Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Pritikin Diet Plan

I went on the Pritikin Diet Plan back in 1978 and lost weight. It does work, but in view of what he have learned since then, is it still workable? And moreover, is it healthy?

Well, yes and no. A high fiber diet is a good idea. But ultra-low fat is not really practical, and some would say not good for you. The plan, however, has been revised over the years, as Mr. Pritiken died and his son took over the business. And a business it is. Bear that in mind.

Did I lose weight? Yes. Did I keep it off? No. Because I did not learn any lifelong habits from the book. Was that my fault or the book's? Hard to say. Overall, I would say the best thing is to learn how to eat normally, not to follow some diet guru or fixed plan, because gurus can be wrong - very wrong (see my article on Adkins) and fixed plans give you little or no flexibility.

At the time, I was about 230 pounds, which was overweight for my size, and perhaps borderline obese. Using the plan, I was able to lose weight - down to 180 pounds. But it was not a workable everyday plan for me, and moreover, once I lost weight, I lost the incentive to keep it off, and went back to a lot of bad old habits and gained it all back - and then some.

What I didn't realize at the time was that there is a difference between "dieting" and managing your diet. The former is a sometime thing, the latter, a lifelong commitment. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you have to lose weight slowly and be prepared to maintain your weight loss over time. Otherwise, forget about it - Yo-yo-ing not only doesn't work, it usually results in wild weight swings that are not healthy.

Using what I read in the Pritikin literature at the time, I would make diet choices like eating a salad for lunch - with nothing but a squeezed lemon as dressing. High in fiber, but utterly lacking in calories, protein or fat. I was starving myself. Yes, I would lose weight, but I would also feel dizzy, hungry, and not well. Once I reached my weight goal, I went back to my old eating habits with predictable results.

Some say the Pritikin plan promotes a low fat, high carbohydrate diet, which is not really healthy (See my article Fat does not make you fat). Again, going to extremes is not necessary for a balanced diet. So why do diet gurus sell extremism? Because it sells. People won't pay money for common-sense advice like "eat less" or "count your calories" or "measure your portions" or "get more exercise". They already know that. They want to hear unorthodox advice, preferably something that tells them they can eat all they want and still lose weight.

I had a boss who did this. A client once asked him for tips on drafting a Patent Application. Most people write the Specification first and then draft claims. He suggested drafting the claims first and then the Specification. Good advice? Yes and No. But the main thing was that it was unorthodox and made the client say "Hey, that's pretty clever!" The advice I would have given, as a down-in-the-trenches guy who actually was writing the applications, would be more mundane, not memorable, and not unusual.

So, if you want to make a million dollars writing a diet book, you have to come up with something catchy and different, like "eat only meat"or "eat no fat" or "eat no carbs" or whatever. Extremes sell, not common-sense advice.

Nathan Pritikin died a number of years back, and his son Robert Pritikin has taken over the mantle from his Father. Robert has changed the diet program, perhaps for the better. However as this Amazon review notes, one aspect of the new plan is to "fight" your instinct to eat fat. As I have noted in other blog entries, fat does not make you fat. In fact, fat is an essential part of your diet - in moderation of course.

And fighting your instincts is bad idea, in my book. Rather than "fight your instinct", eat fat - as part of a balanced meal in proper proportions. Learn portion control, learn a balanced diet. You will likely have more long-term success at such a modest goal, rather than an all--or-nothing all-out war with your own brain (and guess who will win that battle?).

The diet gurus who sell books and run programs and spas make money from these diet plans. And they want you to believe there is some sort of "secret" to losing weight, when in fact the "secret" is well known to everyone and in fact is published for free on government websites.

In a way, it is similar to the financial gurus. They want to sell you books, DVDs, or have you pay to go to a seminar - to learn the "secrets" of money management.

But the secret is no big secret - spend less than you make, and you will accumulate wealth. Spend more than you make, and you will accumulate debt.

The "Secret" to losing weight is to gradually lose weight by consuming a little bit less than you burn, in terms of calories. Everything else is just bullshit. Low fat, low carbs, low this, low that, all meat, all vegetable, all the "just do this" or "don't do that" extremist fad diets are crapola with a capital Crap.

This is not to say you can't benefit from some of the ideas in the Pritikin plans (Father's or Son's) or that you won't lose weight with them - or at their spas. But whether it is a sustainable weight loss plan is debatable. And the idea of paying money to lose weight, I think is fundamentally flawed. Paying more to consume less is just foolish. Anyone can lose weight simply by consuming a reasonably portion of food and not running a constant calorie surplus.

This blog is free. I have not even "monetized" this site by adding ad space. All the information I have obtained was freely available on the web, or available for free in a library book. You can lose weight, and you need not pay a penny. Do the research, monitor your intake, count those calories. It will work.

March 8, 2010 239.8 lbs. Back down again.

English Muffin: 130
Morningstar Farms puck: 80
Coffee 5
Total: 225

Pizza Slice (Arte Pizza, eggplant) est. 409
Side Salad est. 170, with dressing
Total: 579

Snack: pretzel sticks: 120
Deviled Eggs 290
Gin & tonic 180
Martini 140
Wine - 2 glasses 180
Ham 4 slices 178
Potato salad 1 cup 358
2 biscuits 256
Total: 1702

Total: 2506 (!!!!!) Death by Potato Salad

Disclaimer: Before going on any diet or exercise program, consult your Doctor for advice specific to your condition and needs. The entries in this blog reflect my own personal philosophies about weight loss, diet, eating habits, and exercise and reflect my experiences in losing weight. They are not intended as instructions on health, exercise, or medicine for others. The author assumes no responsibility in any way for misuse of the materials provided herein.