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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

From too thick to toothpick.

I hate to admit it, but I love celebrity magazines. The fashion, the scandal – the pictures! As these people don’t affect my life one iota, I only let myself buy them in airports. That way, I’m entertained on the flight, but the crazy “celeb-reality” doesn’t creep into my real life.

“Scary Skinny!” The headline screamed at me from the news stand as I headed to my gate. Just days after my doctor told me I could expect to lose only 1 pound a week on my new exercise and eating program, I admittedly had to see what the fuss was all about. These celebs truly are scary skinny. If the camera really does add 10 pounds, that means they're even more skeletal in real life (I’ve often looked at pictures of myself and wondered exactly how many cameras were on me….yikes!).

From eating only baby food to virtually no food at all, these lovely ladies are doing serious damage to themselves in the name of fame. The old yo-yo dieter in me might have been tempted by the quick fixes, but the older (ugh), wiser (matter of opinion) Svelte Gourmet isn’t fooled. No sir.

Lest you think that “only losing water weight” is the biggest risk of a crash diet, cleanse or fast, read on.

As crash diets usually consist of severely restricted caloric intake or elimination of entire food groups, nutrient deprivation is, in my opinion, the most threatening health risk. Not only do these diets weaken your immune system (increasing your risk of illness), they also deprive you of vital nutrients and can lead to bone loss (from a lack of calcium in your diet), organ damage, and even cardiac stress. Add exercise to the mix and you’re putting some serious strain on your body!

This alone should be enough to deter you from taking the crash diet plunge. But try this on for size – starving now to fit in that high school reunion dress can have serious implications for your ability to lose weight and keep it off later. You may lose 10 pounds now, but you’ll gain it back quickly….and probably put on more than you lost. I’m sure you’ve heard this a thousand times. But why does this happen?

Crash dieting (restricting calories or entire food groups) sends your body into starvation mode. It’s a vicious cycle. On crash diets, you appear to lose weight because your body in starvation mode is shedding water and muscle mass – NOT burning fat. Muscle burns calories faster than fat, so losing this precious muscle will slow down your metabolism (how quickly your body burns calories) and make it even more difficult to lose weight later. Then, since your body thinks it’s starving, it automatically stores new calories as fat – so when you start to eat again, you’ll pack those pounds back on faster than you lost them!

There’s a lot more to this and I’m not a doctor, so take this for what it’s worth – my very basic understanding of a growing problem (no pun intended!). My two rounds with the lemonade diet several years ago have made it noticeably harder for me to lose weight. My metabolism just isn’t what it used to be. When my doctor and I discussed my new plan (which, really, just ensures that I actually practice what I already preach), I was tempted to “jump start” my weight loss with a weekend liquid diet. But armed with this explanation and my own crash diet experiences, I know that would do more harm than good.

So what is the right way to lose weight and keep it off? It’s easier said than done – take it from me! But the best and only way is proper nutrition, enough calories and a lot of exercise. I know this now, and I do this now – it’s how the Svelte Gourmet came to be. But recently I’ve stepped it up in order to size it down. A lot more exercise (I’m up to running 5 miles! Yay!); sticking with lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and veggies; and especially watching my portion sizes has me back on track….to the tune of one healthy pound a week. This lifestyle is a marathon, not a sprint – it's tough if you're impatient like me, but slow and steady wins the race.

And ladies of Hollywood, please eat something. Maybe a burger or five. Just go for the whole grain bun and you’ll be fine. Or better yet, choose any meal from my cookbook – all are delicious, full of nutrient-rich foods, and light enough for any diet. Oh, and feel free to carry the book around in front of the paparazzi -- let's get The Svelte Gourmet on the map!

The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html. Enjoy!

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