Weight-loss methods tested

By Annemarie Quill

1 comment

Who doesn't want to lose a few kilos? The New Year is when many people embark on a diet _ but which one? The indulge team and readers test old and new weight-loss methods and Bay dietitian Rachel Scrivin adds her expert opinion.

Dukan diet

What is it?

A high protein, low-carbohydrate diet devised by French nutritionist Pierre Dukan. It has grown in popularity over the last year in UK and US. There is online support, some of which is paid. A hundred foods come with the magic words ``eat as much as you like'', including 72 from the animal world; 28 from the plant world. Four successive phases are designed to reach the ideal weight target: an attack phase of high-protein foods; a cruise phase leading to true weight (the weight it calculates you should be) in which you alternate protein days with vegetables; a consolidation phase of gradual return to regular foods and a stabilisation phase.

Celebrities rumoured to be fans: The Middletons, Jennifer Lopez

Tester: Andrea Meredith, reader. Lost 3.5kg in four weeks.

I had read about Dukan in magazines as being the celebrity diet of the moment. I am not really into fad diets but, when I did look it up online, it made a lot of sense.

I liked two main ideas. One, that of working out your true weight, which takes into account your measurements, and age, even how many children you have had. It made me realistic that although I wanted to get down to 62kg,

Dukan says my true weight should be 67kg.

I also liked that it doesn't say you have achieved your goal until you have been at that weight for three months. It is also fairly inexpensive. You can follow it it at no cost using the online instructions. Or you can buy an online consultation for extra.

I found it very restrictive in terms of protein choices. I can have meat (not pork nor lamb), eggs, meat, eggs, hmmm, more meat, and, oh, did I mention eggs? The first five days were ``pure protein'' days and by the end of that I was longing for veges (and fruit). In that five days I lost 1.9kg, so felt it was a great kick-start to weight loss.

Since then I have been alternating between pure protein days and protein with vegetables days. The veges exclude potatoes, corn, peas, kumara, avocado, but I can have as much salad veges, broccoli, leafy greens, as I like, as long as I also have protein at every meal. I also eat oat bran every day mixed with light yoghurt. I'm REALLY missing fruit!

Fortunately, I'm not a huge wine drinker, so that hasn't been a problem to cut out. The thing I like most about this diet is that I don't have to weigh anything or count calories.

I have had a few small lapses. I ate some grapes one day, and blueberries another day _ what a rebel I am! There was one day when I had a piece of my son-in-law's birthday cake _ but it was a carrot cake, and that's veges, right?

Actually, I felt sick after that cake and didn't want to eat anything for the rest of the day!

I'm supposed to stay on this alternate days diet until I reach my goal weight, and I'm fairly sure I can sustain it, although it would be nice if the weight dropped off faster! Kate Middleton did this diet so, if I continue on it, I'll probably end up looking the spitting image of her, right?

Dietician Rachel Scrivin says:

This is very similar to the Atkins diet which has been around for more than 20 years. The Dukan diet follows similar principles of getting the body into a state of ketosis (smelly breath) by restricting carbohydrates and getting the body to provide carbohydrate (glucose) from lean body mass and body fat stores. I am sure that as with the Atkins diet, in the short term, clients get good results but long-term studies show most people cannot sustain this diet for long and usually regain all their lost weight.

Pros: You can eat as much protein and fat as you want! Great for meat-eaters.

Save money on toilet paper as you are likely to be constipated!

Cons: Smelly breath. No carbohydrates, which includes very limited fruit and starchy root vegetable intake; a very low-antioxidant diet, which is not great long term for heart health, cancer prevention and general well-being.

No wholegrains, so low fibre intake. May increase cholesterol levels as you eat as much meat as you like.

Socially restrictive. Not easy to follow for vegans, vegetarians or coeliacs.

Cabbage soup diet

What is it?

You can eat certain foods on certain days for seven days and as much cabbage soup as you like. Soup is a mixture of cabbage, tomatoes, green peppers, carrots, celery and onion with seasoning. Towards the end of the seven days, the cabbage soup is supplemented with beef, rice and vegetables.

Celebrities said to use this diet as quick fix prior to awards nights. - Sarah Michelle Gellar.

Tester: Katie Cox. Dropped a dress size in a week.

I have never been the slimmest person in the room, and that doesn't bother me. I am happy with my athletic frame, but know I am probably about 5kg over where I should be. If I could lose 1kg to 5kg, I think I would feel more confident, especially during bikini season.

The diet is meant to be a jump-start to a healthier longer-term weight-loss plan. It's definitely not sustainable for longer than a week and the website even admits that any longer than that could be dangerous. I treated the diet more like a detox. It made me reflect on some unhealthy habits, like my morning coffee or nightly wine. But I am not really a diet person _ I don't even have a scale but did drop a size in clothing.

The first day I felt motivated. Preparing the soup the day before you start and having the fridge stocked with all kinds of fruits and veges is essential, because you will be HUNGRY.

By day two I was light-headed and grumpy. I was very tired on the first two days; on the third day I had a crazy energy kick and felt fine days four to seven, but hungry. Again, the key is to be prepared. Have carrot sticks chopped and ready in the fridge for snacking.

I made some hummus, halving the amount of tahini in the original recipe. So, still healthy, but not on the diet. I needed something to dip my veges in!

I quit on day five. This day you are supposed to eat 10-20oz of beef and six tomatoes. I still continued with the soup and veges throughout the day but, for dinner, I made a salmon and spinach salad which, again, bent the rules, but I didn't feel like all that steak. The final two days I did a similar thing, made up my own rules, still having the soup, but adding little bits.

If I want to lose weight, or just feel better about myself in general, I usually do it through exercise, not diet. I find that once I get in an exercise routine I don't really feel like eating ``the bad stuff'' anyway. Now I just have to find the motivation to kick-start my exercise routine. A friend has challenged me to a race in the Marra Sprint Triathlon at the Mount on March 25. I have never done a triathlon _ maybe that will be my motivational goal.

Dietician Rachel Scrivin says:

Pros: You are very likely to lose weight due to the diuretic effect of the soup (water weight lost) and therefore likely to regain this weight. Fairly high-fibre diet so you are likely to have lots of loose bowel motions and feel internally fairly ``cleaned'' out. Low-fat diet. Can eat as much as you like of the specific foods on the allocated days.

Cons: Usually regain the lost weight. Can be light-headed. If you urinate a lot this could be dehydration and water intake is advised.

Lifestream FucoCai

(Capsules $44.90 for 90 capsules)

What is it? An increasing number of weight management products are on the market. An ingredient causing global excitement in the weight-loss industry is acai berries. This version by Lifestream also contains Fucoxanthin (found in edible seaweed) which, taken three times a day, is claimed to create a healthy metabolism and a feeling of being full, leading to less food consumption.

Celebrities rumoured to be fans of acai berry: Brad Pitt, Oprah Winfrey.

Tester: Martine Rolls. Lost 2kg in four weeks.

I had to take one tablet with each meal, three times a day. Apart from that I could eat normally. My usual diet is healthy. It includes lots of salads, rice, fruit, nuts and vegetables. Also chicken and fish, and a little bread and red meat. I don't eat takeaways very often, am not a big fan of pasta, don't use many dairy products and pastry.

I have a weakness for dark chocolate, but I seldom eat dessert. I try to limit drinking wine as I am well aware it's a big calorie booster.

I was happy to take these supplements because the pills are rich in antioxidants (acai berry). Attacking the free-radicals _ the molecules responsible for ageing and tissue damage _ is great. Seaweed also offers health benefits, so I'll be happy to continue with these capsules. They are free from artificial additives, too.

I felt fine, as I didn't have to starve myself or change my way of eating or living at all.

The health benefits of a diet or treatment are more important to me than the actual weight-loss. The body needs nutrients from many sources, so I would not experiment with diets or detoxes that throw things out of balance, even if it practically guarantees loss of weight. I know too many people who have lost weight by following different fads, only to put it straight back on a little later. That's not for me.

Taking a supplement is very easy and hassle-free. I noticed I had more energy and my skin also looks and feels better. In a month's time, I lost a little over 2kg. That doesn't sound like much but I've been at a stable weight for a long time so it is a change for the better.

And because this experiment was done over Christmas, I'm happy. Also, my cholesterol levels are lower. I'm not sure if that is because of the capsules, but it's good all the same.

I'm sure the best way to lose weight is to cut carbs, refined sugar, alcohol and processed food from your diet and to exercise regularly. I enjoy eating well, and do not want to limit myself to a strict diet. Enjoying life is just too precious.

If I keep eating healthily but not too much, and if I make sure to take it easy with the wine, go for more walks and bike rides, and keep taking these capsules, I might just fit into my favourite jeans again.

Dietician Rachel Scrivin says:

This is not a very common diet and I have not had any clients who have been on it. I cannot see the benefit of taking acai berry for weight loss when the best research for this berry is about its powerful antioxidant effects.

Pros: Possible antioxidant effect.

Cons: Not a lot of good research around this diet at present.

Jenny Craig diet

What is it?

Portion-controlled pre-packaged meals supplemented by listed fruit, vegetables and condiments from a ``free food'' list. Weekly meetings with a Jenny Craig consultant. As target weight is neared there is a maintenance programme to help with transition to own food.

Celebrity fans: Mel B; Mariah Carey.

Tester: Annemarie Quill, total weight loss 3.5kg in 4 weeks.

I chose this diet to test because not having to shop, weigh and cook appealed. I loved the ease of knowing what I could eat every day. You can select what types of food you like including pies and crisps, but I wouldn't normally eat these. I did find the dinners tasty. It made me learn more about portions because I realised the Jenny Craig Thai Fish Curry was about a fifth the size I would eat weekly at Thai at Tauranga.

I was a little disappointed not to lose more although I did this trial over Christmas, which made it challenging. You can have some alcohol but the lowest calorie apparently is vodka and diet soda but I found it was easier to avoid altogether to maintain willpower.

I got on well with my consultant, Jacqui, who had just the right amount of caring and was very funny. It can seem expensive to buy the food but given I was not buying coffee, lunches and wine, I would consider it a good short-term investment for losing weight. However, I did find my weight loss plateaued after three weeks, which Jacqui explains as the body striving to reset itself at a certain weight it has been used to.

For further weight-loss, even on the very low kilojoules, I will need to exercise harder although finding the time to do this will really be a challenge. I have really learned how hard it is to lose weight even on a low-calorie diet.

Dietician Rachel Scrivin says:

This diet can be good for clients who need portion-controlled food and don't like to cook. However, it is pre-packaged food that often is plastic wrapped and requires heating in the microwave so often not very ``fresh''.

Pros: Good online and in-centre support. Convenient for people who do not like to count calories. Food is portion-controlled so there is no guesswork in how much to eat. Pre-packaged meals delivered to your door. No cooking needed _ microwave required.

Cons: Ongoing costs of the programme. May still have to cook separate meals for the family. May not enjoy the meals provided. Not allergy-sensitive. Not very ``real'' in the sense of teaching you how to eat when you transition back to eating with family and friends.

Community Weight Loss Challenge

What is it?

High-protein, low-carb diet with optional nutritional supplements such as meal replacement shakes. Regular meetings, weigh-ins and nutritional support from coaches (who are also distributors of the Herbalife nutritional supplements). There are prizes for weight-loss as well as small coin penalties for weight gain and a $5 absence charge.

Tester: Sarah Turner lost 11kg and dropped three dress sizes in 18 weeks.

I have never been on a diet before. I have always been really active and involved in sport. But then a knee injury meant I couldn't train for a while, plus I had three children in seven years. I decided on the Community Weight Loss Challenge because it was good value whereas other diets can be expensive. It was only $49 for 12 weeks.

But the main attraction was that it was weekly meetings with a coach and there was real motivation to lose. If you gained weight in the week you had to pay a dollar which went into a pool. At the end of the challenge the prize money went to two groups _ the biggest percentage weight-loss and biggest centimetre loss. I was pretty happy. I lost 10kg and won $200! It really suited my competitive nature.

I did the diet with a friend and my mum. Both of them also lost heaps of weight and Mum was pretty happy as she had tried all types of diets before. I think it's good to do a diet with others as you can exercise together _ each week we would go on a big walk around the estuary.

I found the protein shakes handy, particularly at breakfast, as when I am busy with the kids I often skip breakfast. Having the shake meant I knew I was set up for the day and also wasn't hungry until lunch-time. I wasn't hungry at all on this diet. Since I stopped the diet in December I have maintained my weight.

One of the key things this challenge did (for me) was to move my mindset from ``dieting'' and to learning to live healthily. I am very happy _ I was a size 14; now I am a size 8. My friend and I are now training for a duathlon

Dietician Rachel Scrivin says:

I'm not a great advocate of replacement shakes as this is not real food and, often, when clients resume eating a normal diet they regain lost weight because they often start eating more food over all.

Pros: Fairly easy to follow _ eat one meal a day and drink two replacement shakes.

Cons: Clients may not learn about energy value of foods and how to change eating habits long term.-->-->

- Bay of Plenty Times

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