Diet Plans & Programs: The "Skinny" on Popular Diet Plans

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List of diets
The choice comes down to this: Weight loss is impossible without a calorie restriction, so each diet has to provide fewer calories than your body needs to maintain your weight. Still, watch out for certain traps. While on the Ideal Protein Weight Loss Method, you will eat foods high in protein which will help your body burn fat reserves instead of muscle. When I did my first round with Weight Watchers, I lost 4 pounds the first week and I have to tell you, I remember that day like it was yesterday. The company website does give insights into their process about weight loss by stating:

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During this time you consume no more than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day. For example, one slice of bread has 15 grams of carbohydrates, one serving of fruit has 15 grams of carbohydrates, one serving of dairy has 12 grams of carbohydrates, and one serving of vegetables can have between 5 and 15 grams of carbohydrates. It's clear that 20 grams is extremely limited, potentially unhealthy, and would be very difficult to follow for the long-term.

The Atkins web site states that "depending on how much weight you have to lose, you can safely continue with the induction phase as long as the following three conditions are met:. Most people who follow this diet are not under medical supervision, and this can become a very dangerous situation for them. The the induction phase gets people used to losing weight at a fast rate, which will not last and is not healthy. Faster weight loss does not mean healthy weight loss.

Any diet that emphasizes fast, easy weight loss is one to approach with caution. The guidelines are clear that a safe, healthy rate of weight loss is to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week after the first couple of weeks.

The Atkins diet states you will lose "only body fat" by eating regular meals, taking in adequate calories, and keeping your insulin levels down. There is no way to only lose body fat when losing weight. Claims that you will lose only fat are not based on science despite the fact that the Atkins diet claims to be scientifically based. The Pritikin diet is a very low-fat, high-carbohydrate eating plan. The focus is to eat vegetables, fruits, and high-fiber grains. Nathan Pritikin's diet is based on the theory of eating low-fat, low-calorie, plant-based foods to promote weight loss and improve or prevent heart disease.

The revised Pritikin diet includes a "Calorie Density Solution: Eating low-calorie foods throughout the day will reduce hunger and cause weight loss. Research has shown that the calorie density of our diets will impact our weight. The calorie density is the amount of calories in a given weight of food.

Consuming foods that are considered low-calorie dense aids in weight loss. These foods will provide a high volume without a lot of calories. By replacing foods that are considered high-calorie dense, you save additional calories. Some find it more satisfying to focus on consuming low-calorie dense foods in large quantities versus counting calories.

The Pritikin diet also encourages daily exercise and stress -reduction techniques. The most controversial part of this diet is the severe fat restriction. There has been a considerable amount of research showing the health benefits of omega-3 fats, including protecting your heart. The American Heart Association now recommends that people without coronary heart disease eat a variety of omega-3 fat-containing fish at least twice a week and that those with coronary heart disease consume one gram of omega-3 fats per day.

Dietary fat is also needed to transport the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Without fat to transport them, they will not be able to serve their functions in your body. Our diets are meant to have a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.

When you consume too little of one of these nutrients it means you are consuming too much of another nutrient. Most people who follow a very low-fat diet end up consuming an excess amount of carbohydrates. Too much of any nutrient can cause health problems. The Dietary Reference Intake DRI established the need for each one of these nutrients based on research for optimal health and weight. If you follow the Pritikin Principle it would be best to adjust your intake to meet the DRI guidelines.

The Zone diet is a high-protein, low-carbohydrate, fat-controlled eating plan. It is not as restrictive as other high-protein diets and it allows for a broad range of foods to be consumed. A small amount of protein is combined with twice the amount of "favorable" carbohydrates, including fruits and vegetables. If choosing "less desirable" carbohydrates, the portion size is smaller.

Sears' Zone diet is based on the theory that the human body is genetically programmed to reach peak efficiency when all meals, including snacks, consist of a set caloric ratio of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. When this ratio is achieved, the body is working within the "zone. The Zone diet promotes eating a balance of each nutrient, without severely restricting calories.

Protein increases your feeling of fullness, helping you to avoid eating between meals, and there is a guide to what kind of fat you can consume. Healthy fats are encouraged in place of the saturated and trans fats. The calorie restriction will help you lose weight. The claims made about the health implications of carbohydrates and protein are controversial. As with other fad diets, one nutrient is being made to look like the enemy carbohydrates , while protein is made to look like the key to weight loss and health.

Most diets that are against carbohydrates use the arguments that we consume less fat and more carbohydrates than we did 10 years ago, and obesity is on the rise. This is half true. We consume more carbohydrates, which means we consume more calories. Our fat intake remains above the recommendations, but the percent of our total calories from fat has come down because we are now consuming more calories.

Again, research clearly shows that a balance of each of these nutrients is needed and that an excess or deficiency in any of them will cause problems. This diet can be difficult to stick with long-term, so weight regain can be an issue.

The South Beach Diet. The South Beach diet is the newest high-protein, low carbohydrate, and fat-controlled diet. This diet claims that the cause for obesity "is simple: The faster the sugars and the starches you eat are processed and absorbed into your bloodstream, the fatter you get.

The first phase claims to eliminate cravings and kick-start weight loss; the second phase is for long-term, steady weight loss; and the third phase is to be followed for days a year once you have achieved your weight loss goal. The second and third phases of this diet promote a balanced diet that can be beneficial to your health and weight. These phases promote consistent meal times, healthy snacks and desserts, and water.

The meal plans and recipes can be useful for those who need some guidance on what to eat. There are now six other books and an interactive web site supporting this plan. The theory behind the diet is not the reason you will lose weight if you follow this plan. Weight loss can only occur when you consume fewer calories than your body needs. In the introduction chapter the author makes numerous claims that you do not need to limit the quantity of food that you consume and then provides portion restrictions on many high calorie foods, such as nuts.

It's appealing to hear you can eat unlimited quantities, but weight loss will not be achieved without limitations. The initial phase of this diet should be avoided. This two-week phase claims to produce a weight loss of eight to 13 pounds with severe dietary restrictions; including fruit, dairy, and starches.

Phases like this are usually included so people see quick results, but are limited in time because they are not nutritionally balanced and can't be followed for a long period.

It tends to be more discouraging than motivating to lose quickly and to feel like you are "on a diet. It's best to begin slowly and to always consume a nutritionally balanced diet.

Eat more, weigh less: Eat More, Weigh Less is one of the few diets developed as a result of research. The primary goal of this diet was to reverse heart disease. The basis for this diet is to consume a high-fiber, low-fat, vegetarian diet with limited amounts of dairy foods.

The goal is to consume primarily complex carbohydrates vegetables, fruit, and whole grains , low total fat primarily from omega-3 fatty acids and limited in saturated fat, and low sugar. Physical activity and stress management are also emphasized. The research does support the health benefits of this diet, and you will lose weight if you stick with the plan.

The web site provides recipes and detailed information on nutrition , exercise, and stress management. The primary con to this diet is that it can be extremely limited and difficult for some people to follow. This limitation is because meat is omitted from the plan. Cutting out an entire food group may be too much of a restriction to maintain over the long-term, so some people do best by modifying this diet to allow for a moderate amount of meat. The high fiber intake may also pose a problem initially.

It's best to slowly increase the amount of fiber you consume so your body can get used to it. The goal is always long-term weight loss and maintenance. This diet does have the research to support it, but it may need modifications to make it work for you. Jenny Craig has become best-known for the celebrities who are followed while losing weight on this diet.

They explain how easy it is and how delicious the food is, and you see the results as they are happening. This diet provides you with your foods and snacks to ensure you consume the exact amount of calories your body needs to lose weight. You add fresh produce and dairy. You meet with a consultant on a weekly basis to discuss your progress, and who will assist you with transitioning to your own food when you are ready to do so.

Physical activity is emphasized throughout the diet. The primary advantage to this diet is that you will lose weight if you eat what you are given.

Portion-and-calorie-controlled meals are great tools for long-term weight loss and maintenance. They take away the guesswork of how many calories you consume, they can be nutritionally balanced, they are quick and easy to prepare, and they teach you about healthy portion sizes.

As with all diets, nothing works for everyone, and nothing works forever. The celebrity endorsements are great when they work, but the celebrities who regain their weight once they discontinue this plan are proving that this is not the answer for everyone. Many people prefer to be able to eat food they prepare and do not like the idea of prepackaged foods. The consultants are not professionals in this field.

They undergo a training course but are not trained therapists, registered dietitians, or exercise physiologists, so the advice and support that you receive will be limited to what they have been taught to say.

If you are taking any medications or have any health conditions, it is best to work with trained professionals. The NutriSystem Advanced diet is a low glycemic index , high-fiber, and high-protein diet. The prepackaged food is provided for you by ordering online or by calling the toll free number.

This diet does address the three necessary components for successful weight loss and maintenance; diet, physical activity, and behavior. Prepackaged foods can be an effective tool for weight loss. You will be provided with the appropriate number of calories for weight loss without having to worry about counting anything. This will give you the opportunity to learn what appropriate portion sizes are and which foods are necessary for a well-balanced diet based on your specific needs.

The variety of programs based on gender, age, health, and dietary preference is another positive component of this diet. The Mindset Makeover was developed by one of the leading psychologists in the weight loss field, Gary Foster, Ph.

It is designed to "help people learn new behaviors when it comes to weight loss and related lifestyle issues. You are given access to this and an online account with community support as part of each of the programs. Prepackaged foods are not for everyone and typically not something to use forever. They can be very limiting and create the sense of being "on a diet. Most people find that they only want to use this type of a diet for the short-term or for one or two meals per day.

The other negative aspect of this diet is that the prepackaged foods contain the artificial sweeteners Sucaralose and Acesulfame K. The dietary focus on this diet also has some limitations. The idea of "good carbs" and "bad carbs" is controversial. While there is some truth to the role of glycemic index in hunger, it is not a guaranteed tool for weight management. Labeling foods as "good" and "bad" creates problems for people trying to develop healthy eating habits. A well-balanced diet requires whole wheat sources of starch, while allowing for some sugar.

Weight Watchers has been around for many years. There have been changes to the program, but weekly meetings have remained a part of the plan. The two diet options that are currently available are the Flex Plan and the Core Plan.

The Core Plan is based on the science of energy density. Energy density refers to the amount of calories in a given weight of food. Foods that are considered low energy dense foods have a small amount of calories for a large volume of food for example, vegetable soups, vegetables, and fruit. High energy dense foods provide a lot of calories for a small amount of food for example, oils, butter, cream sauce.

The Core Plan provides a "balanced diet by centering on a list of healthy foods that keep you full longer. The support and information provided online and in-person sets Weight Watchers apart from most diets out there.

There are numerous meetings across the country to choose from. For many people, having a place to weigh-in each week is a key to success. The focus on a balanced diet, exercise, and behavior changes is another advantage to this diet. The goal is to educate people on all three components and assist with both weight loss and maintenance.

The two plans give people an option to find what works best for their own success. Many people have a "been there, done that" attitude when it comes to Weight Watchers. They have tried it, may have had some success, may have even gone back a couple of times, but end up feeling that it can't help them any longer.

The group leaders at the meetings are not trained experts; they are former members who have had success with Weight Watchers. When someone is not having success the options for what to do can be greatly limited by the lack of experience and knowledge of the leader.

There is a strong emphasis on weighing in each week. Many people have a difficult time attending a meeting when they are not having success.

However, most people will not lose weight every single week, so expecting to do so is a recipe for failure. The time when people need the support the most is when they are not losing, but most meetings are not set to address this. While there are two diet options, this still may not be enough for everyone.

You're not sweating from the activity, or breathing more rapidly than normal. You're breathing more rapidly than normal, but not out of breath not winded. You are able to converse but not able to sing while performing the activity. You can't converse normally while performing this activity, but can only utter short phrases. Weight Watchers Research Dept.

You can either enter it manually in the activity section of your account, or you can use a tracking device or app, such as Fitbit, which connects directly to your Weight Watchers account. The revamp took effect in December , when Weight Watchers introduced their holistic Beyond the Scale approach sounds like a sci-fi sequel: Star Wars Episode 14, Beyond the Scale. For one, Weight Watchers says that your weekly FitPoints goal is fully personalized for you by WW, taking into account your age, gender, height, weight, and current activity level.

Previously, with Activity Points, you would just calculate the points to earn using a more generalized, clumsier online tool. The actual FitPoints you earn that are exchangeable for SmartPoints doesn't really vary much based on your weight and gender. The number of points you earn is overwhelmingly based on the time and intensity of the activity. FitPoints are easier to earn as well. Plain and simple, you get points as soon as you start moving.

With the old Activity Points, you had to reach a baseline before you could score — for example, you might have had to walk 3, steps to get points. Now, you could walk just a third of that and already earn as many as 2 FitPoints.

What is FitBreak from Weight Watchers? FitBreak is an app that shows you very brief videos a few seconds long , and encourages you to then mimic that activity for exactly one minute. If you do this 20 times over the course of the day a total of 20 minutes , you will receive 2 FitPoints.

You must be logged into your regular Weight Watchers mobile app while using FitBreak, in order to automatically receive the points. When you start on Weight Watchers, you take an assessment where WW looks at your lifestyle and determines your first FitPoints goal.

As mentioned, this goal is based on your personal factors. For instance, if you currently spend a lot of time sitting at your desk, WW will start you off with a fairly low points goal. One is by wearing an activity tracker, such as the highly popular Fitbit, which integrates with your Weight Watchers account.

The advantage of wearing an activity tracker is that you'll earn the most FitPoints this way. Just make sure that your tracking app is synced to your Weight Watchers account so that your tracked activities are automatically converted and credited as FitPoints. Just log in to your My Day online dashboard, go to "Activity," and there you'll see where to input your activity. Even if you don't want to shell out for an expensive tracker, you can download a free pedometer app on your phone to count your steps for you.

Once you get the hang of reaching your weekly FitPoints goals and for some people, WW is right in saying that this can be addictive , your goal will likely be changed to match your new lifestyle. If you reach your goal for two weeks straight, Weight Watchers will automatically recommend a higher goal for you.

And if you keep racking up those points, you get more bragging rights — and other perks, like say, a leaner, healthier body. Plus, you can exchange those FitPoints for more SmartPoints, which means that you can eat a little more if you want to. FitPoints is a goal system, so you want to earn more points here to achieve your target. In fact, 1 FitPoint is equal to 1 SmartPoint.

The question now is, should you eat your FitPoints? In a way, this makes sense. And, as we all know, getting a treat every now and then makes dieting a little more enjoyable. A similar thing may happen with tracking apps, especially if more than one app is synced to your WW account. Overestimated FitPoints means that you could then be swapping for more food than you worked for, and that completely throws the diet.

The equivalent FitPoints for each activity depends a lot on its intensity and duration, and your weight also factors into it. A basic "average" approximation would be 1, walking steps equals 1 FitPoint, but this could increase or decrease for you, depending on your weight, etc.

It does take a bit of meticulous fine-tuning to figure out FitPoints for your particular weight. The Weight Watchers Pocket Guide provides a comparison:. A pound person earns 1 FitPoint after 10 minutes of low- to moderate intensity movements.

Meanwhile, a pound person earns 1 FitPoint after 10 minutes of low-intensity, but 2 FitPoints after 10 minutes of moderate-intensity activity. The pound person would get 6 FitPoints while her pound friend would get And since FitPoints are meant to encourage us to move, maybe Weight Watchers wants to give more encouraging pats on the back i.

But will the FitPoints system really help you on your weight loss?

Weight Watchers