The Zone, The Atkins Diet, Carbohydrate Addicts Diet, The Fruit Diet, The Cabbage Soup Diet … the list goes on and on. Diets can make people lose “weight,” but is it really the type of “weight” they want to lose, and can they realistically keep it off? First of all, even the term “diet” is a misnomer. Everyone is on a diet. A diet is simply what a person eats. However, many people (about 50 percent of women and 25 percent of men) eat strange combinations of food, drastically reduce caloric intake, and even eliminate entire food groups in the hopes of losing weight. Let’s look at a couple of these “miracle” workers:

The Atkins Diet. The advocates of this diet recommend drastically reducing carbohydrate intake, and allow the dieter to eat high-fat foods. There are several problems with this diet. First off, eliminating or even drastically reducing an entire food group is not a brilliant idea. Carbohydrates are the main energy source of the body. Carbohydrates turn into glucose and are used to maintain proper function of the body, both physically and mentally. In other words, if one does not have carbohydrates in their system, the body will turn elsewhere for the fuel it needs to survive. No, that source is not the fat that Dr. Atkins says people can eat without a second thought. The source the body turns to is protein. That’s right. The body will break down the proteins of the body in order to keep it alive. Where does that protein come from? Muscle, hair, nails, etc. Some people still may say, so what? As long as the weight comes off they are happy. Well, here is something else for them to think about. The risks involved with The Atkins Diet include cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, liver damage, kidney damage, some cancers and osteoporosis.

The Zone is another popular diet. This diet has a 40-30-30 rule – 40 percent complex carbohydrates, 30 percent protein and 30 percent fat (mostly unsaturated). In comparison to the food guide pyramid there are all sorts of nutrients missing. These include, not enough carbohydrates (suggested amount is 55-65 percent of food intake), calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, thiamin, vitamin C and vitamin E. The Zone diet suggests 30 percent of your diet come from protein, while the body only needs 10-15 percent of our intake to come from protein. Many people have a misunderstanding of how protein works in the body. Yes, our hair, muscles, etc. are made of protein, but that does not mean people need to consume mass quantities of protein if they want to “bulk up” or “get buff.” What people do not realize is that the extra protein, like anything else taken in at excess is stored as fat or excreted from the body. So eating all that extra protein is either putting the kidneys on overload or plumping up those fat cells.

Diets, for the most part, do not work. Ninety-eight percent of people who diet gain the weight back within two years. As a society, we are obsessed with the idea that thin is in. However, taxing the body and mind in order to achieve these unrealistic ideals is not worth it. We should learn to love our bodies. Curves are beautiful, especially on people who are happy with themselves inside and out.

February 24 through March 2 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. In honor of the week, take a moment to reflect on your own ideas of eating, dieting and exercising. If you have any concerns or would like to utilize the free services offered at Student Health, call 893-3371.

Lynnae Pedrotti is a nutrition and eating disorder peer.