To Diet or
Not to Diet?
Which Diet, If Any, Is Right for a Serious Foodie?
by Amy Tarr
Whether you work in the culinary arts industry or just
consider yourself a serious foodie, your obsession with
food goes hand in hand with dieting. It’s a yin-yang
sort of relationship. Five nights a week you’re
treating your guests or your family to sumptuous multi-course
meals. Desperate to find a pair of pants that button
with ease, you spend the next two days subsisting on
carrots and celery sticks with a carefully measured
ration of fat-free dressing. You know you’ve got
to keep your weight under control, but do you really
need to be on a diet? After all, food is your passion.
How can you bear to sacrifice the full flavors and textures
of the food you eat when you serve the rich and satisfying
stuff to everyone else?
Why should you bother dieting? Studies have shown that
in time, most people who diet in order to lose weight
wind up gaining back all of the weight and more. These
people are susceptible to weight cycling, i.e. a pattern
of loss and regain of body weight .
A weight cycle can range from small weight losses and
gains (5-10 lbs. per cycle) to large changes in weight
(50 lbs. or more per cycle). Some experts believe that
weight cycling may be harmful to your health and that
it is better to stay at one weight, even for those who
So you’ve decided you should skip dieting altogether
and move on to the cheese course, right? Not so fast.
Despite experts’ opinions on the topic, there
is currently no convincing evidence to support the claims
that weight cycling is harmful to your long-term health.
And the known health risks associated with obesity are
numerous, including diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension.
Maybe it’s time to give dieting more than a passing
Figuring out which diet to follow can be harder than
actually shedding the pounds. The Zone Diet,
The South Beach Diet, Weight Watchers,
and the Fat Flush Plan are all diets that have
gained massive popularity and attention in the U.S.
Which, if any, is right for you, i.e., someone who lives
to eat? Here’s a bit of background on them:
The Zone Diet was created
by Barry Sears, Ph. D., a biotechnologist who developed
drug delivery systems for patients with cancer and heart
disease. The Zone is defined as a metabolic state of
optimal health when the mind and body function at peak
efficiency. Reaching this state requires a balanced
food intake such that every snack and meal has the proper
ratio of protein (30%), carbohydrates (40%) and fat
(30%). Dr. Sears claims that eating “in the Zone”
leads to automatic body fat loss, not just weight loss.
The South Beach Diet,
founded by Miami-based cardiologist, Arthur Agatston,
M.D., is a program that limits your intake of “bad”
carbohydrates and “bad” fats. It includes
an initial two-week restrictive phase that jumpstarts
the weight loss process by avoiding foods with high
glycemic indexes, i.e., foods that spike your blood-sugar
level, like baked goods, pasta, starchy vegetables,
and alcohol. Dr. Agatston claims that you can lose 8
to 13 pounds during the first two weeks. He also claims
that you lose belly fat first because you are better
regulating your insulin production, which is responsible
for storage of fat around your midsection.
Weight Watchers, founded
by Jean Nidetch in the early 1960s, offers a portion
control program in which all foods (in specific amounts)
are assigned points values and, depending on your weight,
you are allowed a certain number of points per day.
Weight Watchers asserts that a healthy rate of weight
loss is up to 2 pounds per week, and that the more gradual
the weight loss, the more likely you are to rid yourself
of extra pounds for good.
Fat Flush Plan, created
by Ann Louise Gittleman, M.S., C.N.S., is a diet that
detoxifies the liver and increases the metabolism through
a combination of healthy fats, proteins and quality
carbohydrates combined in a strict daily routine. The
regimen, which has an initial two-week restrictive period,
includes, among other things, high-lignan flaxseed oil,
unsweetened cranberry juice with water, and herbal supplements
like evening primrose oil, dandelion root and milk thistle.
Gittleman won’t say how many pounds you can expect
to lose during the first phase, stressing fat loss over
weight loss, but she does imply that dropping at least
5 pounds is common.
Popular Diets »
These four major weight-loss programs (and most diets
in general) yield some results because they force you
to limit your food intake¸ and therefore your
calorie consumption. Keep in mind that in order to lose
one pound of fat you have to burn 3,500 more calories
than you consume. So no matter which diet you follow,
whether you live on tofu or tiramisu, in the end, your
weight loss will be determined by the total calories
you consume versus the calories you burn.
Does the term “burning calories” make you
break out into a cold sweat? You should be sweating
if you’re serious about losing weight. Let’s
face it. The rolls of fat bulging out of your apron
will not miraculously disappear from your waist when
you lose weight. You’ve got to build muscle tone
if you want killer abs. Whether you practice yoga at
home or hit the treadmill at the gym, you need to move
your body to change your body. All of these diets stress
the importance of incorporating exercise into your daily
routine. None of them urges you to train for a triathlon
or any other hard-core physical feats (though even Jacques
Torres has run a marathon). Rather all of these diets
encourage you to make time every day for moderate exercise,
including a combination of aerobic, stretching and strength-training
Are you more confused than ever about which diet to
choose? Some of these programs may work better for you
than others because they mesh with your own eating personality.
For example, if there are certain foods you can’t
live without, like dulce de leche, then you might
want to consider a diet that has no food restrictions,
but instead focuses on portion control, like Weight
Watchers or the Zone. If you can keep your sweet tooth
at bay and throw pasta to the wayside for a while (borderline
heresy, you say), then you might want to try the South
Beach Diet or the Fat Flush Plan. It’s up to you
to do some research and decide which diet suits your
needs, your lifestyle and your personality. All of these
diets have guidelines for maintenance, so that once
you lose the weight, you can keep it off for life. These
weight control guidelines promote a lifetime of healthy
So what’s a high-carb, high-fat, high-protein-eating
foodie or chef to do? Put down the foie gras
burger, grab a yoga mat, assume the lotus position,
the debate begin.
Popular Diets At a Glance:
||How it works:
||Weight Loss Claim:
|The South Beach Diet
||This program’s basic premise is to eat good
carbohydrates and good fats.
Phase I – Two-week restrictive phase
that jumpstarts the weight loss process. Avoid
fruits, pastry, breads and pasta, starchy vegetables,
fatty meats, milk, fatty dairy and alcohol.
Phase II – Gradually reintroduce
healthy carbs – fruit, low-fat dairy, whole
grain bread, whole grain rice, whole grain cereal,
whole wheat pasta, sweet potatoes, and wine. Stay
on Phase II until you hit target weight.
Phase III – Maintenance phase. No
food restrictions, but common sense suggests only
occasional consumption of high-sugar and high
|Rapid weight loss during initial phase (8-13 lbs);
Slower but continued loss in Phase II.
-No calorie counting
-Normal-size portions to achieve satiety
-Book includes recipes from top Miami restaurants
like Joe’s Stone Crab and China Grill.
- Website program includes daily guidance interactive
weight-loss tools, meal plans and message boards.
|- Complete elimination of high sugar, high starch
foods for a two-week period, even “healthy”
foods like fruits and whole grain products.
||Every snack and meal has the proper ratio of protein
(30%), carbohydrates (40%) and fat (30%). A person’s
unique protein requirement depends upon lean body
mass and daily activity level. Recommended fat and
carbohydrate intake is calculated based on protein
||Eating “in the Zone” virtually leads
to automatic body fat loss, not just weight loss.
- No food restrictions, but guidelines of favorable
and unfavorable foods
- Zone-friendly recipes and menus that target
various lifestyles (at-home cooking, fast-food,
- Website program offers newsletters, meal plans
and weight-loss tools, community message boards
- Option of daily delivery of properly balanced
meals and snacks
- Properly balanced Zone meals and snacks require
time and thought to prepare, unless you buy the
- Need to pay attention to serving sizes
|Weight Watchers FlexPoints
||All foods are assigned point values and, depending
on your weight, you are allowed a certain number
of points per day. Earn extra points through exercise.
Each week you are allotted 35 FlexPoints, which
can be spent in addition to your daily point allowance.
||Up to 2 pounds per week
- No food restrictions
- Extensive support network either online or
by attending weekly meetings/weigh-ins
- Tons of recipes in print and online, as well
as an online recipe builder to determine point
values of your own recipes
- Keeping track of points accurately can be
- Fees for online usage and/or attendance at
|The Fat Flush Plan
Detoxify the liver and increase metabolism
through a combination of healthy fats, proteins
and quality carbohydrates arranged in a strict
The diet relies on a particular combination
of foods, but also allows choices within the food
Phase I – Two-week restrictive period
requires daily intake of high-lignan flaxseed
oil, lean proteins, up to 2 eggs per day, vegetables
and 2 servings of fruit. Drink 8 glasses of unsweetened
cranberry juice mixed with water daily, two of
which are to be taken with powdered psyllium husk
or ground flaxseeds. Daily supplements including
evening primrose oil, dandelion root and milk
Phase II – Ongoing fat flush program,
designed to be followed until you reach your desired
weight or size. Gradually add “friendly”
carbohydrates back into your diet, such as whole
grain toast, sweet potatoes, or cooked carrots.
Phase III – Lifestyle Eating Program
Maintenance phase allows healthy oils, nuts, dairy,
and “friendly” carbohydrates, such
as corn, baked potatoes, brown rice, whole grain
pasta, and popcorn.
|Drop a couple dress sizes in first two weeks.
Diet stresses fat loss over weight loss.
||- Website offers products, support forums and
information about the diet.
- Strict daily routine can be hard to follow
- Cranberry juice is a natural diuretic, causing
- Complicated assortment of herbal supplements
1 WebMD, Weight