Ge the skinny on today's popular diet plans
Here we go again. The start of a new year inevitably brings with it a multitude of resolutions, many of them health and weight related.
If shedding pounds is on the top of your to-do list for 2009, you're far from alone. Millions of Americans put themselves on diets of all shapes and sizes each year, yet according to the National Weight Control Registry, 90-95 percent of dieters re-gain the weight they lost, or more, within five years.
So, what works? And what won't kill us in the process? We teamed up with Barb Troy, clinical assistant professor and nutritionist at Marquette University, to get the skinny on today's popular diets.
As a dietician for more than 30 years, Troy asserts that her most frequently asked questions relate to permanent weight loss.
"When trying to lose weight, one of the common misconceptions people have is that they think there must be some kind of magical food combination that's going to make the whole weight loss easier," she says.
Unfortunately, no such elixir exists and as Troy reiterates, it all comes down to energy balance: how many calories are coming in versus how many you're burning off.
Her ultimate plan? It's one of variety and balance. Remember that food pyramid you learned in elementary school? Those same basic rules still apply. She recommends mypyramid.gov, a Web site that tracks how many servings of each food category you're getting and can design a food plan to help you meet your goals.
But here's the biggie: portion control. It's something we as Americans have struggled with for decades and the increasing size of a "regular" order of fries at McDonald's isn't helping. Troy calls it "portion distortion" and says it's where most of us go wrong.
What can we do to get it right?
According to the National Weight Control Registry, those individuals who maintained weight loss more than five years had three things in common:
- Engaged in ongoing exercise to get the body moving daily
- Were conscious of fat calories
- Became less fast food-dependent and prepared their own meals
We asked Troy to look at five popular diets and give us her insight. The winners are the ones that are well balanced and less food-centric.
The Biggest Loser Club
The breakdown: Similar to the popular TV show, the online club of the same name starts with a diet profile: current height and weight, and a few basic goals. Your daily caloric intake is estimated and a series of personalized information is presented: daily meal plans, recipes and grocery lists. Exercise is a key player, too. Members have access to fitness demonstrations and online chats with fitness experts from the TV show.
Dietician says: "People lose weight in lots of different ways, depending on their personalities, and some people do the best when it's highly structured like this. You want to make sure the caloric intake isn't too low, as that might drop the body's metabolic rate, which makes you burn fewer calories and backfires."
The downside: Sometimes online communication just isn't the same as looking someone in the eye and talking and interacting on a personal basis.
Protein shake diet
The breakdown: Dieters often use these shakes as meal replacements because they are high in the proteins we need, but low in fat. They are a relatively easy way to restrict calories without missing out on sweet treats.
Dietician says: "There are so many versions out there and we learned in the '80s with all our calorie restrictive diets that it's important to keep the protein factor up when you're trying to lose weight. This diet capitalized on this. Again, you want to make sure your caloric intake for the day is no less than 1,000-1,200 for women and 1,000-1,500 for men. But I have found that people who have significant weight to lose like a plan that is very restrictive. Yes, it can get boring, but on the flip side, they don't have to deal with food and make those hard portion decisions."
The downside: It's not a permanent solution. Troy tells us that our gastro-intestinal tract is designed to have a variety of different foods, textures and fibers, so a lifetime of smooth shakes, even with the healthy amount of protein and vitamins, isn't our body's ideal meal plan.
South Beach Diet
The breakdown: This plan emphasizes the consumption of "good carbohydrates" and "good fats" versus the bad ones, which impair the body's insulin from processing sugars and fats. Like other low-carb plans, South Beach is geared toward improving cholesterol and insulin levels.
Dietician says: "South Beach has three different phases and starts out very restrictive, but actually, the most liberal phase is a pretty good diet. Unlike other low-carb or no-carb diets, it allows a well-balanced diet of fruit, whole grains, nuts and vegetables."
The downside: "Some people want to lose weight as fast as possible and keep themselves in the highly restrictive phase for the entire time and that's not really how the program is designed. It's meant to make people step up to a reasonable calorie control level."
The breakdown: It's an oldie but goodie that emphases good eating choices, healthy habits, a supportive environment and exercise, not just a focus on food.
Dietician says: "It has stood the test of time because, in many ways, they do a lot of things right. They offer face to face contact or they do it by computer. It's a balanced, sensible plan that advocates exercise and you can get the social support by going to the meetings, which is very helpful to some."
The downside: Since each food or beverage you consume has a point allocated to it, it can be rather tedious to do the math every time you open your mouth to eat. But, usually the results prove to be worth it.
Best Life Diet
The breakdown: This was one that Oprah helped make famous. Dr. Bob Greene's diet has three phases, a strategy that leads to slimming, nutritional eating and increased physical activity. He doesn't advocate a strict calorie count, and emphasizes a holistic approach to healthy eating and reasonable portions.
Dietician says: "Another good plan. It's very structured and advocates very high activity, which gets people moving again and working on that side of the equation."
The downside: "It does take some dedication, which is why you see someone like Oprah who did wonderfully well while she was staying with it, but it takes a lot of discipline to stay with it all the time."
the comment on the author's appearance is assinine Your view is immensely ignorant and ill-advised being emaciated and thin in a photo does not = healthy
The sad reality is that too many people are lazy and just don't care enough to really make a change with their body. It's not hard just exercise and don't eat bad food. Oh and once in a while your going to have to lay off the high life for a minute. It'll catch up with you and you'll realize it when your looking at yourself in the mirror asking yourself what the heck happened.
The Food Pyramid? She's kidding right? A great healthy and sane guide is Eat, Drink and Weigh Less by Mollie Katzen (Moosewood) and Walter Willet, M.D. (Harvard School of Public Health). Very simple.
It is true that no "magic elixir" exists for the weight loss process, however there are effective tools to help you reduce the amount of calories consumed each day, such as Slim Shots. The author is quick to point out South Beach, Meal Replacement aids, etc., but in my quick glance I did not see any reference to appetite controllers that can help you take the edge off hungerreduce portions and caloriesetc. An appetite suppressant like Slim Shots is a helpful alternative to attacking the most significant factor in weight loss and healthy eating, which is portion control.
Maybe her picture on JSOnline is less than flattering, but isn't it hypocritical to be telling others what and how to eat when Barb herself is looking less than healthly in the weight department?
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