This is a menu of the topics on this page (click on any): "Dieting for Dummies" By Jane Kirby, et al. "Thin for Life" By Anne Fletcher "Volumetrics: Feel Full on Fewer Calories" "The Pritikin Principle" By Robert Pritikin "Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution" By Robert C. Atkins "The New Beverly Hills Diet" By Judy Mazel "Sugar Busters!" By H. Leighton Steward, et al. "The Zone" By Barry Sears "The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet" By Rachael F. Heller and Richard F. Heller .
Weight Loss 101 The Skinny on 9 Popular Diet Books
If you go on a diet, pick one that's easy to follow, includes a variety of foods, incorporates exercise and promotes lifestyle changes --- the only proven route to healthy lifetime weight control.
Popular diet books are reviewed here by Kathleen M. Zelman, an Atlanta-based registered dietitian who holds a master's degree in public health nutrition. Diets are rated on a scale from zero to 5, with 5 being the best.
"Dieting for Dummies" By Jane Kirby, et al. (Hungry Minds Inc., $21.99,
The premise: Another in the series of "dummies" books, offering simple, practical advice on everything from handling food cravings to working exercise into your life to calorie-cutting tips. Fact-filled, fad-free resources with a wealth of useful information.
Pros: An easy, sensible plan for healthy living that will result in slow, steady weight loss. The book is filled with tips for developing healthier eating and lifestyle behaviors. This is an ideal approach to lifetime weight management without strict rules or gimmicks.
Cons: It lacks structured diet plans.
"Thin for Life" By Anne Fletcher (Houghton Mifflin, $14, 352 pages,
The premise: Weight loss can occur without gimmicks or fad diets by using tips from successful dieters. Advice on the 10 keys to weight management comes from the "masters" who have lost weight and maintained their loss for at least three years.
Pros: An excellent approach to weight management to achieve freedom from dieting. Recommendations are based on scientifically proven weight-loss strategies using normal foods and including behavioral changes and exercise. Dieters are encouraged to record their food intake, which has been shown to be an effective tool in long-term dieting success.
Cons: The slow rate of weight loss and lack of a rigid diet plan may be difficult for those who prefer strict guidelines.
"Volumetrics: Feel Full on Fewer Calories" By Barbara Rolls, et al.
(HarperCollins, $24, 326 pages; or paperback, Quill, $13, 326 pages)
The premise: Uses foods high in volume and low in calories. The program is based on the "science of satiety" --- foods that satisfy hunger because of their bulky nature and length of time spent in the stomach. The diet recommends nutrient-rich foods high in fiber and teaches you to eat dense, low-calorie foods so you feel full.
Pros: An interesting diet focused on the feeling of fullness and hunger satisfaction while encouraging a wide variety of healthy unprocessed foods. The diet plan includes family favorites such as lasagna, along with menus and exercise guidelines. It's an excellent approach to losing weight safely, slowly and with attention to calorie monitoring and portion control. All foods are allowed, in moderation.
Cons: Certain foods such as whole-grain breads are not high in volume and could be restricted, thereby limiting essential nutrients and wheat fiber in this diet. This diet may require more time in the kitchen.
"The Pritikin Principle" By Robert Pritikin (Time Life, $24.95, 210
The premise: A very low-fat, vegetarian-like plan based on the concept of calorie density. For example, fruits and vegetables are low-density and ice cream is high-density. Pritikin recommends a balance of low- and medium-density foods, with occasional splurges on high-density foods, as the basis of his weight loss program. The goal is to plan daily meals with an average of fewer than 400 calories per pound of food.
Pros: The diet is based on volumetrics and the importance of calories in weight loss. Used as a guideline and not exactly, it's an excellent plan, with an emphasis on whole, unprocessed foods. It allows for variety and plenty of food to prevent hunger. Healthy fats rich in omega-3 fatty acids are encouraged for improved cardiovascular health. No food groups are eliminated.
Cons: Requires planning and mathematical calculations. Restricted animal products can cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Whole grains fall into the calorically dense category and are limited, which reduces intake of beneficial wheat fiber.
Rating: 4. Especially recommended for those with a family history of heart disease.
"Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution" By Robert C. Atkins (National Book
Network, $21.95, 348 pages; or paperback, Avon, $7.50, 417 pages)
The premise: Quick weight loss on a diet of unrestricted protein, high fat and severely limited carbohydrates. The diet induces a "state of ketosis," which burns fat for energy and keeps hunger at bay.
Pros: The ultimate quick fix, the diet is easy to follow and results in weight loss, primarily due to fluid loss and the few calories dieters eat while in the state of ketosis. Many dieters enjoy the unrestricted protein and fats.
Cons: The initial weight loss is mostly in the form of water and protein and unlikely to result in permanent weight loss. The diet is high in saturated fat and cholesterol, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, is very low in fiber and is inadequate in numerous vitamins and minerals. Health concerns include the risk of dehydration and stress on the kidneys. It carries numerous unpleasant side effects, and there are no long-term studies to document its safety.
Rating: Zero. Not recommended, especially for anyone with diabetes or heart or kidney problems.
"The New Beverly Hills Diet" By Judy Mazel (Health Communications, $24,
320 pages; or paperback, $12.95, 302 pages)
The premise: Weight gain is the result of wrong food combinations that lead to inefficient digestion. Mixing carbohydrates, proteins and fats confuses your digestive system and causes weight gain. Certain combinations of foods eaten during prescribed times of the day will be the "catalyst for weight loss."
Pros: You'll lose weight on this semi-starvation diet if you can stick with it for more than a few days. The numerous servings of fruits provide ample antioxidants and fiber.
Cons: This boring, monotonous, unbalanced diet provides an enormous volume of fruit and inadequate intake of protein, fat and nutrients such as calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and essential fatty acids. No studies support the absurd notion of food combining. I question the safety of this plan.
Rating: Zero. Not recommended.
"Sugar Busters!" By H. Leighton Steward, et al. (Ballantine Books,
$23.95, 270 pages)
The premise: Refined sugar and white flour are toxic, and sugar is the reason we get fat. Sugar intake increases insulin levels, which causes weight gain and insulin resistance. Only foods with a low glycemic index are allowed, because they reduce fat storage and lead to weight loss.
Pros: We would all benefit from eating less sugar and more whole grains. Recommendations for the most part are not harmful and generally follow acceptable guidelines. The emphasis on portion control is desirable for dieters, and the book includes helpful menu plans of roughly 1,200 calories a day.
Cons: The theory that fruits should be eaten separately and fluids consumed in small portions with meals is nonsense. Healthy foods such as carrots and bananas are unnecessarily restricted, despite the fact that they provide nutrients and much-needed fiber. The diet plan is low in calcium and may be too low in calories. Anyone on this diet should feel free to supplement it with calcium and extra foods to add enough calories to avoid hunger.
"The Zone" By Barry Sears (HarperCollins, $25, 352 pages)
The premise: A low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet is dangerous. Carbohydrates are unhealthy because they increase blood glucose levels, causing an increase in insulin levels, with resultant weight gain. Following this diet puts you into the "zone," a metabolic state that can be achieved through a diet plan of 1,300 to 1,700 calories coming from 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent proteins and 30 percent fats.
Pros: The diet promotes weight loss, not because of limited carbohydrates but because it's low in calories. Specific meal plans help guide the dieter, and regular exercise is recommended.
Cons: There's no evidence that this diet will result in permanent weight loss. Major claims and some studies in the book are not scientifically valid. Carbohydrates, as such, do not cause obesity. The diet is high in protein and fat and limited in fiber and numerous vitamins and minerals. The low carbohydrate content may cause fatigue.
"The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet" By Rachael F. Heller and Richard F.
Heller (New American Library, $7.50, 322 pages, paperback)
The premise: Carbohydrate addiction (craving a cookie) triggers excess insulin, which triggers hunger and the consumption of carbohydrates, with resultant weight gain. By consuming two "craving-reducing" meals per day in which carbs are forbidden, and one ''reward'' meal including limited carbs, you can control your insulin and weight.
Pros: Weight loss can occur on this diet, but only because it's low in calories. We would all benefit from eating fewer high-sugar foods, which are not allowed in this plan.
Cons: Scientific research does not support a link between insulin and weight gain. Diets low in carbohydrates can cause fatigue and nutrient deficiency. This plan can be low in calcium and fiber and high in saturated fat, which can raise blood cholesterol levels. Weight loss can also be due to fluid loss secondary to a low carbohydrate intake. Yet another plan villainizing carbohydrates, the body's preferred form of fuel.