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Diets & Weight Maintenance Information

  • Dieting is the practice of eating (and drinking) in a regulated fashion to achieve a particular, short term objective. There are many, many kinds of diets which fall into several different categories...

  • Weight-loss diets restrict the intake of specific foods, or food in general, to reduce body weight. This is what "fad diets" are marketed for. There is a (sometimes confusing) multitude of weight loss techniques, many of which are ineffective. What works for one person will not necessarily work for another, due to metabolic differences and lifestyle factors. Also, it's important to note that dieting does not actually lead to weight loss in the long term. Reducing the body's food supply causes it to stockpile excess fat as a starvation response once normal eating is resumed - meaning dieting leads to small short term weight loss, then an increase in weight shortly afterwards.

    Many professional athletes impose weight-gain diets on themselves. For example, wrestlers may overeat in order to achieve a higher weight class. American Football players may try to "bulk up" through weight-gain diets in order to gain an advantage on the field with a higher mass.

    Medical conditions often require the following of special diets. Each of these such diets will specifically include or exclude or regulate certain chemicals (and the foods that contain them). For example, a person who has diabetes is often on a diet designed to carefully manage their blood sugar level. Epileptics are often put on the Ketogenic Diet. Sufferers of celiac disease must follow a gluten-free diet, the lactose-intolerant are advised to omit milk products, and people with kidney disease must follow a strict low-sodium diet to ease the strain on their kidneys. Treatment of mild hypertension includes adhering to a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in fat and sodium. This diet may be tailored to focus on weight loss if that is necessary to control blood pressure.

    There exist both profit-oriented and non-profit weight loss organizations who assist people in their weight loss efforts. Examples of the former include Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig; examples of the latter include Overeaters Anonymous, as well as a multitude of non-branded support groups run by local churches, hospitals, and like-minded individuals.

    These organizations' customs and practices differ widely. Some groups are modelled on twelve-step programs, while others are quite informal. Some groups advocate certain prepared foods or special menus, while others train dieters to make healthy choices from restaurant menus and while grocery-shopping and cooking.

    Most groups leverage the power of group meetings to provide counseling, emotional support, problem-solving, and useful information.

    Popular Weight-Loss diets

    Popular diets (sometimes pejoratively called "fad diets") usually derive their popularity from the personalities of their proponents. These proponents include "diet gurus" and celebrity converts. "Diet books" are the primary means of communicating the specifics of popular diets.

    Most popular diets experience short-lived popularity, partly because new diet books are continuously being published.

    Judging the effectiveness (and nutritional merit) of popular diets can be especially difficult. Diet proponents often locate medical professionals to back up their work. And some diets are so controversial that they divide the medical community.

    Many popular diets advocate the combination a specific technique (such as eliminating a certain food, or eating only certain combinations of foods) with reduced caloric intake, with the goal being to accelerate weight loss. Others ignore traditional science altogether.

    Low-fat diets

    Low-fat diets were popular during the 1980s and 1990s, encouraging people to eat foods low in fat (or without fat altogether) and instead eat foods high in carbohydrates. For instance, people should eat less fat junk food or sweet snacks, instead, you can choose low-calorie, and high-fiber foods like fruits and vegetables. These will help people feel full longer, and make any diet plan more effective. Also, plan your meals and buy the food you need so that you will not be tempted to turn to fast food when you are hungry.

    The general public came to believe, partly due to information from low-fat diet proponents, that carbohydrates were "energy food" and that only fat made people fat. This led to high consumption of low-fat foods rich in refined carbohydrates (notably corn syrup), which led some people to gain more weight.

    Some low-fat diets were healthier, focusing on consumption of whole grains, vegetables and lean meats. (See Pritikin diet.) But even these diets did not recognize the importance of essential fatty acids.

    For example, the uncooked diet tends to improve a participant's health. People's weight tends to nomalize due to the lack of fat in the diet. It also gives people a high amount of energy as uncooked food is easily matabolized. The diet makes you hungry because the food is easily digested, which constantly makes room for more. However, most people never put on weight while on this diet due to the low fat content. Besides, people should not mix cooked food with uncooked food while on this diet. The cooked food causes the stomach to produce acid, which does not mix well with the uncooked food and can creat indigestion.

    Atkins (low-carbohydrate diet)

    The Atkins Diet is a very popular diet. Dr. Robert Atkins' concept, somewhat exaggerated by the media, that a person can lose weight whilst gorging on meat, has captured the public's imagination. The success of those who tried the diet varied depending on the degree they adhered to the long term stages of the diet structure. The Atkins diet was originally designed for diabetes patients who wanted to manage their insulin levels more effectively. The diet was also embraced by those seeking a diet that allows eating to satiation.

    Atkins discourages refined carbohydrate intake and encourages protein intake, especially in the form of meat. The diet encourages the consumption of fruits and non-starchy vegetables for the provision of fiber and nutrients; it takes a somewhat neutral stand on fat intake.

    Many people experience rapid initial weight loss on Atkins, some of which is due to depletion of glycogen stores in the liver. Loss of glycogen is associated with loss of water weight, since the body stores up to four pounds of water for each pound of glycogen.

    Low carbohydrate diets have been shown to reduce the fasting levels of triglycerides. Elevated triglycerides are a demonstrated risk factor for heart disease. (Low-fat diets also reduce fasting levels of triglycerides.)

    A low-carbohydrate diet may not be suitable as a weight-maintenance diet (long-term). The products of fat metabolism (lipolysis) and protein metabolism (gluconeogenesis) include ketones which can be harmful.

    Natural Diets

    Since the advent of controversial diets such as Atkins, various diets that stress the eating habits of "natural humans" have been developed. The Evolution Diet explains "what and how we were designed to eat"; the Paleolithic Diet imitates the way people ate during the Stone Ages. These eating plans include basically natural foods (those not processed by humans). Whereas the Paleolithic Diet exludes milk and grain-foods, The Evolution Diet excludes human-made ingredients such as partially hydrogenated oils but allows some processed foods such as whole-grain crackers and dairy products. Anthropologists who focus their research on human evolution, however, are quick to point out that the diet of Paleolithic peoples was most likely opportunistic. That is, these early humans would most likely eat whatever edible foods were available at any given moment (e.g. vegetables, termites, meat) and not restrict their intake of any food. Until recent human history, starvation has been a far greater threat than over-consumption.

    Vegetarian diet

    There is a growing body of evidence that vegetarian diets can prevent obesity and lower disease risks.

    According to the American Dietetic Association, "Vegetarians have been reported to have lower body mass indices than nonvegetarians, as well as lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; vegetarians also show lower blood cholesterol levels; lower blood pressure; and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer."

    Vegans on average weigh 10 percent less than non-vegetarians. And in a year-long study comparing Dean Ornish's vegetarian diet to Weight Watchers, The Zone Diet, and The Atkins Diet, subjects on Dean Ornish's diet achieved the most weight loss (on average).

    Very Low Calorie Diet

    The Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) is a prescribed diet for obese patients. Daily intake consists of three milkshake-like formula drinks (made with powder concentrate and water), which supply about 2000 kilojoules (500 Calories) and all necessary vitamins and minerals.

    There are risks to this diet. A patient who drinks more formula than allowed can get too much iron and selenium. Constipation is a problem: extra water and (fiber) laxatives may be required. Immune response may be compromised.

    VLCD should only be used for dieting when a patient's body mass index exceeds 30. The diet requires regular consultation between patient and doctor.

    VLCD can be very successful when used over a 6-12 week period. As with all starvation diets, metabolism will fall. A sensible diet-and-exercise plan must follow cessation of VLCD, or weight will be gained back.

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