Nov 02

The Diet Craze

That little bikini in the back of your bottom dresser drawer is calling your name. The sun is shining, the kids are begging for a trip to the beach, but the idea of putting on a bathing suit makes you about as excited as the idea of spending the day scrubbing toilets. You are not alone. In 2003, 65% of U.S. citizens tried some form of weight loss or weight control. But the idea of weight-loss is daunting to anyone, especially with the ever-increasing number of weight-loss plans, online diets and magic pills that make the weight vanish while you sleep (wouldn’t that be nice?).

To ease your worries and debunk the mysteries, we have taken a close look at three of the most popular diets out there.


* What it is

Known predominantly for its low-carb stance on weight-loss, the Atkins diet has been making noise in the media for decades. Dr. Atkins’ theory is that a diet high in carbohydrates does not allow the body to produce high levels of energy. By eliminating these carbohydrates from your diet, your body will instead use fat as fuel, ultimately resulting in weight loss. This “fat burning energy,” as the plan calls it, claims to shed pounds and diminish your appetite. The drastic exclusion of carbs, while adding in healthy doses of saturated fat is the basic formula of the Atkins’ diet supposed magic.

* What you do

The Atkins’ diet is broken up into four phases that guide you through the weight-loss process. You may choose to begin your diet at any phase, but it is recommended that you start at Phase 1 to help your body adjust to the drastic diet change.

– Phase 1: Induction

This is essentially a 14-day boot camp for your body in which you eat leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables as the 20 Net Carbs allowed per day.

– Phase 2: Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL)

During this time, you are given greater freedom in your diet choices and can eat up to 25 Net Carbs per day. This is a slower-paced phase in which the Atkins people promise the pounds will come off gradually.

– Phase 3: Pre-Maintenance

Nearing your target weight, this phase encourages you to “take ownership of your new Atkins healthy eating habits” and plan to maintain them even after reaching your weight goal.

– Phase 4: Lifetime Maintenance

In this final phase, Atkins challenges you to maintain your Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium (ACE) and stay within 5 pounds of your final target weight. Using the knowledge and habits learned throughout the diet, you should potentially be able to maintain your weight for the rest of your life.

* What you eat

Your carb intake is determined by which phase you are in, so obviously you’ll have more options the longer you stick with the plan. The following are just a few menu options, but click here for more recipes:

Crab and Avocado Salad

Chocolate Pancakes

Pork Chops with Walnuts and Blue Cheese

Shrimp and Feta Stew

Chocolate Cream Frosty

Wild Mushroom and Gruyere Cheese Omelets

Chicken and Cheese Quesadillas

Italian Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Mahi-Mahi with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Vanilla Mousse with Rhubarb Sauce

Salmon-Stuffed Zucchini

* What you should know

Like any fad, there are always loyal followers and skeptic criticizers. For the Atkins diet, most criticism from the medical profession focuses around a health concern. Because the diet is so high in saturated fats, you may shed the pounds, but your heart may be suffering as well. It has also been found to be as effective or less effective than other diets that include carbohydrates in a more balanced diet. However, to date, there have been no long-term studies of people on the Atkins’ diet.

Zone (also see Dr. Sears’ website)

* What it is

Unlike the Atkins’ diet, the Zone Diet is less about dieting and more about a lifetime of healthy eating. Founded by Dr. Barry Sears in 1984, he believes that achieving hormonal balance through diet is essential to maintaining a healthy weight. According to Sears, hormone insulin will make you fat and keep you fat, so the goal is to regulate that insulin.

* What you do

The Zone Diet is simpler to explain because its foundation is very basic. There are no steps or phases, just the goal to stay within the Zone.

– 3 meals, 2 snacks

In order to maintain your desired insulin level, Sears believes you should eat at specific timed intervals throughout the day, totaling three meals and two snacks. Even if you aren’t hungry, you must eat to stay in the Zone. It is essential to plan your meals like you plan the rest of your day to ensure you eat the proper amount at the right time. This controls how your body uses proteins and carbohydrates consistently throughout the day.

– Exercise

Because staying in the Zone promises an increased level of energy, even people who are not normally active will want to add exercise into their daily routine. Sears encourages this activity, but believes that exercise can only get you so far. He says that it should be an 80/20 rule, with 80% diet and 20% exercise.

* What you eat

The possibilities are endless as to what you can create, as long as you stay within the guidelines. The following are some Zone snacks to keep you full between meals(click here for full recipes). Also, check out the Zone food and recipe website for more ideas:

Deviled Eggs with Hummus

Waldorf Salad

Chips and Salsa

Mini Pita Pizza

Spinach Salad

Tuna Salad and Cracker

Hot Dog (soy)

Low-Fat Cottage Cheese & Fruit

Crabmeat Salad Sandwiches

Ham and Fruit

* What you should know

Although the Zone diet shows slightly higher success rates than the Atkins’ diet, it is smart to be skeptical of any diet that concentrates on one food group drastically more than the others. Consequently, the American Heart Association does not recommend the Zone diet of its excessive emphasis on high-protein, little nutrients and the lack of long-term studies done on the Zone diet.

South Beach Diet

* What it is

The South Beach Diet was originally created by Dr. Arthur Agatston, who is a cardiologist in Miami, Florida. He wanted to find a way for his heart patients to lose weight in a healthy way. Concentrating on good carbs and good fats rather than bad carbs and bad fats, the idea is to get rid of bad fats and carbs that impair insulin’s ability to properly process fats and sugars. Overall, Agatston believes in a healthy balance of food in general, rather than an elimination of carbohydrates.

* What you do

There are three phases in this diet and, like the Atkins’ diet, with each new phase you have more options of food.

– Phase 1: Start losing weight

During this phase, your three meals per day will include normal-sized helpings and plenty of choices including meat, seafood, vegetables, eggs and nuts. Part of this phase is eliminating hunger cravings and learning which foods will keep you full the longest. Like the Zone diet, you should eat two snacks per day as well.

– Phase 2: Reach your goal

The key to this phase is balance. You may start adding foods back into your diet that were not allowed before, but in a balanced relation to the other foods in your diet. Whether it be bread, rice, potatoes or cereal, you will learn how to eat them and make them “smart carbs.”

– Phase 3: A diet for life

After the first two phases, you will have learned how to eat and prepare meals that include good carbs and good fat to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. The South Beach Diet emphasizes the long-term effects of the diet. In fact, they say that, “you’ll notice that this plan feels less like a diet and more like a way of life.”

* What you eat

The South Beach Diet has hundreds of recipes for each phase so you can prepare healthy meals at home, but they also have a retail product lines from Kraft and Santa Fe to make staying on the diet that much easier. Here are a few choices:

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Roasted Eggplant with Lemon and Olive Oil

Baked Barbecue Chicken

Whole Wheat Penne with Eggplant and Ricotta

Cannellini Bean Salad

Warm Beef Salad

Mango Smoothie

Pear Bran Muffins

* What you should know

While this diet may seem to be the most flexible, don’t be fooled by introductory gimmicks. While the South Beach Diet allows you some leeway, be prepared to make some sacrifices to lose the weight.

Please remember, this is just an overview. If you are seriously thinking of trying these diets or any others, do your research. Read the diet books and talk to people who have tried them. The more you know the better chance you have at being successful.

Copyright © 2006 Ampere Media LLC

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