Posts Tagged ‘Weight loss’

Best diets according to expert panel

January 8, 2012

This is an interesting listing and ranking of 25 potential diets according to a panel of experts and published in US News (here and here). The six top-rated diets overall are:

Dash Diet

DASH was developed to fight high blood pressure, not as an all-purpose diet. But it certainly looked like an all-star to our panel of experts, who gave it high marks for its nutritional completeness, safety, ability to prevent or control diabetes, and role in supporting heart health. Though obscure, it beat out a field full of better-known diets.

TLC diet

Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes, or TLC, is a very solid diet plan created by the National Institutes of Health. It has no major weaknesses, and it’s particularly good at promoting cardiovascular health. One expert described it as a “very healthful, complete, safe diet.” But it requires a “do-it-yourself” approach, in contrast to the hand-holding provided by some commercial diets.

Mayo Clinic Diet

This is the Mayo Clinic’s take on how to make healthy eating a lifelong habit. It earned especially high ratings from our experts for its nutrition and safety and as a tool against diabetes. Experts found it moderately effective for weight loss.

Mediterranean Diet

With its emphasis on fruits and vegetables, olive oil, fish, and other healthy fare, the Mediterranean diet is eminently sensible. And experts’ assessments of it were resoundingly positive, giving this diet an edge over many competitors.

Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers is a smart, effective diet. It surpassed other commercial diet plans in multiple areas, including short- and long-term weight loss and how easy it is to follow. It’s also nutritionally sound and safe, according to experts. Among its pluses: An emphasis on group support, lots of fruits and vegetables, and room for occasional indulgences.

Volumetrics

Volumetrics outperformed its competitors in many categories. It earned particularly high marks for being safe and nutritious, and experts said it could have a positive effect on heart health and diabetes. “This is an eating plan that everyone can benefit from,” one expert said.

My recommendation is to read my previous post (here) and then choose the diet that appeals to you most, with the intention of sticking to it for at least a year. After that, choose another. The point is to stick to some kind of eating plan for the rest of your life.

Diet advice for 2012 – from Cleveland Clinic

January 5, 2012

It’s  a new year and I resolve to write more blog posts this year than last. So, I’ll start with what is on many people’s minds now: which diet should I choose? Here is the latest from a respected source – Cleveland Clinic.

This New Year’s, losing weight will undoubtedly top many Americans’ list of resolutions – and it’s an important one. One reason? Heart disease is the main health threat caused by obesity. Make your efforts to slim down more successful this year by becoming wise to the “secret of calories!”  …

Just follow these 5 rules:

1. Understand the basic principal of dieting for weight loss. With all of the opposing diet plans forbidding carbohydrates or preaching against fat, it’s easy to see why confusion prevails. But, Cleveland Clinic experts say, recent studies comparing these different diets have found that the proportion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats in your diet do not influence weight loss. 

This means, in a nutshell, you can lose weight with any diet as long as you burn more calories than you take in. That’s the secret.

2. Know how many calories you need. Would you believe that of the half of Americans who are dieting at any given time, only 12 percent know how many calories they should consume daily? This number, which for adults ranges from 1,600 to 3,000 a day, depends on your age, gender and activity level. [Here is a useful daily calorie calculator]

3. Change your calorie intake to lose weight. If you want to lose weight, eat fewer calories than you burn. Eat 500 to 1,000 fewer calories per day and you will lose weight, often one to two pounds per week. But don’t be discouraged when weight loss begins to slow after a few weeks of dieting – this is a normal event as your body adjusts to your new diet. Keep watching calories and exercising and you will keep heading toward your weight loss goal!

4. Don’t be fooled by fad diets. More isn’t always better. In fact, it can be harmful. Any loss of more than two pounds a week is usually just water weight. Studies also show that the faster weight comes off, the quicker it is regained. Stick to a diet that has a goal of only one to two pounds weight loss a week [even better, in the long run, would be one pound per month].

5. Choose a diet you can live with. For your weight loss and weight maintenance efforts to succeed, you must continually manage your calories. No one diet is better than another. Studies show dieters tend to lose five to 10 pounds over the course of a year, regardless which diet they pick. What’s important is to pick a diet that works for you and that you can stick with. And if you’re not successful, pick a different diet next time.

Six small changes can help keep pounds off

January 14, 2011

This post is based on an article in the February 2011 issue of Consumer Reports magazine. The average middle-aged American gains 1 to 2 pounds per year. These six simple changes will at least help stop the weight gain, and may help you lose a few pounds.  Fad diets that promise more not only don’t work, most research shows they result in even more weight gain over the long run.

“Those who start with small changes often end up able to make more and bigger changes and lose more weight.”  James O. Hill, Ph.D. (University of Colorado)

1.  Stop drinking calories. Many drinks contain lots of calories.  Yet, when we consume calories in liquid form we don’t feel full or satisfied, so we eat just as much as we would without the beverage (or more, if the beverage contains alcohol or salt).  Calorie-free “diet” drinks do not cause weight gain, so are a better choice (but not as good as water).

2.  Eat more protein. Low-carb, high protein diets have proved surprisingly effective, especially in the short term. People who eat a higher proportion of their calories from protein end up consuming fewer calories overall. The bottom line is it can’t hurt to substitute a bit more lean protein for some of the fat and starches in your diet.

3.  Eat more fiber. “Fiber is the good guy of food,” according to the Consumer Reports article. “Grow the amount of vegetables on your plate and shrink everything else,” says Barbara Rolls, Ph.D. (Penn. State University).

4.  Lead yourself not into temptation. If there is an unhealthy food you crave, don’t have it where you can eat it impulsively.  See this post for more about the addictive properties of fat, salt and sugar in processed foods.

5.  Add 2000 steps per day. You can do this all at once, or divide it up, but the point is to get moving. See this post for more about exercise.

6.  Cut your screen time. This is related to number 5,  but is worth emphasizing because we spend more and more time seated in front of various screens (TV, computers, games).  Excessive screen time is correlated with more obesity and other health problems. For children, especially, it is important for parents to set limits on screen time, and to model by their own behavior how to stay active.

One more change: practice mindful eating. The best way to make this a habit is to write down everything you eat (keep a food log or diary).  If you do this, you will lose (or stop gaining) weight.

Why “Eat only when you’re hungry” won’t work

May 15, 2010

During a recent social event, the conversation turned to weight loss and dieting. One of the women said she read a new book and it had “the answer” to her problem of weight gain: eat only when you’re hungry.  Many books and weight loss plans, in fact, emphasize this point, offering various tips and methods to define “hungry” and help the reader learn what kind of hunger, exactly, they should satisfy and what kinds they should ignore.  The worst books (in my opinion) give the message that people gain weight because of various psychological or “spiritual” hungers that we try to assuage with food.  There is little to no consistent science to back up these claims, and I believe the message does much harm, because it implies an almost magical answer to the problem  of overeating.  When it inevitably fails to work, the victim of this propaganda is left with yet another cycle of failed dieting and increased weight.

As recently as hundreds of years ago, most people did need hunger as a cue to begin eating, because their days were full of physical labor and food was not always readily available.  But, in recent decades, this situation has changed dramatically.  Now, most have relatively low levels of physical activity and the availability of food has increased exponentially — to the point where there is a glut of high calorie, low cost “food” in our faces continually.  We rarely get hungry in the old sense of the word, because these cleverly marketed and subsidized foods (high in sugar, salt and/or fat) overwhelm our biological regulatory systems.  Instead, we develop cravings and hungers triggered by environmental cues and implanted “beliefs” from our culture, no longer based on biological requirements.  In a sense, we get “addicted” to unhealthy foods and lose our ability to trust our hunger.

So, what can we do?  Easy — and difficult.  Train ourselves to ignore these contrived temptations; limit our exposure to them (most importantly, protect our children from them!).  Learn what a healthy lifestyle looks like and adopt it.  Avoid frequently eating “addictive” foods containing large amounts of  sugar, salt and fat.  And advocate, loudly and often, for changes in our culture so that fruits, vegetables and other unprocessed foods are cheaper and more available than the junk food that now receives so many economic advantages.

For more information and tips, check out these links:

Food Industry Pursues the Strategy of Big Tobacco

Coping with the obesity epidemic

Ending overeating

Overeating leads to more overeating

What does 200 calories look like?

Do not — DO NOT — deprive yourself

Mindful eating vs. mindless munching

Weight Management for Your Life: Ten Steps to Prepare You for Adopting a Healthy Lifestyle

I recommend Nutrition Action Health Letter, available by subscription from the non-profit CSPI (regarding today’s post: see the May, 2010, cover story “How the Food Industry Drives Us to Eat” featuring an interview with Yale’s Dr. Kelly Brownell).

P.S.  I have not posted in the last 3 months for several reasons, one of which is having surgery and recovering.  I’m fine now, though.

Lose weight with your iPhone

November 8, 2009

iphone scale

If you own an iPhone (or iPod Touch), this simple program will help you maintain or lose weight, if that is your goal. Even if you don’t own one of these devices, the basic approach of this program may give you some good ideas. David Pogue of the New York Times writes:

Lose It! This beautifully designed weight-loss app has an astounding number of followers, if the outpouring of enthusiasm on Twitter is any indication. You tap to record everything you eat. It’s actually kind of fun, because the program contains every food item you can imagine, including brand-name packaged food and restaurant-chain menus. For each one, the app lists the complete nutritional information.

You also indicate what exercise you get each day, using a similarly complete list of activities. Finally, you tap in your weight each day. Probably because the app focuses you so well on staying true to your goals, its fans say it truly works. (Free)

You may read the New York Times article here. And you can download the app and read more about it here.

It takes a village to impact obesity epidemic

February 27, 2009

french-village

The results of the latest (and so far best) research on diets are in:  most people won’t stick to them. The New England Journal of Medicine (2/26/09) published the study which has now been widely reported in the news.  Over 800 men and women were followed on various diets for 2 years; the average weight loss was modest (about 9 pounds) and those who attended counseling sessions (an indirect measure of motivation) lost the most.  No one adhered to the diet closely, despite frequent monitoring and much support.  The conclusion is that eating less (calories) is what matters, not the specific content of the diet (in terms of low fat, high protein, low carbohydrate, etc).

These findings are not surprising, but what is most interesting is the accompanying editorial which describes a study in France where entire villages were used to counteract the obesity epidemic.  Here is the summary from the NEJM editorial:

A community-based effort to prevent overweight in schoolchildren began in two small towns in France in 2000. Everyone from the mayor to shop owners, schoolteachers, doctors, pharmacists, caterers, restaurant owners, sports associations, the media, scientists, and various branches of town government joined in an effort to encourage children to eat better and move around more. The towns built sporting facilities and playgrounds, mapped out walking itineraries, and hired sports instructors. Families were offered cooking workshops, and families at risk were offered individual counseling.

Though this was not a formal randomized trial, the results were remarkable. By 2005 the prevalence of overweight in children had fallen to 8.8%, whereas it had risen to 17.8% in the neighboring comparison towns, in line with the national trend.11 This total-community approach is now being extended to 200 towns in Europe, under the name EPODE (Ensemble, prévenons l’obésité des enfants [Together, let’s prevent obesity in children]).12

Like cholera, obesity may be a problem that cannot be solved by individual persons but that requires community action. Evidence for the efficacy of the EPODE12 approach is only tentative,11 and what works for small towns in France may not work for Mexico City or rural Louisiana. However, the apparent success of such community interventions suggests that we may need a new approach to preventing and to treating obesity and that it must be a total-environment approach that involves and activates entire neighborhoods and communities. It is an approach that deserves serious investigation, because the only effective alternative that we have at present for halting the obesity epidemic is large-scale gastric surgery.

The NEJM research article is here: http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/360/9/859.

The editorial is here: http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/360/9/923.

Overeating leads to — more overeating

January 17, 2009

overeating_lead_narrowweb__300x4430

Several lines of research describe mechanisms in our bodies that cause a vicious cycle, so that when we overeat we are much more likely to continue to overeat. These mechanisms involve our biological clock, insulin metabolism, and nerve endings in the stomach.  Even drinking too much water with a meal (especially ice water) can  accelerate the problem.  For more details, see this NPR story.

If you want to do only one thing to counteract your tendency to overeat, simply keep a journal and write down everything you put in your mouth.   Food diaries or journals have been shown again and again to be effective tools in weight management.  See these sites for more on food diaries (here and here).

For more information on avoiding overeating, see here.

Don’t fall for the diet Ponzi scheme

January 6, 2009

people-mag-1-09

I seldom use this blog to rant, but now is an exception. If cursing offends you, stop reading now.

I have before me the January 12 “special double issue” of People magazine, and it reminds me of the Madoff Ponzi racket that is shocking the world. What really pisses me off is all the over-hyped bullshit this rag (and many others) is using to sell magazines and dumb products to a gullible and even desperate population.  Don’t buy into this ripoff scheme.

Featuring people who have lost hundreds of pounds by going on severe deprivation programs is not even close to honest reporting.  The case-examples in the magazine went from the worst possible eating behaviors to the most extreme “dieting” behaviors, and that does not work for the overwhelming majority of ordinary people. It is no coincidence this kind of trash appears every January, when people are still hung over and reeling with guilt and shame for their lack of discipline in December.  Now, we are told, it is time to reverse course and shape up, at least until March. By then, the guilt will have been atoned for by a few weeks of exercise and food deprivation, and life will return to normal, so that by next December/January the overindulging/repenting cycle can begin anew.

Is there an alternative?  Yes, Yes, and Yes again!  Read the posts on this  blog, for example (starting here), and go to my website and read excerpts from (and reviews of) Weight Management for Your Life.  If you are serious about taking control of your own life, email me (wmfyl@mindspring.com) and I will mail you a free copy of the book (just mention this blog and give me a mailing address).  But hurry, I will only do this for the first 5 people I hear from.  Taking this action is one small way I am dealing with my anger.

Looking your best in 2009

January 1, 2009

090105_r18091_p233

For my first post in 2009, I am passing along to you a sure-fire 9-step program to help you lose weight and/or accept yourself. It is straight from the January 5 issue of The New Yorker (by Amy Ozols):

People say that obesity is an epidemic in America, but I’m determined not to become part of the problem. That’s why I’ve spent years perfecting the secret to a trim and attractive physique. My foolproof system involves just nine easy steps.

Step 1: Avoid what psychologists refer to as “emotional eating.” This is hard, because many people have a tendency to experience emotions. To solve this problem, consume increasing dosages of psychotropic medications until you cease to feel emotions of any kind.

Step 2: Visualize yourself as a thin person. This is very important, because the body often takes its signals from the brain. Each time you take a bite of food, imagine that you are a thin person taking a bite of food, chewing the food, then spitting the food into a napkin, then tucking the napkin into your backpack or purse. After you’re done visualizing these things, start doing them.

Step 3: Get rid of your “fat clothes.” Keeping your closet stocked with unflattering garments will only distract you from your quest for a slender body. To complete this step, shred or burn everything in your closet, including any hangers or shelving that a fat person may have touched. Refrain from donating anything to charity, as this could cause underprivileged people to become obese, which would be unsavory and possibly even illegal.

Step 4: Refrain from consuming food.

Step 5: Surround yourself with thin people. This will naturally encourage you to emulate their healthy habits. Weigh your friends on a regular basis, then weigh yourself. Do you have a friend who weighs less than you? If so, consider gastric bypass surgery.

Step 6: Drink plenty of water. As you’ve probably heard, water functions as a natural lubricant in the body, flushing toxins and fat cells from the digestive tract. Water is also a delicious replacement for higher-fat liquids, such as milk. Try pouring water on your cereal or in your coffee. If you’re a baby, try pouring water into your mother’s breasts.

Step 7: Buy a pet. Having a pet will force you to take walks, which are a form of exercise. This is true unless you make the mistake that I made, which was buying an iguana. Iguanas walk very slowly and smell strongly of turds. I really cannot dissuade you strongly enough from buying an iguana.

Step 8: Vigorous sexual intercourse burns up to two hundred calories per hour. Therefore, if you are not currently promiscuous, it is essential that you begin “boning” immediately. Start by having sex with every person you know. Then have sex with numerous people you have never met. Continue doing this until you are thin.

Step 9: Self-confidence is the most attractive trait a person can have. For this reason, strive to love yourself and accept yourself exactly as you are. This will be difficult if you are overweight, on account of your loathsome physical appearance and compromised value system, but do your best. And, if the going gets tough, remind yourself: every person is beautiful on the inside, provided that they are also extremely attractive on the outside.

What can we learn from the latest major “diet” study?

July 18, 2008

A major, well-designed research study of the effectiveness of various “diets” on weight loss and health has been published in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The researchers carefully followed 322 moderately obese people (mostly middle-aged men) for two years in a workplace setting where a lot of support and education was given along with a controlled diet. The research subjects were divided into three groups who ate one of the following: a low-fat, restricted-calorie diet; a Mediterranean, restricted-calorie diet; or a low-carbohydrate, non–restricted-calorie diet.  In the final analysis, all three groups lost weight (mostly in the first six months) and had health benefits, but the Mediterranean and low-carb groups had the best outcomes. Overall, 85% of subjects stuck to their diet for the full 2 years.

What we can learn is that education, structure and support are important in maintaining a consistent eating pattern (this study took place in Israel where the mid-day meal is traditionally the main meal, so the impact of the workplace is significant).  We also learned that the two diets with the best outcomes (in terms of weight loss maintenance, reduction in waist circumference, and some health measures) were the Mediterranean and low-carb. Finally, as written in the original article, we learned:

Mediterranean and low-carbohydrate diets may be effective alternatives to low-fat diets. The more favorable effects on lipids (with the low-carbohydrate diet) and on glycemic control (with the Mediterranean diet) suggest that personal preferences and metabolic considerations might inform individualized tailoring of dietary interventions. … The low-carbohydrate and Mediterranean diets had some beneficial metabolic effects, a result suggesting that these dietary strategies might be considered in clinical practice and that diets might be individualized according to personal preferences and metabolic needs [e.g., diabetics might do better on the Mediterranean diet; people with lipid problems might choose the low-carb diet]. The similar caloric deficit achieved in all diet groups suggests that a low-carbohydrate, non–restricted-calorie diet may be optimal for those who will not follow a restricted-calorie dietary regimen. The increasing improvement in levels of some biomarkers [health indicators] over time up to the 24-month point, despite the achievement of maximum weight loss by 6 months, suggests that a diet with a healthful composition has benefits beyond weight reduction.

One limitation of the study is the fact that most of the subjects were middle-aged men (only 16% were women).

Diet research is hard to do, and this study benefited from having a relatively controlled setting (workplace with main meal being served there). This is also a weakness, because few in the real world have that much structure and support.

The take home message for me is that even with almost ideal conditions it is hard to lose much weight, but weight can be maintained after the initial six months and the health benefits continue in the maintenance phase. Also, the study does help us (a little) choose what kinds of foods to add or subtract from our permanent diet (lifestyle), as opposed to a temporary “weight loss” diet. So, for example, I may decide to add more fish and chicken (and less red meat), more Tabouli (I love it), and less sugar and starch (if I cut way down on these, I won’t have to count Calories so much). Nothing we didn’t already kind of know, but this is reinforcement for that.

For a more detailed summary of the research see this site.