Archive for Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Resolute dieting at year’s end not as easy as you might like

December 27, 2006

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One of the most popular - and least successful - New Year's resolutions has to do with eating and its consequences. This would be the pledge, solemnly muttered on the bathroom scale after the holidays, to lose weight. For some people, the resolution to diet is accompanied by a vow to embark on a fitness program.

So it will be that millions of Americans will take stock of their lives this week and decide that the happier, more successful version of themselves would be 30 pounds thinner and have better muscle tone. Never mind that millions of Americans make thesame resolution year after year and still end up dissatisfied with their eating and exercise habits and the bodies they produce.

This is what we do. It's a treadmill that never stops but never permanently grants us our wish. Many of us believe we should be able to control our body shape and size, just as we can achieve any other goal in our lives, if we just try hard enough and make the appropriate sacrifices. Commanding our individual destinies is the American way.

As a person whose weight waxes and wanes with the best of them, I know this routine by heart. The solution to the problem is fairly simple, namely reasonable portion sizes, moderate consumption of processed sugar and complex carbs, and 30 to 45 minutes of aerobic exercise four times a week. Anyone who follows those general guidelines faithfully will lose weight gradually and keep it off.

The problem is that many people require the structure of a diet to lose weight. Now that the low-carb fad has faded, the trend seems to be moving toward so-called Mediterranean or wine country diets, which incorporate olive oil, fruits and vegetables into the regimen. One of the most popular, the Sonoma Diet, has been around about a year. A cookbook tailored to its menus was published this month.

A diet that my husband's physician recommended as a way to realign his cholesterol numbers is not likely to become part of a New Year's resolution at my house. This would be the hunter-gatherer diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, olives and nuts, and puts the kibosh on processed foods and rice, potatoes, pasta and bread. The sticking point for my husband has been the prominent mention in the literature of fish and poultry, his two least favorite meats.

Moreover, to underscore the diet's reliance on lean meats, wild fowl and deer, bison and elk are listed as options. Whether a person likes these meats or not, people don't eat them routinely, unless they happen to have a freezer full of game. On top of the fish and chicken thing, this makes the diet seem imposing from the outset.

As I've researched this particular diet, which has been around awhile, it has a lot in common with the carb-restricted and Mediterranean diets in that it discourages processed sugars and complex carbs and emphasizes the good carbs and healthy fats. Variously referred to as the Paleolithic Diet, the Stone Age Diet and the Cave Man Diet, this particular regimen purports to transport us back to the pre-agriculture dining options available to our ancestors as they evolved.

According to several advocates of the diet, these are the foods that we are genetically coded to eat. It's a return-to-nature thing. In addition, our Paleo forebears who ate this way didn't suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

The big-game angle may appeal to some dieters, who wouldn't be drawn to another diet. In the end, it's just another take on the same general approach to losing weight and eating healthier.

- When she's not writing about foods and gardening, Gwyn Mellinger is teaching journalism at Baker University. Her phone number is (785) 594-4554.

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