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January 9, 2008 > Make a Resolution: No More Fad Diets in 2008

Make a Resolution: No More Fad Diets in 2008

Learn Healthy Food Planning Tips at Upcoming Lunch and Learn Class

At one time or another, almost all of us have gone in search of the elusive "perfect diet" - one that doesn't require us to starve ourselves or spend hours on a treadmill, but manages to achieve miraculous weight loss in just two weeks.
New Year's Day tends to represent a line in the sand, a new start that seems an ideal opportunity to set high expectations and lofty goals. It's time for a reality check!
What most of us need instead of a new fad diet in the New Year, says Washington Hospital dietitian Lorie Roffelsen, R.D., is a healthier perspective on weight loss.
First steps
"Forming realistic and specific goals is an important step," she says. "If you feel you are ready to make changes, start by assessing current eating and exercise habits and then choose an area to address."
If you're currently walking only once or twice a month, consider setting a specific goal to increase the frequency of your walks to once a week, Roffelsen says. Once you've established a routine and feel comfortable with it, see if you can slowly begin to increase the frequency of your exercise.
Think small changes can't make a difference?
When it comes to making realistic dietary changes, Roffelsen points out that it can be as simple as beginning to make calorie-free beverage choices rather than choosing soda. A can of regular cola contains about 150 calories. If you can replace one can of soda for a glass of water each day, you would potentially avoid consuming an additional 1,050 calories or more in a single week.
Fad v. forever
Making small but realistic changes can seem boring or tedious in light of all the exciting diets that seem to arrive on the scene promising instant weight loss. But Roffelsen says the real difference people should be seeking is one they can see over the long term.
"It can be difficult to make changes that 'stick,'" she points out. "Following a fad diet doesn't always give you a plan for long-term. A diet always implies a temporary change versus adopting a lifestyle change suggests you are making a long-term change to a habit or behavior."
So what if you need a little nudge or some structure to guide you towards a healthier tomorrow? Roffelsen says there's nothing wrong with programs and plans to help you achieve weight loss, but that it's vital to learn how to weed out the "fad diets."
When evaluating a particular weight loss plan, she advises looking for potential pitfalls that might include:
* Promises rapid and/or permanent weight loss
* No long-term plan for weight loss maintenance
* Anything that eliminates entire food groups
* A diet that promotes eating a single nutrient or food group
* One that does not include exercise or activity as an integral part of its program
When doing research, Roffelsen says to instead look for a weight loss plan that:
* Recommends slow or gradual weight loss
* Looks at behavior modification
* Offers on-going support
* Encourages balanced eating
* Promotes exercise
Making thin choices
Does it ever seem like certain people are able to stay thin without really trying? Do you find yourself asking, "How do they do it?" While body shape and weight may be influenced by an individual's genetics, Roffelsen says these people generally aren't just the "lucky ones."
"One characteristic shared by folks who are able to lose weight and keep the weight off is that they make low-fat food choices most of the time," she reveals. "These choices would include low-fat or non-fat dairy products, lean cuts of animal protein foods, incorporating more vegetables and fruits into their meals and using lower-fat methods to prepare foods."
Many of us are motivated to improve our diets and increase the level of exercise we do simply because we want to improve our appearance or fit into that old pair of jeans from our school days. Roffelsen is careful to point out that there are some even more compelling reasons to maintain a healthy weight.
"Weight loss can reduce risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, joint pain, and some cancers," she says. "Additionally, losing weight can also sometimes decrease the need for some medications to treat chronic disease."
Keep a food journal; break old habits
When you're first trying to implement changes, it can be hard to keep yourself honest. It may be tempting to give in and have an extra refill of soda during dinner out. If you slip up, don't berate yourself. First start out by identifying your habits and what triggers them.
"One suggestion is keeping a food journal for a few days in a row," Roffelsen says. "Use the journal to write down everything you've eaten and ask yourself key questions: What and when am I eating, how much am I eating, where am I eating, and why am I eating? The hardest question to answer sometimes is the why but it may help a person gain insight into eating behaviors that have nothing to do with being hungry and may have more to do with boredom, force of habit, nervousness, depression, etc."
She adds that a food journal can also help identify routines that might be contributing to a person's consuming extra calories. For example, you may realize that you eat candy every afternoon for your snack at work. She recommends trading the candy for a piece of fresh fruit, easily eliminating a few hundred calories right there.

Be Market Wise in 2008
Bring your lunch and join Lorie Roffelsen, registered dietitian, for the next Lunch and Learn class titled: Be Market Wise on Tuesday, January 15. The first session begins at 12 noon and will take place at the Washington Women's Center conference room located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. An encore session of the class will take place at 2 p.m. Roffelsen will share tips and strategies for healthy food purchases and creative meal planning. For more information about this free class, call (510) 608-1301.

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