The Mayo Clinic Diet blog

When it comes to weight loss, there's no magic bullet

By Donald Hensrud, M.D. August 23, 2011

Human nature being what it is, we want to believe there's a quick fix somewhere to help us lose weight, and we just need to find it.  This belief can be strong, so strong that even when we know something makes little sense, we still want to try it, hoping that at last we've found the magic bullet for weight loss.

Consider this — if there was a magic bullet, wouldn't everyone be using it and successful at losing weight? People spend literally billions of dollars on dietary supplements. Yet, despite the promises of all the many supplements out there, virtually none of them are effective in promoting long-term weight loss.

The only over the counter product that has any effect is orlistat, which is also available by prescription. However, weight loss is usually very modest at best, and at a relatively large cost. When it comes to supplements, save your money.

Fad diets have been popular for years and the list is long. Some of them were falsely called "The Mayo Clinic Diet", and they seemed to change from year to year. Cabbage soup, grapefruit, and bacon and eggs were some of the foods emphasized on these so called Mayo Clinic diets, but none of them were associated with Mayo Clinic.

The HCG diet has made a resurgence in the past few years. Years ago, it was originally used along with a 500 calorie per day diet — anyone would lose weight eating that few calories. But it's not safe and not recommended.

Recently, I looked at some of the fad diets that were popular years ago. I didn't recognize many and hardly any of them are still around.  Most tend to run their course until the next fad comes along.

When considering a dietary program for weight loss, you should ask some basic questions:

  • Is it safe?
  • Does it promote good nutrition and improve health?
  • Is it enjoyable?
  • Is it practical and sustainable — can you continue it for a long time to keep excess weight off?

The answer should be yes to all of these questions before embarking on any weight loss diet.

While it's tempting to jump in and try a product or program promising effortless weight loss, consider it carefully before investing time and money. The old adage holds true in this case — if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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Aug. 23, 2011