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Don't get stuck on the weightloss number

Editor's note: This column is one in a series as three RiverTown Multimedia reporters take part in the Slim Down with RiverTown weightloss challenge.

A Google search for "diet" brings up over 1 billion results. On the first page you will find a mix of weight-loss diets, warnings of bad diet habits and advertisements that rank diets by weight loss, among other things.

The second page somehow gets a little more broad and specific at the same time: a diet for arthritis, a diet webpage from the federal government, The Mayo Clinic Diet. It goes on like this for result after result, page after page — what must be 1 billion results minus the 20 results on the first two pages.

David ClareyThis all makes some sense, too. The International Food Information Council Foundation, a nonprofit focused on science-based health communication, conducted a survey a year ago that showed weight loss and weight management as the second highest reason people eat what they eat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in a 2018 study that from 2013-2016 almost half of Americans are trying to lose weight.

READ MORE: Slim Down With RiverTown

This Slim Down with Rivertown challenge is zeroed in on weight loss, too.

People want to lose weight, it's that simple. But the way we go about it is not that simple and can be damaging at times.

We often look to diets such as keto or Whole30 diets for quick-loss efforts. In the short term, those may work, but, long term, research shows that people often gain that weight back and sometimes more, said Laura Hooper, a dietitian and doctoral student at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health.

Some fad diets focus on restricting major nutrients in a push to lose weight, which can strip the body of some of its nutritional needs, she said.

"You're choosing weight loss over health with most weight-loss diets," she said.

Weight-loss diets sometimes categorize foods in two categories — good and bad — and this tendency is problematic too, Hooper said.

This can create a situation where if you eat something in the "bad" category it causes us to feel bad about it, and thus making it harder to commit to a healthier lifestyle, she said.

"A lot of diets are playing on our insecurities, they're kind of selling to us if you do this your life will be perfect," she said. "That's just not accurate, but very counterproductive in terms of mental health."

Instead of fad diets, Hooper said it's important to understand your personal health situation and tailor to that. And, if you can, she recommended getting to know a dietitian to better understand individual health goals.

People also should try to eat a varied diet that includes different-colored vegetables, fruit, whole grains, some dairy and plant-based oils or foods. As for your protein, she pointed to seafood, poultry, nuts and beans as some of the healthier options.

While diets can get too zeroed in on weight-loss and be problematic at times, that doesn't mean wanting to lose weight is always bad. Hooper said there is strong evidence for weight-loss being an effective way to combat some diseases and other health parameters.

"The issues I see is that often weight-loss is the focus, without regard for health at all," she said. "The focus on health needs to be more prominent than the focus on weight loss."

Tip of the week from Vibrant Health

Limit that sugar

By Greg Miller, MD

We are over half way through this challenge — keep up the great work teas!

People consume much more sugar today then we as a society 100 years ago. This has a negative impact on weight and health.

So put those sugary drinks down.

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