Term Paper: Weight Watchers Diet System

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[. . .] (Alexander et al.)

The Adkins Diet Plan

Another popular diet trend today is the Adkins Diet, which is vastly different from the Weight Watchers system. This diet plan was founded in 1972 by the now deceased Dr. Robert Atkins, who was a cardiologist and businessman. Atkins developed his diet plan though personal experience losing weight after seeing a photograph of himself in the 1960's which revealed the weight he had gained since his undergraduate college days. His focus in the plan is based on his concern that while people will lose weight and feel fine after dieting in the traditional low-calorie and low-fat methods, these people have decades more to live and will feel hungry for the rest of their lives if they stick to their small-portions diets. Atkins instead promoted a diet which concentrated on cutting carbohydrates instead of calories, which was as controversial then as it is now. (CNN) Atkins is considered to be the model for the high-protein, low-carb category of diets. High-profile supporters of the Adkins diet include Jennifer Aniston. (Nelson)

The Adkins plan does not in any way promote portion control. People are allowed to eat as much food as they want to eat, and as often as they would like to eat, as long as they avoid certain kinds of foods, namely carbohydrates.

Atkins focuses on the theory that it is only carbohydrates that make people fat, and that strict limits on the amount of carbohydrate intake will allow the body to burn fat. (Adriano et al.) Adkins also focuses on high intake levels of protein. Dieters following this plan are encouraged to eat meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, cheese, butter, cream, oil, nuts, some (non-starchy) vegetables, artificial sweeteners. (Adriano et al.) Foods that must be avoided are anything with high carbohydrate content, including breads, pastas, potatoes, sugars and sweets, most fruits and vegetables, alcohol, and caffeine. (CNN, Nelson) This approach to eating went completely against what health care professionals agreed were healthy eating practices at the time it was first introduced, and there remains great controversy over this diet plan. The rationale behind this bizarre (and seemingly illogical) diet plan is that in a controlled carbohydrate intake diet, where a person eats nutrition-dense foods, the dieter is more likely to meet their actual nutritional needs, which promotes good health, than said person would if he or she was attempting to follow a low-calorie and low-fat diet. Theoretically, the prototypical Adkins meal plan, when analyzed by a computer program called Nutritionist V, has been found to meet or exceed the recommended daily intake for almost all vitamins and minerals. The Adkins website claims that there are countless studies that support the idea of this meat-based diet is healthy and will help dieters lose weight. (FAQ)

The scientific reasoning behind the weight loss is a process called lipolysis/ketosis, which simply put means that the body is burning the stored fat and turning it into fuel. When the body has no carbohydrate intake for energy, it turns instead to the fat as a fuel source. (FAQ)

The reasons that this diet plan is so popular are easy to understand. There are three phases of this diet: induction, weight loss, and maintenance (DietSurf, Atkins), which give the dieter a sense of achievement as he or she graduates to the next level and to the increasingly "easy" next step of the diet. The plan is simple, as there are no weighing or measuring out foods. (AA) There are also no prepackaged meals that are essential to the program. (AA, "Diet Comparison") People also enjoy the ability to eat large portions and feel completely full after a meal, and also high-fatty foods, which are often delicious, are not restricted on this diet. Pointblank, Americans like to eat meat and therefore like the Adkins plan.

There are also very fast, easy-to-see, and often dramatic results towards the beginning of the diet. (Nelson)

However, there are many problems with the Adkins diet. The first, and perhaps least of which, is that meat and cheese are often more expensive than fruits and vegetables, which means that this diet can be costly compared to low-calorie diets that focus on eating non-meats. (AA, "Diet Comparison")

Low-carb specialty items, such as breads, are also very pricey.

Second, this diet requires high intakes of meat and other animal products, which makes it completely inaccessible for people following a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, as well as omitting the diet as an option for many of the diets that accompany certain religions. Third, the Adkins diet causes bad breath due to the Ketones in the dieter's system. (FAQ) Fourth, the immediate weight-loss results may give the dieter a false sense of health, while it may not be indicative of long-term benefits. Fifth, many Adkins dieters experience discomforts such as fatigue, headaches, and bowel irritation. (AA, "Diet Comparison") Perhaps these symptoms are indicative of a more serious issue with Atkins: it simply is not healthy.

There are three serious concerns about the nutritional value of the Adkins diet: it is too high in saturated fat, too low in fruits and whole grains, and too low in calcium and fiber. (Adriano et al.)

Gail Woodward-Lopez, the associate director of the Center of Weight and Health at the University of California at Berkeley, commented that like not eating a basic balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and grains, Hepatitis C is also effective in helping people to lose weight, but that neither of them is healthy. (Nelson) The American Dietetic Association says that the weight loss experienced is mainly from water, but that muscle protein may also burn away, including that of the heart. (CNN) The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine warns that the Atkins diet is composed of foods that may increase the risk of colorectal cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease, kidney problems and diabetes complications. (WLI, "Weight Loss Programs") Some may argue that these risks are worthwhile for the overall benefit of reducing obesity, however there are no long-term studies specific to Atkins as of yet, and high fat diets are not associated with health weight maintenance in any long-term studies. Dieters may also find this diet to be restrictive and predictable over any long period of time. Experts say today that if this diet was actually a cure for obesity and heart disease, like it claims to be, then it would have worked when it was introduced in the early 1970's and there would be concrete long-term evidence of success today. (DietSurf, Atkins)

Bibliography

AA. "Atkins Diet." All About Weight Loss and Diet Success. 2003. http://www.aa-lose-weight-loss-diet-plans.com/diets/atkins.html

AA. "Diet Comparison: Weight Watchers VS Atkins." All About Weight Loss and Diet Success. 2003. http://www.aa-lose-weight-loss-diet-plans.com/diet-comparison/weight-watchers-atkins.html

Adriano, Jackie and Tuinen, Van. "Rating the Diet Books." Nutrition Action Healthletter. May, 2000. http://www.findarticles.com/cf_0/m0813/4_27/61931798/p1/article.jhtml?

Alexander, Devin; Barke, Sheri; Rogers, Tori; Ludeke, Kim; Hawley, Karen. "The tale of 4 diets: here's what happened when we put four popular diet programs to a month-long test. Is one plan right for you? Check out the assessments of each diet from our test drivers and our nutrition expert." Muscle & Fitness/Hers. Jan-Feb 2003. http://www.findarticles.com/cf_0/m0KGB/1_4/98607072/p1/article.jhtml

Brierly, Dean et al. "1963: Weight Watchers. (History Of Diets, Part 11)." Men's Fitness. June, 2003. http://www.findarticles.com/cf_0/m1608/6_19/102140881/p1/article.jhtml

CNN. "Diet Guru Dr. Robert Atkins Dead at 72." CNN.COM. April 2003. http://www.cnn.com/2003/HEALTH/04/17/obit.atkins/

DietSurf. "Atkins." Reviews/Articles. January 2004. http://www.dietsurf.com/diet/atkins_diet.htm

DietSurf. "Weight Watchers." Reviews/Articles. January 2004. http://www.dietsurf.com/diet/weight_watchers.htm

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). Atkins Nutritionals. 2004. http://atkins.com/helpatkins/newfaq/index.html

FlexPoints." The Plan: Why Weight Watchers Works. 2004. http://www.weightwatchers.com/plan/flex/index.aspx

Nelson, Rick. "Diet Comparison." The Star Tribune. February 2004. http://www.startribune.com/stories/438/4355221.html

WLI. "Weight Loss Programs." The Weight Loss Institute. 2002. http://www.weight-loss-institute.com/weight_loss_programs.htm

WLI. "Atkins."

The Weight Loss Institute. 2002. http://www.weight-loss-institute.com/atkins_diet.htm

WLI. "Weight Watchers." The Weight Loss Institute. 2002 http://www.weight-loss-institute.com/weight_watchers.htm [END OF PREVIEW]

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