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Publication: Diet Buddy
Choose Your Weight Loss Plan!

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         Diet Buddy - Monday, January, 15, 2007

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Choose Your Weight Loss Plan!

Hi There Buddies...

Just when I thought the weather was going my way, of course 
I get brought back to Chicago reality and realize that all 
good things come to an end, including the mild weather 
we've been having here. I do wish Mother Nature would make 
up her mind already, so that we can at least figure out 
what the dress-wear is these days. I've literally seen 
people in short sleeves out there, merrily moving along 
like it's Spring.  Even flowers have decided to bud in some 
places with all the confusion going on.  Hopefully it won't 
get real cold, and if it does...well, we're partially 
through January already...which means only a few more 
months. Can you tell I'm in a hurry?  :) 

January means most of us have started some sort of weight 
loss resolution that we intend to keep. Unfortunately some 
of us aren't that familiar with all the different diet 
plans available to us, and which would be best suited 
for our individual lifestyle needs.

So below, with the help of Diet and Exercise Magazine and 
the opinion of it's panel of experts, is some information 
on the more popular weight loss plans, their benefits and 
drawbacks to the long-term success rates they have. You 
can decide for yourself if one of these plans is right for 
you. Remember this is a lifestyle change that you should 
feel comfortable with and one that will work for you in 
the long run.

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ATKINS - Mary Jo Parker: nutrition therapist, 
         registered dietitian

The grandfather of low-carb diets, this diet created by Dr. 
Robert C. Atkins restricts carb intake to shift your 
metabolism from burning glucose to burning (stored) fat.  
Never mind the company filed bankruptcy in 2005, its bars, 
shakes, candy and ice cream products are still sold online.

Benefits:  This easy-to-follow diet eliminates sugars and 
highly processed starches, which tend to be calorie-dense, 
but limited in nutrients.  People can therefore lose weight 
and feel successful quickly.  Short-term results have shown 
that some people experience a drop in blood lipid and 
glucose levels, which can lead to decreased risks of 
chronic diseases like atherosclerosis, heart disease and 
diabetes. The problem is these results do not last when 
people are on the diet for an extended period.

Drawbacks:  Due to excessive protein intake and severe 
restriction of carbohydrates, much of the weight loss is 
water, which puts undue strain on the kidneys.  And since 
carbohydrates are the primary fuel source for the brain, 
the diet negatively affects mental clarity and cognitive 
functioning.  In addition, it creates an environment for 
bone loss and intestinal complications.  The diet's 
restrictions of fruits, vegetables and whole grains could 
translate into deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, 
nutrients and fiber. Lastly, the eating plan is dangerously 
high in toal fat and saturated fat content, risk factors 
for chronic diseases.

Long-Term Success: Recent objective data suggests weight 
loss can be the short-term result, with weight gain and an 
increase in blood lipid and glucose levels occuring when 
following the diet long term. Because the diet is so 
limited, many people discontinue it, and when they 
reintroduce carbohydrates into their diets, extreme weight 
gain ensues. The diet in not conducive to long-term 
compliance, with many people reporting feelings of 
depression and general malaise. 

FIT FOR LIFE - Dr. Nora Meaney-Elman: gastroenterologist 

Originating in the 1980's this diet by Harvey and Marilyn 
Diamond focuses on food combining and claims that certain 
foods when mixed are difficult to digest and absorb. Hence, 
food becomes fat.

Benefits: Fit-For-Life program is a fairly balanced one, 
with the focus on patient education as opposed to rigid 
restrictions that are - in my opinion - "fated to fail".  
The discussion of food selections and timing of certain 
food consumption is interesting (for example, if you are 
hungry, you may have fruit three hours after dinner). I 
am not convinced that this advice really promotes well-
being. But if it tempers total caloric consumption, there 
is a benefit. Finally, as always, the encouragement of 
exercise - any form - is great. 

Drawbacks: Meal timing - The diet calls for fairly liberal 
fruit consumption and only fresh fruit, fruit juices, 
preferably melon, all before noon - odd details that will 
confuse some dieters.  The diet discourages vitamin 
consumption with "proper food choices," but I personally 
do not discourage a multi-vitamin, one a day (not multiple 
pills), at times of dietary change.

Long-Term Success: Weight loss should not be extreme, but 
steady. Medically, we target 1/2 lb. to 2 lbs. maximum per 
week, which equals approximately a 3600 calorie loss a week 
for the mildly overweight patient. More rapid weight loss 
is not usually recommended unless the patient is morbidly 

GRAPEFRUIT DIET - Mary Jo Parker: nutrition therapist, 
                                  registered dietitian

Different versions of this Grapefruit Diet plan are 
available, but the idea behind every plan is the same: Eat 
half a grapefruit before every meal to enjoy the benefits 
of its fat-burning enzymes.  It is also recommended that 
participants drink about eight glasses of water per day, 
along with unlimited amounts of black coffee.

Benefits:  This diet is so old, but continues to resurface, 
as they all do.  It is easy to remember and follow (if you 
don't mind existing as a robot) without needing much 
thought or decision-making. Grapefruit is a good source of 
beta-carotene, flavonoids and Vitamin C. 

Drawbacks:  The diet contains too much of the same foods, 
and lacks nutrient balance.  It is extremely low in 
carbohydrates, and potentially high in fats - particulary 
saturated fats - because there is no recommended portion 
control or calorie limits.  It is not even close to being 
scientifically based.  There is no magic to grapefruit as 
a "fat burner."  There are so many red flags for this being 
junk science.  The diet promises extreme amounts of weight 
loss in a short time, which is dangerous to every system 
of the body.

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SUGAR BUSTERS - Allyson Odachowski: registered dietitian, 

Invading the diet scene in 1995, "Sugar Busters" was 
written by a former CEO and three physicians: a 
cardiovascular surgeon, a gastroenterologist and an 
endocrinologist. Bottom line? Dieters avoid simple sugars 
and refined grains (pasta, white rice) because they 
promote the storage of body fat.

Benefits: Encourages eating fruits, exercising and cutting 
out added sugars, according to diet's website.

Drawbacks:  Relies heavily on the glycemic index (a measure 
of how much or how little a food affects your blood sugar), 
which can lead people to eliminate very healthy foods from 
their diet.  For example, carrots are considered taboo. In 
reality, the rate of sugar's absorption into your blood 
stream from food varies from person to person and will 
depend what other food is consumed and time of day 

Long-Term Success: Cutting added sugar will cut calories, 
which should produce a weight loss, but in the long run, 
cutting any fruit or vegetable from the diet is not 

SOUTH BEACH DIET - Christine Wanamaker: registered 
                                        dietitian, CDN 

Dr. Arthur Agatston's weight-loss advice focuses on a 
healthy balance between good carbs and fats. Decreasing 
the bad carbs, according to Agatston, will help metabolize 
what you eat more effectively and will also improve 
insulin resistance, leading to weight loss. Highly 
processed foods like baked goods and soft drinks are 

Benefits: It works! The principle is to tranform the way 
most of us eat (large quantities and large portions of 
starchy foods). It starts you back from scratch and builds 
a healthy combination of fruits, vegetables and whole 
grains. This is what us registered dietitians call a 
normal healthy diet!

Drawbacks: It gives many idividuals the wrong idea.  
Numerous people believe it's okay to stay in that low-carb 
stage for long periods of time. The research shows the 
damage this can do to one's body. Don't forget, most of us 
need a minimum of 50 to 60 percent of our calories from 

Long-Term Success - It helps to teach people a healthier 
way of eating.  By the last "phase" of the diet, and into 
the "maintenance" phase, people are encouraged to choose 
more whole grain food. In essence, they are taught how to 
identify the "good" carbohydrates (complex whole grains) 
and limit the "bad" ones (simple sugars).

WEIGH WATCHERS - Allyson Odachowski: registered dietitian, 

Based on calorie reduction, this plan forbids no foods, but 
you are restricted to a certain number of daily "points."  
The program features weekly meetings, where dieters 
exchange ideas and receive support and advice.  An online 
at-home program is also available.

Benefits: Knowing that other people are working at the 
same goal is what motivates some members. Food point 
values are on many restaurant menus or listed in other 
resources that can be purchased to keep members on track 
when dining away from home.

Drawbacks: Teaches the point values of food, not 
necessarily healthy food choices. The temptation is to eat 
as much of an unhealthy food as possible for your "points 
allowed" instead of making healthier, naturally lower 
calorie food choices. It also encourages label-readers to 
target calories, fat and fiber to determine points. Earning 
points for exercise fosters an unhealthy connection between 
exercise and rewarding yourself for it by eating more food.

Long-Term Success: As with any eating plan, you have to 
stick with it as a lifestyle change - forever - to keep 
the results you may have achieved.

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THE ZONE - Christine Wanamaker: registered dietitian, CDN 

Developed by Barry Sears, a former researcher in 
biotechnology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 
the Zone Diet works on the theory that excess insulin - a 
hormone that helps control blood sugar levels - makes fat 
and keeps us fat.  By monitoring our blood sugar levels and 
therefore keeping the levels of insulin in a tight "zone", 
the body burns fat more efficiently so that we lose weight.  
To reach "The Zone", every meal and snack should provide 40 
percent of calories from carbohydrate, 30 percent from 
protein and 30 percent from fat, hence, the 40:30:30 ratio.

Benefits: It helps people to follow portion sizes. Most of 
us have a distorted idea of what a "typical" portion size 
should be. This diet allows people to get back on track 
by learning sensible amounts and types of foods to eat from 
each group.

Drawbacks:  Tt promotes the message that for those people 
who are overweight it's an issue of over - or under - 
production of insulin.  For most healthy individuals our 
bodies regulate the production of this hormone adequately.  
The promotion of supplements and diet bars could be seen 
as another disadvantage.

Long-Term Success:  It teaches people a way of life-long 
eating.  Most fad diets are about short-term, with habits 
that should not be followed more than a few weeks or 
months. This diet trains people to balance the amount of 
all three macronutrients (fat, protein and carbohydrates) 
to ensure healthy eating.

Folks, while every diet has it's pros and cons, I hope some 
of these will have given you some food for thought.  The 
best way to stick to anything is to enjoy what it is you 
are doing, in this case eating.  So if you're not quite 
sure about a specific diet and it's rules, and whether 
you're going to like it or not, I suggest reading some 
more about it in detail, either from a book or online.

Did You KNow ???

That the USDA reports that the average daily caloric 
intake is around 3000 calories per day. If you want to 
lose weight, the bottom line is calories consumed versus 
calories burned.

Lyndsay would like to add a suggestion to last weeks 
"Health Club" column:

Hi Libby, love your newsletter. Just wanted to add a little 
to your health club advice. How about The Y.M.C.A. or the 
Y.W.C.A. It's usually cheap and some offer exercise 
classes as well as a gym AND a pool.  
Keep up the great work...Lyndsay

Hi Lyndsay...

That's definitely another option that our readers can use, 
and you're right, it's easy on the pocketbook, especially 
after the holidays. Thanks for writing in and sharing.  :)

Can't decide which diet plan is best for you? Why not take 
some time to discuss it in our Diet Buddy Forum at...

Have a great week everyone !!!

Disclaimer: Since I am not a medical professional any 
statements in this column are strictly based on research I 
have done and should not be misconstrued as medical advice.
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