Dear Heidi, I am going on a cruise next month and would like to lose some weight before hand so I can feel good in my bathing suit. I did the low carb thing a few years ago and had some success, so I was thinking of doing that again. I am slightly hesitant though since I have heard that new research shows it may not be very healthy. What is the truth? Heather
Burlington Dear Heather, Step away from the bacon and hear me out! The low carb diet craze is just about as healthy as the low fat, high sugar diet craze of the early 90s. The bottom line is that your body needs all of the food groups to function normally, so cutting out an entire food group is downright ridiculous. Most low carb diets cut out carbohydrates all together. Notice the last two syllables of the word car-bo-hy-drate. Thats right, hydrate. Carbohydrates literally help your body to stay hydrated. Thus, when we cut them out all together, we become de-hydrated. So, when we see the numbers on the scale falling, we are losing water weight, not fat. A pound of fat contains 3500 calories. A pound of bacon contains 2458 calories. How is it that you could eat unlimited amounts of such a calorie dense food and still lose weight? Not to mention the high levels of saturated fat (62.4 grams per pound) and protein (168 grams per pound) that would severely damage your heart and kidneys to the point of failure if the diet is followed for a lengthy period of time. This is not to say that you should follow a low-fat diet either. The low-fat craze of the early 90s sparked the production of low-fat foods such as Snackwells cookies. While the fat content is low (and fat is what makes us fat, right?) the sugar content is well beyond the amount that anyone should consume. This is where the low carb craze began. If the carbs caused by the excess amounts of sugar were making us fat, then cut out the carbs, right? Wrong. So now you are probably asking yourself Ok, so I am supposed to eat fat and I am supposed to eat carbs. How am I going to lose weight? The answer is simple, the old fashioned way. There is no magic answer; it is the one that has been in front of us all along, healthy eating and exercise. I define healthy eating as getting all of the food groups the right way, meaning correct foods and portion sizes. When eating carbs for example, choose the healthy ones, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. When eating fats, choose healthy fats such as olive and canola oils. There are many resources online that can help you to weed out the good from the bad. The best online resource for teaching yourself how to eat healthy is the new USDA food guide pyramid, which can be accessed by anyone free of charge at www.mypyramid.gov . This website allows you to enter in your own personal information, including your nutrition goals whether it be maintaining or losing weight, and gives you an individualized eating plan based on your needs. In short, denying your body the vital nutrients it needs may help you to lose weight in the short term, but the long-term damage that you do to your system simply is not worth that vacation photo of you in your bikini. So stay on a healthy diet plan and you will surely enjoy those spring cruises for years to come.