Saturday, January 10, 2009

Keeping That Diet Resolution

Tara Parker Pope’s blog on the NY Times Jan 2, ’09

(My response to Ms. Pope's blog is directly underneath her post.) :

One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight or at least eat more healthfully. Several Web sites offer tips and tools for getting there. Healthy Holidays - 30 Days of Holiday Eating A series of daily tips, tidbits and insights about holiday food. The Joy of Cooking (Videos), Healthy Foods for Under $1

A Better Food Pyramid: Harvard nutritionists say their revamped food pyramid is based on the latest science and is “unaffected by businesses and organizations with a stake in its messages.” It starts with exercise and encourages adding more plant-based foods and cutting back on “American staples” l
ike red meat, refined grains, potatoes and sugary drinks.

Dr. Gourmet: New Orleans physician Timothy S. Harlan, also known as Dr. Gourmet, has created free diet software that helps you plan more healthful meals. He calls it the Quality Calorie Diet Plan to reflect his belief that it’s the quality of the calories we eat that counts the most. The site creates meal plans and even offers ways to use leftovers later in the week. It includes food and exercise diaries as well as goal-tracking features, and a place for users to analyze their own recipes. This Web site began as a personal source of diet support for sisters Suzanne, Jennifer and Amy and has now grown into a community of over 70,000 registered members. It has the typical diet-site resources and tools, but the main appeal is the forum for dieters to share stories and find support.

Cooking Light: A great site for finding healthy and delicious foods that won’t make you feel like you’re on a diet. You’ll find recipes, nutrition information and advice on cooking techniques.

Food Blog Search: It’s not a diet site, but if you’ve resolved to cook at home more, this is a great resource for finding new recipes. This custom-built search
engine uses Google technology to search for recipes in more than 2,600 food blogs.

National Body Challenge: Discovery Health’s National Body Challenge is a free fitness and weight loss program. After registering online, participants set their personal goals and create a customized eating and exercise plan. Registration gives users access to customized meal and fitness plans, a community of other Challenge participants, weight and fitness trackers and video and interactive tools as well as a 30-day free health club membership.

Weight Watchers — Although the site is offering a one-week free trial to it’s online plan, you’ll have to pay $65 for a three month subscription if you stick with it. While it’s true that most people who diet end up gaining back their weight, much of what Weight Watchers claims is backed by science. An April 2008 article in the British Journal of Nutrition looked at success rates of lifetime Weight Watchers members. They found that a year after reaching goal weight, 80 percent of participants had maintained at least 5 percent of the weight loss a year later and 27 percent of the dieters had stayed below their goal weight. While that means a lot of people regained their weight, it’s still more evidence for success than offered by most commercial diet plans.

South Beach Diet: This diet gained popularity as an alternative to the strict low-carb regimen of Atkins, with an emphasis on “good carbs” like high-fiber vegetables and whole grains. It also offers a free week trial, followed by a $5 a week membership fee.

So what have I missed? Are there other websites you’d recommend to help people lose weight and live healthier in 2009?

And for more on resolutions, read New Year, New You? Nice Try.


Dr Abby's Response to this article:

The common concern with most diet sites is the incredible high relapse rate, and yo-yo dieting has been found to be potentially harmful. Even the Weight Watchers study cited leaves out the fact that it is a miniscule percent of clients who ever get to be lifetime members, and many people who maintain their losses develop eating disorders, or regain it within 5 years.

A better goal than weight loss is “fitness.” They are not the same! Fitness is accomplished with physical strength and endurance, and often improves blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin sensitivity, regardless if weight is lost. Exercise has also been found to improve those measures in many people, regardless of size.

A recent book, entitled entitled “Health At Avery Size; The Surprising Truth About Your Weight”, by Linda Bacon, Ph.D. offers an in depth view of a startling study at the University of California, which divided 82 obese women into two groups. One group received traditional diet advice, and the other received suggestions about how to improve health and well-being. Dieters moderately restricted food consumption, maintained food diaries and monitored weight. They measured calories and fat content, read food labels and shopped for appropriate foods, while learning about benefits of exercise.

The “Health At Every Size” (HAES) group paid close attention to hunger and fullness, and how the food made them feel. Nutritional information helped them to choose healthful foods. A support group focused on accepting their larger bodies, understanding cultural influences, and dealing with barriers preventing enjoyment of physical activity, such as negative self-image.

Results at the end of two years concluded:

• HAES subjects almost quadrupled their moderate physical activity. The dieting group significantly increased their physical activity at first, but slipped back to initial levels by the end of the study.

• HAES subjects showed a significant decrease in LDL (“bad” cholesterol) by the end of the study, whereas the dieters did not.

• Both groups significantly lowered their systolic blood pressure during the first 52 weeks of the study, but only HAES people sustained improvements by the end of the 2nd year.

• Self-esteem and depression improved significantly for HAES, while self-esteem dropped among the dieters.

• Dieters lost 5.2 percent of their initial weight in the first 24 weeks but regained almost all of it by the end of the study. HAES members maintained their initial weight.

• Ninety-two percent of HAES people completed treatment, while 42 percent of dieters dropped out prematurely.

Another useful site is called, which critically evaluates related research, and cuts through bias and corporate interests. Consider visiting, which offers information about “health at every size.”

I believe the two-part system of dieting to lose weight, and then trying to maintain that loss is what fails. Focusing on fitness offers one way of living forever, which allows people to enjoy the foods they love, while listening to hunger and satiety, incorporating nutritious foods, coping effectively, and exercising. Many thin people think it’s OK to eat junk food and not exercise because they are thin, but a thin unfit person is worse off than a fit overweight person. Remember, the CDC found approximately 86,000 FEWER deaths in the overweight range when compared with the normal weight range, and 33,000 MORE deaths in the thin range.

People come in all shapes and sizes, so the goal is to become your personal best; not conform to a thin ideal, which may be unrealistic and discouraging. My work helps people to do this, and incorporates “healthy junk foods,” to prevent binges on their unhealthy counterparts.

Dr. Abby Aronowitz


Betsy says: Thank you Dr. Abby Aronowitz! Why Oh why is TPP pushing diets again?"

TPP says: It’s not about pushing diets. It’s about giving people resources

Betsy says: So, TPP you’re giving people resources to begin the diet binge cycle anew for ‘09?!?

Dr Abby Says: You were giving people resources about DIETS... that doesn't work!

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