Lauren In Tokyo

Friday, August 13, 2004

Fad dieting

My wife is currently on the Japanese "Reset Diet". From where I stand, it doesn't seem to be much more than another fad diet, but in just the few days she's been on it she's lost a considerable amount of weight.

The book is only available in Japanese, so I only know what she's told me about it.

The big thing is the first 1 week phase which I guess is analogous to the 2 week Induction phase of Atkins. No rice, bread, or pasta during the first week. Also, fruits should be limited to twice a week except for grapefruits which should be eaten every morning. No milk, no potatos, and most of all no oil when cooking.

Apparently, after the first week you lose about 5 kg and then you can return to eating normally if you feel that you've lost enough. Personally, this sounds like a recipe for rebound, but I guess I'm not the one with a book deal.

Every morning my wife and I share a grapefruit. (To be honest, I like the grapefruits more than I expected to so this might continue even after the diet ends.) The pans are slowly becoming worn out because when cooking without oil the pan ceases to be non-stick. The refrigerator is now packed with vegetables and meat.

I've seen many diets and this one just confuses me. Most of the time, a diet will have a specific theme and the diet is designed around that theme. There are really only two types of diets. Ketogenic and Starvation.

Ketogenic diets like Atkins and Sugar Busters rely on the dieter to stop taking in excessive amounts of carbohydrates which forces the body to turn to alternative fuel sources, namely fat. Since the body prefers to use carbohydrates as its primary energy source, removing carbs (or burning all carb-originated calories) forces the body to switch to consuming energy from fat. It works extremely quickly and because the dieter is consuming high-fat foods the dieter rarely experiences hunger. The drawbacks include increased wear on kidneys, gout, and a change in body odor, breath, and urine odor because of the release of ketones. The other major drawback is that the dieter may never eat carbohydrate-rich foods like potatos, breads, pasta, and rice in any significant quantity without immediately and dramatically suffering weight rebound.

Starvation is the other major type of diet. It rests on the concept of a basal metabolic rate (BMR) which is the number of calories burned within a 24 hour period. The goal is to consume less calories than are burned, thereby forcing the body to tap into the stored energy reserves of fat in order to maintain the BMR. Two means available to achieve this are through caloric restriction and increased energy expenditure. Caloric restriction means cutting back on high-calorie foods, especially simple carbohydrates and fatty meats. Increased energy expenditure is achieved by either exercising to increase the amount of calories spent or through other (frequently unsafe) means like ingesting chemicals (caffeine, Ma Huang, etc) to increase the BMR. Typically a starvation diet will use a combination of caloric restriction and exercise to achieve weight loss. Starvation diets have been shown to increase life span in lab rats and presumably in humans. Exercise has the additional benefit of increasing cardiovascular fitness and strength. The main drawback is that the body attempts to adapt to the unbalanced caloric intake/usage by lowering the BMR. This provides a negative feedback loop where the dieter must cut calories even further to make up for the lower BMR. In addition, the lower BMR remains even after the diet ends, so weight regain is easier and loss is harder in subsequent dieting. Other drawbacks include the dieter feeling hungry frequently, and the the enormous effort and willpower to remain on the diet.

The two diets are not interchangeable, and certainly can't be mixed and matched. Consuming even a small amount of carbohydrates on the ketogenic diet results in the disturbance and termination of the ketogenic process. Eating calorie-rich meat may push a starvation dieter over the maximum allowable calories for a day.

The Reset Diet seems to be a starvation diet, except that there doesn't seem to be any starvation involved. It takes piecemeal from both diet types and mixes them together. It is unclear how or why it works. The biggest thing is obviously the elimination of breads and cereals (rice, etc) which is a direct lift from the anti-carb side. However, flours may be used for thickeners when cooking. This does not make sense as the flours would actually have a lower glycemic index than whole grains like rice or complex carbohydrates like pasta. Coffee is allowed, contrary to any ketogenic diet guide. Caffeine halts the ketogenic process and acts as an inhibitor to ketosis. Grapefruits, long rumored to increase "fat burning", are eaten every morning for breakfast in order to jumpstart the body's BMR. Dinner is interesting in that any amount of food that can fit on a plate may be consumed, the caveat is that no second helpings are allowed.

It is obviously not a ketogenic diet because the amount of carbohydrates consumed is through the roof. On the other hand, the caloric intake does not seem to be dramatically reduced and my wife doesn't seem hungry. She has already lost about 2.6 kg since starting the diet a few days ago. Surely most of that is water weight, but it is not clear the reason why the weight is going away. The diet claims that weight loss of about 5 kg in the first week is typical, but provides no science to explain the weight loss, only anecdotal evidence of the author's friends losing that much that quickly.

Does anyone have any insight into this diet, pro or con?

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