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Diets: Bad, Fair, Good

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Eliminating Foods
Unless you are diabetic, lactose intolerant, have a specific allergy, or have been diagnosed with some other medical problem that requires you to cut out certain foods, you should not eliminate entire food groups. Restricting yourself from many types of foods for fear of getting fat is a type of self-control that is similar to anorexia, especially if these limitations keep you from regularly eating a well-balanced diet.

Certain Foods Only
Very unhealthy eating habits come from diets such as the Cabbage Soup Diet, the Apple Cider Diet, and the Grapefruit Diet. These limit your eating to one type of food, restricting all the health benefits of other foods. They are not balanced and are usually so low in calories that your metabolism goes down and you do not have enough energy to function, much less work out. These diets often cause water-weight loss and leave you feeling deprived for normal eating. Any weight lost on these diets usually returns within a week.

Fair Diets

The following diets are not ideal because they are expensive, inconvenient, and do not allow for vacations or social eating. They are also quite low in calories and natural food nutrients. They often fail because once you return to eating foods that are not in the diet plan, the weight returns. This is not a realistic or practical lifelong eating plan.

Diet Products Diets
Eating only diet products, such as Slim Fast, Scan Diet, nutrition bars, or protein shakes, can be unhealthy not only because of the limited amount of nutrition but also because it can be very difficult to keep off the weight once the diet is over, as normal eating habits are not developed. Additionally, because these diets are usually very low in calories, they tend to slow down your metabolism. The lack of variety of food can result in nutritional deficits and prevent you from receiving the healthy benefits of natural foods. These diets also isolate you from social eating.

Packaged Meals
Diet plans that require packaged, purchased meals can be healthy but are unrealistic and it is difficult to maintain the weight loss once the diet is over. They can also be expensive. An example is Jenny Craig, although because this diet can also be followed eating foods you prepare yourself, it can fall closer to the "good" category.

Good Diets

The best "diets" are not really diets at all, but eating plans for life. Of course, the healthiest approach is to allow yourself all foods occasionally, but stick to these eating plans most of the time.

Low Glycemic Index Diet
Eating low and medium glycemic index foods minimizes sugary foods in the diet. This is a healthful and reasonable diet plan that you can follow for life and promotes weight loss by maintaining blood sugars and controlling hunger by stabilizing insulin levels. It is also a diet full of healthy vegetables, fruits, and fiber with balanced proteins and fats. This is not a calorie-restricting or nutrition-restricting diet. Eating low and medium glycemic index foods also can prevent diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Andrew Weil, M.D.'s Eating Well for Optimum Health and Jenny Brand-Miller's Glucose Revolution Life Plan are examples.

Smaller Portions with Personal Support
Smaller portions and personal support are the foundations behind the success of Weight Watchers and plans like ediet. These are the most successful, sensible, healthy weight loss plans and are also reasonably priced. They are effective because they promote slow weight loss (one to two pounds per week) by eating regular foods in smaller portions. They are also very effective as a result of personal and group support, which encourages and promotes confidence in dealing with weight control issues. A recent research study found diet plans backed by personal support, whether by phone, in person, or by e-mail, are the most successful at keeping off weight.

Diet Plans: Bad, Fair, Good

  type of diet explanation
Bad Low-carb/high-protein Dangerous for athletes, causes bone loss, harmful to kidneys and body fluid status
Dangerous, unhealthy impractical, and strange. Athletes cannot function on these diets! Metabolism pills and products Addictive, expensive, dangerous
Eliminating foods Unhealthy, impractical
No fat Unhealthy
Fair Diet products Have to buy product, normal eating habits not established
Mostly healthy, just difficult to maintain weight loss after diet is over Packaged meals Have to buy food, impractical, expensive
Good Low glycemic index foods Promotes healthy eating
Very healthy, practical Balanced meals, smaller portions Normal eating; smaller portions, support


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From The Active Woman's Health and Fitness Handbook by Nadya Swedan. Copyright © 2003 by Nadya Swedan. Used by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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