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Long-term success requires permanent changes in behavior, diet, and activity. The following review examines the advantages and disadvantages of several popular diet plans.

Many of the diets emphasize the restriction of one nutrient as the basis for their plan. The other food groups and nutrients are allowed in limited or unlimited quantities, depending on the plan. Weight loss is impossible without a calorie restriction, so each diet has to provide fewer calories than your body needs to maintain your weight. Any diet that claims otherwise can end up causing weight gain.

Various diet plans are summarized below to help you learn to review them for safety and effectiveness. The Atkins diet may be one of the most well-known fad diets. It is a high-protein, high-fat, low-carbohydrate plan. This diet has been around for decades and has undergone many revisions. The previous plan allowed for unrestricted amounts of meat, cheese, and eggs while severely restricting carbohydrates, including sugar , bread, pasta, milk, fruits, and vegetables.

The Atkins diet web site states the current plan "is about eating delicious and healthy foods, which makes it so much better than any of those fad diets out there. You eat a variety of your favorite foods -- lean protein, leafy greens, vegetables, nuts, fruits, whole grains. Plus, you get delicious Atkins bars and shakes from day one and every step of the way. The plan is based on the theory that eating carbohydrates creates a production of insulin , a hormone secreted from the pancreas, leading to increased weight gain and hunger.

When converting to this approach, the plan holds that dieters will experience a reduced appetite, and their bodies will use stored fat for energy versus burning glucose from carbohydrate digestion. Burning fat for energy will supposedly lead to weight loss. The most recent version of the Atkins diet is by far the most nutritionally balanced. For the first time, the Atkins diet has placed an emphasis on the kinds of fat being consumed instead of allowing all dietary fats. The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are now emphasized over saturated and trans fats.

The diet has also changed to allow "good carbs" instead of severely restricting all carbohydrates. These foods provide fiber , vitamins , and minerals that were once lacking in this diet. The high amount of protein will be beneficial in keeping you full. Research is clear that protein has a positive impact on increasing satiety, which means that you will feel full between meals. Disadvantages The Atkins diet has gone through numerous revisions over the years, though there was never any acknowledgement of flaws in any of the diet plans.

Until recently, there have not been any studies on the safety or efficacy of the Atkins diet. Short-term studies have shown improvements in blood cholesterol and blood sugar and an increased weight loss over the first three to six months in comparison to control diets. Unfortunately, the weight loss is not sustained at one year, and the improvements that were seen were due to weight loss and not the actual diet.

The long-term safety of low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets is unknown at this time. In a rating of diet books done by Consumer Reports, the Atkins diet was ranked at the bottom. There are four phases to the plan, and the first one is severely restricted in carbohydrates.

The induction phase lasts two weeks, and the claim is you can lose up to 15 pounds in this time. During this time you consume no more than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day.

For example, one slice of bread has 15 grams of carbohydrates, one serving of fruit has 15 grams of carbohydrates, one serving of dairy has 12 grams of carbohydrates, and one serving of vegetables can have between 5 and 15 grams of carbohydrates. It's clear that 20 grams is extremely limited, potentially unhealthy, and would be very difficult to follow for the long-term. The Atkins web site states that "depending on how much weight you have to lose, you can safely continue with the induction phase as long as the following three conditions are met:.

Most people who follow this diet are not under medical supervision, and this can become a very dangerous situation for them. The the induction phase gets people used to losing weight at a fast rate, which will not last and is not healthy. Faster weight loss does not mean healthy weight loss.

Any diet that emphasizes fast, easy weight loss is one to approach with caution. The guidelines are clear that a safe, healthy rate of weight loss is to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week after the first couple of weeks. The Atkins diet states you will lose "only body fat" by eating regular meals, taking in adequate calories, and keeping your insulin levels down.

There is no way to only lose body fat when losing weight. Claims that you will lose only fat are not based on science despite the fact that the Atkins diet claims to be scientifically based. The Pritikin diet is a very low-fat, high-carbohydrate eating plan. The focus is to eat vegetables, fruits, and high-fiber grains. Nathan Pritikin's diet is based on the theory of eating low-fat, low-calorie, plant-based foods to promote weight loss and improve or prevent heart disease.

The revised Pritikin diet includes a "Calorie Density Solution: Eating low-calorie foods throughout the day will reduce hunger and cause weight loss. Research has shown that the calorie density of our diets will impact our weight. The calorie density is the amount of calories in a given weight of food.

Consuming foods that are considered low-calorie dense aids in weight loss. These foods will provide a high volume without a lot of calories. By replacing foods that are considered high-calorie dense, you save additional calories. Some find it more satisfying to focus on consuming low-calorie dense foods in large quantities versus counting calories. The Pritikin diet also encourages daily exercise and stress -reduction techniques.

The most controversial part of this diet is the severe fat restriction. There has been a considerable amount of research showing the health benefits of omega-3 fats, including protecting your heart. The American Heart Association now recommends that people without coronary heart disease eat a variety of omega-3 fat-containing fish at least twice a week and that those with coronary heart disease consume one gram of omega-3 fats per day.

Dietary fat is also needed to transport the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Without fat to transport them, they will not be able to serve their functions in your body. Our diets are meant to have a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. When you consume too little of one of these nutrients it means you are consuming too much of another nutrient. Most people who follow a very low-fat diet end up consuming an excess amount of carbohydrates.

Too much of any nutrient can cause health problems. The Dietary Reference Intake DRI established the need for each one of these nutrients based on research for optimal health and weight.

If you follow the Pritikin Principle it would be best to adjust your intake to meet the DRI guidelines. The Zone diet is a high-protein, low-carbohydrate, fat-controlled eating plan. It is not as restrictive as other high-protein diets and it allows for a broad range of foods to be consumed.

A small amount of protein is combined with twice the amount of "favorable" carbohydrates, including fruits and vegetables.

If choosing "less desirable" carbohydrates, the portion size is smaller. Sears' Zone diet is based on the theory that the human body is genetically programmed to reach peak efficiency when all meals, including snacks, consist of a set caloric ratio of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

When this ratio is achieved, the body is working within the "zone. The Zone diet promotes eating a balance of each nutrient, without severely restricting calories. Protein increases your feeling of fullness, helping you to avoid eating between meals, and there is a guide to what kind of fat you can consume. Healthy fats are encouraged in place of the saturated and trans fats.

The calorie restriction will help you lose weight. The claims made about the health implications of carbohydrates and protein are controversial. As with other fad diets, one nutrient is being made to look like the enemy carbohydrates , while protein is made to look like the key to weight loss and health. Most diets that are against carbohydrates use the arguments that we consume less fat and more carbohydrates than we did 10 years ago, and obesity is on the rise.

This is half true. We consume more carbohydrates, which means we consume more calories. Our fat intake remains above the recommendations, but the percent of our total calories from fat has come down because we are now consuming more calories.

Again, research clearly shows that a balance of each of these nutrients is needed and that an excess or deficiency in any of them will cause problems. This diet can be difficult to stick with long-term, so weight regain can be an issue. The South Beach Diet. The South Beach diet is the newest high-protein, low carbohydrate, and fat-controlled diet. This diet claims that the cause for obesity "is simple: The faster the sugars and the starches you eat are processed and absorbed into your bloodstream, the fatter you get.

The first phase claims to eliminate cravings and kick-start weight loss; the second phase is for long-term, steady weight loss; and the third phase is to be followed for days a year once you have achieved your weight loss goal.

The second and third phases of this diet promote a balanced diet that can be beneficial to your health and weight. These phases promote consistent meal times, healthy snacks and desserts, and water.

The meal plans and recipes can be useful for those who need some guidance on what to eat. There are now six other books and an interactive web site supporting this plan. The theory behind the diet is not the reason you will lose weight if you follow this plan.

Weight loss can only occur when you consume fewer calories than your body needs. In the introduction chapter the author makes numerous claims that you do not need to limit the quantity of food that you consume and then provides portion restrictions on many high calorie foods, such as nuts. It's appealing to hear you can eat unlimited quantities, but weight loss will not be achieved without limitations. The initial phase of this diet should be avoided. This two-week phase claims to produce a weight loss of eight to 13 pounds with severe dietary restrictions; including fruit, dairy, and starches.

Phases like this are usually included so people see quick results, but are limited in time because they are not nutritionally balanced and can't be followed for a long period. It tends to be more discouraging than motivating to lose quickly and to feel like you are "on a diet. It's best to begin slowly and to always consume a nutritionally balanced diet. Eat more, weigh less: Eat More, Weigh Less is one of the few diets developed as a result of research.

The primary goal of this diet was to reverse heart disease. The basis for this diet is to consume a high-fiber, low-fat, vegetarian diet with limited amounts of dairy foods. The goal is to consume primarily complex carbohydrates vegetables, fruit, and whole grains , low total fat primarily from omega-3 fatty acids and limited in saturated fat, and low sugar. Physical activity and stress management are also emphasized.

The research does support the health benefits of this diet, and you will lose weight if you stick with the plan. The web site provides recipes and detailed information on nutrition , exercise, and stress management.

The primary con to this diet is that it can be extremely limited and difficult for some people to follow. This limitation is because meat is omitted from the plan.

Cutting out an entire food group may be too much of a restriction to maintain over the long-term, so some people do best by modifying this diet to allow for a moderate amount of meat. The high fiber intake may also pose a problem initially. It's best to slowly increase the amount of fiber you consume so your body can get used to it. The goal is always long-term weight loss and maintenance. This diet does have the research to support it, but it may need modifications to make it work for you.

Jenny Craig has become best-known for the celebrities who are followed while losing weight on this diet. They explain how easy it is and how delicious the food is, and you see the results as they are happening.

This diet provides you with your foods and snacks to ensure you consume the exact amount of calories your body needs to lose weight. You add fresh produce and dairy. You meet with a consultant on a weekly basis to discuss your progress, and who will assist you with transitioning to your own food when you are ready to do so. Physical activity is emphasized throughout the diet. The primary advantage to this diet is that you will lose weight if you eat what you are given.

Portion-and-calorie-controlled meals are great tools for long-term weight loss and maintenance. They take away the guesswork of how many calories you consume, they can be nutritionally balanced, they are quick and easy to prepare, and they teach you about healthy portion sizes.

As with all diets, nothing works for everyone, and nothing works forever. The celebrity endorsements are great when they work, but the celebrities who regain their weight once they discontinue this plan are proving that this is not the answer for everyone. Many people prefer to be able to eat food they prepare and do not like the idea of prepackaged foods. The consultants are not professionals in this field. They undergo a training course but are not trained therapists, registered dietitians, or exercise physiologists, so the advice and support that you receive will be limited to what they have been taught to say.

If you are taking any medications or have any health conditions, it is best to work with trained professionals. The NutriSystem Advanced diet is a low glycemic index , high-fiber, and high-protein diet. The prepackaged food is provided for you by ordering online or by calling the toll free number. This diet does address the three necessary components for successful weight loss and maintenance; diet, physical activity, and behavior.

Prepackaged foods can be an effective tool for weight loss. You will be provided with the appropriate number of calories for weight loss without having to worry about counting anything. This will give you the opportunity to learn what appropriate portion sizes are and which foods are necessary for a well-balanced diet based on your specific needs.

The variety of programs based on gender, age, health, and dietary preference is another positive component of this diet. The Mindset Makeover was developed by one of the leading psychologists in the weight loss field, Gary Foster, Ph. It is designed to "help people learn new behaviors when it comes to weight loss and related lifestyle issues.

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