Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about dieting. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.



Q: Why do we limit caffeine on our Diet Center Programs?
A: Caffeine acts as a mild stimulant to the central nervous system and acts as a diuretic resulting in possible fluid loss. For some people, caffeine can speed the heart rate temporarily and increase stomach acid. Caffeine can also cause headaches, insomnia and anxiety. The reason we limit caffeine in our programs, besides the reason above, is because people tent to use coffee or colas in place of better sources of nutrition such as milk, juice or water. Our protocol is put in place to not only help you lose weight but also to teach you about an overall healthy lifestyle.

Q: How does Olestra affect the body and should we allow our clients to use products made with it?
A: Olestra, the new replacement for conventional fat in some snack foods, is not toxic or carcinogenic and is not absorbed nor metabolized by the body. Olestra was approved by the FDA on January 25,1996. It is associated with gastrointestinal tract symptoms such as cramping or loose stools and studies show that Olestra does inhibit the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). The FDA is requiring that further studies on the affects of Olestra on humans be conducted. We do not recommend clients consume the snack products (such as the "WOW" products) made with Olestra during their reducing and stabilization phases simply due to the fact that these type of snack products are not part of our program. These snacks, whether they contain fat or not, are still considered a snack that is not nutrient dense or nutrient rich. Snack foods, whether they contain Olestra or not, should not take the place of a healthy diet. If you crave snack foods don't overlook the snack products Diet Center has available. These products are easy for you to fit right into your program. If you are on maintenance you can use the products if you choose but be careful, these snacks are fat-free not calorie-free and moderation is the key. Hopefully during your reducing phase we have taught you how to choose more nutrient dense snack foods!

Q: Can sugar be part of a healthy diet and weight loss program?
A: Yes, sugar in moderation can be part of a healthy diet and weight loss program. The US Food Guide Pyramid encourages consumers to have the smallest portion of their energy derived from fats, oils and sugar (top of the pyramid). Diet Center follows these recommendations from the Food Guide Pyramid. All carbohydrates we consume, whether they are complex carbohydrates or simple sugars are broken down into the simplest sugars (glucose, galactose and fructose) in the body during digestion. Therefore complex carbohydrates, as well as, simple sugars affect blood sugar. Getting your carbohydrates from mostly starchy foods or complex carbohydrates is recommended because they usually supply vitamins, minerals and perhaps fiber and they are more nutrient dense than foods made with mostly sugar.

Q: I've been working on reducing the fat in my diet. Is low-fat milk (2 percent) a good choice in the dairy category?
A: Compared to whole milk, yes. Compared to skim milk, no. Whole milk contains 8.2 grams of fat and 150 calories per 8 fluid ounces; low fat milk has 4.7 grams of fat and 120 calories; and skim milk, your best bet, wins with 0.4 grams of fat and 86 calories.

Q: My fiancee is a vegetarian, and she believes it is important to combine foods at the same meal to get adequate protein. Is she right?
A: The protein in any single plant food is incomplete; that is, it contains fewer of the building blocks of protein (amino acids) than animal foods. You don't have to worry about combining foods at each meal, however. You'll get enough protein from a plant-based diet when you eat a variety of foods on a daily basis.

Q: In the next few months, I'll be doing a lot of traveling by car. I know that many of my restaurant choices will be fast food. What can I do to keep a harness on my calories?
A: Luckily, fast food restaurants now offer healthier options. You can choose from salads (use lemon juice or request a low-calorie dressing), grilled chicken sandwiches, baked potatoes without toppings, and fresh fruit. If pizza is your only choice, limit the fat and calories by choosing the plain cheese pizza with vegetables (onions, peppers and mushrooms, for example), rather than pizza topped with high-fat processed meats. More places are offering roasted chicken. Watch the amount you order and be sure to remove the skin before eating, or you'll end up with a high-fat item. Also, don't be afraid to ask for nutrition information to help you make your decisions.

Q: With Halloween coming soon, I am in a quandary. When I buy candy for the trick-or-treaters, I end up gorging on it. Any suggestions?
A: Depending on your level of control, here are three suggestions: You can be nonfood Halloween treats like gift certificates to area restaurants; colorful pencils; erasers shaped like ghosts, bats, pumpkins and witches; pencil sharpeners; or stickers. Another idea is to buy candy that's not your favorite. If you think you can handle it, buy the candy you usually buy no more than two days in advance and allow yourself one piece per day. Sometimes allowing yourself the candy takes away the desire for it.

Q: I am trying to follow a healthier diet, but my real problem is lunch. I need some ideas beyond a sandwich.
A: Revitalize your lunches by taking nonfat yogurt and fruit; raw vegetable salads with chunks of chicken; nonfat or 1 percent cottage cheese with raw vegetables or fruit pieces; brown rice salad with chicken chunks; vegetables marinated in nonfat salad dressing served with pita bread; or cold cooked pasta with pieces of raw or cooked vegetables seasoned with nonfat salad dressing. Be sure to keep your cold foods cold!

Q: I have a nagging sweet tooth. Are there any lowfat choices that are satisfying?
A: There certainly are. The following contain 0-3 grams of fat per serving: angel food cake, animal crackers, graham crackers, ginger snacks, vanilla wafers and sherbet. Remember, although low in fat, these foods do contain calories, so if you're watching your weight, be sure to limit the amount you eat.

Q: My 4-year-old daughter does not like vegetables. How can I make sure she is not missing out on important vitamins?
A: Vegetables are important sources of vitamins, particularly vitamin A and vitamin C. Many children dislike unfamiliar foods. When giving vegetables to children, put a small amount on the plate. Don't make a fuss if the child won't eat it--it often takes multiple exposures for a child to try something new. In addition to continuing to expose your child to cooked vegetables, try serving them raw. Some children will eat raw but not cooked carrots. You might also try to include fruits during the day. Citrus fruits provide vitamin C, and yellow fruits such as cantaloupe, peaches and apricots are good vitamin A sources. Whatever you do, don't offer dessert as a reward for eating vegetables. Studies show that this type of bribery increases the liking of dessert and decreases the liking of vegetables.

Q: I need to lose weight, and I heard that the herb, ma huang, can help. I had never heard of it and wondered if the information is true.
A: The active factor is ma huang is ephedrine. A potent herb for relieving nasal congestion, ma huang acts as a strong nervous system stimulant. Despite claims to the contrary, there is no evidence that it is either safe or effective for weight loss. The herb does cause some undesirable side effects: increased blood pressure, palpitations, nervousness, headache, insomnia and dizziness. Persons with heart conditions, high blood pressure, diabetes and thyroid disease should avoid this herb. No herb has been shown to help people lose weight. But some herbs are effective digestive aids, laxatives, and diuretics.

Q: A friend urges me to eat food I don't want. What can I do?
A: The best way to handle these uncomfortable situations is directly and assertively. First describe the other person's behavior directly, then express your feelings calmly. Finally, ask for a specific change: "You're pushing me to eat what I don't want. I feel uncomfortable because I'm working on my eating habits and I'm very committed to this goal. Pleases help me by supporting my decision not to eat that food."

Q: How can I follow my eating plan in restaurants?
A: Make sure you are not ravenous when you arrive at the restaurant. have a snack before you leave. Be the first in your group to order--to avoid being influenced by someone else's choice. Ask for salad dressings, sauces, and gravies to be served on the side. Choose foods that are broiled, grilled, roasted and steamed instead of fried. Enjoy rolls and breads without butter. Steer clear of alcohol--it's high in calories and may impair your self-control. Finally, eat slowly and enjoy the food, the people and the conversation!

Q: I need some quick, low-fat snacks for my children.
A: Try popcorn prepared in a hot air popper. Add a small amount of margarine (1 tablespoon for four cups) to help other seasonings like chili powder, garlic powder, and onion powder stick to the popped kernels. For a hearty snack, fill a pita pocket with chopped vegetables and season with a low-fat dressing. Stock your pantry and refrigerator with whole-grain crackers, unsweetened fruit juices, fresh fruits and vegetables and low-fat cheeses.

Q: I heard that you need to eat fat to feel satisfied. Is this true?
A: Because the fat takes longer to digest that protein or carbohydrate, nutritionists used to think it was more satisfying. But recent studies show that, overall, carbohydrate satiates better than fat. Preliminary studies suggest that people who have trouble regulating their body weight may actually be relatively insensitive to the satiety value of fat.

Q: Can I really prevent heart disease by drinking alcohol?
A: Although alcohol may raise HDL (good) cholesterol, research shows that moderate use of alcohol may indicate other lifestyle-habits--such as effective stress management or good nutrition--that can reduce the risk of heart disease. Also, there are different types of HDL cholesterol: HDL-1, HDL-2, and HDL-3. Alcohol seems to increase HDL-3, which plays no proven role in protecting against heart disease. Finally, the amount of alcohol claimed to raise HDLs can contribute to liver damage and blood pressure problems. Exercise is a more effective way to increase HDLs.

Q: My 70-year old mother complains that she has trouble digesting foods. Can this be possible?
A: With age, the stomach excretes less acid. Also, about 50 percent of older adults have athropic gastritis--stomach inflammation characterized by pain, tenderness and nausea. Decreased enzymes in the intestine and reduced surface area of the intestine (another characteristic of age) affect nutrient absorption and intestinal movement. Medications can also have a negative effect on the digestive tract. Now, more than ever, your mother's good health depends on eating a nutritious diet and drinking eight glasses of water a day.

Q: I just lost 25 pounds, and am very pleased with my accomplishment. But I'm scared that I might gain the weight back. What can I do?
A: Losing weight is just part of the story. Keeping it off can be a much greater challenge. The first three months of maintaining weight loss are critical. The way you handle things during this time will provide a window to how you'll fare in the future. To keep yourself on the maintenance track, set boundaries that--once nudged-- will help you get back to your healthy-eating style. You might limit yourself to a weight gain of three pounds; feeling comfortably full instead of stuffed after meals; or being able to wear a snug piece of clothing. Also, plan ahead for high-risk situations--such as being bored, stressed or confronted with social situations. If you have a plan for how to handle these times, you increase your chances of experiencing success in dealing with them. You might make a list of alternate activities to attack when you're bored; learn how to relax to reduce stress; or plan what you eat throughout the day to accommodate social activities. Last, maintain some form of regular exercise. Studies consistently support that people who incorporate exercise into their lives increase their chances of maintaining weight they lose. At Diet Center, we offer a 1-year maintenance program to give clients the tools, skills, and support they need to successively manage their new weight and eating style.

Q: I recently heard that iron is related to heart disease. Could you please clarify this?
A: Researchers recently completed a study in Finland that supported the concept that people with high amounts of iron in their diets and their bodies might be at increased risk of heart disease. The notion that iron promotes heart disease continues to be an unproved hypothesis. Since researchers completed the Finnish study, research conducted in the United States, Scotland and Finland has not confirmed the original Finnish findings. Therefore, the overall body of evidence does not support an association between iron status and heart disease.

Q: What is the best way to get rid of cellulite?
A: As cells between the strands of fibrous tissue directly beneath the thighs fill with fat, they bulge and produce fat dimples known as cellulite. Because cellulite relates to child bearing, it's destined to remain a fact of female life. Aside from surgery, only diet and exercise can improve its appearance

Q: Can you tell me about the new thigh-trimming cream?
A: Preliminary research has shown that a two percent concentration of aminophylline, an asthma drug, when applied to the thighs of 11 women reduced the size of their thighs by an average of one centimeter--less than half an inch. Current creams on the market do not contain as much aminophylline as the creams used in the study. And some of them have not gone through safety and efficacy testing. Also, published results are not available for creams currently marketed.

Q: What diet should I put my 9-year old daughter on?
A: Diets can be dangerous for children. When they go on a diet they become very unhappy about themselves, injure their self-esteem and grow even more preoccupied with food. If your child is overweight, help her/him to maintain or slow weight gain through healthy eating (without deprivation) and exercise. Also, it's important to recognize that an overweight child may be a symptom of a problem in family dynamics. A multi-disciplinary team, including a psychologist, nutritionist and physician, may be necessary.

Q: How much fat do I need to eat each day?
A: Health professionals recommend that fat make up less than 30 percent of your daily calories. To calculate your fat limit, multiply your calorie level by 0.30 and divide that number by nine (since there are nine calories per gram of fat).

Q: How can I create a healthier Easter Basket for the people I love?
A: Design a heart-healthy Easter Basket that's easy on the waistline by filling baskets with low-fat candies like gum drops, hard candy, jelly beans, licorice, maple sugar candy, marshmallows, mints, lollipops, and sugarless chewing gum. If you'd rather steer clear of sweets, use non-food fillers like stamps, note cards, lip balm or a small tube of hand cream.

Q: Help! I'm trying to convert my recipes to low fat, but I need some smart substitutions. What do you suggest?
A: My personal favorites: substitute two egg whites for a whole egg in omelets, egg dishes and most baked goods; use applesauce for part of the fat in cakes; and try non-fat or low-fat yogurt in place of sour cream. Also, substituting well-chilled, whipped evaporated skim milk in place of whipped cream comes in handy when making your favorite festive desserts.

Q: Other than taking medication, is there anything I can do to control the symptoms of PMS?
A: PMS or premenstrual syndrome, affects many women. Symptoms include bloating, breast tenderness, mood swings, and acne. To control symptoms of PMS, eat small, frequent, well-balanced meals high in complex carbohydrates; select foods low in refined sugar and fat; limit the use of alcohol, caffeine and salt; exercise aerobically; and eat foods rich in vitamin B-6 and magnesium. The efficacy of vitamin B-6 and magnesium supplements remains to be established, so it's best to rely on foods like chicken, fish, and whole-grain cereals to supply B-6, and cereals, legumes, green vegetables, milk and meat for magnesium.

Q: I noticed that my store carries Flavr Savr tomatoes. What are these?
A: Developed by means of genetic engineering, the Flavr Savr tomato may remain on the vine longer to ripen to full flavor before harvest. Other tomato varieties are harvested while green and firm, and then ripened by treatment with ethylene gas, the natural ripening agent in tomatoes. In the Flavr Savr tomato, the enzyme that causes ripe tomatoes to soften is suppressed. The FDA evaluated the safety of the new variety and ruled that it is as safe as its traditional counterparts.

Q: I have heard that when someone reaches a plateau during weight loss efforts, adding calories will increase metabolism. Is this true?
A: There is no scientific evidence to support the belief that increasing calories will boost metabolism. What may be happening is better adherence to the reducing plan at higher calorie levels: people may feel less deprived and hungry at higher calorie levels, finding it easier to adhere to guidelines.

Q: Many cookies I find in health food stores are sweetened with fructose instead of sugar. What's the difference?
A: Nutritionally, there's virtually no difference. Fructose occurs, naturally, along with other sugars, in honey and fruits. Regular cane sugar is sucrose. During digestion, sucrose is broken down into equal parts of glucose and fructose. Fructose is absorbed more slowly than sucrose and goes directly to the liver, where it is converted to glucose. Insulin makes it possible for glucose or blood sugar to enter nearly all cells in the body. Fructose contains 4 calories per gram, the same as sucrose. It provides no clinical advantages for individuals with diabetes and does not aid in weight loss.

Q: I heard that if you don't exercise or discontinue your exercise program, your muscle will turn to fat. Is this true?
A: Muscle and fat cells are completely different, structurally and functionally, and are not interchangeable. Your muscles can lose the gains in strength if you discontinue exercising. You can increase your fat storage if the calories you take in exceed the calories you expend.

Q: Does eating high acid foods, like citrus juices, cause ulcers?
A: High acid foods do not cause ulcers. The environment in the stomach is much more acidic than citrus juices, even lemon juice. It used to be thought that ulcers were caused by high acid production, irritation, decreased blood supply to the stomach and intestine, and decreased mucus (a substance which protects the stomach). We now know that a bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, causes almost all duodenal ulcers and about 70 percent of stomach ulcers. A very small percentage of ulcer sufferers develops ulcers from using aspirin or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

Q: I'm confused! I've been careful to cut back on fat in my diet by eating fat-free foods, but my weight keeps going up. What's going on?
A: As you watch your fat intake, it's critical to remember that fat-free doesn't mean calorie free. For instance, an ounce of jelly beans (about 10) has only 0.1 grams of fat. But at a total of 104 calories, it hardly makes for a low calorie alternative. Make sure your fat-free choices are not adding to your calorie intake instead of reducing it. To lose weight, the number of calories you take in must be less than the number you expend.

Q: Help! I lost 60 pounds six years ago and have successfully kept off 40 of it. But I'm struggling to take off those 20 unwanted pounds. Sweets (desserts, hard candy and so on) are my problem foods. I can't control myself once I get started. Please advise me on ways to overcome this annoying eating habit.
A: The first step in gaining control of troublesome situations is learning to identify them. You can do this by making a list of situations in which you tend to lose control of your eating. In your list, be as detailed as possible--recognizing when you lose control and how you feel at the time. Then, make a list of the situations in which you make wise food choices. Compare the lists to identify similarities and differences between the two. Next, determine ways you can transfer the behaviors you display in which you are in control to those situations in which you feel out of control. Visualizing yourself taking control of situations may also be helpful. Successful people use visualization effectively by actually imagining themselves going through the actions of successful behavior before they do it.

Q: I've been told that a yeast-free diet can help cure vaginal yeast infections. Is this true?
A: Vaginal yeast infections (Candidiasis) are caused by Candida albicans. Recently, a sugar-free, yeast-free dietary regimen has become popular to treat the infections. On this diet, foods to be avoided are those that either contain yeast or mold or are high in sugar (thought to stimulate yeast growth). There is no scientific basis for this treatment. The type of yeast that causes the vaginal infections is not the same as the yeast used to make bread. Furthermore, baking kills the yeast. If you have a yeast infection, don't rely on self-medication. Your gynecologist may recommend a cream containing nystatin, clotimazole or miconazole. If the infection does not respond, drugs such as ketoconazole, fluconazole or amphotericin B can be used.

Q: What dietary treatment is helpful for the treatment of multiple sclerosis?
A: A well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet which is controlled in calories is the only diet endorsed by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Numerous diets have been advocated by various authors, but they have no scientific support. Beware of "allergen-free" diets, pectin and fructose-restricted diets, and raw food diets. These regimens have not been tested scientifically.

Q: Why do products containing NutraSweet have "Phenylketonurics: Contains Phenylalanine" on the label?
A: NutraSweet is a registered trademark for aspartame, a nutritive sweetener used as a sugar substitute. Aspartame is a combination of two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Individuals with phenylketonuria, a disorder caused by the inability to metabolize phenylalanine in the body, must carefully monitor the amount of phenylalanine in their diets. The warning label alerts these individuals to the presence of the amino acid.

Q: Is it true that drinking caffeinated coffee can increase risk of osteoporosis?
A: Researchers found that women who drank at least two cups of coffee daily had lower bone densities than those who did not. The effects of caffeine were offset in women who drank at least one glass of milk daily. If you are going to drink caffeinated beverages, you should limit the amount and include milk in your diet regularly.

Q: I try to watch my weight. I find that I can't eat early in the morning because I'm not hungry. If I do eat, I'm constantly hungry through the day, and end up eating more than if I skipped a morning meal. Why does this happen?
A: Although eating does stimulated the release of digestive juices, food does not prime the digestive system or stimulate the appetite. The effect you describe is more psychological than physiological. People who have a weight problem often overeat at night, causing lack of hunger in the morning. Fear of getting out of control if something is eaten plays a major role in this pattern. Work on normalizing your eating patterns. Then, you'll find it acceptable to be hungry in the morning. Eating at regular time periods will help in this process.

Q: Do smokers need more vitamins?
A: Smokers have lower blood levels of vitamin C, thought to be due to the body's use of vitamin C to inactivate the free radicals in cigarette smoke. Free radicals damage cells and put smokers at increased risk of damage linked to cancer and heart disease. The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C is 100 mg per day for smokers compared to 60 mg per day for nonsmokers. A 4-ounce glass of orange juice provides 60 mg of vitamin C.

Q: I have a problem eating dairy products, so I take calcium supplements. I have heard that I shouldn't take a calcium supplement because it will bind iron in my intestine, making me lose the iron. Is this true?
A: It has been found that a 1,250-milligram dose of calcium carbonate can bind much of dietary iron. Rather than give up your calcium, try dividing the doses or use another form, such as calcium lactate or calcium citrate. You might also boost your intake by including vegetable sources of calcium.

Q: I gained more than 50 pounds during my most recent pregnancy. I'm anxious to lose those extra pounds. Right now, I'm breast-feeding my month-old son.
A: Severe calorie restriction is out of the question: intakes below 1,500 calories per day are not recommended at any time while you are breast feeding. Restricted diets may adversely affect the volume of milk you produce, resulting in the infant's appetite not being satisfied. A level of at least 1,800 calories daily is encouraged. Check with your physician before starting any program. Aim for a slow weight of about four pounds per month.

Q: A friend says that for weight loss, it doesn't matter if you engage in a high or low-intensity workout. I say that a low-intensity workout is better, because more fat is burned. Who's right?
A: Sorry, but your friend is on the right track. While it is true that the higher the exercise intensity, the more the body prefers to use glycogen rather than fat for fuel, the type of fuel used during exercise probably doesn't make much difference. The important variable for weight loss is total calorie expenditure. A high-intensity workout that uses 200 calories in 30 minutes will be more beneficial than a low-intensity workout that uses 100 calories in the same time, because the total number of calories burned is greater.

Q: I've recently heard about the book, The Good Calorie Diet, by Philip Lipetz, Ph.D. Is it true that some foods are made up of good calories and others are made up of bad calories?
A: Dr. Lipetz claims that in the body, some foods, including white potatoes, rice cakes, and bread, result in high blood sugar which produces excess fat in people who have a condition called the Starvation Response. There is no evidence to support his claim. There is no relationship between a food's blood sugar-raising ability and its fat-forming capacity. Blood sugar doesn't automatically turn into body fat. Whether it comes from rice cakes or any other food, if a person takes in more calories than he or she burns, the excess will be stored as fat. The only types of food that appear more likely to turn into fat are not high carbohydrate items, but high fat items.

Q: I am an avid cyclist; in fact, I compete on a regular basis. I'm a 5-foot-8 male weighing 154 pounds. How much protein should I eat?
A: Much research has been devoted recently to protein needs of athletes. While it is true that athletes may require more protein than the Recommended Dietary Allowance of 0.8 grams per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight, the increased requirement appears to be small--contrary to what you may read in some magazines. Endurance athletes, such as cyclists, have greater protein needs than strength-training athletes. The current recommendation is 1.0 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The amount of protein you would need is about 105 grams. Translated to food, 8 ounces of lean meat, 2 glasses of milk, and 11 servings from the breads, cereals, rice and pasta group would cover your protein needs. Don't forget to round out your food intake with fruits and vegetables.


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