When Annette Girardin started the Atkins diet, friends and family warned that the plan would starve her brain. But Girardin, a hairstylist in Courtenay, B.C., stuck to it and melted away 30 pounds in four months. “I always felt satisfied,” she says. Like her, many women have slimmed down using diet tomes such as The G.I. Diet (Seal) and The South Beach Diet (Rodale). Others have gained the weight right back. Meanwhile, doctors remain concerned about fad diets. According to one U.S. study, for instance, yo-yo dieting may weaken your immune system. So, how can you ensure you’re a successful loser rather than a weight rebounder? First, consult your physician. Then use these fad-diet fixes to help you lose weight – a bit more slowly than the books claim – without sacrificing your health.
Atkins for Life By Dr. Robert C. Atkins (St. Martin’s Griffin)
What works “The biggest benefit of these diets is that they’re making people aware of what they’re eating,” says Dr. Shalini Reddy, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Chicago.
Drawbacks “We need carbs – the recommended daily allowance is 130 grams,” says Ramona Josephson, a Vancouver-based registered dietitian. And a study from the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University in Denmark concluded that although low-carb diets do promote short-term weight loss, lon- ger studies are needed to determine whether or not they are safe. Low-carb dieters in a U.S. study, for example, reported side effects such as constipation and headaches. Bone loss and kidney stones could also result.
Readers’ report Amy Dowe, a 26-year-old in Carrolls Corner, N.S., zapped 25 pounds using Atkins and a Taebo exercise tape a few years ago. “I ate all the cheese, meat, eggs and peanuts I wanted, but I was crampy, constipated and had bad breath,” she says. Months later, though, most of the weight found its way back. So, she switched to Weight Watchers and still relies on its plan.
· Skip no- or low-carb products. Josephson says these often have misleading carb counts and the same number of calories as regular products do.
The G.I. Diet by Rick Gallop (Seal)
The plan recommends
What works In addition to controlling weight, studies have found that low-G.I. diets reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol, according to Cyril Kendall, a research scientist in the department of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto.
Drawbacks You’ll lose out on nutrients from higher-G.I. foods, which may not spike blood-sugar levels when combined with protein and fat. “We don’t eat foods in isolation,” says Josephson.
Readers’ report Atkins dropout Sue Winfield, a 47-year-old in Frankford, Ont., lost 15 pounds in four months thanks to the G.I. Diet and a new gym membership. Out went the squishy white bread and in came oatmeal, apples and lean meats. “I’ve got more energy. The way I used to eat meant I was hungry all the time,” she says.
Dietitians of Canada recommends selecting one low-G.I. choice per meal to prevent and control type 2 diabetes. But do not restrict the variety of your food choices otherwise. For example:
· Enjoy real foods (such as a handful of raw unsalted nuts) for snacks over the bars that the book suggests. Likewise, drizzle a mix of flaxseed oil, balsamic vinegar and pure maple syrup on greens rather than fat-free dressing.
The Ultimate Weight Solution by Dr. Phil McGraw (The Free Press)
What works “[Dr. Phil] identifies that you have to be in the right space to lose weight. That’s important, because failing is unhealthy medically and emotionally,” says Barb Wright, a registered dietitian in Estevan, Sask.
Drawbacks The diet demands a lot of food preparation and sometimes calls for ingredients that aren’t readily available. Not all of Dr. Phil’s nutrition points check out, either. While he suggests not eating more than three eggs per week, for example, Chuey says five to six eggs a week are fine, as long as you eat no more than two per sitting.
Readers’ report Trudy Reid, a 38-year-old in Mission, B.C., cited time as an issue. “You have to be very organized with meal planning and shopping all of the time,” says Reid, who lost 16 pounds on the plan.
Take advantage of Dr. Phil’s advice on the psychology of eating but get real about nutrition. Here’s how:
· Skip the energy bars. Expensive vitamin supplements and meal-replacement bars aren’t necessary, says Chuey. Talk to your doctor, but most women only require a multivitamin and calcium supplement with vitamin D. “Dr. Phil also recommends 400 milligrams of magnesium daily, and the [maximum healthy intake] is actually 350 milligrams,” adds LaMantia.
The South Beach Diet by Dr. Arthur Agatston (Rodale)
The plan recommends
What works “South Beach has some good ideas about adding back high-fibre carbs,” says Dr. Reddy. “This [book] is probably closest to where we want people to move with their diets,” agrees Lynn Roblin, a registered dietitian in Oakville, Ont.
Losing eight to 13 pounds in two weeks isn’t safe, Roblin says. Instead, aim to drop one to two pounds a week over time.
Amanda McCafferty, a 28-year-old in Pickering, Ont., and Cathy Horvath, a 44-year-old in Mississauga, Ont., lost 30 pounds and four dress sizes, respectively, on the Beach. “South Beach is so user-friendly, very simple and very effective,” says McCafferty. Rather than cycle through the phases during slips, Horvath stayed on phase two until she hit her goal.
Make the most of this eating plan with a few healthy changes:
· Nibble on carrots, bananas, pineapple and watermelon in phase two. These are red flagged in the book due to their high-G.I. ratings, but are nutrient-rich.
Five slim-down strategies
Apply these principles to any healthy-eating plan – in consultation with your doctor – and they’ll help you shed excess weight faster:
Exercising more – at least 30 to 60 minutes a day – is essential to weight loss. Think of your body fat as butter, suggests registered dietitian Patricia Chuey in Vancouver. “To melt it, you need to exercise hard enough to heat it up.”
Really! Munching every two to three hours keeps blood sugar regulated and stamps out junk-food temptations. “Blood-sugar regulation equals willpower,” says Ara Wiseman, a Toronto-based registered dietitian.
“Have your arsenal of [healthy] snacks ready so you don’t go hungry and then buy a doughnut,” says Wiseman. Starting a meal with broth or an apple can fill you up so you don’t overindulge, too.
Invest in a new pair of runners or plastic storage containers for your vegetables as a visible reminder of your goals.
If you’re on a restrictive eating plan, schedule a cheat treat to look forward to. “If you’re feeling deprived of something, you want it more,” says Nancy Saunders, a registered dietitian in Ormstown, Que.