Best—and Worst—Diet Advice

Featured Article, News and Advice, Weight Loss
on August 23, 2011

Intrigued by the results the latest diet plans promise? We read a new crop of books and give you the report on the best and worst advice within.

The Skinny Rules: 101 Secrets Every Skinny Girl Knows by Molly Morgan, RD, CDN

There’s nothing groundbreaking in this quick, breezy read—nutritionist Morgan emphasizes fresh food, exercise and moderation. It’s also heavy on celebrity tips, which might appeal to gossip junkies, though the best advice comes from regular folks, like the author’s cousin, who recommends serving pasta atop a large bowl of baby spinach.

Best advice: “Watch Your BLTs” — that’s “bites, licks and tastes.” Morgan recommends writing them all down one day and estimating the calorie counts to see how much you add on unconsciously.

Worst: “Skinny people don’t have overstuffed pantries and cupboards,” Morgan writes. That’s a gross generalization, and a strategy that might help some but drive others out the door to a restaurant.


The Dukan Diet: 2 Steps to Lose the Weight, 2 Steps to Keep It Off Forever, by Dr. Pierre Dukan

Protein is the lynchpin of this diet, which has been popular in France for more than a decade. In a short kickstart period, you eat only lean meats, eggs and nonfat dairy, then add vegetables in the “Cruise” phase. The diet is similar to Atkins, but by eliminating fat, this plan is healthier but also more restrictive. You must “Cruise” until you reach your goal weight (recommended 3 days for each pound you want to lose) with absolutely no exceptions, so there’s no flexibility for travel or special occasions.

Best advice: For his maintenance stage, dubbed “Permanent Stabilization,” Dukan mandates following the strictest phase of the diet for one day a week — a great way to avoid sliding back into bad habits.

Worst: For a sweet treat, he recommends ice cubes sweetened with aspartame or Splenda and flavored with vanilla or mint extracts. Can you say, yuck?


Just Tell Me What to Eat: The Delicious 6-Week Weight Loss Plan for the Real World by Timothy S. Harlan, MD

Both a doctor and a New Orleans-based chef, Harlan’s weight-loss plan revolves around learning to cook healthy meals and watching portion sizes to help keep calorie counts under control. “Cook 4-6 nights a week, using leftovers to make your life easier,” he writes. The book offers recipes for about 50 dinners, plus suggestions for frozen meals and restaurant options, but offers only general guidelines for breakfast and lunch.

Best advice: When reading nutrition labels, use the “20/5” rule. Avoid foods with more than 20 percent of your recommended daily value in fat, sodium or cholesterol, or less than 5 percent of total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Worst: Early in the program, Harlan recommends light lunches, such as a half sandwich made with one ounce of protein, and a piece of fruit. That may not sustain some people through a long afternoon.




The 17-Day Diet: A Doctor’s Plan Designed for Rapid Results by Dr. Mike Moreno

The title of this book is a bit of a misnomer, since it’s actually made up of three cycles of 17 days. (You can stop after the first or second cycles if you’ve reached your weight-loss goal.) In the first phase, you eat unlimited fish, poultry and certain vegetables, plus moderate servings of low-sugar fruit, lowfat yogurt, eggs and healthy oils. As on Dukan’s plan, you then move onto alternating days in phase 1 with less restrictive days. It also spells out a reasonable maintenance plan.

Best advice: Always be the first to order in a restaurant, so you stick to your healthy convictions. Also, choose a quieter area to sit, as people who are distracted tend to eat more.

Worst: The chapter on how to deal with your spouse while dieting is full of stereotypes like, “Not only do [men] eat like linemen, we like to watch linemen on TV. Whenever you get the chance, put some exercise equipment in front of the TV and do a half hour … while he’s watching sports.”


The No-Fad Diet: A Personal Plan for Healthy Weight Loss by the American Heart Association

It’s no surprise that the AHA’s plan is fairly straightforward, taking a three-fold approach that you’re likely to hear from your doctor: “Think Smart. Eat Well. Move More.” But food is definitely the focus — more than half the book is recipes, with countless other pages devoted to lists of snack ideas, healthier alternatives to high-calorie fare and actual meal plans for 1,200; 1,600 and 2,000-calorie diets.

Best advice: “Expect the Unexpected.” Come up with coping strategies for possible scenarios—an office happy hour, a relative’s homemade goodies—and practice what to say.

Worst: While the “75% Solution” diet option—in which you simply eat one-quarter less of what you normally would—is a good way to start if dieting seems daunting, it may not create enough of a calorie deficit to lose weight.


The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight and Saving the Planet by Alicia Silverstone

Actress Alicia Silverstone is an outspoken vegan and animal rights activist, but her “manifesto” is gentle and relatively nonjudgmental. “Any reduction in your animal product consumption is—to me—a total, unequivocal three-way win,” she writes. The book offers a step-up approach, beginning with a plan that simply encourages you to “flirt” with veganism and culminating with a macrobiotic vegan diet that she follows most days, and she suggests readers follow whichever works for them.

Best advice: “At no time is beating up on yourself an option. Changing a lifetime’s worth of habits can be challenging.” Kindness is truly a guiding principle here, not just a gimmick.

Worst: In her attempt to sell the deliciousness of vegan cuisine, Silverstone sometimes over-endorses sweets, like a recipe for peanut butter cups that’s mentioned no less than three times.