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Healthy Habits

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By Theresa Albert, nutritionist and founder of www.myfriendinfood.com 
 
Given that there are complex ways to become unhealthy and/or gain weight, it follows that there should be a myriad of ways to lose it.
Which diet is going to work for you? You exist in a quick fix culture that wants a direct answer to a bigger problem which wouldn't be an issue at all if we all consumed only whole foods and focused on fruits and vegetables.  But at the speed of life in these frenetic times that particular answer doesn't seem to fly so a comparison of the most popular diets and systems seems in order. 
 
The weight loss category can be broken into three smaller groups each serving specific needs. All have the purpose of narrowing the food field for the dieter but some systems are more appropriate for certain personalities.
Self Disciplined, Do it Yourselfers will find one of the following books useful.
Looking for public accountability? 
Try a Tracking or Meal Replacement System.
 
For lifelong health and a change of habit try Medically Recommended .
 
A comparison of Diet Books/Self Help Systems
 
Atkins
This is a high protein, low carb approach to weight loss which allows many foods that were once believed to be forbidden.  Oh, how they danced in the streets to hear that steak and eggs could be used to lose weight! But is it true?
Pros:
*Many people report short term success at weight loss
*Since the entire (and caloric!) "Anything made with white flour" category is removed, it is easy to follow
*Avoidance of white food is not a bad thing
 
Cons:
*Also avoids very healthy carbohydrates and other good grains
*Diet is low in fibre which is a known factor in everything from constipation to colon cancer
*A prolonged high protein diet is very taxing to the kidneys
 
Recommendation:
If this system works for you, use it for a very short period of time and very few pounds. Switch to a healthy eating plan adding back higher fibre foods and leaving out the refined carbohydrates as soon as possible.
 
The Zone
This is a fairly balanced approach to food using a good mix of protein/carb/fat.  The concepts are sound but the science is not.  This system somewhat self congratulatory in its "hormone balancing", "inflammation reducing" and "diet without hunger" approach.  But is it the one to try first?
Pros:
*The whole spectrum of food is allowed and explored (with the exception of the whites).
*Eating this way could help level your insulin.
*It is a relatively healthy way to eat.
 
Cons:
If you are already diabetic or have been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome don't count on this system alone.
 
Recommendation:
If you choose this system, be sure you are looking at all of the facets.  There are many factors that affect hunger, hormones and inflammation including activity level, sleep and stress.
 
Dukan Diet
If this latest craze in weight loss is good enough for Kate Middleton, is it good enough for you?  This system is an updated Atkins of sorts with high protein, low carb mandatory at the outset.  The same downsides pertain but the upsides may be greater.
 
Pros:
There is cohesive online diet and exercise support including established community and chat systems
 
Cons:
*Avoids very healthy carbohydrates and other good grains
*Can be low in fibre which is known to be a factor in everything from constipation to colon cancer
*High protein diet is very hard on the kidneys
 
Recommendation:
If you choose this method, make full use of all that the system has to offer. Move toward the 2nd phase of the plan as quickly as possible.
 
South Beach Diet
Perhaps the most realistic and approachable diet concept, namely whole food consumption.  This weight loss system doesn't promise rapid weight loss or hormone control but instead focuses on a high intake of fruits and vegetables, reasonable amounts of protein and inclusion of good carbs.
 
Pros:
*Focuses on mostly healthy foods
*There is a learning component which discourages white foods/sugar sweets
*Allows high fibre whole grains throughout
 
Cons:
Restricts some high GI fruits and vegetables which may not be a necessary step.  Foods like watermelon and pineapple are good sources of other nutrients as long as they are consumed in moderation and in place of sugary snacks they shouldn't be a problem.
 
Recommendation:
This is a great system to come back to over and over again.  If you fall of the wagon, remembering these principals should help you go the distance time and time again.

If you do choose one of these systems, know this: studies show that tracking your weight loss is the most important step in ensuring success. Whether you write everything down in a little notebook or go the more sophisticated route of one of these systems, you want to keep everything that passes your lips top of mind. Make every mouthful count.
 
 
 


 
 

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THERESA ALBERT, DHN, RNCP, is a registered nutritional consulting practitioner with a busy private practice in Toronto. Her new book Ace Your Health: 52 Ways to Stack Your Deck (McClelland & Stewart) is a fun, practical guide to making healthy, weekly changes for improved health using morsels of information and tasty, healthy recipes. Her television show "Just One Bite" aired on the Food Network for over two years in a daily time slot and introduced her energetic style to millions. She is also the author of Cook Once a Week, Eat Well Every Day. Theresa is a recognizable news media and online face as a resource for consumers and marketers who seek to remove the bologna from their lunchboxes and their news.
She prepares a free weekly newsletter to make you laugh, eat well and be inspired 
www.myfriendinfood.com