AS estimated two fifths of all are following some weight loss diet at any given moment, and about a third of us are above our ideal weight as determined by standard tables. Of those, about half exceed their ideal weight by 20% or more and hence are classified as obese. Though often used interchangeably, “overweight” and “obese” do not mean the same thing. As excess weight increases, medical risks increase proportionately. Obesity can increase your chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. But if you’re only a few pounds (less than 10%) over your desirable weight, your increased risks are: ‘small. What probably drives most people to diet is worry about their physical appearance: the loss of self-esteem resulting from excess pounds in a society that extolls slimness.

But how to lose weight is the big question, “Eat less and exercise more” is what your doctor is likely to tell you —— simplistic advice that may not be much help. Furthermore, you already know that if through some feta of self-denial you manage to lose a few pounds, you’ll almost certainly gain them back within six months. Or you may suffer through two weeks of deprivation only to find that you haven’t lost a pound. What advice do the experts have for such problems?

No matter how much weight you want to lose, the reducing process has two phases: First, the time it takes to drop the desired number of pounds, which most people want to do as quickly as possible; and second, the development of a lifestyle that will keep the weight off. The second is the hard part because it has to continue for the rest of your life. That’s why most diets emphasize the first phase only —— the easy part. For the truly obese, liquid diets (400 to 800 calories) may be useful for immediate weight loss; these require strict medical supervision and can be quite expensive.

For most people, however, nutritionists and doctors usually recommend a diet of about 1200 calories a day, composed of nutritious, low calorie foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, and low fat dairy products. People get discouraged with these sensible diets because they work slowly. They then turn to diet books, diet plans, or fads. There’s nothing easier to find these days than diet plans —— they are offered in bewildering profusion by television personalities, magazines, newspapers, and each year’s crop of bestselling diet books. It seems that nearly every upscale community has a diet named for it —— Beverly Hills, Scarsdale, Southampton. Celebrity diets come and go and yesterday’s gimmick reappears tomorrow.

Article extracted from this publication >> March 18, 1988