DEAR DR. BLONZ: I attended a presentation on toxin buildup in the intestines and how it is responsible for difficult-to-lose weight. The doctor's presentation spoke about a weight-loss detox routine involving a five-day herbal diet drink. I gave it a try and dropped almost eight pounds. It was incredible, but when switching off the routine for vacation, all the weight came back. How could I have handled it so that the weight stayed off? -- T.S., Tulsa, Oklahoma
DEAR T.S.: The reliance on your scale was misleading. We store energy as fat, the most calorie-dense material. (Fat has nine calories per gram, compared with four for proteins or carbohydrates, and seven for alcohol.) Body adipose tissue is almost entirely fat. We need to burn approximately 3,500 more calories than we take in to use up a pound of stored body fat.
I don't know how many calories were in that diet drink, but even if the number was close to zero, losing more than a few pounds of body fat in a week would have been tough.
Check out the ingredients in that drink, as I predict it had diuretic and laxative components. Our body is about 60% water, and diuretics cause a decrease in body water. Laxatives cause a rapid exit of materials in the queue for elimination through your digestive tract. These are both transient changes that revert once stopped. In your case, you also have the issue of shifting from the drink back to calorie-containing foods. Such programs can lead to frustration and help explain many failures with fad diets.
Healthful living is a collective construct that is not governed solely by the numbers on the scale. Weight loss takes patience and a plan, but the key to success is a critical look and adjustment to the way you eat and your activity patterns. Quick fixes rarely stand the test of time, which makes sense given that one's excess weight did not arrive overnight.
A reliance on drinks and pills does not bode well for long-term success. Better to create a plan that includes a healthful, balanced diet, a good selection from all the food groups and a solid activity component. Map out a multi-year plan, complete with rewards for your accomplishments. Many plans include the basic strategy of pacing your eating; studies show that those who eat more slowly tend to weigh less than those who scarf down their meals.
By gradually lowering your caloric intake and increasing your activity, you can begin to make gradual changes. They may be less dramatic, but they will have a greater chance at long-term success.
Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.