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Forgo the fads

Published January 30, 2007


Having a hard time shedding those extra holiday pounds? Ready to pick up the latest "guaranteed" weight-loss book? Don't bother, suggests registered dietitian Jessica Bruzzichesi, a certified lifestyle and weight management consultant.

Most "pop culture" diets are simply old diets that are "packaged differently with sexy, intriguing titles" designed to appeal to the American obsession with wanting results yesterday, says Bruzzichesi pronounced brews-ee-KAY-zee.

"The majority of pop diet books are based on unfounded or junk science," added the Bayfront Medical Center dietitian. Typical of these, she said, are the Atkins and Eat Right 4 Your Type diets.

The South Beach diet, she said, at least makes a distinction between the different types of carbohydrates.

The recently popular low-glycemic diets, which purport to promote weight loss through reducing insulin fluctuations in the body, are just another crack at breaking the weight-loss code.

"The research is still very new in this area," Bruzzichesi said, without scientific proof that insulin promotes weight gain.

Most fad diets restrict caloric intake to 1,200 to 1,400 calories per day. "Anyone can lose weight on that," Bruzzichesi said.

The real issue is whether one can sustain such a low caloric intake for long periods.

In addition, said Bruzzichesi, "Scientists do not know the long-term effects of many fad diets, leading to the question: Is it worth risking your long-term health to be thin?"

Researchers do know that lack of fiber, vegetables and fruit can contribute to colon and prostate cancer, and an excess of red meat, a staple of some low-carb diets, can lead to heart problems.

Many diets also eliminate complex carbohydrates, the so-called "good" carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These provide essential nutrition for the body in the form of vitamins, minerals, fiber and potential cancer-fighting phytochemicals.

So how does one lose weight?

The best way, Bruzzichessi says, is through behavior modification that incorporates eating less and moving more. And there must be a commitment to changing behavior.

She advocates doing it "right" the first time through, incorporating healthful behavior in your lifestyle.

Unfortunately, our society does not make it easy.

The environment in which most of us spend our days is saturated with high-fat foods:

- Think of the doughnuts and cakes brought to meetings, or the high-fat, high-calorie, high-sodium snacks we consume while watching TV.

- Consider also the advertising and promotion of convenience foods, fast food and restaurants. With so many parents working longer hours, drive-through meals at a fast-food franchise have replaced wholesome, home-cooked ones.

"If you're eating out more than once or twice a week you're going to have an uphill weight-loss problem," Bruzzichesi says. "And children who eat four or more fast-food meals a week have a 50 percent greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease."

For permanent and healthful weight loss, Bruzzichesi advises her clients to begin by making small changes. A decrease of 500 calories per day for a week will lead to a 1-pound loss.

She suggests that her clients cut 200 calories of food - this could be as simple as eliminating 1 tablespoon of butter or salad dressing - while burning 300 calories more through moving more.

Walking, gradually working up to 10,000 steps per day, is the easiest and best way to incorporate exercise into a lifelong weight-loss/maintenance plan, she says.

Nancy Paradis can be reached at (727) 893-8342 or

1820 Vinegar and Water diet

Made popular by Lord Byron, but there's anecdotal evidence diluted vinegar was used by ancient Egyptians. Scientists say the acetic acid in vinegar may help the body but it won't "burn off" weight .

1825 Low-Carbohydrate Diet

Now considered a dieting truism, the theory first appeared in The Physiology of Taste by Jean Brillat-Savarin.

1830 Graham's Diet

Nicknamed "Dr. Sawdust" as creator of the original - and less tasty - Graham cracker, the Rev. Sylvester Graham said gluttony led to "sinful" sexual practices, constipation and indigestion. His regimen: "pure" food and brown bread.

1917 Calorie counting

Introduced by Dr. Lulu Hunt Peters in Diet and Health, With a Key to the Calories. Her daily diet had a 1,200-calorie limit, and she advocated chewing each bite 32 times.

1925 The Cigarette Diet

"Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet"- promoted by the tobacco company that manufactured Lucky Strikes. Now, those trying to quit smoking find they eat, instead.

1972 Diet Revolution

Dr. Robert Atkins advocates plenty of meat and fat; carbohydrates are banned.

1930 Dr. Stoll's Diet Aid

First of the liquid diet drinks, this "meal substitute" slimming powder goes on sale in beauty parlors.

1934 Bananas and skim milk diet

Backed by the United Fruit Co., which had a lot of bananas to sell.

2006 Maple syrup diet

Features a syrup-lemon drink.

2004 Coconut diet

Fats replaced with coconut oil, which proponents claim is rich in the fatty acids the body burns for energy, leading to weight loss.

1950 Cabbage soup diet

Eat-all-you-want diet; flatulence was the main result, with any weight loss due to the soup's lack of calories.

1970 Sleeping Beauty diet

Individuals were heavily sedated for several days.

1950 Grapefruit Diet

High-protein diet requires you to eat a lot of bacon - yep - plus a half grapefruit daily, but prohibited carbohydrates and limited coffee.

1964 Drinking Man's diet

Era of alcohol-friendly low-carb regimens, such as The Drinking Man's Diet and Martinis and Whipped Cream. Harvard School of Public Health declared these unhealthful.

1978 The Scarsdale Diet

Dr. Herman Tarnower published this high-protein regimen, limited to just 700 calories daily. His murder by his lover in 1980 was made into a 2005 movie starring Ben Kingsley and Annette Bening.

1981 The Beverly Hills Diet

Diet counselor Judy Mazel published this title, claiming no weight would be gained if foods are properly digested - including abundant quantities of pineapples, mangoes and papayas, consumed on a rotating schedule.

1986 Rotation diet

Rotating number of calories taken in from week to week.

1996 Eat right for your type

Diet based on blood type.

2003 The South Beach Diet

Published by Miami doctor Arthur Agatston, this moderate diet falls midway between the low-fat, high-carb regimens of mainstream nutritionists and the low-carb, high-protein Atkins diet.

2005 Cheaters diet

Cheating on the weekends is required, as a reward; many nutritionists snort at this idea.

1960 Zen Macrobiotic diet

Created by Japanese philosopher George Ohsawa; briefly, it promoted organic grains and produce, and the less processing of foods, the better.

Source: American Dietetic Association, Los Angeles Times

Fast Facts:

Diet myths debunked

Carbs are bad.

Not all of them. Complex carbs - vegetable, fruits and whole grains - are nutritionally necessary. Simple carbs - white sugar, white flour, juices - have no nutritional value.

Eating after 7 p.m. promotes weight gain.

It's not when you eat, but what and how much. If you reach your daily calorie requirement by 3 p.m., anything you eat after that translates to weight gain.

Eating salads is a good way to lose weight.

This is true only if you skip the high-fat, high-calorie dressings, cheeses and meats, etc.

For free nutrition, diabetes and weight management information, go to

For calorie counts of some favorite restaurant and fast foods, go to

For healthier kids and families, go to, and

[Last modified January 30, 2007, 06:37:01]

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