Three years ago, Jyoti Arora, a Team Leader in the Department of Nutrition and Dietics at Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon, was searching for quick weight loss remedies. Not for her patients, but for herself. "I was on steroids for a skin ailment and had put on 10 kg. Exercising was not an option because of a leg injury," she recalls. She chanced upon a diet plan which was a rage then - the General Motors, or GM, diet. "A colleague who was on this diet recommended it," she says.
The origins of the seven-day GM diet are a mystery. Websites claim the programme was developed by General Motors Corp for its staff and their dependents, but the company denies it. The plan promises to help you shed five to six kg in a week. Users swear by it. It directs you to eat only fruit on the first day, vegetables on the second, and a combination of the two on the third. The diet on Day Four comprises bananas, milk and a special soup. Day Five is paneer or egg white or chicken and tomatoes. Day Six includes paneer or egg white or chicken and vegetables, while on Day Seven, the diet suggests you wrap up your effort with brown rice, vegetables and fruit juice.
But Arora was through by the fifth day. "I used to get cravings for food all the time and couldn't keep up." She finally adopted a balanced diet and supplemented it with exercise after her leg healed. In three months, she lost 12 kg and never had weight problems thereafter. "The problem with prescribed diets is you end up gaining more weight after you go off the plan. You tend to overeat later." Pointing out that such plans direct people to avoid salt and sugar, she adds that the apparent weight loss observed is actually sodium and water loss, not genuine weight loss.
"Any diets that guarantee weight loss should be avoided, as each body type is different," says Ishi Khosla, Clinical Nutritionist and Director, Whole Foods, the organic foods retailer chain. She says a diet plan should give you information about food, and should include all food groups like dairy, pulses, fruits and vegetables and whole grains. She recalls how a patient who came to her had developed ovarian cancer after following various diets for a long period. "Tuberculosis, gall stones, thyroid problems, constipation, and other digestive disorders are some of the after-effects of crash diets," she adds.
Other doctors agree. "Almost 90 per cent of the chronic ailments are linked to obesity and weight loss," says Ritika Samaddar, Head of Department, Nutritional Therapy, Max Healthcare. She adds that diets alone are never enough, and have to be accompanied by regular exercise. "Executives these days opt for these yo-yo plans, which help in losing weight, but not in a scientific way."
It is also necessary to accept that the capacity to lose weight wanes with age, as the basal metabolic rate drops. Doctors recommend at least half an hour of exercise and a balanced diet rich in protein and fibre. "Have a bowl of fruit and salad before going out for dinner, pick salads without dressing like mayonnaise, and burgers with paneer, which is a rich source of protein," says Arora. Such small measures will go a long way in maintaining a healthy you.