Choosing a diet doesn't have to be as hard as losing the weight

New year could mean a new diet for people making the ever-popular decision to get into shape for 2008. People can cho
JACOB LAMMERS
May 24, 2010

 

New year could mean a new diet for people making the ever-popular decision to get into shape for 2008.

People can choose among thousands of diet choices ranging from low fat to all carbohydrates, and even an all meat and fat diet.

But what is a good diet to pursue?

Below is a list of eight popular diets, which evaluates the good, the bad and a professional dietitian's opinion of what really works.

ATKINS -- focuses on a high fat and protein diet, which has shown to promote greater weight loss than traditional plans without serious effects on health.

Pros

provides quick weight loss

emphasizes whole grains

reintroduces carbohydrates after the initial weight loss phase

Cons

initially bans carbohydrates, which provide vitamins and minerals

high fat diet is not good for heart disease and diabetes

high protein diet can overwork the kidneys

Summary -- Kathy Buckingham, registered and licensed dietitian at Magruder Hospital, said Atkins can promote weight loss, but cutting out carbohydrates is not a good idea since they provide a source of good nutrition.

"It's a jump-start diet," she said. "In the long run, it's not going to be as good."

SLIM FAST -- emphasizes meal replacement with Slim Fast meals, snacks and shakes. It also promotes healthy foods and daily exercise to achieve proper weight loss.

Pros

offers quick, nutritious meals on-the-go

price is reasonable

promotes exercise

Cons

dieters can grow tired of eating the same product every day

if it's discontinued, then dieters may have trouble continuing the diet

it's high in salt, sugar and preservatives

Summary -- They have good products that are low-fat and still advocate sensible meals, said Beth Schindley, a registered dietitian at Firelands Regional Medical Center.

"I think that ultimately it does not contribute to a long-term solution," Schindley said. "Do you want to eat these for the rest of your life? It does not teach you how to eat real food."

THE ZONE -- promotes balanced nutrition and meals typically include 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein and 30 percent fat.

Pros

similar to balanced diet recommended by dietitians

does not restrict any food group

considered healthy eating

Cons

complex eating plan

requires dieters to measure out portions

Summary -- "It's closer to what we recommend in the dietetic profession compared to other fad diets," Schindley said. "It's closer to what we recommend for healthy eating."

WEIGHT WATCHERS-- uses a scientifically proven approach to weight loss based on eating healthy, being active and making small changes. It ranks particular food items with a point system based on calorie intake. Dieters are encouraged to restrict themselves to a certain number of points each day.

Pros

can eat anything

based on solid food nutrition

promotes exercise

uses group setting to encourage dieters

Cons

price of the program can be a drawback

group setting does not work for everyone

does not address how a person should eat

Summary -- "I would advocate it in a heartbeat," Buckingham said. "The premise for any healthy diet is low fat, high fiber and reduced in sugar -- that's what this diet does."

LOW FAT -- involves reducing the amount of fat one eats on a daily basis to about 30-35 percent of one's daily intake.

Pros

can help with weight loss

stores have begun to offer a variety of food that are either reduced fat or fat free

Cons

a reduced fat diet needs to include exercise to break down fat stores

a fat-free diet could be a bad thing, since fat provides energy and protection to one's organs

reduced or fat-free products typically contain the same or slightly fewer calories as the original

Summary -- Schindley said a low-fat diet is important, but it needs to focus on the right types of fat. Saturated and trans fat are the bad types of fat and should be avoided.

A low-fat diet without exercise may not initiate prolonged weight loss, Schindley said.

CALORIE RESTRICTING -- focuses on reducing the amount of calories a person takes in on a daily basis.

Pros

promotes weight loss

if reduced down to what a person needs to function, it can be healthy

Cons

too much calorie reduction can affect bodily functions

without enough calories, the diet can have the opposite Effect and make a person gain weight

Summary -- Calorie restriction is necessary to lose weight, but should stay at about 1,200 calories for bodily functions to continue, Schindley said.

Each person needs a varying amount of calories depending upon age, gender and level of activity so it may be necessary to consult a doctor or dietitian to determine one's daily calorie allotment, Buckingham said.

A very low-calorie diet can be dangerous, Schindley said.

"With a very low-calories diet, {the body} goes into starvation mode -- it doesn't think it will get anymore nutrition," Schindley said. "So it starts to slow down and impairs day-to-day function."

SOUTH BEACH -- revolves around three separate phases that aim to promote weight loss. The first phase eliminates all carbohydrates, including fruit, vegetables, pasta and whole grain and instead incorporates meat, eggs and nuts. The second phase starts reintroducing good carbohydrates found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The final phase allows dieters to eat anything they want in moderation.

Pros

lose 8-13 pounds in two weeks

after the third phase, dieters can eat what they want

products are high in fiber and are lower in calories

Cons

normal weight loss is about 2 pounds in one week

sudden weight loss can inhibit one's metabolism

difficult to keep up over the course of a long-term period

Summary -- The diet is particularly useful for people who want to lose weight in a short period of time, Schindley said.

"It goes back to can you maintain that weight loss," Schindley said. "If you're losing all this weight at once, it's more difficult for your body to keep it's metabolism up."

CARB COUNTING -- tracks the amount of carbohydrates that the body intakes on a daily basis.

Pros

beneficial for people with diabetes

recommended by the American Diabetes Association

can promote weight loss

Cons

counting carbs does not address the types of carbohydrates one should eat

typically recommended for people with diabetes

Summary -- Counting carbs is one way to control one's blood sugar, but dieters need to make sure they do not cut out too much since carbohydrates are a major source of fuel for the body, Buckingham said.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

Buckingham said that Weight Watchers would be an ideal diet for anyone to try since it focuses on healthy eating, exercise and making small changes.

Schindley did not recommend a specific diet, but said that people are so individualized that one diet will not necessarily work for everyone.

"Each person is so different, that's why it's best to sit down with a physician or dietitian to figure out what problems you're having and what we can do to fix it," Schindley said.

Diet is a lifestyle change that includes staying active and good nutrition -- there's definitely a combination effort, Schindley said.

If Weight Watchers does not work, Buckingham said that a diet low in fat, high in fiber along with good nutrition and exercise can provide benefits.

For more information on diets and how to stay healthy, visit www.thelifestylecompany.com or the American Dietetic Association.