Well unfortunately achieving a “healthy weight” is more than just a calorie equation.
Everywhere you turn so-called new and improved popular diets abound as well as “magic in a bottle” to obtain optimum health. The truth is that many of these pills, potions and plans come fully equipped with anecdotal information and all too often are accompanied with little scientific data. In countless instances the science behind the normal mechanisms of weight control is absent. The obvious truth is that a successful program must incorporate user-friendly changes to achieve long-term healthy behaviors, eating practices and daily physical activity. Statistically, our health is getting substantially worse as we become more complacent.
Sixty-one percent of the population is overweight with a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 25. The obesity epidemic has doubled from 15 percent of the population in 1980 to 30 percent in 2007. Being obese vastly contributes to increased LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, which can in turn lead to metabolic syndromes including heart disease.
Consider these facts: 50 percent of women and 25 percent of men are on some type of diet all the time. Americans spend more than $50 billion annually on weight loss foods, products and services, according to the American Dietetic Association. With that amount of spending, it’s no surprise there are an overwhelming number of “fad” diets and other weight-loss products on the market.
When considering a plan or better yet “a way of life,” start with this proven formula and be wary of programs that offer rapid weight loss, quick fixes, unsubstantiated claims, or which demand extremely few calories, eliminate major food groups such as carbohydrates or fats, and lack long-term studies that randomly assign subjects into the diet and non-diet group proving the program’s safety. In an effort to determine where to begin, the following review of several diets examines each author’s credentials, claims, the diet’s caloric intake, sustainability, weight loss expectations and research supporting its claims. Remember it’s crucial to decipher the knowledge and critically review the program when choosing the best plan for success, both in the short-term and the long run.
Curves – A low-carb diet
Originator: Gary Heavin is a self-proclaimed health counselor.
Claims: According to Heavin, dieting turns on “starvation hormones” that enable the body to survive on less food and burn energy. He’s created a “miracle” method to re-set your metabolism that will correct the effects of yo-yo dieting.
Sustainability: There are two plans. Both recommend six small meals a day. One plan is carbohydrate sensitive, and the other is calorie sensitive. Both are high in protein and limit carbohydrates including bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and sweets. Phase 1 of both plans last two weeks allowing 20 grams of carbohydrates a day. Phase 2 adds certain fruits, vegetables and some whole grains. The meal plans include a Curves protein shake and Curves nutritional supplements. Phase 3 is 2,500 –3,000 calories a day (“Miracle Metabolize”).
The complicated process of alternating between the different phases based on weight fluctuation is not realistic for long-term “permanent” healthy weight.
The meal plans are inadequate for meeting daily vitamin and mineral requirements.
Weight loss: Phase 1 and 2 low calorie (1200 to 1400) and low carbohydrate intake. If combined with exercise, they are likely to promote weight loss.
Research: No scientific basis.
Quick take: Strong emphasis on exercise. Limits total carbohydrate intake. Claims to reset your metabolism. Recommends nutritional supplements.
Eat, Cheat, And Melt the Fat Away – A low-carb diet
Originator: Sitcom actress Suzanne Somers, of thigh master infomercials and author of “Get Skinny on Fabulous Food.”
Claims: A unique food combining program will make your body burn fat faster, balance your out-of-whack hormones and set your metabolism on high. The diet is targeted for people over 40 since their metabolism is slower. Additionally, you can get rid of asthma, irritable bowel syndrome and lose weight.
Sustainability: The diet is based on a food combining principle known as “Seven Easy Steps to Somersizing.” Examples include eating protein and fat with vegetables but not with carbohydrates, then waiting three hours to eat carbohydrates. Additionally, eliminate all “funky foods” such as sugar, potatoes, bananas, corn, pasta, milk, caffeine and alcohol. Level two focuses on maintaining weight loss and cheat foods, but still following the food combining rules.
Weight loss: The diet is low in fiber, calcium and vitamin D, requiring supplementation. Additionally, it’s high in saturated fat, cholesterol and low in calories. This could result in weight loss. There is nothing written about regular physical activity.
Research: There is no evidence that combining particular foods at a meal has any sort of weight loss benefits.
Quick take: The diet is based on food combining principles, which eliminates dairy, and restricts high glycemic index foods.
Eat, Drink and Be Healthy – A low-fat, low-calorie diet
Originator: Dr. Walter Willett is a well-known Harvard researcher.
Claims: The USDA Food Guide Pyramid is not only wrong, but also dangerous to your health. He offers a new and improved pyramid that focuses more on plant food and de-emphasizes dairy forever. He advocates getting calcium from other food sources or supplements. This type of diet will reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke.
Sustainability: The diet has no deprivation or calorie count. It’s about eating more of the “right foods.” Coffee is allowed, but sugar is not. Orange juice sorbet and rum glazed pineapple are allowed, but there is no allowance for an occasional scoop of ice cream or cheesecake. (Very anti-dairy)
Weight loss: Weight loss should occur if you closely follow the guidelines and adjust your calorie intake.
Research: The diet falls short for calcium intake, but otherwise offers a healthy dose of good nutrition that’s free of gimmicks and exaggerated promises.
Quick take: A plant based diet with lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains that de-emphasizes dairy products, and uses physical activity to control weight.
Volumetric – A low-fat, low-calorie diet
Originator: Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., is a nutrition researcher at Pennsylvania State University, and Robert Barnett is a journalist.
Claims: By keeping your fiber intake high, drinking lots of water and eating foods with low energy density you can eat more, satisfy your hunger and still lose weight. Fiber and water both fill you up, and water dilutes calories per portion.
Sustainability: The diet comes with energy density charts that require dividing the number of calories per serving by the weight in grams. A low density number allows you to eat more of these foods, and a high density number means you should restrict your intake. Additionally, a list of snacks is provided. There are no menus and no mandates. Recommendations require 30 grams of fiber, 4 quarts of water and daily exercise.
Weight loss: Unpredictable, based on portions and calories.
Research: The author is an expert in appetite control and has been researching the topic for years. She has published dozens of scientific papers and has translated them into practical diets.
Quick take: The diet is based on the energy density of foods, where large servings of low-density foods are allowed. It encourages eating food with high water content, drinking a lot of water and daily exercise. It allows three meals and a snack each day.
Eat Right, Live Longer – An age-defying diet
Originator: Dr. Neil Barnard is the President of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine.
Claims: A vegetarian low-fat diet protects cells from disease, cleans the blood, boosts immunity and balances hormones. The diet will help you avoid contaminants in food, and a vegetarian diet is the best for weight control. Using this method will get you off diets forever.
Sustainability: It’s difficult for people who are not committed to a vegetarian lifestyle to follow. There is no meat or dairy, and people need more time to prepare food. The diet lacks vitamin B, and vitamin D and downplays their importance. Additionally, it doesn’t take into account the fact that your body produces less vitamin D with age.
Weight loss: If you follow it accurately, you should lose weight. Research: Studies indicate this type of diet can decrease the risk of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and cancers.
Quick take: A low-fat vegetarian diet with organic produce to boost immunity, balance hormones and protect cells from damage.
The Okinawa Program – An age-defying diet
Originator: Identical twin brothers Bradley and Craig Wilcox are both Assistant Professors at the University of Hawaii and Okinawa University in Japan.
Claims: A low-fat, low-calorie and high fiber diet from plant food s with a strong emphasis on exercise, family relations and spiritual connectedness will result in substantial weight loss. The findings are from the Okinawa Centenarian Study showing that heart disease, strokes and various cancers are extremely rare, and people regularly live to more than 100 years old.
Sustainability: The diet contains 50 percent complex carbohydrates from 3 food groups consisting of foods rich in flavonoids and omega 3 fatty acids. The authors recommend avoiding foods with a high glycemic index. Based on such a dramatic change in lifestyle diet and your basic approach to life, it’s doubtful that the majority of people who want to lose weight are ready to make such a drastic change. The diet is low in calcium.
Weight loss: The Okinawa Program has no calorie count or portion control, but will result in weight loss if closely followed.
Research: Studies indicate that when the Okinawan adopts more of a western diet and lifestyle, their rates of overweight illness increases and life expectancy decreases.
Quick take: A total diet and lifestyle program based on Eastern philosophies with plant-based carbohydrates, fiber, stress reduction and support essential to longevity.
Slim Away Everyday – A balanced diet
Originator: Richard Simmons is a television, infomercial and video star who wrote an autobiography.
Claims: A diet that that is updated and repackaged regularly with “Simmons supplements” providing the energy and motivation to keep dieters going. Simmons has been extremely overweight himself, so he can empathize with anyone who’s unhappy about his or her weight. Simmons provides the cheerleading and motivational tools you need to get with the program and stick to it.
Sustainability: The diet lays out a well-balanced and varied diet that admirably includes a minimum of seven servings of fruits and vegetables and two servings of low-fat dairy. He wisely recommends not going below 1,200 calories and consuming eight glasses of water daily. The diet could run a little low on calcium and vitamin D, even though it includes more dairy than other programs. Additionally, he places considerable emphasis on physical activity. This is the one trait of the program that stands out a notch above the rest.
Weight loss: By following the recommended calorie intakes, expect 1 to 2 lbs per week. It’s a diet and exercise plan designed for long-term success.
Research: The program makes sense and is not extreme.
Quick take: A well-balanced diet that offers flexibility, variety, physical activity, energy and motivation that can be followed indefinitely and altered to maintain weight loss.
Weight Watchers – A balanced diet
Originator: In 1963, founder Jean Nidetch began inviting neighborhood people into her Queens, NY home to discuss strategies and ideas for weight loss.
Claim: The most organized and recognized program offering guidance, support, a balanced diet, while encouraging exercise. Based on a simple, straightforward point system ranging from 18 to 35, the diet has helped millions of people lose weight with its no-frills plan and support system.
Sustainability: The program offers considerable guidance for choosing a healthy and nutritious diet. The program’s success can also be attributed to its insistence on record keeping. Support is essential to the Weight Watchers approach by offering weekly meetings, confidential weigh-in and strategies. Most weight loss experts regard the program as the standard against which all other weight-loss programs are measured.
Weight loss: By following the recommended point system, expect 1 to 2 lbs per week.
Research: Research out of the University of Colorado and Saint Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital in New York City has found that more than half of the lifetime members had still kept the weight off two years after completing the program.
Quick take: A mainstream diet of at least 1,200 calories a day that encourages regular exercise with weekly meetings, support groups and a food journal to tally your daily points.
Scott Josephson, M.S., R.D. is the Director of Operations at Hippocrates Health Institute. Scott is a international level conference speaker throughout the United States and Canada, a recipient of numerous awards and is frequently published covering a wide range of industry topics. In addition to several certifications, he holds a degree from the University of Miami and is on the advisory board of the American Fitness Professionals and Associates. His work portfolio includes includes many celebrities such as Geraldo Rivera, Tennis Champion Chris Evert, as well as members of the New York Giants and New York Mets.
Vol 28 Issue 4 Page 15