Losing weight in the new year

Every year thousands of people start out with the best intentions to lose weight, get fit and eat healthier. And every year, come February, most of them slip back into their old habits - quietly hoping that no one will would notice.

 But, those extra kilos keep taunting them when they look in the mirror, and, they become desperate - very desperate. Enter the magic diet pill. "Lose weight, feel great" and "it's easy, it's quick, it's natural" are just some of the many slogans out there. And they're very effective in pulling in yet more victims to the latest diet scam.

How is it that people fall for these "miracle" weight loss potions year after year? How is it that people get so desperate to lose weight that they would put their health at risk?

The first two months of 2010 have been a very busy time for Health24's DietDoc, debunking numerous weight loss myths and reminding readers of all the dangers involved with slimming pills.

In January media networks were buzzing with news that pharmaceutical diet pills containing sibutramine, such as Reductil and Ciplatrim, had been found to cause heart and circulatory problems and may soon be banned in the EU and other countries. In February Simply Slim hit the headlines when the Medicines Control Council (MCC) banned further sales in South Africa, after studies found that the slimming pills contained nearly double the dose of sibutramine that is permitted; dieters and their doctors reported a flood of adverse side-effects - including serious heart problems.

Since the Simply Slim controversy, DietDoc has been inundated with queries about various other over-the-counter slimming pills on her DietDoc forum. The slimming pill saga continues.

The sad thing is that, despite all these news reports, there are still people who sing the praises of Simply Slim and go so far as to share their spare supplies with family and friends. Are they crazy? Do they not know the risks they are taking with their health? Do they not even care?

Surely, it does not take a rocket scientist to understand that any product promising a quick fix for weight loss cannot possibly work? That it's unrealistic to expect weight loss in a short span of time if it took you months, even years, to pile up the kilos in the first place?

The market for diet products has always been extremely ludicrous - not because the products work, but because millions of desperate people are willing to handout their hard-earned money for an instant weight loss solution.

There is only one way to healthy and successful weight loss, and it's always been free of charge: eat less, exercise more. That's it. If your energy input (food intake) is less than your energy output (exercise/activity), you will lose weight. That's all you need to know.

Find an exercise you enjoy: dust off your tennis racket, go for a swim or make your furry best friend's year by taking him for regular walks. Start a healthy eating plan that includes lots of fruit, veggies and fibre and cut out fatty and salty foods. (Check out our Diet and Nutrition section for help, or see a dietician for advice.)

If you haven't been exercising for a while or if you have been taking any slimming products recently, first see a doctor for a general check-up, just to be safe.

And finally, make a promise to yourself today, to never fall again for quick diet fixes that might damage your health. You only have one body for life, and you need to take good care of it.

Here's wishing you a healthy and fit 2010.

 (Birgit Ottermann, Health24, Nutrition Newsletter, February 2010)

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