Review by Del Meyer, MD
The other day at the nursing station, I observed the ward clerk reading “Weight Watchers” as she devoured a “Babe Ruth.” … I guess that keeps the scales balanced and the economy moving. It also contributes to the epidemic in America – 50-60% of the population is overweight with 25-33% affected with obesity. We consumed 15% more calories in 1994 than we did in 1970 and today we dine out twice as often. If obesity was an infectious disease, we would call it a national crisis.
Of all the books that cross my desk, there is at least one or two each month about dieting. The “diet industry” is flourishing. But is there really any new information? At one bookstore I counted 107 different diet books. At another there were over 200 titles. It is interesting that as this deluge of new books were filling up the shelves, some “dated” diet books that spoke of revolutionary new medical dietary evidence were now on sale at 10% of their initial listing.
There are number of diet books written by celebrities. These authors are obviously without credentials. However, some of these books are quite basic and meet a need because of a co-author with credentials, e.g., MS, PhD or MD, although the latter group may not always be as knowledgeable as the public assumes.
A brief review of some of these books will describe this self-perpetuating industry. The questions still remain. Are they of value to the overweight Americans? Are they helpful to those with other dietary problems such as hyperlipidemia, coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular disease, hypertension, or diabetes? Do they provide complete lifelong nutritional programs? Do they incorporate exercise and stress management? There are at least three that do.
The Pritikin Diet Programs of Nathan Pritikin have been continued by his son Robert, director of the Pritikin Longevity Center. The current volume, The New Pritikin Program by Robert Pritikin (Pocket Books, $7) is friendlier and more in tune with a lifetime commitment. The results of the first 893 people that participated in the 26-day Pritikin Longevity Center program was published in 1974 and provided a wealth of data which was evaluated by the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at Loma Linda University. The results indicated that 83% of hypertensive people lowered their blood pressure to normal and left the program drug-free; 50% of adult-onset diabetics on insulin left the program free of insulin; 90% of diabetics on oral drugs left free of drugs; 62% of drug-taking angina patients left the center drug free; cholesterol and triglycerides were each lowered an average of 25%; overweight people lost an average of 13 pounds; of the 64 people who were recommended for bypass surgery, 80 % of them had not undergone surgery even five years later. I remember that when Nathan Pritikin presented his data to medical staffs in this community during the mid 1970s, he himself had severe coronary artery disease and was recommended for bypass surgery. He declined and developed this program instead, which reversed his own atherosclerosis. There now have been over 50,000 people treated at the Pritikin centers in the last 15 years. They feel that quick fixes simply don’t work in the long run and one may even worsen the problem. One must address all the factors of health. There is nothing magical. This is truly a proven formula for lifelong success and health.
A couple of years ago, my RN-NP introduced me to The Zone Diet by Barry Sears, PhD. Since then he has written additional volumes, including Mastering the Zone, which I received in the current package of audio tapes (Harper Audio, $25). Dr. Sears gives a very comprehensive nutritional program which is easily put into action. After a discussion of the ill effects of hyperinsulinism, he presents a system of balanced eating so one always remains “in the zone.” If you’re “in the zone” of normal insulin levels one should not have postprandial lethargy. The current presentation seems more complete than what I have encountered in the past. He also states that only in America can one go to a gym and find valet parking. He advises that one should park at the most remote regions of a parking lot and walk. He even suggests that we park our cars about 15 minutes from work to provide at least 15 minutes of exercise every morning and every evening. He sees no need to buy exercise equipment or join a gym or pay to exercise. As physicians we have people run in place for a two minute exercise pulse in an eight foot exam room. Americans have a hard time thinking that anything happens unless they spend money. Much of the world feels we have too much of that. I found his system very easy to follow and quite effective.
Eating Well for Optimum Health by Andrew Weil, MD, (Knopf, $25) is a very comprehensive guide to food, diet, and nutrition. As a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Arizona, and director of the Program in Integrative Medicine, he speaks with authority and writes in textbook fashion. However, it is very readable. He presents the basic facts about human nutrition which allows us to make informed decisions about weight reduction. He gives us the pros and cons about a number of diets. He’s seen fad diets come and go and then, sometimes, come again and go again. He gives pointers on how to read labels on food products. He provides menu plans, recipes, and guidance for eating at home or in restaurants. In accord with his previous volumes, he gives dietary advice for a host of common ailments.
DIETS DON’T WORK by Bob Schwartz, PhD, Breakthru Publishing, Houston, Texas, Third Revised Edition, 149 pp, $12.95 © 1996, by Bob Schwartz, PhD, ISBN: 0-942540-16-6.
Review by Del Meyer, MD
Schwartz says that he personally never had a weight problem, until he decided to experiment with his own weight and diets to understand his clientele. Thereafter, the weight problem developed.
He tried one of the popular diets of the day. Losing weight was easy initially. With his first diet, he felt as though his body told him it didn’t like what was happening. But after one week, he had lost eleven pounds. When he went off the diet, he regained the weight he had lost. So he had an excuse to try another of the 26,000 diets floating around.
Diets Don’t Work
But with every successive diet, it took longer to get the weight off. After every diet, the weight came back quicker and quicker. Thus, he surmised that people couldn’t wait to get off of their diets and resume normal eating. Consequently, they regained their weight. Schwartz tells how between the ages of thirty and forty, he personally lost over 2,000 pounds using successive diets. But he also regained 2,001 pounds. Keeping it off wasn’t easy. So he concluded that Diets Don’t Work.
DIETS STILL DON’T WORK by Bob Schwartz, PhD, Breakthru Publishing, Houston, Texas, 202 pp, $9.95 © 1990, by Robert M. Schwartz, ISBN: 0-942540-04-2.
Review by Del Meyer, MD
The Really Bad News
One day as he was looking through the monthly weight and measurement files in his health clubs, he ran across an old record of one of his members who had been dieting and exercising for 20 years. Comparing her present day records with those of 20 years earlier, he discovered that her present day weight and measurements were bigger than when she had first started dieting and exercising. An idea began to form in his head.
Some people go to a health club to gain weight. What would happen if he were to put underweight people on the same diet that overweight people were on to lose weight? Would they also gain weight?
The program was a hit. He found many volunteers and they all gained weight.