A Healthy Issue It has been long debated as to what method is the best way to lose weight. Every day it seems there is a new diet craze sweeping across America. The birth of fad diets has brought hope to those wanting to lose weight fast. Which is the best diet plan? There are so many to choose from now, and there are not only diet plans. There are hundreds of dietary supplements now available as well as new-age surgeries to help us battle the bulge. Each method has its own positives and negatives.

Some have lead to amazing weight loss, while others have lead to sickness and even death. With all of the different ways available to lose weight, is there a better solution than to simply follow a balanced diet combined with regular exercise? Fad diets are the newest thing to hit our waistlines. They are notorious for being a fast way to lose weight. Some of these diets, just to name a few examples include: Atkins' Diet, Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, South Beach Diet, The Zone, Subway Diet, e Diets, The Beverly Hills Diet, and the list goes on and on. All promise dramatic weight loss that is easy to keep off as long as you follow their regimen.

Are they safe? Which one is right for you? To get a better understanding about what they entail, let's take a look at a few of them. The Atkins' diet is probably the most popular in today's society. Dr. Robert Atkins, a cardiologist, actually came up with his plan back in 1972.

Unlike the many fad diets that followed, the Atkins' diet survived the term fad, and has actually become more popular as the years have passed. In the Atkins' diet, the formula is allowing foods that are high in protein and that are low in carbohydrates. To start, the plan requires you to go through an induction period for two weeks that will balance your metabolism. An individual is allowed to have as much fat and protein as desired, but the foods must contain less than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day.

Some of the foods allowed include: meat, poultry, fish, eggs, oil, butter and cheese. After completing the two-week induction period, the amount of carbohydrates allowed is doubled to 35-40 grams per day. When the individual reaches his or her goal weight, the amount is increased again, up to 60 grams of carbohydrates per day. Several major health organizations such as the American Heart Association and the American Medical Association are against the low carbohydrate diet because it is high in fat as well as a lack of vitamins and nutrients that the diet does not provide. Food manufacturers, however, have embraced the idea, as the grocery store shelves have gradually become littered with low carbohydrate foods. The cost of these foods is generally more expensive than its competitor, which is the ordinary food with the ordinary amount of carbohydrates.

Low carbohydrate diets also affect the body's energy levels and can also result in muscle fatigue. Weight Watchers is another diet that has been around for quite some time. For 40 years, they have had their diet plan in place, enhancing it year after year. Weight Watchers has a point system assigned to all foods, even some restaurants have their point system included on their menus. An allowable point total is assigned based on the individual's statistics; such as height, current weight, and target weight. The plan tracks calorie intake and enforces portion control.

In addition, members can go to Weight Watchers meetings, in which people who are on the plan can speak out about their successes and their downfalls. This facilitates motivation and allows people who are having difficulties to discuss the problems they are facing. There is also a monthly weigh in at the Weight Watchers center, so that they can track your progress and offer additional assistance if necessary. The plan also requires an exercise plan for the member to follow and assesses points depending on the type of exercise being done. Weight Watchers boasts that their plan has helped millions over the years lose their excess weight. The Slim-Fast plan has been around for 25 years.

The bread and butter of the Slim-Fast plan are their diet shake beverages. The shake provides all of the nutrients the body needs with a controlled dose of calories. The plan works by drinking a shake for breakfast and another one for lunch, along with a piece of fruit or side salad with each shake. Dinner is to be a sensible meal consisting of about 600 - 700 calories that combines lean meats, starch, vegetables and fruit. In addition to conforming to the eating habits of the Slim-Fast plan, it requires a workout routine of 10-60 minutes per day. Slim-Fast began its empire with the nutrient shake being its only product.

Times have changed and so has Slim-Fast, which now offers meal bars, snacks, soups, and pastas, in addition to their shakes. The shakes can be purchased in premixed cans or in powder form, which requires mixing with water. The individual is allowed 3 snacks a day in addition to the two shakes and sensible dinner. According to a source at the North American Association for the study of Obesity, "People who routinely used The Slim-Fast Plan were 33 pounds thinner after 10 years as compared to a matched group. A landmark study demonstrated that The Slim-Fast Plan not only helps people lose weight but also helps them keep the weight off for 10 years" (Blackburn 2003). The invention of the diet pill changed the way people looked at losing weight.

Now people had the choice of losing weight gradually by following a diet and working out, or they could take a pill and lose weight without lifting a finger. Many people chose the latter. A few examples of some of these products are: Dexatrim, Metabolife, Trim-Spa, Bio Slim, Fat-Trapper, Miracle-Tab, Skinny Pill, and Stacker 2 to name a few. Some claim to burn fat while you sleep, others say they trap the fat from going into your bloodstream. Many of them are appetite suppressants as well as dietary supplements. In recent times, many of these medications contained the drug ephedrine.

"Ephedrine contains an amphetamine-like compound, which can cause rapid or irregular heartbeats. According to the Federal Drug Administration, many products containing ephedrine have caused hundreds of illnesses, including heart attacks, seizures, strokes and even 15 reported deaths" (Chase Freedom Inc. , 2001). Many products were pulled from the shelves once the statistics were verified. The knock against diet pills is that the long-term weight loss is may or may not last. Metabolife was one of the most popular diet pills that contained ephedrine.

Originally used for increasing energy levels, Metabolife became popular in the diet world by promoting that it raises the user's metabolism. In addition it claims that the herbal ingredients also reduces the appetite and burns calories in the process. Metabolife took off commercially, as the success incredible stories poured in. Eventually it was scrutinized for containing ephedrine, and Metabolife eventually had to pull their product from store shelves. Metabolife re-released their product using different active ingredients, but the company was hurt from all of the negative press. Trim-Spa is the next pill to sweep the nation.

Hollywood stars are using it and promoting it in the media, as their personal results have been positive. Trim-Spa was another pill that contained ephedrine, but altered its ingredients after watching Metabolife go down the tubes. Trim-Spa has basically taken the place of Metabolife in the consumer market.