meaning that your body is no longer burning the calories it once did when you participated in daily tasks or exercise. This conservation of calories is a natural reaction from your body in order to maintain as much energy as possible until your next meal. During the first weeks of dieting, the dieter may notice a quick weight loss, but these types of results quickly slow down as the metabolism slows. After a diet like the baby food regimen, the dieter often consumes more calories on a slowed metabolism, causing the food to burn more slowly, resulting in eventual weight gain.

Non-carb diets are fraught with similar problems. Cutting out carbs for the long-term is difficult – and potentially dangerous. Carbs are the main resource for the body to burn energy -- you need a diet of approximately 60 percent carbs just to survive. Completely or greatly reducing your carb intake for a prolonged amount of time can lead to a large number of health issues such as kidney failure, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, kidney stones, cancer, and an unhealthy metabolic state known as ketosis, in which the body burns fat instead of glucose, the sugar found in carbs. The short-term effects of non-carb diets are nausea, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, bad breath, constipation and dehydration. After experiencing these side effects, dieters feel the need to reintroduce carbs. But now the body is no longer used to breaking down carbs, as it has been breaking down protein fats instead. So the body ignores the carbs at first, allowing them to turn to fat, causing weight gain. Yet another failed diet.

 
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