After being fed a steady diet of faddish and rigid weight-loss plans, Americans
may now have a recipe for permanent success, courtesy of the American Heart
“No-Fad Diet: A Personal Plan for Healthy Weight Loss” is the association’s
first diet book, offering up old-fashioned common sense that is described in the
book as “think smart, eat well and move more.”
The book recommends a three-pronged approach to lasting weight loss:
- Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein and
moderate in healthy fats;
- Become more physically active;
- Minimize temptations.
The book’s release this month comes as the obesity epidemic threatens the
health of a growing number of Americans. Nearly two-thirds of adults are
overweight or obese, putting them at risk for a variety of ills, including
diabetes, certain cancers, and, of course, heart disease, according to the
federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The pendulum is swinging back toward a more reasonable approach to weight
reduction,” said Dr. Robert Eckel, president-elect of the American Heart
Association and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado
School of Medicine. “There is nothing fancy here [in the book]. It’s good, sound
science applied to an everyday approach.”
The book is based on medical research into diet, exercise and behavior with
the common denominator being that no single weight-loss plan works for everyone.
Indeed, there is a menu of three options for cutting back on calories and three
for increasing physical activity.
For example, the “switch and swap approach” recommends making lower-calorie
substitutions. If you usually start your day with a cinnamon roll, try a
cinnamon-raisin English muffin with 2 teaspoons of light tub margarine instead.
For those whose dietary downfall is the quantity of food they consume, the
book outlines “the 75% solution,” in which people eat only three-quarters of the
amount they normally eat. Leaving 25 percent on the plate will help dieters trim
calories from their daily food intake.
And for those who are most comfortable following meal plans, the book has
nearly 200 recipes to try with 1,200-, 1,600- and 2,000-calorie heart-healthy
There are also different suggestions for fitting more physical activity into
the day. Are you someone who spends the majority of the day at a desk? Opt for
the stairs over the elevator and park your car as far as possible from your
office. Or are you energized when you work out with other people? Then,
scheduling exercise classes or team sports may be best for you.
The book also has quizzes to help dieters decide which weight-loss and
activity approach is best for them, and sample forms and questionnaires to help
them gauge their commitment to weight loss, set realistic goals and monitor what
To this end, the book recommends keeping food and activity diaries. According
to the National Weight Control Registry, one study found that such diaries
proved valuable to people who lost at least 30 pounds and kept the weight off
for one year or more. This is important because the majority of people who lose
weight will gain it back over time because they can’t stick to a rigid plan.
For this reason, the AHA’s approach is more like a gradual lifestyle change
than a traditional diet, Eckel said.
“There is more to a diet than losing weight. It’s about lifestyle changes
that emphasize physical activity and behavioral changes that are necessary to
accomplish your goals,” he said.
To be sure, the approach is not new. Dietitians have long advocated a diet
rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein and low in fat and
refined sugar. Why then, do the majority of Americans remain overweight?
“A person’s response to food is more complicated than just following a plan,
even for only 25 percent of the time as this diet plan suggests,” said Sharron
Dalton, associate professor in the department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and
Public Health at New York University.
“When our body is overfed and loses its ability to sense fullness and our
mind is stuck with the notion of good/bad food, even the most customized plan
may be more work than pleasure.”
To learn more about the book, visit the American Heart
SOURCES: Robert Eckel, M.D., president-elect, American Heart
Association, and assistant professor of medicine, University of Colorado School
of Medicine; Sharron Dalton, Ph.D., associate professor, department of
nutrition, food studies and public health, New York University, New York City
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