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"To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals"
-Benjamin Franklin


W
ith many scientists and researchers unhappy with the food pyramid, a new wave of diets has emerged, promising weight loss immediately. Diets like Sugar Busters!, Protein Power, The Zone and the Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution have swept Americans off their feet and into the bookstore, where they can buy books guaranteeing them a better body in no time. Here, I’ll share two of the most popularized diets on TV and the internet: The Zone and The Atkins Diet. What principles do these diets use, and what are some risks that dieters face when they start?


The Zone Diet

Barry Sears, founder of the Zone diet, says that the ideal ratio of carbohydrates to proteins to fats is 40-30-30. And each time you eat a meal or snack, that ratio should be incorporated. The four key parts of the Zone diet are: the Zone diet, the use of monosaturated fats (nuts, olive oil), supplementation of diet with Omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish like tuna and salmon or in capsules), and exercise.

Eating in the Zone diet is pretty easy once you learn the eyeball method. For example, it’s dinnertime and you want to have some chicken with pasta or broccoli. The portion of the protein (chicken) should be the size of your palm. The portion of the carbohydrate you want depends on if it is favorable or unfavorable. A portion of unfavorable carbs, like pasta, should only be the size of a tight fist. A portion of favorable carbs, like broccoli, can be the size of two closed fists.

Good fat is also important to include in your diet, and Dr. Sears recommends adding either a few nuts, olives, or olive oil to your meals to get in some good monosaturated fat.

With the Zone Diet, you eat five times a day: three meals and two snacks. And you shouldn’t eat more than five hours apart.




Like the Atkins Diet, the Zone is another high-protein, low-carb diet. You will lose weight from the restricted amount of calories you’ll be eating; not from eating in the “zone,” says Dr. Michael McCoy. You also won’t be able to exercise as much, because you won’t have much energy being on a 1,300 calorie diet (for a woman). You won’t be able to eat out at restaurants if you are adhering to the diet, and there are health risks associated with consuming too much protein.



The Atkins approach, like the Zone Diet, focuses on four principles as well. However, the foundation of this diet is that carbs are bad for you, protein is good for you.

  • The first step is induction, where you limit your carbohydrate intake to only 20 grams per day (these carbs come from salad and non-starchy vegetables).
  • The second phase in Ongoing Weight Loss. You add carbs to your diet increasing to 25 grams daily in the first week, 30 g daily next week, etc, until you stop losing weight. Then, subtract 5 g of carbs from your daily intake so that you continue moderate weight loss.
  • The third phase is Pre-Maintenance, where you make the transition from weight loss to weight maintenance by increasing daily carb intake in 10gram increments each week, as long as gradual weight loss in maintained.
  • The fourth phase is Lifetime maintenance, where you basically keep controlling your carb intake for the rest of your life.

Doctors like Dr. David E. Norwood writes in an article about the dangers of the Atkins diet. Because of the severe restriction of carbohydrates, a person will lack fiber, which can cause gastrointestinal problems like constipation. Also, the high protein diet is high in cholesterol and saturated fat. This can lead to heart disease, kidney damage and possibly some cancers, Dr. Norwood warns. Because you are depleting the body’s primary source of energy, carbohydrates, the person will feel fatigued and incur a loss of energy. The Atkins diet also does not promote learning about portion control or serving sizes, so the person does not develop any healthy eating habits.


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The Family Health Administration's Dietary Guidelines


Be flexible
If you don't follow your diet exactly as planned for a meal or two, don't sweat it. Just get back on the train the next day.

Be sensible
Eat in moderation. You can enjoy most of the foods you want, if you keep the portions under control. For example, have a dish of ice cream, not the whole gallon.

Be active
Get outside, find a gym, take your pet for a walk. Even exercising for only a half-hour is better than nothing.

Be realistic
You won't drop 10 pounds the first week, so don't get discouraged. Set smaller, attainable goals for yourself, like "I want to be able to jog two miles without stopping."

Be adventurous
Low-fat doesn't necessarily mean disgusting. Experiment with different foods. Don't like broccoli? Sprinkle some reduced-fat cheddar on top. Sick of plain old fruit? Try a tasty smoothie.

 

Bookmark these sites as they will come in handy as you continue with your weight-loss plan!

Body Mass Index

Calorie Calculator

American Council on Exercise

Fitness Facts & Tips