Fad diets fight calorie counters

Jennifer Nacin

In the battle of the bulge, determining the most healthy and effective ways to combat weight gain can be unclear.

Diet crazes such as the Atkins diet or low-fat diets have many people losing weight and losing it fast. But even before these diets surfaced, many health-conscious weight watchers counted calorie intakes — and continue to do so today.

Has counting calories become overshadowed by low-fat and low-carbohydrate diets? Is one way better than the other?

Judy Trumpy, dietician for the Thielen Student Health Center, said paths to staying healthy aren’t necessarily found in monitoring calorie intakes and low-carbohydrate or low-fat diets. More likely to work are lifestyle changes that allow individuals to remain healthy and sustain their desired weight.

“I think people are realizing that they can’t just go on a diet and never have to watch what they eat again,” she said. “They’re looking for the simple solution.”

It doesn’t matter whether people are counting their daily calorie intake or on the Atkins diet, they just need to stick to their diet plan permanently, she said. This will help keep the weight off, which Trumpy said can be the hardest part of the weight-loss process.

She stressed making these lifestyle and behavioral changes will contribute more to one’s health than counting calories or briefly committing to certain diets. She said short-term diets will more than likely yield short-term results, but once that individual returns to old habits, there is a chance the weight and level of health will rebound to its previous state.

But Ruth Litchfield, assistant professor of food science and human nutrition, disagreed.

Calories are the bottom line when trying to lose weight and stay healthy at the same time, she said.

Whether one’s diet consists mainly of protein, carbohydrates or fat, the diet ultimately is compiled of calories, she said.

Trumpy said an ideal daily calorie intake would range from 1,800 to 2,500 calories, depending on gender and activity level.

A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in May 2003 compared weight loss results of different diets during a one-year span and found the results of each were quite similar, Litchfield said.

She said this study could lead one to infer that no one diet is better than any other, she said. As long as diets include a healthy menu and become a part of one’s lifestyle, a dieter can keep off the weight and stay healthy, she said.

Allison Snyder, senior in dietetics, said she thinks some people fail when trying to lose weight because they focus on denying themselves certain foods instead of focusing on what they should be eating.

Snyder doesn’t count calories as a way to remain healthy, but she said it’s a good idea for individuals who want to maintain an equilibrium between their energy levels and the amount of calories their bodies needs to generate that energy.

“I think it’s good to know how much energy you expend in a day and how many calories you intake,” Snyder said, “because you want those to equal each other in order to maintain weight.”

Snyder practices intuitive eating, focusing on one’s body and its needs. For example, intuitive eating would recommend individuals only eat when hungry and stop eating when full. She said this system works so well she doesn’t need to count her calorie intake.

Snyder said she does not cut anything out of her regular diet in order to stay healthy. Doing this results in weight loss, but isn’t the healthiest way to lose weight.

Trumpy recommends not cutting out entire food groups in order to lose weight or reach a better state of health.