Diet Plans & Programs: The "Skinny" on Popular Diet Plans

  • Author:
    Betty Kovacs, MS, RD

    Betty is a Registered Dietitian who earned her B.S. degree in Food and Nutrition from Marymount College of Fordham University and her M.S. degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. She is the Co-Director and Director of nutrition for the New York Obesity Research Center Weight Loss Program.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)
    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)

    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)

    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C) is an Attending Physician with the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism and Associate Director of Clinical Research, Recruitment and Phenotyping with the Center for Androgen Related Disorders, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

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Eat more, weigh less: The Ornish Diet

(Dean Ornish, MD)

The Diet Plan Theory

Eat More, Weigh Less is one of the few diets developed as a result of research. The primary goal of this diet was to reverse heart disease. The basis for this diet is to consume a high-fiber, low-fat, vegetarian diet with limited amounts of dairy foods. The goal is to consume primarily complex carbohydrates (vegetables, fruit, and whole grains), low total fat primarily from omega-3 fatty acids and limited in saturated fat, and low sugar. Physical activity and stress management are also emphasized.

Advantages

The research does support the health benefits of this diet, and you will lose weight if you stick with the plan. The web site provides recipes and detailed information on nutrition, exercise, and stress management.

Disadvantages

The primary con to this diet is that it can be extremely limited and difficult for some people to follow. The average fat intake is only 6% of your total calories, which is considerably lower than the recommended 20% to 35%. This limitation is because meat is omitted from the plan. Cutting out an entire food group may be too much of a restriction to maintain over the long-term, so some people do best by modifying this diet to allow for a moderate amount of meat. The high fiber intake may also pose a problem initially. It's best to slowly increase the amount of fiber you consume so your body can get used to it. The goal is always long-term weight loss and maintenance. This diet does have the research to support it, but it may need modifications to make it work for you.

Jenny Craig

The Diet Plan Theory

Jenny Craig has become best-known for the celebrities who are followed while losing weight on this diet. They explain how easy it is and how delicious the food is, and you see the results as they are happening. This diet provides you with your foods and snacks to ensure you consume the exact amount of calories your body needs to lose weight. You add fresh produce and dairy. You meet with a consultant on a weekly basis to discuss your progress, and who will assist you with transitioning to your own food when you are ready to do so. Physical activity is emphasized throughout the diet.

Advantages

The primary advantage to this diet is that you will lose weight if you eat what you are given. Portion-and-calorie-controlled meals are great tools for long-term weight loss and maintenance. They take away the guesswork of how many calories you consume, they can be nutritionally balanced, they are quick and easy to prepare, and they teach you about healthy portion sizes.

Disadvantages

As with all diets, nothing works for everyone, and nothing works forever. The celebrity endorsements are great when they work, but the celebrities who regain their weight once they discontinue this plan are proving that this is not the answer for everyone. Many people prefer to be able to eat food they prepare and do not like the idea of prepackaged foods.

The consultants are not professionals in this field. They undergo a training course but are not trained therapists, registered dietitians, or exercise physiologists, so the advice and support that you receive will be limited to what they have been taught to say. If you are taking any medications or have any health conditions, it is best to work with trained professionals.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/5/2015
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