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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 15, 2010

Create own livable diet to lose weight


By Charles Stuart Platkin

If you're like most of my clients, you're ready for some hard-core, practical advice on what you can do now to drop pounds. The key to losing weight is finding the tools that work for you, because the most important thing you can do for yourself is to create your own personalized, livable diet.

So what is a livable diet? It's a diet you can live with for the rest of your life.

Let me ask you a question: How long can you hold your breath? If you're good, maybe 30 or 40 seconds. So, yes, you can do it, but only for a short period. Well, that's how most people diet.

Here are a few tips and revelations that will help you create your own livable diet:

1. Most diets work. Yes, most diets do work in the short run. And no matter what the diet, you'll be lowering your caloric intake. As a result, you'll lose weight. You can do Atkins, South Beach, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers but is it really "right" for you? There have been points in my career as a health advocate when I've criticized certain diets, but the reality is that it's not the diet that's the problem (unless it's clearly unhealthy); it's the individual following the dieting. People are picking diets that in the long run are not "livable." In fact, Consumer Reports did a diet survey and found that 4,000 of the 32,000 respondents were able to lose an average of 37 pounds and maintain the loss for five or more years using "self-directed lifestyle changes." In fact, 83 percent of successful losers did it on their own with no specific commercial weight-loss program or book. The key to long-term success is to come up with a plan that works for you that is, to individualize your eating and exercise program.

2. Why diets do not work. There are so many reasons, but it's usually one of the following.

• What does it mean to eat fewer calories? There is still confusion about what "cutting" calories actually means for everyday eating. If you cut too many calories your body will slow down your metabolism. It's the biology of survival in action: When you subject yourself to drastic dieting, your body goes into "starvation mode" and becomes a fuel-efficiency machine in an attempt to burn as little energy as possible. Your basic metabolic rate decreases and you store fat, making it difficult to take off the pounds. There is also evidence that your body attempts to minimize activity (by making you tired so you can't move much), making it even more difficult to burn calories. This is hardly what you want when you're trying to lose weight. The more effort you put into limiting your calories, the more your body resists weight loss.

Diet Detective tip: To get a general idea of how many calories you should consume: Women typically need 1,800 or fewer per day, while men need about 2,200. A rule of thumb to calculate your calorie needs is 10 calories per pound of your current weight for weight loss or 14 calories per pound for weight maintenance.

• Deny = diet = eat more: The minute you deny yourself something you become fixated on that object. In fact, Dan Wegner, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Harvard University, did an experiment in which he told participants NOT to think about white bears, and then talked with them for the next 30 minutes. The result: All they talked about were white bears they mentioned them 30 times on average. (see: wjh.har vard.edu/~wegner/pdfs/Wegner,Schneider,Carter, &White%201987.pdf)

Diet Detective tip: Try coming up with lists of what you can eat that's healthy and tasty instead of thinking about what you can't.