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The Right-for-You Diet

Shira Isenberg RD, MPH

Esti dropped three sizes when she cut out “white foods,” while Mindy swears by her new Mediterranean lifestyle — she never felt better! Should you try something to shed those post-Yom Tov pounds?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

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LONG-TERM GOALS If you’re serious about lasting weight loss, think about the long term from the beginning — what is realistic and healthy for you to stick to for good. The real test is what happens when you reach your goal weight

S o you overdid it at the Seder… and every night of Chol Hamoed. Now your niece’s wedding is coming up on Lag B’omer, just a few short weeks away. How are you ever going to fit into your dream outfit? Time to drop the pounds!

With over two-thirds of the country either overweight or obese, there’s no shortage of diet books or plans these days. But are they all the same? And what about your health? Yes, losing weight can reduce risk of or improve chronic health conditions. Yet are these diets actually safe? Are there any you, personally, should stay away from?

Here’s a rundown of some of the popular diet and weight-loss plans available — and how they might stack up for you.

Two disclaimers from the get-go: •

These are broad overviews of the following diets. If you choose to follow any of these plans or programs, you’ll need to delve into their specific rules and guidelines for them to work for you. •

Always, always, always consult your healthcare provider before beginning a new weight-loss regimen, especially if it involves restrictions of certain food groups.


Created by cardiologist Dr. Robert Atkins, this was probably the diet that lit the fire under the low-carb craze of the 1990s. The diet itself has four phases. The first is very low carb (20 grams max per day, only from non-starchy vegetables); in the second and third, you’ll gradually increase your carbohydrate intake, monitoring to make sure you are still losing weight; the final phase is for maintenance — a plan you’re supposed to follow when you achieve your goal weight so you don’t regain the weight.

The very low carbohydrate intake is meant to induce a state of ketosis, which is when your body burns fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. This makes weight loss more efficient. Plus the simple fact that you’re cutting out certain food groups helps keep calories down too, leading to weight loss.

The Pros

You don’t need to count calories or measure very much, which is a relief to many dieters. Also, you can use regular foods to meet the diet’s needs, as opposed to special products, although there is an Atkins brand.

The Cons

It’s been criticized for being too high in saturated fats, yet research hasn’t established a link to an increased risk of heart disease. In one analysis of four studies, people who followed Atkins for a year had higher HDL cholesterol (that’s the good one) and lower triglycerides. Still, if dieters opt for lots of meat, butter, and cheese, the Atkins diet will be heavy on saturated fat. Updated versions of the diet — like Atkins 40 — allow for more carbohydrates and a plant-based focus.

It is very easy to think the hard work is done when you hit your goal — and then pay less attention to what you’re putting in your body and get in less physical activity

Additionally, the protein load could put more strain on your kidneys and possibly cause more calcium loss — so check with your doctor before starting. Not to mention that if you rely on more animal proteins, your grocery bill could be growing as your waistline shrinks.

Finally, there are reports of a connection between low-carb diets and irritability, depression, and mood changes, possibly due to decreased levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin.

Is It for You?

If you tend to eat a lot of starches and carbs, this may be a good diet to really kick your weight loss in gear. But it will probably be very hard for you to stick to in the long run. If you love meat and cheese and aren’t really a potatoes and rice person, this might be a better fit. You’ll still want to choose more fats and protein that come from plants versus animals (e.g., olive oil, nuts, and seeds versus meat and butter).


One of the three dominant weight-loss programs in the US, according to a 2016 research piece, Weight Watchers is typically considered one of the most reasonable diets, too. You can eat whatever foods you want, as long as you count the “SmartPoints” they contain. But although the menu is open, you quickly learn that if you choose foods with more nutrients and fewer calories, you get to eat more. Still, for many dieters, being able to enjoy a steak once in a blue moon makes it easier to stay on track the rest of the time.

SmartPoints are not just about counting calories. Weight Watchers has broadened their well-known Points system to take into account the amount of protein, saturated fat, and sugar each food contains. The goal is not just weight loss, but a healthier lifestyle. The plan also encourages increased physical activity.

Another key feature of Weight Watchers is their group meetings, which provide both accountability and support — promoting success. You can also opt for one-on-one coaching or use tracking features available online. All of these have a fee, but group meetings may be most beneficial, if you can make them work with your schedule. Consumer Reports revealed that people who participate in the group meetings lose more weight than those who use just the online tools. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 538)

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