Diet :: A heart healthy approach to a diet

If you’re interested in a “no-fad diet” just go online and type in your search terms. You’ll find any number of miracle formulas — all 100 percent natural, 100 percent safe and guaranteed to melt body fat and trim inches — even while you sleep! And all claiming to be “no-fad diets.”

Another option is to go to your local book store and purchase the American Heart Association’s new diet book, “No-Fad Diet: A Personal Plan for Healthy Weight Loss.” Written by Dr. Robert Eckel, president of the AHA, the book promotes permanent, gradual weight loss through a healthy diet and lifestyle.

The fad diets that are promoted on television and in book stores are bound to gain converts quickly because they offer rapid results with minimal effort. On the positive side, they motivate individuals to get started. Lose 10 pounds the first week, and you start running figures through your head and imagining yourself as the thin, fit person you want to be. That’s an important first step.

Unfortunately, the early excitement usually fades when pounds start coming off more slowly — or even creeping back on. “Gimmicks and get-thin-quick schemes don’t work,” states the AHA book. That’s why, over the long haul, fad diets are not the answer.

The AHA no-fad diet is based on three simple concepts:

1. Think smart.
Losing weight is not an exercise of sheer will power but requires a rational plan based on your individual needs and behaviors. Goals should be realistic and attainable — losing one or two pounds a week — and they should focus on bringing about long term changes in the habits that contributed to weight gain.

2. Eat well.
Losing weight involves taking in fewer calories than you expend. In doing so, you should be sure you’re meeting your nutritional requirements, and that means making sensible food choices. Switching from two percent to skim milk will shave a certain number of calories from your diet every day — and will reduce your risk of heart disease. Switching from fatty to lean cuts of meat and grilling rather than frying them also will eliminate calories and grams of fat, making you healthier as well as lighter.

3. Move more.
Exercise not only helps use up excess calories but speeds your metabolism and keeps the body fit and strong. Most authorities now recognize physical activity is the key to lasting weight loss, as well as overall good health.

The AHA book is reader friendly with recipes and menus to illustrate the basic principles. It offers practical suggestions for occasions when you’re most tempted to revert to old habits — such as social gatherings or visits to fast food places.

The biggest hurdle for most Americans is motivation. Fad diets don’t work over the long term, as Dr. Eckel suggests but are well marketed. The task of the AHA is to be equally effective in selling the heart-healthy approach.

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