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“Weight management is about so much more than just carbs and protein. It’s your lifestyle that holds the key to conquering your weight loss struggles.”
                                                 Dr. Kushner’s Personality Type Diet
(St. Martin’s Press, 2003)

  Diet, Exercise and Coping Strategies—
For Your Personality

According to a new study, the Atkins, Dean Ornish, Weight Watchers and Zone diets all work.

The problem is finding a diet that that suits you. “Diets work if you use them,” Gary Foster, clinical director of the Weight and Eating Disorders Program at the University of Pennsylvania, told the Washington Post. Commenting on the study led by Tufts University researchers, Dr. Foster added, “They all work probably by the same mechanism, which is that they get people to eat fewer calories.”

The study, funded by the Tufts-New England Medical Center with federal support, was announced at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting in Orlando on November 9, 2003. The Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers and Zone diet plans produced similar--and modest--results. People who stuck with any of the diets for at least a year lost about 5 percent of their body weight.

Overweight and obese men and women (160) were randomly assigned to one of the four diets for a year. All received instructions on their programs and four counseling sessions during the first two months. Body weight was recorded, blood and urine samples taken, and food records were collected throughout the year.

Tellingly, the drop-out rate was notably different. About half of those on the Atkins diet (very low carb, high fat) and the Ornish diet (high carb, very low fat, vegetarian) dropped out before the study was completed. Only a third dropped out of the Weight Watchers (low fat, moderate calorie, similar to U.S. dietary guidelines) and Zone (40% carbs, and 30% protein and fat) groups. Lead-author Michael Dansinger, an obesity researcher at Tufts, said, “The more extreme diets like Atkins and Ornish were tougher to follow than the Zone and Weight Watchers.”

For those who stayed on the diets for the full year, the Atkins group lost the least amount of weight, 4 percent, the Ornish group the most, 6 percent, with the Weight Watchers and Zone dieters in the middle, with an average loss of 5 percent.

Washington Post reporter Sally Squires described the response of diet advocates as “generally positive and low-key, in contrast to the hyperbole often used to promote the programs.”

“People on our diet lost the most of all four diets,” Dr.Ornish observed.  

An Atkins representative said the findings reflect “our position that one diet does not fit all.”

Barry Sears, developer of the Zone diet, said the results show that “people who make an effort can lose weight. It is slow. It is not miraculous…. This is something that you do for the rest of your life.”

Since most people who diet on their own regain weight within a year, Karen Miller-Kovach, senior scientist for Weight Watchers International, called the overall results “encouraging.” She said, it suggests “the role of a total program such as Weights Watchers and the ongoing support it provides makes a big difference, far bigger than most people recognize.”

Robert F. Kushner, MD, co-author of Dr. Kushner's Personality Diet, would, no doubt, hasten to add that understanding yourself is crucial to the success of any weight management plan.

  Eating Patterns

“Willpower and self-discipline aren’t the answer to permanent weight control, I wrote in Ripped 2. “You must be comfortable with your diet or you won’t stick with it.”

Dr. Kushner’s Personality Type Diet, written with his nurse-practitioner wife Nancy, identifies eating, exercising and coping patterns that torpedo efforts to control body weight and gives practical ways to overcome or modify them.

For example, the Kushners suggest that “Nighttime Nibblers,” who load up on calories in the evening, change the way they eat during the day. “To break the habit,” they say, “plan to eat lunch and a midafternoon snack each day,” so you won’t be so hungry at night and have better control. They also recommend having a “satisfying dinner” and a snack before bed. “[The snack] needs to be planned and it needs to be just one,” they caution. “Decide on one snack for the night that is healthier than you would usually eat and something you would enjoy.” 

Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? I can tell you that it works, because that’s what I’ve been doing for years. Regular planned eating, as the Kushners suggest, puts you in control. You end up eating less throughout the day—and night.

Other problem eating patterns the Kushners identify and strategize ways to overcome include:

“Unguided Grazers,” who eat without structure or planning and choose food based on convenience and accessibility rather than hunger.

“Convenient Consumers,” who eat mainly “packaged, bagged, microwaveable, and frozen” foods, which are generally higher in fat, sodium, and calories and lower in fiber than fresh home-prepared foods.

“Fruitless Feasters,” meat and potato people who ignore or don’t understand the need for fruit and vegetables, which are more nutritious and lower in calories.

“Mindless Munchers,” who eat in response to “cues,” like commercials or vending machines.

“Hearty Portioners” are the “clean your plate” crowd. If they can see, smell or reach food, good or bad, they eat it.

And my favorite, the “Deprived Sneakers,” who eat “good” food in public, and then sneak the “bad” stuff they really wanted in private. “Instead of eating a small slice of that chocolate cake,” the Kushners write, “you choose fat-free cookies; but despite eating eight cookies, you still feel deprived.” The Deprived Sneaker, of course, ends up eating the cookies—and the chocolate cake.

See yourself in any of these patterns? (I certainly do.) If so, you’ll want to read the common sense remedies suggested by the Kushners.

Exercise Patterns

Diet alone doesn’t work very well. Your chances of losing weight and keeping it off are much better when diet is combined with exercise. As a practical matter, it’s almost impossible to control body fat without regular exercise.

A combination of weights and aerobics works best. “Health experts agree,” the Kushners write, “if you’re doing only aerobics for weight loss, you’re missing the boat.” They quote Strength Training Past 50 by Westcott and Baechle: “Unless we exercise the muscles we have, properly, we lose 5-7 pounds of muscle tissue every decade of adult life. Because muscles are the engines of the body, this is similar to dropping from an 8-cylinder car, to a 6-cylinder car, to a 4-cylinder car, to a motor scooter.” (You'll find Strength Training Past 50 on our products page.)

Simply put, you’ll burn more calories and be able to eat more with an 8-cylinder body than with a motor- scooter body. You’ll feel better and be more energetic as well.

The Kushners recommend different strategies depending on your “exercise pattern profile.” Their clinical experience shows that knowing what works for your personality type will help you get started—and keep exercising.

The exercise patterns discussed range from the “Hate-to-Move Struggler,” who doesn’t like to sweat and isn’t good at sports, to the “All-or-Nothing Doer,” who sets unreasonable goals and eventually gives up altogether. 

The Struggler needs to recognize that activity doesn’t have to make you puff and pant or sweat to be beneficial. Simply taking the stairs instead of the elevator or getting off the bus or train one stop earlier and walking can help you lose weight. You don’t have to go to a health club or learn a new sport to get results.

The All-or-Nothing Doer is encouraged to adopt a more moderate mind-set. “Doing moderate workouts consistently is better than doing intense workouts inconsistently,” the Kushners counsel.

Other exercise patterns include “Self-Conscious Hider,” “Inexperienced Novice,” “Set Routine Repeater,” “Aches-and-Pain Suffer,” and “No-Time-to-Exercise Protestor.” If you think you might fall into any of these self-defeating categories--or even if you don’t--you’ll learn and benefit from the insights of Dr. Kushner and his wife. I did.

 Coping Patterns

Flawed coping personalities, such as low self-esteem or a tendency to procrastinate, can make weight control more difficult. “For many,” the Kushners write, “learning better coping strategies is the missing piece to their weight loss puzzle.”

The “Low-Self-Esteem Sufferer” frequently talks him- or herself out of reasonable efforts to control their weight. Their self-image may be closely tied to a distorted body image. They confuse their body weight or waist and hip size with their self worth. It’s a vicious circle. They put their self-esteem on hold until they lose weight or vice versa.

Kushner and his wife recommend that you be more realistic about your body. Losing weight doesn’t necessarily make you a better or happier person, they remind us. “This means that you need to work on accepting your body and learning to love yourself now, not 40 pounds from now,” they write.

They quote Susan Kano’s Make Peace with Food: “The more we like ourselves, the more easily we change and grow.”

Sounds right, doesn’t it?

For more problematic coping patterns and common sense ways to overcome them, read Dr. Kushner’s Personality Type Diet.

I’ll close with a confession. Left to my own devices, I probably would’ve passed on this book because of the gimmicky title. Personality Type Diet, please, give me a break. The title reminds me of far-out diets which work, if at all, only because the complex (read nonsensical) rules result in less calories being consumed.

Fortunately, I took another look, based on a review in Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, which found the Kushners’ book a lot better than the “over-hyped” and “hokey” title suggests. “As weight-loss books go,” Tufts Letter concluded, “this is one of the more responsible ones: no funny foods, no strange supplements—just common sense, divided into small, doable steps.”

As a longtime subscriber, I know Tufts doesn’t give many diet books “Five out of five stars,” as it did this one. “Highly recommended.”  Indeed.

(Editor's note: We received a nice note from Dr. Kushner tells us their book was just released in paperback. What's more, he invites readers to take advantage of a new website feature allowing visitors to take the eating personality quiz from the book and get a free profile of their eating patterns: www.doctorkushner.com).

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