The Medifast Diet

With everything else that you need to keep track of, do you really want to add "counting calories" to your list? If you have better things to count but still need to lose weight quickly, consider the Medifast Diet plan. The packaged food approach to dieting does all the calculations for you and promises that you will lose 2-5 pounds a week.

The Medifast diet was created by Dr. William Vitale in 1980. Initially, he sold his products only to diet doctors, who then resold them to their patients. Over time, this changed into a direct-to-consumer business model driven by a highly functional web site for ordering the meals, although you can still buy Medifast meals through diet doctors.

When you are on the Medifast diet, you eat five pre-packaged Medifast meals a day, plus one meal of your own making. This homemade meal consists of a lean meat or fish plus a salad or green vegetables. They call this their "5 plus 1" plan, where the plus 1 is your "lean and green" homemade meal. You are also required to drink six 12 ounce glasses of water every day.

The beauty of the Medifast plan is that your food intake is tightly controlled for you. You eat between 800 and 1,000 calories a day, which is how the 2-5 pound weight loss happens. This is a pretty strict diet, and is outside the "safe" level for dieting according to the U.S. Government.

You can order your Medifast food from a diet doctor near you, or just use the Medifast web site. Not counting your homemade "lean and green" meals, a month of Medifast food costs about $300 a month. Takes you back to those dormitory meal service plans, doesn't it?

The Medifast food is well balanced, and extremely low in fats and carbohydrates. In addition to your 6 glasses of water, you are allowed non-caloric beverages like tea and diet sodas. The Medifast site warns that you may become more sensitive to caffeine during the diet, so watch your coffee intake.

Life during your Medifast diet will be someone different. You are eating food that you ordered days or weeks earlier. You are drinking A LOT of water (this very low calorie diet will put your body into ketosis, so water is essential). Since you are consuming so few calories, physical exertion will be more difficult and you may feel tired, light headed or achy at first. After several weeks on the diet most people can resume their exercise regime.

Once you have reached your target weight, you begin a 4-week to 4-month transitional period. During this time you taper off your dependence on the Medifast foods and re-introduce regular meals. You continue to limit your calories, but now through portion control and choosing your ingredients wisely.

Have you tried the Medifast Diet? Click on the Comment button and let us know your favorite foods!

Caffeine Plus Exercise Equals Less Cancer

Caffeine doesn’t need a lot of additional promotion. It already has a lot of fans. None the less, new research has discovered that caffeine can help avoid and reduce cancer tumors. No word yet on any extra benefit from frothed milk.

Researchers in New Jersey studied laboratory mice with different levels of exercise and caffeine intake. Mice were divided into four groups. The control group did not receive either caffeine or exercise. A second group received caffeine alone. A third group received caffeine without exercise. The final group received both caffeine and exercise.

The group of mice receiving caffeine without exercise suffered 27% fewer cancerous tumors compared with the control group. When tumors did occur, they were about 60% smaller than tumors in the control group. As an added bonus, these caffeinated mice also lost weight, dropping nearly a third of their fat layer.

The group of mice exercising without caffeine also enjoyed better health. They had 35% fewer tumors than the control group and the tumors that did group were 40% smaller. These hard-working mice had their fat layer drop by nearly two thirds.

The lucky fourth group, receiving both exercise and caffeine, had 62% fewer tumors. The few tumors that did grow were 85% smaller.

Obviously, lab mice and people are not identical. Dr. Yao-Pin Lu, the leader of this research effort did say however, “I believe we may extrapolate these findings to humans.”  His working theory is that exercise and caffeine both act to reduce inflammation and this has a powerful effect on the occurrence and growth of cancerous tumors.

So, the next time you want to something good for your body, find a Starbucks location a few miles from your home. Run over to it, drink a venti cappuccino and run home again. It could be the healthiest thing you do all day!

The Cholesterol Diet

Everywhere we turn, warnings about cholesterol abound. There's even a "bad" cholesterol and a "good" cholesterol. Many people are told by their doctor to lower their cholesterol, but what does that really mean? Here are some elements of a "bad" cholesterol lowering diet. Just to be clear, the cholesterol is bad, not the diet.

When you are told to watch your cholesterol, that usually means that you have high levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in relation to HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and triglycerides. Our LDL cholesterol (yes, the "bad" guy in this drama) should be below 100 mg/dL. Let's just remember the 100 and not worry about the unit of measure, that will just make us crazy. Who has seen a deciliter, anyway? When the doctor starts talking about cholesterol, this LDL number is at least 160 mg/dL.

The "good" or DHL cholesterol should be over 40 mg/dL, but the doctor will start those comments if it falls below that level. Triglycerides (the main form of fat storage in our body) should be below 150 mg/dL with the nagging starting at around 200 mg/dL.

Whew, we got the statistics out of the way. But why do we care about all these numbers? Triglycerides are responsible for hardening of the blood vessels. This is a key trigger for strokes and heart attacks. The LDL cholesterol builds up on our artery walls as little plaques, or disks. When these accumulate, the artery becomes narrow and could even completely block the flow of blood. Not good for whatever body part is being nourished by that artery! The HDL cholesterol fights this build-up and flushes the plaques back into the blood stream, where they can be gobbled up by the liver.

Given that we want to lower our bad cholesterol, what should we eat? The one consistent answer that all doctors give is, "eat oatmeal!" Oatmeal has a lot of soluble fiber that reduces your LDL levels. Simply eating oatmeal for breakfast can make a real difference in your cholesterol levels. Fruits, oats, legumes and barley also contain soluble fiber.

Many nuts (and their oils) are good for cholesterol control. Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, peanuts and pistachios reduce your cholesterol. Don't overdo it, though. These amazing snacks are also high in calories, so just a quarter cup is enough.

Olives, olive oil and avocado are good for the cholesterol diet, too. Olive oil is a great substitute for butter and avoids a mountain of fat. Avocados are rich in HDL cholesterol, ready to do battle with those evil plaques.

A few simple changes can dramatically improve your cholesterol scores. Olive oil or canola oil instead of butter or Crisco in the fry pan can really help. So can using an egg substitute instead of whole eggs. Have a lot of fresh fruit on hand, the nutrition is great and the soluble fiber will flush those LDLs away. Eat fish (especially trout, tuna, salmon, halibut and mackerel) twice a week. The Omega-3 fatty acids are wonderful! If you are craving beef, select the cuts that are the most lean, like sirloin, chuck or round. And remember to trim off the outer fat layer before you cook. And check out the labels on processed meat. The saturated fat content can be stunning.

Hearing "lower your cholesterol" from your doctor is does not mean eating nothing but rice cakes for the rest of your life. Adopting these simple changes can make a huge difference in your cholesterol numbers while you still get to enjoy great meals!

Drink Coffee? Live Longer!

Coffee is a wonderful beverage! It helps us to wake up each morning after staying up too late the night before. Coffee finishes off a good meal. It even helped Seattle avoid bankruptcy (OK, I can't really back that up). New research has found that drinking coffee can actually help you to live longer. Looking good, Juan Valdez!

A recent medical study was commissioned by the National Institutes of Health and AARP. The results of the study were recently published in the prestigious medical journal the New England Journal of Medicine.  This study found a remarkable correlation between drinking coffee and having a lower risk of death. It should be noted that the Starbucks company played no role in the research.

Lead researcher Dr. Neal Freedman studied the medical records of 400,000 American men and women between the ages of 50 and 71. The study began in 1995 and continued to collect participants through 1996. These people were then followed until December 31, 2008.

After collecting all of the results, Dr. Freedman found that coffee drinkers had an increased risk of death compared to people who did not drink coffee. However, coffee drinkers are also more likely to smoke and drink alcohol than non-coffee drinkers. When the impact of smoking and drinking was taken out of the picture, coffee drinkers actually had a LOWER risk of death than non-coffee drinkers.

The researchers did not propose a reason for this unexpected improvement in lifespan. Caffeine, a prime candidate for medical studies, did not seem to be the culprit, because people who drank decaffeinated coffee had the same risk of death as people who drank the real stuff. That left more than 1,000 other components of coffee to consider. A daunting task, and one that was not funded by the original research grant.

Here is what they do know: people who drink coffee have a lower risk of death from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes and infections. People who drank three or more cups of coffee enjoyed about a 10% lower risk of death.

Dr. Freedman stated, "Although we cannot infer a causal relationship between coffee drinking and lower risk of death, we believe these results do provide some reassurance that coffee drinking does not adversely affect health." That is cautious medical-speak for "we don't know why it works, but it does seem to work."

So think of your health the next time you approach the barista and say, "Make it a vente!"

The Fruit Diet

Would you like to lose 9 pounds in 3 days? Do you enjoy fresh fruit? If you answered YES to these questions, then Jay Robb may have the ideal lose-it-quick diet for you. Here is the scoop on the Fruit Diet.

The Fruit Diet (also called the Fruit Flush Diet) is easy to understand. You eat fresh fruit every two hours. Bamm, done, that's it. For three days you don't eat processed foods, complex carbohydrates, starches, alcohol or caffeine. You drink a lot of water, too, at least 12 glasses of pure water every day. Your protein comes from a protein shake that serves as your dinner.

The Fruit Flush Diet is a 3 day weight loss program. On the first day you drink nothing but protein shakes and purified water. For the next 2 days you eat strictly fresh fruit, every two hours, and a dinner of raw, non-starchy vegetables and a protein shake or small serving of lean protein.

All told, you will get about 1,000 calories a day on the Fruit Flush Diet. This is substantially below the government's recommendation of 1,200 calories a day for a safe diet. Without a doubt, fresh fruit is good for you. Fruit alone, however, does not provide the balanced nutrition that you body requires. There is a stark lack of B and D vitamins, minerals, and healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Nearly everyone will lose weight with the Fruit Diet. Unfortunately, most of the weight loss will come from water weight, with lesser amounts from lean muscle and fat. During the diet, your caloric intake is so low that you should not expect to exercise or participate in strenuous activities; you just won't have the energy.

Jay Robb suggests doing the Fruit Flush Diet for 3 days out of each week for 12 weeks, then once or twice a month for life. He says that this will get you "in the best shape of your life" and help you to shape your eating and your thinking for a lifetime of success.

The Volumetrics Diet

One of the lesser-known diets to make the U.S. News Top Diets list is the Volumetrics Diet. This diet doesn't focus on how much you weigh, it focuses on how much your food weighs. Getting away from counting calories can be a freeing experience!

Dr. Barbara Rolls created the Volumetrics Diet to eliminate the feeling of deprivation that comes with many diets. Her diet lets you feel full and satisfied while you lose weight. And as you lose weight you adjust your outlook on food and move to an eating plan that can stay with you for life.

Dr. Barbara Rolls
The Volumetrics Diet divides food into four groups, based on the density of the food.  Density is the weight of something divided by its volume. Category 1 foods are very low density, including fruits and non-starchy vegetables, nonfat milk and clear broths.  Category 2 foods are the starchy vegetables and fruits, most grains and pastas, and lean meats. Category 3 (we're up to medium density here) foods are cheese, not-so-lean meats, most processed foods, bread, and pastries. Category 4 foods are crackers, cookies, butter, chocolate and oils.

The diet allows three meals, two snacks and a dessert. You balance your intake based on the category of foods that you desire. Category 1 foods are so low in calorie density that they're essentially unlimited. Category 4 foods are pretty much diet-busters, so you get very little from that category.

The book "The Volumetrics Weight-control Plan" is an essential part of this diet. You need to look up your meal components to determine their energy density. That can be a real drag for some people. If you didn't enjoy middle school math, pass on this diet. Once you get your favorite foods highlighted in the book, things get a lot easier.

The diet does a good job of pointing you toward foods that will help you lose weight while filling your stomach. You will feel full after dinner. Unfortunately, these low density foods don't have the "staying power" of higher density foods, so you might get hungry before the next meal or snack rolls around.

The Volumetrics Diet is a sensible approach to weight loss. Based on 1,100 to 1,600 calories a day, it will provide gradual, safe weight loss without driving you toward poor nutrition. This is a diet that can stay with you for life, so you won't regain the lost weight the month following your diet.

So, are you good at math and ready to lose some pounds? Give the Volumetrics Diet a try and let us know your results!

The Biggest Loser Diet

So you didn't make it on the TV reality show The Biggest Loser. That's sad, because you would have been a very interesting contestant. As a consolation prize, though, you can still adopt the Biggest Loser Diet. They say that 6 weeks on this diet will have you losing weight, reducing your cholesterol, lowering your blood pressure and reversing diabetes. Here are the details.

Dr. Michael Dansiger and Cheryl Forberg developed the Biggest Loser diet in collaboration with now-famous trainers Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper. Their diet combines a low calorie meal plan and lots of exercise to produce prime-time results.

The Biggest Loser diet uses a pyramid scheme that they label "4-3-2-1." That stands for 4 servings of fruits and vegetables, 3 servings of protein, 2 servings of whole grains and 1 bonus serving. These servings are spread across three meals and two snacks. This helps avoid hunger pangs, as does a real focus on high fiber foods that fill your stomach without contributing many calories. Oh, yes, don't forget to drink 4-6 servings (12 oz each) of water every day, too.

Depending on your current weight, the Biggest Loser book details 1,200, 1,500 or 1,800 calorie meal plans. They recommend multiplying your current weight (in pounds) by seven to arrive at your ideal diet calorie count. In any case, nearly half (45%) of the calories come from cabs, about a third from protein and a quarter from fat. That tantalizing "bonus" serving in the 4-3-2-1 pyramid is your choice of fat, sweets, alcohol or whatever, as long as you don't go over 200 calories.

How will this diet help you? The meal plans have few "bad" fats and a lot of the "good" fats, so your cholesterol should move in the right direction. By increasing your HDL cholesterol, the plaque buildup in your arteries should decline. This will help your blood pressure. By dramatically decreasing your calories while exercising strenuously, your type II diabetes should improve.  All in all, this diet and exercise program has many positives. On the other side, nutritionists have observed that the meal plans are a bit light on some nutrients. That would suggest that you continue to take your multivitamin make sure you include some fish in your protein budget.

Can you lose weight on the Biggest Loser diet? Almost certainly, if you follow the rules. You will be eating fewer calories than you burn, so the weight will come off. Will it come off as quickly as it does on TV? It's unlikely that you will spend as much time working out out as the contestants, or that your personal trainer will have the motivational skills of Jillian or Bob. But if you are dedicated, and your diet buddy is there for support and encouragement, this diet can be a winner.

Have you lost weight on the Biggest Loser diet? Click on that skinny Comment button and tell us your tale!

The Hunter Farmer Diet

Dr. Mark Liponis

It isn't too shocking of an idea: different types of people need different types of diets to lose weight. Dr. Mark Liponis has taken this idea and produced a new diet that he calls the Hunter/Farmer diet. Are you a hunter or a farmer? Here's how to tell.

Dr. Liponis says that there are two kinds of fat: farmer fat and hunter fat. To rid yourself of this fat, you need to tailor your diet to the specific fat you want to lose. Farmer fat is found between your muscle layer and your skin. This is fat you can grab, pinch, cry about, whatever. Hunter fat, on the other hand, is below your muscle layer. This fat invades your body's inner spaces, squeezing your organs.

Dr. Liponsi' book The Hunter/Farmer Diet Solution starts off with a brief quiz to help you discover whether you are a hunter, a farmer, or a blend of both. Based on the results, you then select a diet program.

The Farmer diet is high in carbohydrates and low in fat. The diet recommends numerous smaller meals, rather than three big meals. Dr. Liponis says that Farmers need to worry about cancer, Alzheimer's and autoimmune diseases.

The Hunter diet is quite different. Hunters should only have one or two meals a day. These meals should be high in protein and low in carbohydrates. The doctor recommends watching for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

A Hunter's Plate
So hunters and farmers are somewhat like Jack Sprat and his wife (remember? One could eat no fat and one could eat no lean). The Hunter dines on fish, beef, chicken, beans, nuts and dark chocolate. The Farmer should choose, instead, to eat grains, pasta, bread, potatoes and fruit. The Farmer gets lots of meals every day, but the Hunter gets dessert.

So, now that you know if you are a hunter or a farmer, can you lose weight with this diet? Chances are that you will be eliminating something from your diet based on your farmer/hunter label. That can help cut your calories. Dr. Liponis does recommend some light aerobic exercise, too, but warns that many people work hard to burn a few hundred calories and then reward themselves with some food treat with many more calories. The meal plan from the book can guide you to reduce your caloric intake, and you will be eating a balanced diet as long as you follow their suggestions. Given the relatively thin meal plan chapter, though, you will get bored pretty quickly and want to branch out on your own.

Could this work for you? Are you a hunter or a farmer? Click on that Comment button and let us know what you decided!

The Sacred Heart Diet

The Sacred Heart Diet travels by a number of other names, like the Cleveland Clinic Diet, or the Memorial Hospital Diet. It also looks a lot like the Cabbage Soup Diet, for those who read carefully. None the less, the Sacred Heart Diet has its share of fans and true believers. It is said that you can lose 10-15 pounds in a week. Here's how:

First, you need to make the soup. This soup plays a central role in the diet, so pay attention to the ingredients. You will thank yourself later.  This soup combines stewed tomatoes, three onions, a can of fat-free beef broth, celery, green beans (2 cans), carrots, green peppers and a packet of Lipton instant chicken noodle soup mix. Some people also add cabbage (of course) or mushrooms. Yum! You mix it all together, season to taste, and simmer until everything is tender. Make a big batch, because you are going to need a lot of it.

This is a 7 day crash diet. Every day has different rules, so you won't get bored by the routine, although we make no promises about the soup.

On the first day, you get soup and all the fresh fruit you want. Bananas are prohibited, though. They really hate on bananas. It may be based on the high glycemic index of bananas, or just a childhood incident with a zoo monkey. You are allowed to drink water, unsweetened fruit juice and black coffee or tea.

Day two allows soup and infinite amounts of fresh vegetables.  Between the vegetables in the soup and the fresh veggies on your plate, you will definitely get your greens! You only get water to drink today.

For day three you get (you guessed it!) soup. Plus, you get both fruits and vegetables. And drink at least 8 glasses of water. At this point you are getting pretty well acquainted with the soup. Having a diet buddy may be critical at this point.

On day four you get some more soup, but bananas make a triumphant entry! You get up to three bananas and a glass of skim milk. Woo hoo! This is the party day. Things are definitely looking up.

Day five starts to re-introduce you to meat. You get soup (yay!) and up to 8 tomatoes. Plus you can eat all you want of skinless chicken, extra-lean beef and fish. Life is starting to be worth living again.

Day six continues the road to recovery. You are allowed soup and meat. Period.

Day seven is "taking it home" day. You are allowed soup and brown rice. Complex carbohydrates have returned! Congratulations!

Can this diet work for you? Every hospital, upon discovering that its name is associated with this diet, has issued a stern press release distancing the institution from this diet. It is a crash diet, with extremely low daily calorie content.  You will lose weight quickly, but the weight will rush back just as soon as your discontinue the diet. The nutritive content of most days of this diet fails to meet government guidelines, so your health is truly at risk. There are better diets to be found.

The Perricone Diet

Losing weight is great, but what if you could lose weight AND look younger, too? The Perricone diet promises just that. Dr. Perricone says that you can lose weight, reduce wrinkles and avoid heart disease, just by changing what you eat.

Dr. Nicholas Perricone believes that inflammation can affect your metabolism, your mood, your susceptibility to heart disease and cancer and make you look old before your time. He also markets a series of  products to deal with inflammation in its many forms.

The Perricone Diet is pretty strict. You can't eat a lot of common (and tasty) foods. The list of banned foods includes: alcohol, bread, flour, coffee, cereal, beef, many fruits and their juices, pasta, rice, soda and processed sugar. He wants to you focus on foods high in protein, antioxidants and those wonderful omega-3 fatty acids. That means tuna, trout, halibut, salmon (only wild, never farmed), turkey, eggs, avocados, olives, beans, nuts and green tea. With a diet this restrictive, it only makes sense that he sells over two dozen supplements to take up the nutritional slack.

On the positive side, the Periicone diet prescribes five meals a day. In addition to the normal breakfast, lunch and dinner, the diet requires two snacks. To help control your calorie intake, you must eat all of your proteins before you eat your carbs.

This is another diet that talks about food in terms of its glycemic index. This index refers to the speed with which your body digests the food into glucose. Dr. Perricone believes that blood sugar spikes lead to inflammation, which causes many health problems and aging.

Dr. Perricone is not a man who soft-pedals his point of view. He calls sugar a poison. He says that processed sugar is the number one enemy of good health. It is blamed for inflammation that, among other evil things, damages the collagen in our skin to create wrinkles and puffy bags and sags.

Can the Perricone diet work for you? Dr. Perricone says that merely substituting green tea for coffee can deliver a 10 pound weight loss in six weeks. Eating exclusively from this list of approved foods can make your wallet lose weight, too, and that doesn't consider the cost of his supplements and skin crèmes. Is this for you? Who doesn’t want to lose weight and look years younger? If you've tried the Perricone diet, click on that Comment button and tell us how much younger you look!