Comparing Weight Loss Programs

Gaining and losing weight depends primarily on individual discipline. Some people are genetically predisposed to weight gain while others may unconsciously lose control of their appetites. Either way, putting on extra pounds can affect nearly every aspect of overall health, fitness, and self esteem. Shedding excess weight usually involves proper diet and exercise, yet the issue may be more complex than just losing a few pounds. Clinical research and extensive studies indicate that most people react differently to caloric intake, natural sugars, processed sugars, trans fats, saturated fats, and carbohydrates. Finding the right dietary plan and adhering to its guidelines is paramount to attaining optimum results. Dieting isn't any easy task to take on, yet with consistent hard work and sheer determination, the outcome can prove to be beneficial in a variety of ways. Comparing weight loss programs is the first step to discovering that quite a few are out on the market; finding a suitable plan involves reading up on what each plan has to offer, its restrictions, and collective results in terms of success. The following diet plans are merely samples of what to expect when entering the world of weight loss programs.

The Atkins Diet

This particular weight loss program has its pros and its cons. The beginning phase of the Atkins Diet involves a high protein, high fat intake, and low carbohydrate ingestion (20 grams per day). Carbohydrates, or "carbs," are a high source of caloric energy contained in flour, milk, white rice, white bread, different types of pasta, and other foods as well. The Atkins Diet stresses the consumption of high fat and protein-rich foods, such as meats i.e. pork, beef, and poultry, cheese, and eggs. By doing so, the body begins to metabolize already existing fat cells and uses them to produce burnable energy. The fat cells thus begin to shrink as the body sheds unwanted weight. The clinical name for this process is called "ketosis." According to the Atkins plan, the body will return to normal metabolic function over time. Vitamin supplements are highly recommended in order to take the place of the nutrients contained in fruits and vegetables. Also, in some cases, heavy exercise is recommended in order for the ketosis process to take effect. With this type of diet, certain health risks can occur. Carbohydrate consumption is a normal part of a balanced diet; without a steady intake of both carbohydrates and proteins, the body begins to adjust improperly, perhaps causing the initial stages of adult onset diabetes. Diets that are high in fat can produce high cholesterol levels (LDL) while also increasing the risk of heart disease. All in all, the Atkins Diet has been proven to be effective from a weight loss standpoint; however, many medical experts either dismiss the diet altogether for health reasons, or suggest that more research needs to be done in order to reach an informed prognosis.

Weight Watchers

The Weight Watchers program has been around for 45 years, and they take a different approach as to how the body actually processes food. Their formulas are based on and carried out through years of scientific research, which includes smarter eating habits and healthier eating in general. Weight Watchers also promotes a steady diet of exercise and continued support from their team of leaders. They also offer meal plans, workout plans, and members are able to share healthy recipes while attending scheduled Weight Watchers meetings. These meetings are designed to help both women and men lose weight without having to suffer, and the support comes from leaders and other members as well. For starters, leaders attempt to help members reach realistic goals, one of which entails the modest goal of losing 5 % of the total body weight. Members also have a chance to become educated on nutritional value and eating habits; the staff at Weight Watchers either provides the meals and meal plans, or members can buy their own food. A point system exists in the program by which caloric intake is monitored. The program offers a book that indicates how many points are contained in certain foods and beverages. A maximum number of points are allowed each day; staying within and keeping track of the point system has proven to be an effective formula for many dieters. There are no known side effects to the Weight Watchers diet plan. A common drawback comes in the form of restrictive eating habits, which means that a dramatic change in lifestyle may be the hardest plateau to surpass. In terms of results, a mixed bag of reviews indicates that this diet plan does work, yet it may not be for everyone.

Jenny Craig

In existence for over 25 years, the Jenny Craig diet plan involves three different levels: food, mind, and body. The initial stage entails getting clients to eat the same foods they normally eat, but to do it in smaller portions and more frequently. The second phase deals with physical activity; Jenny Craig customers can increase energy levels by starting out with simple exercises and slowly increasing them, thus building stamina and consistently boosting endurance. The final phase consists of achieving a continuous balance from applying the principles of the previous two levels, helping to maintain desired weight by means of a healthy diet. The food itself is precooked, prepackaged, frozen, and ready to heat. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert are all included, yet these food items should be supplemented with fresh fruits and/or vegetables. The main objective with the prepackaged meals is to familiarize clients with portion sizes, but also to become accustomed to counting calories effectively. In addition, the people at Jenny Craig want to wean their dieters off of the frozen food packages and get them to start preparing meals on their own, but also to be sensible when dining out. Jenny Craig offers individual counseling and guidance by gathering information such as height, weight, and personal goals for desired outcomes. The Jenny Craig diet plan has no known side effects. The most common disadvantage for the program's clients is making the transition from prepackaged food to measuring the content of their own meals. Like the Weight Watchers diet plan, the Jenny Craig method has proven to be effective over the years, and the same principle applies that it may not be suitable for all dieters.

The Grapefruit Diet

For those who may be interested in dropping weight quickly, the Grapefruit Diet is a low carbohydrate, high fat intake formula. A few different versions of the diet exist, yet most of them claim that grapefruit dieters can lose 10 lbs. in 12 days. This diet is also calorie restrictive, allowing 800-1000 calories per day. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner all include an 8oz. glass of unsweetened grapefruit juice, and a choice of only one after-dinner snack: an 8oz. glass of nonfat milk. Unlimited meat or fish is a staple of the diet, as well as 64 ounces of water per day. The grapefruit itself supposedly contains an enzyme that, when combined with protein, helps to shed weight quickly. There is no scientific evidence to validate this claim; however, other research indicates that regular meals accompanied by a 4oz. glass of grapefruit juice with each meal can produce these results over a 12 week period, rather than 12 days. This type of diet is not recommended for long term use. Even though many medical experts concur that the grapefruit itself is enriched with vitamin C, fiber, and beta-carotene, the Grapefruit Diet can be misleading as a cure-all for dieters.

The Bottom Line

Dieting can become a tricky endeavor, especially when comparing weight loss programs. What works for some dieters may not work for others. Losing weight in a healthy fashion usually happens over a period of time; expecting instant results can be a discouraging factor that usually leads to disappointment and frustration. Those who are serious about dieting and staying healthy throughout the process may want to become educated on nutrition and proper eating habits. A seemingly countless number of physicians recommend a diet that coincides with the different food groups displayed by the USDA food pyramid chart. The aforementioned diet programs offer some or all of these dietary "dos and don'ts," and it is up to the individual dieter to exercise common sense in terms of maintaining a healthy diet. Eating right and exercising regularly appear to be the best combination for living a long, healthy, and happy life.

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