Diet and Nutrition

Staying informed and taking control of your health can go a long way in preventing disease or successfully managing a condition you may have. Here you’ll find up to date information on diet and nutrition.

Written By By John Casey

Overwhelmed by all the diets out there? Skip the fads. Experts say the best one to pick is one that keeps you as an individual in mind. Part 1 of a two-part series on successful dieting.

As if it weren't hard enough to lose weight, the dizzying array of diet plans out there makes the job all the more difficult. How do you choose the one that's right for you, for your particular personality or temperament?

It's best to start with the idea that a plan you can easily maintain is more likely to be successful. Instead of picking any particular diet, think of yourself as making an individual weight loss plan.

"[You] should think about lifestyle," says Whitney Orth, MS, a registered dietitian who works at the Weight Management Center in Memphis, Tenn. "How much time do you have to commit to grocery shopping and cooking? If the answer is limited time, then the person should pick a plan that has most of the "work" done for them. An example would be Weight Watchers, which has the point system. All the consumer would have to do is look up the designated points for a certain food and keep a running tally for the day."

"For weight loss to work, the person must be willing to make lifestyle changes according to the recommendations of a practitioner," says Martha Lucas, PhD, LAc, a research psychologist who specializes in weight loss issues at the Colorado Center of Traditional Medicine and Cosmetic Acupuncture Clinic.

Rigidity or an inability or unwillingness to learn new information about food will definitely have a negative impact on one's ability to lose weight, Lucas says. "I often tell people that the patient and I are engaged in a partnership," she says.

 

Your Food Relationship

Along with lifestyle, your choice of weight loss plan should consider issues that bear on your personality, especially those issues that deal with your emotional relationship to food.

Nick Yphantides, MD, who specializes in preventive medicine and is author of My Big Fat Greek Diet, says he is convinced "that why people eat is as important as how much they eat. [Overeating] has a lot to do with how we use food and what role food plays in our lives."

This is another reason why an individualized weight loss plan may be better than the choice of a specific diet plan.

"What I generally see is that overeating stems from one of several causes depending on the individual," Lucas says. "Treatment is then designed to eliminate or correct the cause for that particular person."

If the overeating stems from an impulse control condition or is a reaction to stress, says Lucas, then the specific weight loss plans should take these factors into account. In these instances, stress-reducing treatments such as yoga, acupuncture, or meditation, should be included as part of the plan.

There are several personality disorders that are associated with overeating, says Whitney Orth. These include borderline, obsessive compulsive, avoidant, and histrionic personality disorders. People suffering from depression are also likely to overeat.

"When we feel depressed, most people naturally reach for high-carbohydrate foods, which results in an increase of serotonin elevating our mood and making us feel happy, says Orth. "Unfortunately, it is easy to overeat high-carbohydrate foods such as pastas, cakes, and breads."

And it's not just low-mood times that can be a problem.

"We no longer reserve eating out at restaurants for special occasions," says Orth. "We go out to eat for every occasion -- birthdays, holidays, promotions, any reason at all. And when we go out to eat the portions are so large it is almost impossible to not overeat."

 

Skip the Fads

Of course, any diet plan that sounds too good to be true probably is, and these are best avoided. But fad diets can hold a special allure for people who are considering diet plans. It's a vulnerable time for many.

"Most fad diets that claim you can lose 10 pounds in three days really only cause the person to lose water weight," says Orth, "so the scale might reflect a significant weight loss, but the weight will be gained back immediately after the diet is stopped."

Also, any diet plan that consists of taking a pill that allows you to eat whatever you want and still lose weight is a gimmick, Orth says.

"Legitimate diet plans are plans that do not promise large weight loss in a short period of time. The basis of any legitimate diet should be reducing the total number of calories consumed," she says. "Also, you should be wary of any diet that limits you to eating a certain food or eliminates entire food groups."

Talk to your doctor before you start your diet to give yourself a better chance of long-term success, says Orth, adding that a registered dietitian can be an enormous help for many people who want to drop weight.

"Dietitians are trained to develop weight loss plans that fit the lifestyles and emotional needs of their clients," she says.

SOURCES: Martha Lucas, PhD, LAc, Colorado Center of Traditional Medicine and Cosmetic Acupuncture Clinic. Whitney Orth, MS, RD, Weight Management Center, Memphis, Tenn. Nick Yphantides, MD, Health management Resources, Escondido, Calif.; author, My Big Fat Greek Diet.

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