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Weighing Different Diets

How do you find the right weight-loss plan for yourself when the market is flooded with them? Whether it's Atkins or Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig, not all diet plans are created equal.

Health Magazine has put out a new book called The Diet Advisor: The Complete Guide to Choosing the Right Diet For You, in which 22 of the most popular weight-loss plans are reviewed. On the Saturday Early Show, Robin Vitetta-Miller, Health Magazine contributing editor and nutritionist, talked about how the diets were evaluated.

The book describes what each of the 22 weight-loss plans promises, how it works, and the results you might expect to see in your body. In evaluating the diet, the editors of the book list cautions and concerns for each one.

To begin with, it is helpful to ask yourself some questions.

  • How much time are you willing to invest?

  • Can you give up carbohydrates or protein?

  • Do you need a support group?

  • Do you have any risk factors such as diabetes or heart disease?

  • How long can you live with a plan?

  • Basically, how committed are you to losing weight and keeping it off?

Be prepared to stick with your diet forever. Many times, people become discouraged and give up, thinking that a diet is not working. In fact, the diet might be working just fine.

"Give it some time to see results and think of it as a lifestyle change, not just a beginning and an end," says Vitetta-Miller. "If you change bad habits by cutting out the bad and adding the good, you will see results."

Since everyone is different, there is no perfect diet. But the diet plans that offer a balanced diet and urge moderation are best, and you're likely to stick with those forever.

Many plans restrict entire food groups, and that's bad; the diet isn't likely to last. For example, if you eliminate carbohydrates from your diet, you're not getting the calcium and antioxidants you need and that can be unhealthy and unrealistic. And, if you're giving up all red meat, you're missing out on good fats and protein.

Here are a few assessments:

  • Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution: This is a very popular diet which focuses on low carbohydrates, high protein, and high fat. It's based on the belief that some overweight people have insulin resistance that interferes with the conversion of glucose into energy. As a result, insulin turns more and more glucose into fat, and the more carbs a person eats, the more fat continues to build up.

    However, the simple fact is: Calories make you fat, not fat-packing insulin or carbs. This diet also recommends a reasonable amount of exercise. You can also consume high-fat desirable foods such as meat, butter, and cheese.

    You do get quick weight loss, but limiting the intake of grains, beans, certain dairy products, fruits, and vegetables, you won't get the antioxidants you need and that's unhealthy. Alo, a high intake of saturated fats can contribute to heart disease.

  • Dr. Dean Ornish's Eat More, Weigh Less recommends dramatically cutting your dietary fat intake and eating foods that are high in complex carbohydrates and fiber. This means avoiding most animal foods and concentrating on beans and other legumes, grains, fruits, and vegetables. While you are getting a variety of fruits, vegetables, and fiber, you're not getting fat-soluble heart-healthy vitamins from nuts and fish. A diet high in carbs can increase the risk of high trigylcerides, and that can lead to heart disease.

  • Dieting With the Duchess: Sarah Ferguson recommends balance, variety, and moderation, which follows the general recommendations of the USDA Food Guide Pyramid. Her focus is cutting down on fat, as well as focusing on an overall healthy approach to eating and exercising. She says exercise is critical in trimming fat and keeping it off. While you do get to eat ood from all the food groups, there's a risk of overindulging and a lack of portion control.

There is no getting away from the necessity of exercise. If you just diet, your metabolism slows and you're right back where you started.

You need to exercise not only to lose weight, but also to help keep the heart and bones healthy as you age. Try to exercise 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Even brisk walking is good.

Three meals a day are not for everyone. People need to follow their own hunger cues. For everyone, it's different. One person may need three meals a day, and another may need five.

"We should not eat just because we pass by a bakery, and it smells good . . . Just because it's noon doesn't mean you need to eat lunch," says Vitetta-Miller. "Eat only when you're hungry. If we all did that, we would be at our desirable weight."

Here are some of the other diets discussed in the book:

  • Sugar Busters!

  • The Zone.

  • The Carbohydrate Addicts' Lifeplan Program.

  • The 20/30 Fat & Fiber Diet Plan.

  • The World's Best Kept Diet Secrets.

  • The Body Code.

  • Suzanne Somers' Get Skinny on Fabulous Food.

  • The Pritikin Principle.

  • The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet.

  • The Schwarzbein Principle.

  • The Diet Cure .

  • Fit for Life.

  • Weight Watchers.

  • Nutri-System.

  • Andrew Weil.

  • Dr. Bob Arnot.

  • The 5-Day Miracle Diet.

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