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January 19, 2011

Diet 101: From Weight Watchers to Biggest Loser

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? E-mail This week, nutritionist Mindy Athas (pictured) weighs in on diets. 

Want to go on a diet? Join the club. This is a club that really wants YOU! Just like college, all you need is motivation and cash. First, consult your doctor before starting any weight loss program. You’ll need to make diet decisions based on your goals and what you can live with. Many diet plans overlap, so you get more bang for your buck. Any diet can work short-term and most diets are safe for most people. To reach sustainable weight loss goals, however, can take months or even years. Consider if the diet omits whole food groups, if support services are included and if it’s got scientific evidence behind it. Many options exist: phone applications, online tools, live support, groups, clinics, programs, books and even camps. If your high school weight is your ideal, then hunker down and get ready to study: Here we school you on what’s out there.

Tried and true

These diets have real science, actual medical personnel and years of success behind them. They include the Mediterranean Diet, the Harvard University Healthy Eating Pyramid and book “Eat, Drink and Be Healthy” by Willett, YOU: On a Diet, the American Heart Association No Fad Diet, and the Mayo Clinic Diet. Or meet with a registered dietitian and create your own plan: or your local hospital. These plans tend to be long-term and health-promoting.

Portion or Calorie Control

Not a bad way to lose it: fewer calories in equals lower weight on the scale. These weight-loss plans don’t omit foods or food groups. They follow the 1/2 to 2 pounds per week goal, often ideal for long-term loss maintenance. Many of these diets contain nutritious foods and focus on lifestyle or behavior change. Best Bets: Weight Watchers ( includes a new (high fiber) points plan, online support and tools, and a phone app; The 90/10 Weight-Loss Plan (; Duke University diet (; Volumetrics (; and the book “Eat, Drink and Weigh Less.” All of these may be effective for both short and long-term loss. Other, less-scientific and more general options, include the: No-S Diet:; Carb Lovers Diet:; Best Life Diet (by Bob Greene aka Oprah’s dude:; Full Plate Diet:; Flat Belly Diet:;  Spark (includes lots of online support:; Biggest Loser Diet (from the “Hit TV Show!” with videos, online tools and phone apps; Eat This, Not That series:; The Skinny book; and The Fast Food Diet.  These can work, but use caution.

Food Combining & Hormone Control
Some of these diets explain away about 25,000 years of human evolution or turn your dinner into a science experiment, but they can work. Most eliminate or restrict food groups, focus on “balancing” hormones or suppressing appetite. These diets include: Master Your Metabolism:; and all the books that come with their very own websites (just add dotcom): This is Why You’re FatSouth Beach Diet; Zone Diet; Fat Resistance Diet; Sugarbusters; Glucose Revolution Book; Metabolic Diet; Eat Right 4 Your Blood Type; and the online Fat Loss 4 Idiots.  Many have found success with these plans in the short run.
Behavior Change
It’s not that hand-to-mouth issue that’s making you fat, but your lack of motivation. Change your brain or move your body and the pounds will fall off. That’s the consensus for this group of diets. There are 12-step programs (Overeaters Anonymous), exercise plans (, Fit Over 40, Turbulence Training, 30 Day Method and Body for Life), and Therapies (Dr. Phil’s Ultimate Weight Loss Solution, Beck Diet, Naturally Thin, LEARN Program for Weight Control, Mindless Eating and Small Changes/Big Results). Some of the lessons here are valid, but be ready for long-term lifestyle changes. If you like religion with your veggies, consider the Hallelujah diet. Or consider the Imagined Eating theory, where you just pretend to eat.

Elimination & Detox
May also be called fad or extreme diets. Master Cleanse, Cabbage Soup, Grapefruit, Ultra Simple, 3 Day, Fasting, Beverly Hills, Lipoban, Slim Mints and Dexatrim plans eliminate major food groups or food altogether. Many of these plans use supplements and tonics which may interact with other medications or affect any underlying health issues, so talk with your health care provider if you are considering these programs.  
Meal Replacement & Home Delivery
For those indecisive dieters or those with a lack of time, these services and products can be useful, but may be costly for some people. You won’t have to plan or even think about what foods to eat. Be mindful that when some people stop using the meal replacements and return to their former eating habits, they regain the weight. Options include: Slim-Fast, Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig, Cookie Diet, Trim360, Fresh Diet, Medifast, Optifast, Herbalife, Special K Challenge, Subway Diet, and Bistro MD Gourmet.
Livin' La Vida Loca
Want more than just a diet?  Want to be fancy?  Try the lifestyle approach to weight loss: “French Women Don’t Get Fat” or “Japanese Women Don’t Get Fat or Old.” There is also the Lindora Lean for Life program, which includes clinics, supplements and online support. These diets may be OK, but other adopt-a-lifestyle plans restrict whole food groups or large amounts of certain foods: Atkins, Sonoma, Caveman/Paleo, Dukan, Fat Smash, 4 Day, Why We Get Fat, and multiple Vegetarian/Vegan or Raw Food Diets (China Study, Eat More/Weigh Less, Negative Calorie). Great for short-term loss, but are you willing to give up that cookie or steak forever?
Last-Ditch Options
If you’ve tried every diet and weight loss program, there’s also the Utah Fitness Retreat weight loss camp for adults. There are physician-only options out there, including pills (Alli or Xenical, Phentermine, Orlistat) and bariatric surgery. Discuss these with your health care provider.
Foodie Wit & Prose
Need more brain food? Some exceptional reads include: “In Defense of Food” or its Cliffs Notes version “Food Rules”:, “Fast Food Nation” and “Supersize Me” (also both films), or “Food, Inc.” about factory farming, “The End of Overeating”, “What to Eat,” and “Food Matters”.  Get the straight dope without the hype.  You may even lose weight.
Tech Help
Loads of weight management apps are available for your phone: Diet Organizer, ilog it, Eat This/Not That, Lose it!, Diet Tips, Cardiotrainer, Droid Fit, Hungry!, Go Meals, Fitness Pro.  Online support sites:,,,, and The National Weight Control Registry can be helpful, and The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a watchdog group, is a great resource.
The Bottom Line
Finding a weight loss program is easy; finding one that helps you safely lose weight and keep it off is more difficult. Eating fewer calories seems to be the most effective method, whether you cut back on sugar or fat, go vegan or caveman, or stop eating in front of the TV. Adding low-level physical activity like walking and taking the stairs seems to aid with weight loss. Increasing your workout too much, however, can rev up your weight maintenance hormones, causing an appetite spur or a halo effect, where you eat more to compensate for the calorie deficit. One recent study suggests waiting to amp up your exercise program until after you have lost weight, which seems to remodel your body and blunt the appetite increase, making it easier to maintain your new body weight. However you do it, just do it!

Posted by Kim Walker at 12:00 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Nutrition


i been fat all my life i tryed and tryed to lose weight but nothing helps.i need help please i cry all the time because all i wont is to be healthy .i walk i dont eat much.please help me

I've dieting for since last March...because of age, losing 32 lbs. has been painfully best advice is to have a diet buddy who can be a daily encouragement to you and to help lift you up and get you back on track when you fall off the wagon...I know, I am still going through it...try counting your carbs instead of calories or should consume 30 net carbs 3X a have to subtract the fibre for food eaten from your carbs to get your "net carbs" for the day...I wish you the best. Wipe your tears and determine to find a reliable diet buddy who is also interested in losing weight. You don't have to divulge your weight to each other, it's not a competition but it is a "Success" story...I wish you the very best...

Should also have mentioned not to forget the exercising as it is so important....I aim for 10,000 steps a day which includes a 50 min. walk (in the snow today)...that walk gives me 6500 steps (measured on my pedometer which can be purchased for $10-$15 at your local Walmart... the rest of my "steps" is up to me to make up within the house to reach my goal of 10,000/day...set yourself "small weight loss" goals or else it will seem diet buddy and I just talked via e.mail today regarding needing to set our next "small" goal...I've done it at 63 with all kinds of arthritis and fibromyalgia so I know at times it is not at all easy but I just "do it" CAN do it!...go for it!

@Tina.. Darling,please get to a doctor to get treatment for your depression, and have a blood panel for thyroid issues. Sounds like classic PCOD and or hypothyroidism.

I run Bruns Bags, a diet food delivery service that provides healthy, portion controlled and calorie conscious meal options for professionals in Baltimore. Our Bruns Bags are delivered daily and include the following items:
-Low Fat Yogurt
-Turkey on Wheat (thin)
-Low Fat String Cheese
-Sliced Apple
-Granola Bar

All for $15/day.

Why just brown bag? Bruns Bag!

What's finally worked for me is practically eliminating all Carbs and eating foods that stimulate metabolism.

Eliminating carbs is not the key. You will eat them eventually and more than likely gain the weight. Also, carbohydrates are your bodies #1 choice for energy. So what do you think is going to happen if you don't eat them; you will LOSE energy. Most of the time carbohydrates are bad because people are eating simple carbs (sweets), instead of complex carbs (whole grains). Portion control is a major key to limiting excess calories and combining that with exercise and a physically active lifestyle are the best and healthiest ways to lose weight and maintain it. Good luck everyone.

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About Exercists
Andrea Siegel, a reporter at The Baltimore Sun, covers mostly crime and courts in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, as well as legal issues. She wishes she was more physically fit, and, as she's more fond of chocolate than exercise, fitness is a challenge. Her partner on a one-mile-plus daily walk is the family dog, a mixed breed named Moxie, and she exercises at the gym where the D.C. snipers once worked out.
Jerry Jackson has been a photo editor at The Baltimore Sun for 14 years and an avid cyclist for more than 30 years. Inspired by the movie "Breaking Away," he started racing as a teenager in Mississippi when leather "brain baskets" were still the norm. He regularly commutes to work by bike and still enters several mountain bike races a year for fun.
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Patrick Maynard, who will be writing about running and walking, has been a producer for since 2008. In 2009, he tweeted on-course for the Sun from the Baltimore Marathon, finishing in just under 4 hours and almost managing to run the whole time. He sometimes walks to the Sun offices on Calvert Street.
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Leeann Adams, a multimedia editor at The Baltimore Sun, also dabbles in content for the mobile website and iPhone app and covers the Ravens via video. She did a triathlon to celebrate her 40th birthday and continues to swim, bike and run -- none of them quickly, though. Her biggest fitness challenge is to balance working, working out, spending time with her husband and being a mom to a 6-year-old boy.
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Anica Butler, the Sun's crime editor, is a former high school runner and recovering vegetarian who spent more of her early-adult years on a bar stool than working out. She is currently training (though poorly) for a half marathon and is trying to live a generally healthier lifestyle. She also hates the gym.
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