Weight Loss Articles and Resources

Choosing a Diet Plan
by Terri Main

Any of us who have watched late night TV know that there is no lack of people out there ready to tell you how to lose weight. They have lots of dieting ideas and plans. Are they all scams? Not really. Some are good plans. Some need a bit of tweaking to be good. Some are downright dangerous. So, how do we sort them out.

Mostly a little common sense will be your guide. Anything which claims you will lose 30 pounds in 30 days and keep losing at that rate is either a scam or an unhealthy modified fast. If they say, you can take a pill and lose weight in your sleep, you know that's not going to work. So, start with the basic principle of good consumerism: It it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

I might also add here that you don't actually need a diet plan. Just keeping track of calories, watching fat grams, exercising and eating a good balanced diet is sufficient for weight loss. Also, nearly every weight loss plan which works, does so by reducing calorie intake even if you don't actually count the calories. So, a calorie counter and a way to figure out how many calories are burned by exercise will give you all the information you need to create your own diet plan. (You can even find this information on line. We have the links in our resources section)

But here are a few tips about choosing a diet plan:

Choose a plan that you can stay on the rest of your life. One of the best bits of weight-loss wisdom I ever heard was on a tape from something called the Great North American Diet. North said, "You shouldn't stay one day on an eating plan that you can't spend the rest of your life on."

Too many people treat a "diet" as a temporary thing to lose a bunch of weight so they can go back to "normal" eating. A diet should lead you to a healthy and enjoyable eating pattern and not be a prison sentence with you waiting for parole.

So, any diet which requires you to eat only one food, like grapefruit or eliminates an entire food group, like carbohydrates, proteins or even fats needs to be avoided. Likewise, diets requiring you to only eat their food or drink a milkshake everyday to maintain weight loss, probably won't work in the long run. Any weight you lose on such a diet will be gained back when you can't stick with the diet.

So, ask yourself, Can I enjoy this eating lifestyle permanently? If not, look elsewhere or just start counting calories.

Avoid diets which eliminate entire food groups. Contrary to the claims of some diet gurus, the research shows that you need a balanced diet, just like your mother said. You need carbohydrates, you need protein, you need fat, you need dairy products and you even need a little sugar and salt. The important thing is to find balance. The general recommendations by most nutritionist are that 60 percent of your calories come from carbohydrates, 30 percent from fats and 10 percent from protein. Of course, your individual needs might be different because of medical conditions such as diabetes. You should check with your doctor before starting any diet program.

Look for a diet that encourages eating from each of the major food groups each day.

Avoid diets which require you to take massive amounts of vitamin pills. If you are eating a healthy diet, most of your nutrients will come from food. However, because of our lifestyles and the processing of our foods we often do need supplements. However, a good multivitamin will cover most of that along with some vitamin C, D, E and Folate. You can find out more information about these vitamins at Realage.com a wonderful web site chocked full of health information. Some diets load you down with 50-60 pills a day or drinking vitamin enriched shakes, when just a small handful of vitamins a day are really necessary.

Avoid "modified fast" diets. Some people believe that you need to "kick start" your weight loss by going on some sort of severe calorie poor diet plan. These include diets such as those which involve drinking hi-protein, low calorie shakes, eating only fruit or only salads, cutting out meals, fasting or cutting down calorie intake to less than 1000 calories a day. Unless recommended and supervised by a doctor, these extremely restrictive calorie diets usually do more harm than good.

They tend to be somewhat attractive in that you can lose a lot of weight fast, and we believe that after we've lost all that weight we can go back to eating "normally" or even eating a more sensible diet and maintain or continue the weight loss. The problem with this reasoning is that during a fast or modified fast, you lose fat alright but also minerals, nutrients and even muscle tissue. You can become dehydrated. But your body also goes into starvation mode, reducing the basal metabolic rate to conserve energy causing you to feel languid and tired all the time. When you do go back to a normal eating pattern, your metabolic rate doesn't catch up immediately so you put on more weight eating the same number of calories. So, people who go on these types of diets are thrilled about the speed and amount of weight loss initially, but nearly always gain every pound back and add on pounds as well.

If you do go on such a diet, then come off of it gradually, increasing your calorie intake by 10 - 20 percent per day for a week or more to give your body time to readjust. The same goes for extended fasting you may be doing for religious purposes. If you go on a week's fast, don't end the fast with a big feast, but take food in small amounts increasing your portions over several days building back up to your healthy level of calorie intake.

Choose a diet which fits in with your lifestyle. There are many different good diet plans out there which work for many people, but don't work for me because of my schedule. One summer, I followed the North diet. It was great when I was out of school. The way it worked was that I ate five meals a day. Each meal I had a protein, a carb and a vegetable at each meal. There was a little more to it than that, but those are the basics. It was pretty easy to understand, and it was working, but when I started school, I didn't have time to stop three times during my work day to eat a meal. It was a good diet, but it wasn't good for me.

Choose a diet which addresses your overeating style. Some diets are great at filling you up and keeping you from getting hungry. So, if your overeating style is "The Bottomless Pit", that might work for you. Others try to address tastes and individual preferences in foods giving you several low-calorie options for each meal. "The Gourmet" will do better on this diet. "The Absentminded Eater" may need the structure of set meal plans to follow each week for several weeks to break nibbling habits. You are an individual. Just because one diet plan works for someone else doesn't mean it will work for you.

Choose a diet which is easy to use. Once things get too complicated we tend to run from them. One of the reasons I started using Weight Watchers On Line Tools was simplicity. Their point program takes into account both calories and fat grams. I can simply look up the foods online or by using the information on the package figure out the points using an online tool. I don't go to the meetings, mostly because of time commitments. But I do like the ease of the plan. Find a plan you find easy to fit into your lifestyle and stick with it.

In the final analysis, use your common sense about a diet plan. If it's too complicated, requires a lot of supplements, makes you crazy trying to follow it, or promises too much, then it's probably not going to work for you.

If you want to see a comparison of many of the popular diet plans out there, I recommend The Real Age Diet by Michael Roizen. He has a chapter comparing the health benefits and dangers of various popular diet plans. And always remember, this isn't just about weight loss, it's also about your health. Even if the diet "works," be sure it's working in a healthy manner. Always check with your doctor before adopting a specific diet plan.

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"This article provided courtesy of Get Real Weight Loss (http://www.getrealdiet.com)a realistic approach to healthier living.
Copyright 2002 Terri Main"

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