Heart Association Diet Book Offers Recipe for Success

'No-Fad Diet' urges Americans to 'think smart, eat well and move more'

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HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, June 16, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- After being fed a steady diet of faddish and rigid weight-loss plans, Americans may now have a recipe for permanent success, courtesy of the American Heart Association.

"No-Fad Diet: A Personal Plan for Healthy Weight Loss" is the association's first diet book, offering up old-fashioned common sense that is described in the book as "think smart, eat well and move more."

The book recommends a three-pronged approach to lasting weight loss:

  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein and moderate in healthy fats;
  • Become more physically active;
  • Minimize temptations.

The book's release this month comes as the obesity epidemic threatens the health of a growing number of Americans. Nearly two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, putting them at risk for a variety of ills, including diabetes, certain cancers, and, of course, heart disease, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The pendulum is swinging back toward a more reasonable approach to weight reduction," said Dr. Robert Eckel, president-elect of the American Heart Association and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. "There is nothing fancy here [in the book]. It's good, sound science applied to an everyday approach."

The book is based on medical research into diet, exercise and behavior with the common denominator being that no single weight-loss plan works for everyone. Indeed, there is a menu of three options for cutting back on calories and three for increasing physical activity.

For example, the "switch and swap approach" recommends making lower-calorie substitutions. If you usually start your day with a cinnamon roll, try a cinnamon-raisin English muffin with 2 teaspoons of light tub margarine instead.

For those whose dietary downfall is the quantity of food they consume, the book outlines "the 75% solution," in which people eat only three-quarters of the amount they normally eat. Leaving 25 percent on the plate will help dieters trim calories from their daily food intake.

And for those who are most comfortable following meal plans, the book has nearly 200 recipes to try with 1,200-, 1,600- and 2,000-calorie heart-healthy menus.

There are also different suggestions for fitting more physical activity into the day. Are you someone who spends the majority of the day at a desk? Opt for the stairs over the elevator and park your car as far as possible from your office. Or are you energized when you work out with other people? Then, scheduling exercise classes or team sports may be best for you.

The book also has quizzes to help dieters decide which weight-loss and activity approach is best for them, and sample forms and questionnaires to help them gauge their commitment to weight loss, set realistic goals and monitor what they eat.

To this end, the book recommends keeping food and activity diaries. According to the National Weight Control Registry, one study found that such diaries proved valuable to people who lost at least 30 pounds and kept the weight off for one year or more. This is important because the majority of people who lose weight will gain it back over time because they can't stick to a rigid plan.

For this reason, the AHA's approach is more like a gradual lifestyle change than a traditional diet, Eckel said.

"There is more to a diet than losing weight. It's about lifestyle changes that emphasize physical activity and behavioral changes that are necessary to accomplish your goals," he said.

To be sure, the approach is not new. Dietitians have long advocated a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein and low in fat and refined sugar. Why then, do the majority of Americans remain overweight?

"A person's response to food is more complicated than just following a plan, even for only 25 percent of the time as this diet plan suggests," said Sharron Dalton, associate professor in the department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University.

"When our body is overfed and loses its ability to sense fullness and our mind is stuck with the notion of good/bad food, even the most customized plan may be more work than pleasure."

More information

To learn more about the book, visit the American Heart Association.

SOURCES: Robert Eckel, M.D., president-elect, American Heart Association, and assistant professor of medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine; Sharron Dalton, Ph.D., associate professor, department of nutrition, food studies and public health, New York University, New York City

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