Oftentimes, high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets appeal to people who want a quick fix. But a quick fix rarely leads to a lifelong weight-loss solution. "The problem with high-protein diets is they are not typically a way we can eat for the rest of our lives," says Kava. "One can get tired of even bacon and steak. A lack of variety of different types of food with different sensations or textures tends to get boring and we start to look for new and different tastes."

This is particularly true when you have to eliminate so many foods. Further, any diet that restricts certain foods sets you up to crave them. "I have talked to people who are on these diets, and they have dreams about bagels," says Jibrin.

Most experts agree that we do need to cut down on carbohydrates. But not because of the chemical reactions they cause in our bodies. It boils down to portion control, says Jibrin. "When you go to a restaurant, you get these huge portions of pasta," she says. "Bagels have tripled in size, cookies have quadrupled. It's not the carbohydrate's fault — it's the portion size."

Instead of upping your protein, make small changes step by step. "Eating the way the health authorities tell you to eat, with all those vegetables and whole grains, can be hard," says Jibrin. "You really have to not despair. If you can't live up to that ideal, just start looking at what you eat and work on changing a little at a time. If you eat one more vegetable a day, that's great. Instead of fries five days a week, have them three days. Keep working on the little, manageable changes until you're comfortable with them. Then move on to tackle the next issue."

Julie Stafford is a freelance health writer based in Niwot, Colo.
Illustration by Cyril Cabry