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How to find the best diet for you

Forget about the latest fads and create your own weight-loss plan
/ Source: TODAY

For many of us, the New Year is a time to get serious about losing those extra pounds. A clean slate, fresh start — but where to begin? I always want to tap into my patients’ enthusiasm for a new weight-loss plan by helping them set realistic and practical goals for the coming year. No matter what kind of eating plan you choose, there are a few basics you need to consider before you start on your new and improved lifestyle plan. These are all part of my Fernstrom Fundamentals, a series of questions you need to answer honestly in order to evaluate your lifestyle and your eating habits.

What is your “eating temperament”?It’s key to identify the type of eater you are. This is an important component of what you are both able and willing to change when it comes to weight loss. Do you …

  • Like three meals a day  or prefer to graze?
  • Have a “fat tooth” (love that creamy mouth feel) or a “sweet tooth” (love a  sweet taste)?
  • Eat mostly in restaurants or cook at home?
  • Drink alcohol or avoid alcohol (I’d rather eat those calories)?
  • Prefer volume (I don’t care about the taste as long as it’s a lot) or quality (small portions of the “real thing”)

Why do you eat?

  • For pleasure
  • To relieve stress and anxiety
  • I don’t pay attention and eat mindlessly
  • I enjoy food and the social aspects of eating
  • I eat for healthy nutrition (maybe too much, but healthy foods)

What caused your weight gain?

  • Portions are too large
  • Too much fat and sugar
  • Emotional and stress eating
  • Too much snacking
  • Medications
  • Lack of knowledge about healthy eating

How much weight do you need to lose for improved health?

  • About 10 pounds or less
  • Twenty to 40 pounds
  • More than 50 pounds
  • More than 100 pounds

No matter how much weight you intend to lose, it’s a must to accept that lifestyle change is the foundation of all successful long term weight loss. Sometimes, medications and/or surgery can be added to make the lifestyle easier and more manageable — but not easy. These other tools are adjuncts, not replacements for a healthy lifestyle. Talk to your doctor about weight-loss options. No matter which one you choose, a realistic goal is the best tool for success.

Don’t pick a diet book by its cover. Read about its weight-loss plan. While a snappy title might sound appealing, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Remember that all of the reputable diet books (those not claiming a quick fix) are all variations on the same theme: healthful ways to reduce calorie consumption and increase physical activity. The hardest thing to do is be consistent. A good diet book can be a wonderful resource for this, and give you good ideas when you are feeling challenged.

Support is a must. Whether you join an on-line group, attend support groups, or buddy-up with a friend or relative, keeping that connection is a big factor in staying on track.

Dr. Fernstrom’s Bottom Line: When you make your diet resolutions for 2007, be realistic, and start with knowing yourself and your long term goals. Small, consistent change over time is the key to success, and finding the right strategy takes some self-awareness, commitment, and continuing support.

Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D., CNS,is the founder and director of the An associate professor of psychiatry, epidemiology, and surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Fernstrom is also a board-certified nutrition specialist from theAmerican College of Nutrition.

PLEASE NOTE: The information in this column should not be construed as providing specific medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand their lives and health. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician.