A peek into popular diet books

September 28, 2005|By AMERICAN DIETETIC ASSOCIATION

French Women Don't Get Fat

By Mireille Guiliano

Knopf / 2004 / $22

Claims: Mireille Guiliano claims French women don't get fat and says Americans wouldn't be fat if we ate the way the French do.

Diet plan: A blend of some insight, shaky science and sheer speculation. The author does recommend eating soup and more vegetables, which have been found to help reduce calorie intake naturally. Also, she recommends walking for exercise and weight training for women over 40, which most experts would agree is a terrific strategy.

Nutritional weakness: Questionable claims include such things as leeks having a "magical" quality as a mild diuretic that can cause weight loss. She advises people to start dieting through a semi-fast, eating predominantly leek soup.

Bottom line: It is at least mildly ironic that America's newest diet fad has been written by a French woman who continues the tradition by ridiculing Americans for fad dieting - while promoting her own fad diet.

The South Beach Diet

By Arthur Agatston

Rodale Inc. / 2003 / $24.95

Claims: The goal is to take out "bad fats and bad carbohydrates" in three phases. Weight loss in Phase 1 averages 8 to 18 pounds, Phase 2 averages 1 to 2 pounds per week, and Phase 3 encourages stabilization and not loss.

Diet plan: Phase 1 includes a "strict period" to avoid such foods as fruit, bread and other starches, and dairy. Phase 2 lasts as long as a person wants to lose weight and adds back fruit, high-fiber breads and starches, and low-fat dairy. Phase 3 allows people to pick and choose indulgences occasionally.

Nutritional weakness: Food experts preach balance, variety and moderation. Food exclusions (especially in Phase 1) are usually a red flag for an extreme diet. Should have more emphasis on exercise.

Bottom line: The healthiest parts of this program are Phases 2 and 3 with the emphasis on whole grains, lean proteins and dairy, and fruit and vegetables. This diet can indeed help people lose weight and in addition, help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, the risk of heart attacks and cancers, as well as other chronic diseases.

The 3-Hour Diet

By Jorge Cruise

Collins / 2005 / $22.95

Claims: Jorge Cruise, a fitness trainer, claims the key to weight loss is timing and if you eat small meals every three hours throughout the day, every day, you'll lose 2 pounds a week (starting with belly fat first). Cruise contends that if you follow his plan, you can lose weight while eating your favorite foods, even if you don't exercise.

Diet plan: The overall diet provides 1,400 and 2,000 calories per day, depending on your initial body weight. Cruise recommends a healthy balance of carbohydrate, protein, fat and vegetables or fruit at each meal and gives visuals to help people eyeball portions. He also encourages water consumption throughout the day.

Nutritional weakness: While some studies suggest that eating more frequently throughout the day can help you lose weight, the jury is still out on whether this is physiologically true. Also, there is no proof that going three hours between meals is the magic number. There's no solid data to support the claim that when you follow this program, the weight you lose initially comes from abdominal fat. This claim is particularly questionable for those who choose to forgo exercise altogether.

Bottom line: The book is positive, has a sensible and balanced program in its approach and does not tell readers to eliminate any one food or food group. Other useful elements of the book include a 28-day success planner, complete with daily journals and suggested visualization exercises.

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