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Choosing a Diet and Achieving Weight Loss Goals

Updated on April 15, 2010

Diets, Diets, and More Diets! Why the Need for So Many Diets?

As a nation, the US struggles with the issues of obesity and managing weight loss. It seems that weight loss efforts are ravaged by rising obesity rates. For example, CBS.com recently reported, from its series Where America Stands, that 190,000,000 Americans are obese or overweight and further stated that childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years. To put these numbers in perspective, that 190 million people represents 2/3 of the US population and converts into a $147 billion medical burden annually.  These statistics are quite alarming. The need for weight loss as an agenda seems evident enough but not an easy challenge to meet. Thus, the market is inundated with more and more diet plans.

For some people, going on a diet is nothing more than a hot topic to be discussed at the water cooler. For others it has become a life-threatening issue. So drastic is the situation for some, being more than 100, 200, or 300 pounds overweight, they have undergone 1 of 2 types of bariatric surgery, gastric bypass or lap band. Even people choosing these procedures are strongly encouraged to make lifestyle changes and indeed a diet is still needed to maintain the effects.

How many times have you said or heard someone else say, “I’m going to start a new diet on Monday?” Now count the Mondays. How about this one? “If I could just get down a dress size or 2 before the wedding, I’ll be happy.” Finally, and likely soon to hear, is this one: “Spring is here, and I need to shed a few pounds before having to put on summer clothes.” These statements all reflect a common flaw in outlook regarding dieting. This outlook is short-sighted and not really going to sustain any commitment for too long. That could explain why some people skip from one diet craze to another after quickly losing any gains from the last diet. This is not to say that there are not people who have conditions that prevent them from reaching their weight loss goals, because there certainly are. This is really for the rest of us who face the decision of choosing a diet.

Every day people contemplate whether they need to lose weight or not. Judging by the fat figures earned by the weight loss industry, there are a lot of people who are opting for some kind of diet to lose weight. Recent studies rank Americans as the heaviest people on the planet, while another more recent one gives that status to Australians with US in second. Either way, this is not a good position to be in. Health care providers agree that there are no quick fixes that will really last over the long haul.

"No matter what choice a person makes, his success will only last as long as his commitment to the goals set and maintaining them."

For those of us who are obese, there are choices to review, or we could simply treat the word ‘diet’ like the four-letter-word that it is, and never let it cross our lips! That is always an option, but most people want to make other choices. Again, this is evidenced by so many available diet plans being purchased.

Do you wonder if you have tipped the scales over into obesity? To find your body mass index (BMI), you can go to Shapeup.org where you will find an instant 2-step calculator for results. Although debated by some, BMI is still the typical standard for determining obesity, and any number 30 or higher is considered obese. Oh yes, I went there! Anyway, at least it gives a ballpark figure and a premise to work from.


What are the options?

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise?

Exercise alone works for some people since it burns calories and that is the natural process of how the body works for a person with a normal metabolism, normal body weight, and normal calorie intake. You can surely imagine how normal can stretch from one person to another. For example, did you hear what Olympic champion swimmer Michael Phelps consumes in food in a day while training? A whopping 12,000 calories! Yet he certainly has no issues with obesity because of his level of exercise. While he proves that point, I am afraid that those with that kind of stamina and a desire for that much exercise are in a true minority. For us mere mortals, there are some options outside of exercise alone for dieting. These include food intake/calorie management diet plans. Some people use prescription and over the counter weight loss pills also. There are some worse choices made related to diet, which are related to eating disorders not discussed here.


Are Pills the Answer?

In the 1990s, doctors prescribed the popular appetite suppressant Redux or “phen-fen,” as it was commonly called then. This nickname was for the combination of drugs, phentermine and fenfluramine. It caused damage to the heart valves and it was taken off the market in 1997. Today Xenical, a prescription drug, is sold over the counter as Alli, and is very popular. It should be noted that most diet pills sold over the counter are not required to have approval by the FDA and are no required to prove their claims or efficacy rates, in other words how well they work. Just how do appetite suppressants work?  According to WebMD.com, these kinds of drugs affect areas of the brain that sense hunger and trick the body into believing that it is not hungry. Jokingly, my question is:  Can they come up with a pill that makes you believe you just ate your favorite meal? Seriously, some people feel that pills are an option for them. Others reject that idea. The risks of possible addiction, intolerance, and side effects would need to be carefully weighed against any expected benefits for anyone choosing pills as a diet plan.  Some researchers feel that many diet pills contain damaging ingredients. Other experts feel that no weight loss pill can be considered safe and that all should be avoided. With that caution in mind, no list will be posted here.  

www.ohsu.edu/.../images/food_pyramid.gif
www.ohsu.edu/.../images/food_pyramid.gif

What About Simple Calorie Management Diets?

The next option for dieting is management of food intake or calories taken versus calories burned. All popular diets are based on this method. In most diet plans, exercise is encouraged not only for a healthier lifestyle but to maintain benefits of dieting. Some have been around for years and years. There are testimonies of those who have had success with various plans, but the lifers are the ones I am impressed with. You know the ones that seem to know the guidelines of the diet better than the people who devised it, and never seem to have gained a pound in all the years you've known them. These people are rare, as shown by the yo-yo dieting that many people engage in.

Which Diet Plan Works Best?

In an effort to find out which diet works best, I scoured over lists and reports, often reflecting different outcomes. I went a step further to see what the clinical data showed in medical journals. Consumersearch.com had compiled results drawn from lots of studies from many medical journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, The Journal of American Medical Association, and Public Health Nutrition, plus Consumer Reports and others. And the winners are:

Best Overall Diet Plan...Weight Watchers with Est. $20 to join $13 per week. Chosen for ease of plan, sensible diet of healthy food, and the encouragement of exercise and a positive attitude. Both its flexibility and reasonableness caused it to beat the competition and make it easier for dieters to stick with much longer.

Best Diet Plan with Prepackaged Food...Slim Fast with Est. $40 per week for bars and shakes. Chosen for convenience of plan though costly and meeting nutrition requirements. It was shown that it is effective in helping dieters lose weight in a short time but that long-term compliance is frequently lacking.

Best Diet Plan for Vegetarians...Dean Ornish's Eat More, Weigh Less with Est. $10 for book. This diet plan was picked because it is effective and heart healthy, even though it lacked variety in menu and tended to be strict.

Decisions Need Your Own Input

I am sure this will be revisited by people and, like the Oscars, the winners will be debated. It is indicated that these decisions were made after reviewing the clinical data and studies published by some of the elite journals in modern medicine, including the New England Journal of Medicine, The Journal of American Medicine Association, Public Health Nutrition, plus Consumer Reports. I would not argue with them, even if I chose another plan, because they are claiming statistics and results of clinical trials as the basis for their decisions. However, this is not rocket science. It's dieting 101. So what suits one dieter would be unacceptable to another. So each one will have to find out what works best for him with his own health concerns, preferences and/or needs to consider.  

After Noting the Experts' Best, You Can Visit the Rest...by going to online sites or reading their books to learn more about your choices.  

Some Other Diet Plans

http://www.ediets.com/

http://www.adkins diet.com/

http://www.volumetricsdiet.com/

http://www.Dietwatch.com

http://www.Sparkpeople.com

http://www.Diet.com

http://sonomadiet.com/

http://www.SouthBeachdiet.com

www.The Zone diet.com

http://www.Nutri-System.com

Vegetarian Varieties: pescatarian--no meat, flexitarian--little meat, lacto-ovo-vegetarian--veggies with milk and eggs, vegan, and raw vegan--no veggies cooked over 115 degrees. Vegetarian Cookbooks:  The Conscious Chef, Vegan Fire and Spice, and Simple Vegetarian Recipes.


After considering the many options, it really comes down to a personal decision of whether you want to manage weight loss with diet or not. Plus, no matter what you choose, you should become educated about your options, examine your options carefully, and then weigh the risks against the benefits. Finally, be honest with yourself and make a choice you can live with!

This is not an endorsement for any diet plan or procedure. It is noted that anyone considering a diet, should do so under the guidance of a physician. This article is solely for information purposes and should not be viewed as advice.

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