Why are you dieting?

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

December 2013

The ancient meaning of diet is way of life but the term "on a diet" usually refers to a program for losing weight. Fat loss, not weight loss, should be the real goal but some dieters lose valuable muscle as well.

Are you going on a diet in order to look better for some upcoming social event like a wedding or a class reunion or to look better on the beach? Some people start cutting back on calories before Thanksgiving in order to avoid the common holiday season weight gain. Those aren't bad reasons but they often lead to crash dieting. Losing more than a couple of pounds a week sounds great but it comes with a price. Besides losing muscle, crash dieters put themselves at high risk of gallbladder disease and are more likely to put the weight back on later.

The best motivation to lose fat is to gain better health. Losing only 10 or 20 pounds is likely to lower blood pressure, improve they way your body handles sugar and put some spring in your step.

Perhaps you've heard of a new fad diet or weight-loss product. Before you try something that promises spectacular results, check it out carefully. Do you remember hoodia, the cabbage soup diet, the baby food diet or Metabolife 356? Most of them have faded away and in the case of Metabolife 356, so have some of the folks who tried them.

Joint replacement surgery is booming, with knees and hips replaced most often. Obesity not only leads to joint problems, it increases the risk of surgical complications. In one study 93 percent of patients undergoing hip or knee replacement surgery were overweight or obese, a number far higher than that of the general population. As body weight increases, so does the time it takes for the procedure and the greater the risk of infection. Obese patients are more likely to need revision of the joint. Morbidly obese patients are prone to suffer from failure of the implant. If you presently have knee or hip pain it's probably time to seriously consider a plan to lose a few pounds of fat and eliminate the need for joint surgery.

Maybe your physician has told you to "lose weight or else," meaning that you are already in the early stages of heart disease or type 2 diabetes. That's a better reason than looking good in a bikini.

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him at drphil@stoneagedoc.com.