Doctor-Approved Crash Diets
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Fitness

Doctor-Approved Crash Diets

Think all crash diets are a no-no? Think again! These doctor-designed weight-loss plans work fast without putting your health at risk.

The Can-Do Doc's Plan

Her Menu

Weight expert Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, uses fresh fruits and vegetables as her main source of carbohydrates and adds more lean protein, such as chicken and fish, to help eliminate excess fluid retention caused by too much sodium intake or fluctuating menstrual cycles. She also buys calorie-controlled frozen meals from Lean Cuisine or South Beach Diet and saves the containers to measure out her own food portions. Another solution: Replace one meal with a protein shake.

Her Moves

"I'm the ultimate multitasker," says Fernstrom. "I want to exercise and de-stress at the same time." While she'd love to take a yoga class, she just doesn't have the time, and she won't even attempt to rearrange her schedule. Fernstrom isn't a fan of anything that she won't be able to maintain long-term. Her modest but effective commitment: one 30-minute walk carrying 2-pound weights every day.

Her Motivation Tip

"Lack of shut-eye and weight gain are hugely connected, so I make sure to get seven to eight hours of rest a night," she says. "It takes a certain amount of concentration to make healthful decisions."

-- Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, director of the Weight Management Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

The Brainy Approach

Her Menu

Psychologist Judith S. Beck, PhD, usually plans to have a small bite of some favorite cheat food (like a miniature candy bar) once a day. That way, cravings are easier to withstand.

Her (Mental) Moves

"I accept the fact that I may feel hungry an hour and a half before dinner," Beck explains. "But I don't have to satisfy my appetite by eating at that moment. I make the decision to wait." If the yen won't quit, she can break out that bite-size candy bar. Her other tactics:

  • Negotiate with temptations. Cravings can be harder to resist than hunger, because they attack at will and tug at your tongue. "I remind myself that the feeling is temporary and it's not nearly as uncomfortable as when I broke my arm or pulled a muscle," says Beck. "If I can tolerate that pain, I can resist the snacking impulse." Besides, at least one chocolate indulgence has already been planned for.
  • Positive reinforcement. Write down the reasons why losing weight is important, and read the list at least once a day. Or better yet, meditate on each goal. Create encouraging e-mail alerts or flash cards, and stick them in hot zones -- the pantry, the snack drawer, the jelly-bean jar (on the top, not the bottom).

Her Motivation Tip

"Instead of trying to find a way to fit exercise into my life, I arrange my schedule around exercise, which means I may not be able to get everything done in one day," Beck says. "But working out is my priority."

-- Judith S. Beck, PhD, director of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research, author of The Beck Diet Solution Weight Loss Workbook

The Drill Instructor's Program

His Menu

Retired marine Harvey E. Walden IV follows a regimen that's as pragmatic as he is: six small, 300- to 350-calorie meals a day, with lean protein at each sitting -- such as a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with a low-fat yogurt (yup, the man-of-war does yogurt!). Green apples serve as snacks. Dinner by seven. "You'd be surprised how much weight falls off just by cutting portions and adding exercise," he says.

His Moves

Cardio: Two sessions three times a week. Mornings: Forty-five minutes on the elliptical machine. "Working out before eating breakfast shocks the body into burning maximum fat," he says. Research has shown that you'll torch more fat during your workout if you exercise in the morning before eating than if you perform the same exercise at night. In the evenings, Walden does interval training: one-minute sprints on a track or treadmill, followed by two minutes of fast walking, for a half hour. He finishes with running 30 flights of stairs.

Strength training: One session three days a week (on days when he's not doing cardio). Hit all the large muscle groups (back, chest, glutes, legs, core) doing three sets of 15 repetitions, using light to medium weights, with minute-long breaks between sets. "Bench presses, cable rows, biceps curls, triceps push-downs, calf raises, leg extensions, crunches -- the bigger the muscle you work, the more calories you'll burn," Walden explains. Take one day off to rest.

His Motivation Tip

"I keep a workout diary so when I hit a wall, I can see what has worked in the past for my body and what I've achieved," Walden says.

-- Sgt. Harvey E. Walden IV, fitness instructor, Celebrity Fit Club, author of Harvey Walden's No Excuses! Fitness Workout

Dr. Flavor-Full's Diet

His Menu

Secret sauces and extra seasonings get the boot! Nutrition researcher David Katz, MD, won't overexcite his taste buds while trying to lose weight. "The more variety of foods and flavors you introduce, the more appetite is stimulated," Dr. Katz explains. "If your diet resembles an all-you-can-eat buffet, you're going to eat a lot." Dr. Katz also says that restricting meal options will help eliminate temptation. Redundancy is the safest bet.

Aim to consume 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day, and stick to the plan for four to six weeks, he advises. Take a multivitamin to get the proper nutrients. Adhering to this program for the full six weeks should help you shed up to 20 pounds, he notes.

  • Protein: Egg whites, beans, lentils, skinless chicken (white meat), white fish (e.g., flounder, tilapia), nonfat cottage cheese, walnuts, and almonds.
  • Carbs: Mixed greens, broccoli, spinach, mixed berries, whole-grain cereal from Kashi, Health Valley, or Nature's Path.
  • Fat: Olive and canola oils.
  • Beverages: Water is the mainstay.

His Moves

Ideally, Dr. Katz would do a two-hour walk, bike ride, or swim daily. He'd turn up the heat by strength training three times a week. "Every pound of muscle you gain consumes twice as many calories as fat," he explains.

His Motivation Tip

Make strength training a staple in your workout to help maintain a toned physique, he says. "When I was 13 years old, I did 1,500 sit-ups a day. Now that I have a life and have built some muscle mass, I do a short training routine every day, and I've never lost my abs!"

Dr. Katz's Sample Daily Menu

Breakfast: Bowl of whole-grain cereal with skim milk and mixed berries

Lunch: Mixed green salad with lentils and egg whites

Dinner: Mixed green salad, grilled fish or chicken, cooked vegetables, and whole-grain bread, pasta, or grains

Snack: A mixed-berry salad or a handful of unsalted almonds or walnuts

-- David Katz, MD, director of Yale Prevention Research Center, author of Dr. David Katz's Flavor-Full Diet

The Taster's Choice

Her Menu

Christine Lydon, MD, wears many hats: pin-up, ripped hottie/doctor/writer. But her diet is simpler than her resume. If she wanted to lose a little around the middle, Dr. Lydon would eat primarily protein and vegetables. Try this saucy recipe from her upcoming book:

Indian Chicken

Makes 8 servings

Prep time: 10 to 15 minutes

Cooking time: 60 minutes

  • 8-10 skinless chicken hindquarters (thighs and legs)
  • 6 cups canned chickpeas, mashed
  • 2 cups baby-cut carrots

For the sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup low-fat or nonfat sour cream
  • 3/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 5.5 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 cup nonfat, sodium-reduced chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup frozen peas

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lay chicken pieces flat over bottom of a 9-x-12-inch casserole dish. Evenly spread mashed chickpeas and baby carrots between and over chicken quarters.

In a large saucepan, saute onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil until onions are translucent. Add remaining sauce ingredients and stir over low heat until mixture is well blended. Pour sauce over chicken, baby carrots, and mashed chickpeas. Place on the middle rack of preheated oven and bake for 1 hour.

Nutrition facts per serving: 570 calories, 42g protein, 5g carbohydrate, 23g fat (4g saturated), 13g fiber.

Her Moves

"You burn the most calories when you spike up your heart rate at least four or five times over a 20-minute period," Dr. Lydon says. Her favorite way to get that cardiac fluctuation is by playing sports, such as ice hockey and skiing in the winter and mountain biking during the warmer months. When she's not shredding dirt or snow, Dr. Lydon pumps iron with two pairs of weights, 5 and 10 pounds. "Multijoint movement, such as doing a squat and a shoulder press at the same time, will give you the best results," she says, and it saves time.

Her Motivation Tip

Drink about 60 ounces of water a day. Says Dr. Lydon, "Physiologically speaking, you burn fat most efficiently and are able to retain more muscle when you're adequately hydrated."

-- Christine Lydon, MD, author of Ten Years Thinner, out in January

The Heart Doc's Plan

Her Menu

Cardiologist Nieca Goldberg, MD, knows that ignoring the little things, like nutrition labels, could pack on the pounds easily. "Processed foods may advertise as being low in cholesterol when they're loaded with sugar," warns Dr. Goldberg. So don't eat anything processed, fried, slathered in butter, coated with sugar, or made with white flour. Also, "weigh food portions to make sure a 3-ounce serving of chicken is really 3 ounces," she says.

Her Moves

Recruit an exercise buddy for inspiration -- and emancipation from boredom. And if Dr. Goldberg couldn't find an ally? "I'd make my husband do it with me," she says, laughing. As a bonus to burning calories, Dr. Goldberg notes, "Doing any kind of physical activity actually keeps me from thinking about food."

Her Motivation Tip

Dr. Goldberg knows she'll lust after carbs -- the bad ones, of course -- right before her period. "To avoid temptation, I just try to remember how bloated and sleepy they make me feel," she says.

-- Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director of the NYU Women's Heart Program, author of The Women's Healthy Heart Program

Thin in a Flash!

Want that little black dress to snug you just right? Try these slim-fast tips:

Don't chew gum on the big day!

"We've found that models avoid it before a show, so they won't look bloated."
-- Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, author of Mindless Eating

Suck it in!

"Wear Spanx. Every woman should own this body-contouring miracle."
-- Celeste Brown-Wright, senior fashion editor at FITNESS

Get shimmery!

"Apply self-tanner. The golden glow will make you look more toned." Try Firming Bronzer SPF 15 by Murad ($48, murad.com) or Glow Lotion by Soap & Glory ($9.99, Target stores).
-- Susan Biali, MD, professional flamenco dancer

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, November 2007.

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