A Tale of 6 Diets

Summary
Six popular diets are compared. The simplest and easiest to follow comes out a clear winner.

Eric Armstrong
TreeLight.com/Health

22 Apr 2003

DateLine, NBC:
Today, this popular TV show began a series of follow up reports on 6 volunteers from Quincy High School, in Massachusetts. Each chose a specific weight loss program, while the producers tracked their progress. It's obviously not a very large study, so no statistical conclusions can be drawn. Still, it provided fascinating anecdotal evidence for the efficacy (or lack of it) of various popular diet programs.

This write up summarizes what I gleaned from the presentation.

Overview

Each of the participants was rather drastically overweight. One had only recently become so, after a back injury curtailed his activities. The others had a lifetime of bad eating and exercise habits to overcome. (None were terribly overweight in high school, but none of them looked very thin, either -- a good sign that weight would become a serious problem in the future.)

The six diets were:

The Atkins diet

The fellow who tried this program ate nothing but meat and cheese, for the high protein and fat that this plan recommends. After a couple of weeks, he had headaches and a terrible case of constipation. (I've tried it. I know.) A little later, he had such a bad case of gout (uric acid collecting in the legs and feet) that he was out of work for a couple of weeks.

To rescue the diet, the producers called in the Atkins people, who started sending the man a huge box of Atkins-plan food every week. On that program, he got better and did well, losing 30 lbs. or so.

But is this a plan you could call a lifestyle? Definitely not. If it won't work out of the book, you're going to have spend a ton of money on their food. Odds are, as soon as they stop sending the food for free, he's going to go back to his old habits, and start gaining the weight back. (In some percentage of cases, of course, that doesn't happen. But in the vast majority of cases, in invariably does.)

Hypnosis

The fellow who went under hypnosis had the most incredible change. At 30 lbs or so, he actually lost the most weight. Even more interesting was the way he changed his lifestyle. Suddenly, he couldn't exercise enough, and the only thing he wanted to eat was healthy food. He didn't feel any different, either.

He was just making the choices that came "naturally". So it wasn't like it took a lot of will power. That was an interesting example of the fact that, as Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim, says: "The mind is the most powerful tool we have." Using visualization and meditation, then, powerful forces of change can be put to work.

It wasn't just one hypnosis session, though. It was a regular series of them, along with a collection of recordings made by the hypnotist that the fellow listened to religiously.

The bottom line here seems to be that if you make weight loss and health your religion, and use focused visualization techniques, you can make powerful changes in your lifestyle. But what changes should you make? "Eating healthy" and "getting more exercise" are certainly the right way to go about it. But what does that mean, exactly? That is an unanswered question from the program -- so one is left wondering whether the lifestyle changes he made were similar to one of the other plans people were using, or unlike any of them.

Finally, it must be noted that the program isn't really "simple". It is obviously powerful, and worth investigating if you have the opportunity. But if you need expensive sessions with a qualified practitioner, and you need to buy a series of recordings on top of that and spend time listening on top of that, it takes a fairly serious commitment. (On the other hand, the time invested will undoubtedly pay off in every aspect of your life -- self-image, relationships, and happiness, as well as your weight.)

Slim Fast

The poor fellow who chose this plan complained that he was hungry all the time. He said he was hungry when he went to bed, and hungry when he woke up. "Forlorn" was the most accurate adjective to describe his state. And he wasn't losing any weight, either! (Even if it was working, being hungry all the time would was an indicator that sooner or later the fellow would drop that plan and go back to his old habits.)

So off they went to the Slim Fast experts, who decided that he wasn't eating enough. They modified his plan, and Voila! He began losing.

But, again, if it takes expert intervention, it's not likely to work "out of the box". And there you are buying a lot of specialized food, again. Hardly a recipe for success if you attempt to live life normally.

Weight Watchers

This person appeared to be making a fair amount of progress. But she wasn't doing a lot of exercise. Unfortunately, that's a recipe for long-term failure. It's easy to lose weight on any kind of regimented program where you're eating less. But that kind of program can cause muscle loss and a lowered metabolism that puts fat on twice as fast when you quit the program, as inevitably, at some time, you do.

It was significant, I think, that the woman had tried this program once before, and had "had some success". The fact that she was even more overweight when she started the program this time was a perfect indicator that the program had not produced any serious change in her life style or metabolism.

Massive Exercise

The woman who tried this program was training for a marathon. After several months, she was discouraged that she hadn't lost any weight at all. At the same time, though, her body composition was definitely changing. The "survival shuffle" she started with was beginning to turn into a true running stride, and her midsection was noticeably thinner.

Still, she required expert intervention before she began losing weight. The nutritionist she spoke to also told her that she hadn't been eating enough. As she revised her diet to eat more (and presumably, more healthily) she began to lose weight. That could be because she was able to exercise harder, or it could because the expert told her how to eat better, or both. The program was unclear on that point.

So this segment provided multiple messages. For one, exercise was not a path to instant gratification. With what seemed like no loss at all for the longest time, it was pretty darn discouraging, in fact. (Although others could detect change, the changes from day to day were so small that the woman could not see them herself.)

That makes it a pretty hard program to follow -- especially when it takes such a big commitment of time and energy. And, significantly, diet change was necessary before the woman began to see results. Even massive amounts of exercise, by itself, did not do the trick.

8 Minutes in the Morning

The lucky woman on this program followed Jorge Cruise's 8 Minutes in the Morning program. She lost a steady 2 lbs per week, week after week. After 3 months, she was down 24 lbs. -- not quite as much as the 30 lbs or more lost by the leaders in this test, but more than most.

But the most significant aspect of the program was how happy and energetic she was. She excuded energy. She was positive, bubbling, and vivacious -- confident, and optimistic. Clearly, she knew she was on a plan she could follow.

This plan is very similar to the one discussed in Oprah's Rules for Weight Loss. It should be -- it stems from the same roots. Although it, too, required "expert intervention", the intervention was mostly in the form of the online support group and weekly conference calls led by Jorge Cruise, which helped members curb their "emotional eating" tendencies.

Beyond the emotional eating issues, the program focuses on 8 minutes of strength training in the morning, to kick start the metabolism and build the muscle that burns fat and just makes you feel like exercising.

Conclusion

Of all the programs presented in this series, the 8 Minutes in the Morning program is by far the simplest, the least time consuming, and the easiest to follow. Like the massive exercise and hypnosis programs, it will most likely lead to lifestyle changes that will produce long-term weight control, rather than a short-term and all-too-transient loss of weight. This program, which is very similar in nature to Bob Greene's Get with the Program, is summarized in Oprah's Rules for Weight Loss, which also explains why that program works.

References

 

Copyright © 2003 by Eric Armstrong. All rights reserved.
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