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Evaluating weight loss programs.

Because weight control is big business, countless numbers of bogus quick weight loss plans are available. Kay Stanfill, a registered dietician at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, offers some advice on how to determine the truth about weight loss:

Does the advertisement, clinic, or person claim or imply that the government or medical establishment is suppressing this health information? "The question to ask is can the group or person making this claim show legitimate credentials in the field of nutrition? People should verify that their doctor or other health specialist has training in nutrition and weight-loss counseling. Otherwise, its like letting your dentist deliver your baby."

Does the plan require that you do absolutely nothing? (Lose weight while you sleep, etc.) "Losing weight without any effort is a fantasy that we all share. But if a person is trying to be healthy, he or she will have to learn to change ingrained behaviors--namely eating and exercising habits."

Does the diet radically skew your eating habits, such as the "pineapple diet," the "cottage cheese diet," etc.? Diets which restrict a person's choices generally are doomed from the start. If adhered to for a long time, they can't provides sufficient nutrition. Also, "if a person restricts anything from his or her diet--you usually can bet that that will become his or her next |binge' food. There is nothing like deprivation to make people crave a particular food."

Does the diet seem to go against all good sense, such as saying fat or calories don't count? This definitely is a warning signal of an unreliable diet. "However, we will soon have to revamp our thinking on this point when new fat substitutes come on the market in the next couple of years. It's quite possible that we will be able to eat, for example, french fries, made with a fat substitute which have only the calories of the potatoes."

Are the claims wild, such as "Lose a pound a day!"? "Dieticians have known for some time that not only is it almost impossible to lose one pound a day except by dehydration, but also any rapid weight loss is unhealthy." Rapid weight loss, especially without any exercise, leads to a loss of lean tissue, in addition to fat.

For serious dieters, Stanfill recommends five elements that are essential ingredients of a solid, healthy weight loss plan: * It must teach people techniques to permanently alter their eating behavior. * It requires the individual to expand his or her knowledge of nutrition and foods, particularly fat content. * The individual must be willing to change his or her entire attitude toward food. * The person dieting must learn to assess his or her social environment, looking for supportive and non-supportive situations. He or she also must learn to solicit support from co-workers, family, and friends. * Exercise must be part of the program. The incorporation of exercise consistently is shown to be the most reliable predictor of success in an individual's weight-loss plan.

"Probably the most significant guideline is that any advertisement which says losing weight is easy is false," Stanfill cautions. "Losing weight and maintaining that loss is one of the hardest things any person can do. I suggest that no [one] even attempt to lose weight unless he or she realizes the difficulty and is prepared to make lifelong changes, to alter the patterns that first caused the obesity."
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Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Aug 1, 1993
Previous Article:Doctor-patient communication in critical condition.
Next Article:How to avoid quacks and cure-alls.

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