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Customize Your Diet Plan

There are over a dozen different diet plans on the market. Some cut calories and others cut carbs. But many wonder which diet will work for them.

Dr. Lisa Sanders, author of "The Perfect Fit Diet" tells The Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen that, after working with researchers at Yale and Stanford on low-carb diets, it was found that "there is no perfect diet, a diet perfect for everyone. I realized you have to find a diet perfect for you," she says.

To help, Dr. Sanders offers an in-depth questionnaire, which is a direct translation of the doctor-patient Q&A she uses to design personalized weight loss plans for her patients. And she goes through a five-step plan, which combines knowledge of weight loss and what people know about themselves, for a customized a diet.

  1. Keep a 1-week eating and exercise diary.

    Write down everything you eat and drink as well as every physical activity.

    "We remember what we eat in a meal but never remember the things we eat between meals. I'm not against snacks. We just don't remember them," Sanders says.

  2. Fill out the Perfect Fit Questionnaire – There are 141 questions.

    "In the questionnaire, I try to identify factors that are going to help a dieter and a diet come together in a perfect fit," Sanders says.

  3. Identify which of the three basic diet types is right for you.

    In the book, Sanders writes, "Diets that help you lose weight do so by reducing the number of calories you take in and increasing the amount of energy you use up. Having said that, different diets use different strategies to achieve those ends.

    "Most diets reduce your calorie intake by restricting access to one or more types of foods. Once you recognize this, it's easy to classify that vast panoply of diets onto a sort of spectrum based on what exactly they are limiting. Examples of the Counting Carbohydrate-type diet are the Atkins Diet, Sugar Busters, The Zone and the South Beach. These diets are for those who enjoy meat and cheese and eggs and find it hard to feel full without them. Of course, you have to say good-bye to breads, pastas, and sweets.

    "An example of the Counting Calories diet or low-cal diet is Volumetrics. This diet is for those who need a lot of variety in their diets and for whom portion size is a manageable issue.

    "And examples of the Counting Fats diet are Weight Watchers, Dr. Dean Ornish's diet, the American Heart Association diet and the Harvard diet. This diet is for those who don't eat a lot of meat. You have to enjoy fruits and vegetables, and have a good appreciation for whole grain foods would help. These are people who need volume to feel full."

  4. Customize that diet based on your food preferences and family medical history.

    Sanders says, "Food preference is important. You have to eat foods that make you feel full.

    "You have to eat in a way that works with your lifestyle. You have to eat in a way that works with your medical history. A lot of times, young people don't have a medical history but their parents do. And what happens to your parents might be in your own future, so you have to deal with that as well."

  5. Customize your diet to fit your lifestyle to create an eating and exercise plan that fits your long-term weight goals.

About the author:
Lisa Sanders, M.D. is an internist on the faculty of Yale Medical School. She specializes in the treatment of overweight and obese patients. Before entering medical school, she was an award-winning producer at CBS News and ABC News, specializing in medical segments. Her widely read "Diagnosis" column appears monthly in The New York Times Magazine. Dr. Sanders lives in New Haven, Conn., with her husband and two daughters.

Read an excerpt from "The Perfect Fit Diet":

Chapter 1

There Is a Perfect Fit Diet for Everyone

We like to think that behavior as fundamental as choosing what we put in our mouths is well within the domain of human willpower--especially with the abundance and variety of foods available to us today. We can eat fruits and vegetables out of season, fish caught halfway around the world, and wine from grapes grown on every continent. But there is also an aspect to what we eat that seems beyond our complete control.

We may exercise our mighty wills in choosing where, what, and when to eat, but we make those choices within a personal framework that is beyond choice. What foods we like or dislike, how we prepare them, why we want to eat in the first place, and why we feel full and satisfied at the end of a meal--all these aspects of eating are defined by our genetics, our culture, and our lifestyle. We rarely ever think about them, yet they shape the world of eating within which we make our choices. These aspects cannot simply be willpowered into conformity with a list of healthy-eating principles.

In order to exercise real choice, we need to recognize the framework in our own lives that shapes and defines those decisions. This is something we know and accept in most parts of our lives--we rarely waste our time and effort in "choosing" to make time stand still or the sun not set. We recognize that our choices must be made within the structure of a 24-hour day divided roughly in half to give us day and night.

Few things in the human experience are quite as unyielding to choice as time and the movement of the earth in its orbit. Yet, on the human scale, changing genes, culture, even lifestyle may be just as difficult to do.

Recognizing the framework in which our individual choices are made is key to making changes that work. Science is beginning to show us and define many of the aspects that shape our choices -- how our genes, our upbringing, and our lifestyle create the structure in which our choices about diet are made.
This book is dedicated to helping you figure out your personal best diet by combining what science is learning about diet and weight loss with what you know about yourself. It takes both -- the knowledge of medical science and self-knowledge -- to bring about real change.

Modifying behavior is hard. It's why so many of our New Year's resolutions are long forgotten by Groundhog Day, and why so many diets fail within days of beginning. Eating is a behavior as complex and innate as any bodily function. And like all other aspects of human behavior, change has to start with who you are and what you do now.

How many times has this happened to you? You meet a friend you haven't seen in a while and she looks great! You gently inquire, and she nearly explodes with the answer: After years of trying one diet or the other, she has finally found the right one. It was there the whole time and, now that she's on it, she can't imagine why she didn't see it before. It's so great, she says, and she gets to eat so many foods that she loves. She's never hungry, and she's losing weight like crazy. Before you know it, you're on the same diet too.

Once you're on it, however, it doesn't seem so great. These are not foods you want to eat. This is not the way you want to feel. You're not losing weight, just patience. You wonder what she was doing that you're not, why she feels so good and you don't. What's wrong with you?

There is nothing wrong with you, and there is nothing necessarily wrong with that diet. Why this is true represents a major shift in the way science is approaching all medicine and the issue of weight loss in particular: Each of us is different from the other. What we're discovering is that not every treatment has the same effect on every patient. With weight control, that means that the regimen that works for one person may not work for another. In diets, as in so many things, one size does not fit all.

Unfortunately, when a doctor sees a patient who wants to lose weight, he doesn't usually ask, "What do you eat?" In fact, research suggests that he's much more likely to tell you what you should eat. It's the same diet he puts everyone on. He assumes, as so many of us have in the past, that for this one problem -- being overweight -- there is one cure, the diet he happens to prefer. And if you can't eat that way, then as far as your doctor is concerned, you're choosing not to lose weight. You clearly are just not motivated enough.

Or maybe he just tells you to eat less and exercise more. Chances are you would eat less, if you knew how. After all, you're probably the one who brought up the issue of weight loss in the first place.

This book is for people who know they are motivated enough but recognize that there are aspects of their eating habits that they can't seem to change. This book is for people who have tried to "eat less and exercise more" but can't figure out how to do it without feeling hungry, irritable, and tired. It's for people who want to eat in a sane and rational way that will make them feel good and be healthy while they lose weight. This book is for people who instinctively know that the claim of a magic bullet -- the diet that works for everyone -- is a myth, but they don't know how to figure out which diet will fit them.

There is a truckload of science out there about diets -- much of it from new and exciting research -- investigating what we eat, why we eat it, what makes us full, and what makes us different from each other when it comes to diet. I've spent the past several years delving into the scientific literature, sorting through the good research and the not-so-good, looking for connections and hidden truths. The most compelling conclusion I've reached is this: The deeper you dive into the science of weight loss, the more the solutions returns to the medical, psychological, and lifestyle profile of each individual dieter. This book is designed to help you choose and customize a diet that fits you to a T -- a diet that's a perfect fit because it's designed for you, and by you.

Reprinted from: "The Perfect Fit Diet: Combine What Science Knows About Weight Loss With What You Know About Yourself," by Lisa Sanders, M.D. © 2004 by Lisa Sanders, M.D. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098. Available wherever books are sold or directly from the publisher by calling (800) 848-4735 or visit their website at

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