2007-01-11 / This Week's Attitude

This Week's Attitude

As New Year Weighs In, So Do New-Fangled Diets
By Neil S. Friedman

It never fails. No sooner does the New Year commence when anyone - and everyone - who can, offers advice on the latest and greatest weight-loss plan to correspond with the number one resolution people declare - dieting and/or losing weight.

Over the years there have been countless diets - the South Beach Diet, the Grapefruit Diet, the Scarsdale Diet, high protein diets, low carb diets, etc., etc. - and ad nauseam methods for weight loss. Some promise instant results, others caution it may take up months to drop those extra pounds and notice significant results.

Eventually, nearly every diet regimen fades from popularity - quicker than those excess pounds. Besides, if any diet was that effective over time, there wouldn't be a need for a new one every so often.

Years ago when Baby Boomers got anxious about expanding waistlines, the latest diets and diet foods proved that healthy eating was tasteless. (A form of non-violent torture I might back would be a prisoner diet consisting solely of rice cakes and shredded wheat - without toppings or liquids to help digest them!) More recently, however, several weight-loss programs offer nutritious foods that are tastier and more satisfying to a discerning palette.

The ultimate challenge is to keep the weight off and maintain a healthy diet. In the end, though, few people have the stick-to-itness to diet for an extended period. Nutrition experts never promote fad diets, maintaining that an individual's psychological makeup has as much to do with losing weight as sensible nutrition.

Not surprisingly, when you read most diet disclaimers, they typically admit that not everyone - translate that as not many - will achieve expected results and they must be used in conjunction with regular exercise. Then there are countless weight loss pills advertised on television, radio and in magazines that promise fantastic results, but, the fine-print riders state neither the FDA, the FTC or any qualified nutritionist has verified the claims presented.

Coincidentally, as I was preparing this column, it was announced that federal regulators fined four companies that manufacture quick weight-loss pills - including one hawked by buxom 'B List' celebrity Anna Nicole Smith - for false advertising and unsubstantiated claims. The pill pushers have been ordered to reimburse customers, but the capsules can remain on store shelves for the dolts that may still buy them.

In TV commercials where celebrities endorse diet products, you see - if you don't blink - a brief disclaimer noting the individual is "a paid spokesperson." Most recently, actress Kirstie Allie, whose weight ballooned to over 200 pounds, which she used to her advantage in the short-lived cable television series, "Fat Actress," then lost 75 pounds as a Jenny Craig weight loss-program representative. Allie must have worked hard to lose the weight, which was obvious when she recently showed off her eye-catching figure in a bikini. No doubt she was paid quite handsomely and worked out with a fitness instructor to shed the pounds, which is something the average weight-challenged individual can't afford. It remains to be seen if she can keep it off.

I recently read about just-published diet books with one even promising you can lose weight while you sleep. Not having read the book I presume the logic behind that is the more you sleep, the less you eat! Duh! Unless you go to bed with an intravenous feeding tube in your arm, there's no way to eat while sleeping - except if you sleepwalk to the 'fridge! Some people buy diet books, but may only skim through it, thinking that toting them around is as an effective exercise as the book's strategy.

The other books promoted a self-hypnosis diet ("you will not overeat, you will not overeat…"), a fiber diet and a reverse diet where you eat dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner.

As I wrote earlier, it's the New Year!

Dieters and salad lovers, not to mention frequent Taco Bell patrons, had a brief scare late last year when potentially deadly E. coli bacteria were found in spinach and lettuce, first tied to the fast food chain, then reported to be in pre-packed produce delivered to supermarkets. The source of the bug was subsequently discovered, but thousands of anxious edible leaf lovers surely fretted about future meals as the crisis lingered. In light of the food poisoning outbreaks, the government and the produce industry have been scrambling to make leafy greens safer before the spring planting season.

Part of the whole diet dilemma stems from a culture filled with mixed messages. On one hand it is in awe of thin, undernourished actresses and hunky actors with washboard abs, yet regularly feeds on fast and junk foods that have led to a population in which one-third of us are considered obese.

I'm not qualified - by education or personal experience - to offer nutritional or weight-reduction advice, but it doesn't take a college education to realize that moderation is the key. When it comes to eating, consume sensible portions that don't contain an excess of trans fat and carbs. Then, every once in a while when you get a craving for something that'll be a moment on the lips, but add an inch to the hips, indulge and reward yourself. Just remember to add a few dozen reps the next time you exercise. A daily 30-minute walk or work out is typically recommended - and it's good for the heart. It's also rather invigorating - until the short-term aches set in. Obviously, eating in moderation won't lead to drastic weight loss but, heath experts maintain, cutting 100-200 calories here and there each day could lead to losing about 10 to 20 pounds in a year.

Of course, when you're engaged in the battle of the bulge, it's more practical to have a sensible plan of attack rather than a weight and see outlook.

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