- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 2, 2000

There are no quick fixes when it comes to permanent weight loss, says Wahida Karmally, a registered dietitian and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

Ms. Karmally urges people to avoid plans that eliminate certain foods, such as a strict low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet. Instead, she urges them to look at their entire diet and find ways they can make small changes pay off.

"If you eat a bagel with cream cheese every day, for instance, change to whole-grain cereal with skim milk," she says. "Just doing something like that, saving 100 calories a day, will result in 10 pounds in a year.

"I always say, 'Keep track of what you are eating,' " Ms. Karmally says. "Your diet may have too many calories and not enough nutrients. If you keep track of your diet, you will begin to understand how many calories you are taking in. Often, we put food in our mouths without thinking."

Dr. Denise Bruner, an Arlington doctor and the president of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians, agrees that gimmicks won't lead to permanent weight loss.

"On fad diets, you might lose weight for a period of time, but the weight will come back when you resume normal eating," she says. "A diet has to be a lifestyle plan, not a short-period-of-time plan.

Because many people look at diets as quick fixes rather than permanent solutions, most regain two-thirds of the weight they lost within a year, Dr. Bruner says.

More than 55 percent of Americans are overweight, acc-ording to U.S. government estimates. At any given time, 33 to 40 percent of women in this country and 20 to 24 percent of men are trying to lose weight.

That's a lot of dieters who are often taking the wrong approach.

"The best way to lose weight is to eat a balanced, lower-calorie diet, restrict refined carbohydrates such as cookies and other sweets, and increase your physical activity," Dr. Bruner says.

One doesn't even need to be an athlete to boost metabolism. Even 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week is enough to burn additional calories, she says.

Ms. Karmally advises making use of the government food pyramid, which says to make fruits, vegetables and whole grains the foundation of a healthy diet. Nonfat dairy products, soy products such as tofu, beans, chicken, fish and lean meats in moderation will provide adequate protein. The food pyramid and Ms. Karmally both say to avoid oils and sweets, too.

"Think of ways you would enjoy eating," she says. "That is the only way to stay on a diet."

Dieters should pay attention to portion size, too, Ms. Karmally says. Most Americans misjudge the size of a serving of pasta or meat, says registered dietitian Elizabeth Ward, another ADA spokeswoman.

A serving of meat should be about 3 ounces, or the size of a deck of cards or a computer mouse; a half-cup of fruit, vegetables or pasta is about the size of a small fist; a cup of milk, yogurt or salad greens is about the size of a hand holding a tennis ball; and an ounce of cheese is the size of your thumb.

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