Studies indicate half of all Americans are trying to lose weight and more than $30 billion is spent annually on weight-loss programs, pills, books, surgery, etc. This means weight loss is a national pastime in the United States.

Whether it is a low-carb, high-fat, high-protein diet or a three-day detox, Americans are easily attracted and susceptible to the latest trend.

And we all tend to want a jumpstart or kick start into losing weight. These programs can help us lose weight, but the bigger question is does the weight stay off? Most people who go on a fad diet tend to gain the weight back plus more.

While the thought of losing 10 pounds in a week might sound appealing, it is beneficial to add some logic before jumping into a new fad. People love talking about all of the benefits they see, but will it really work? Start exploring what the plan is about, then decide if it is worth it.

Here are some questions to consider in the analysis:

>> Is there an extreme type of eating or exercise plan involved?

>> Does it eliminate a food group(s)?

>> Is there a supplement or other products needed in order to get results?

>> Does the program have a verbatim meal plan to follow?

If you answered yes to these questions, this is probably a fad diet. Fad diets are plans that don’t last, and once over, the person goes back to the way he or she ate before and usually gains the weight back.

Next consider sustainability of the plan:

>> How long does the plan last?

>> Are there any health risks?

>> Can this plan/program/style of eating be followed for life to maintain the results?

It is also important to explore a little deeper and ask some questions regarding the results and validity of the plan:

>> How long has this diet/program been around?

>> Are there research studies on the results, or is it just testimonial results?

>> If there is research confirming the results, who conducted the research? The company/endorser themselves or a third-party evaluation of the diet/research?

>> Are there any side effects or health risks?

>> What happens when the plan is no longer followed?

>> Is this sustainable health-wise?

>> Does it have celebrity endorsement surrounding it?

>> Are the claims and results gimmicky or sound too good to be true? Does it promise rapid results for weight loss, belly fat or increased metabolism?

If satisfied with the answers to the above questions and the thought is to move forward with trying out this new plan, take one more pause and ask these questions:

>> Is this diet sustainable, health-wise, time-wise, sanity-wise, or financially?

>> Will I be happy during this time?

>> Will I be happy afterward?

>> What will I do when the diet ends or I get the results I’m looking for?

By going through these lists of questions, the answers will speak for themselves. USUALLY, there are many more “cons” to fad diets than “pros,” especially when looking at the broad view, including the validity behind the claims or results and any health risks.

A few additional key points to consider:

>> The liver and kidneys both have a job (in different ways) to adequately sort through and eliminate toxins in our bodies. We do not need a miracle “detox” or “cleanse.” Radical three- to seven-day cleanses/detoxes severely limit calories and protein and result in excessive urination and sometimes diarrhea and can be dangerous.

>> Sustainable weight loss is one-fourth pound up to two pounds per week (not five pounds per week). This type of weight loss occurs from eating a balanced diet with adequate portions and staying active within any medical limitations. Making lifestyle changes has proved to be the most effective strategy in maintaining weight loss and keeping it off.

>> Support is crucial. Getting linked up with others who are supportive of healthy weight loss and balanced eating efforts is pinnacle. One reason Weight Watchers is one of the most successful weight loss/management programs is not because of the point system, but because of the group support the program is founded on.

>> Dieting can be dangerous. It is estimated that at least 30 percent of people who diet are at risk for developing eating disorders.

>> Figure out what works for you as an individual. Different things work for different people.

>> Registered dietitian/nutritionists are excellent resources to help navigate the world of diet fads and can help with discerning the best approach to healthy and sustained weight loss.

Instead of a fad diet, consider healthy jump starts such as meeting with a dietitian for new ideas, menu planning and meal prepping ahead or hiring a personal trainer. Taking the best care of our body with healthy weight-loss strategies ensures long-term success as opposed to the ups and downs of the diet roller coaster.

For more information on adopting healthier lifestyle changes, contact Kitty Finklea, lifestyle coach, registered dietitian and personal trainer at McLeod Health and Fitness Center, at 843-777-3000.

Lindsay Fraser is a registered dietitian/nutritionist with the McLeod Health & Fitness Center.