alt.support.diet Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) List
This FAQ List is posted to the alt.support.diet, alt.answerson the 7th day
of each month. The FAQ is also available by anonymous ftp at
ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/alt.support.diet. They are also available at
Please post any questions or comments regarding the FAQ to alt.support.diet.
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his FAQ was last updated on: May 17 1998
Changes from previous version:
* added a section on medical doctor's knowledge about diets
*Added text to the no ads policy to further clarify the policy
* updated info on the CLUB-100: Mark Mitcham's mailing list for persons 100
lb. (45 kg.) or more overweight
Obligatory disclaimer: The information contained in this posting is in no
way guaranteed. This Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list is based largely
on the personal experiences of the members of alt.support.diet, most of whom
are not health-care professionals. As such, it should
not be regarded as a complete or definitive manual on weight loss or
maintenance, but rather as a concise collection of practical information and
suggestions that you may find useful in your quest to achieve a healthier
lifestyle. Before beginning a weight loss program, you may
wish to first consult your physician to rule out the possibility of medical
problems or conditions which should be factored into your diet and exercise
plans (e.g., pregnancy, thyroid disorders, diabetes, hypoglycemia, heart
Table of Contents
Þ What is the purpose of alt.support.diet?
Þ Are advertisements allowed on a.s.d?
Þ What is YMMV?
AM I OVERWEIGHT?
Þ What do the terms "overweight" and "obese" mean?
Þ Is using a standard height/weight chart a good way to tell whether I'm
Þ I've decided to start a weight loss plan. How should I determine what
weight I want to reach?
Þ How often should I weigh myself?
Þ Is using body fat percentage a good way to tell whether I'm overweight?
Þ What's the best way to measure body fat percentage?
Þ Are there any other ways to find out whether I'm overweight/overfat?
Þ What is cellulite?
GENERAL DIET AND NUTRITION
Þ Are doctors knowledgeable about all diets?
Þ I keep hearing that a low-fat diet is supposed to be good for me. Why
should I eat a low-fat diet,
and how low is "low"?
Þ Should I eliminate all fat from my diet?
Þ How can I tell how much fat is in the foods I eat?
Þ How do the new nutrition labels on processed foods differ from the old
Þ What is fiber? Is it important?
Þ Is sugar a no-no?
Þ What about artificial sweeteners?
Þ What is the new "Food Pyramid" I've heard about? Is it similar to the
Þ Four Basic Food Groups"?
Þ Is Promise Ultra Fat-free Margarine really fat-free?
WEIGHT LOSS PHASE
Þ Are there any computer programs that will help me plan my diet or keep
track of the foods I eat
Þ How many calories per day do I need?
Þ Can I lose weight faster by consuming fewer calories?
Þ Is it really necessary to drink 8 glasses of water per day while dieting?
Þ Is skipping a meal a day an effective way to lose weight?
Þ I'm afraid that I'll have to give up all my favorite foods in order to
lose weight. Is this true?
Þ Can I lose weight without dieting?
Þ Are surgical procedures like liposuction or stomach stapling a good way to
Þ How many pounds a week should I lose?
Þ Why do men seem to lose weight faster/more easily than women?
Þ Some weeks into my diet, my weight loss just stopped, even though I
followed the diet plan to the letter. What did I do wrong?
Þ Once I've lost the weight, how can I keep from regaining it?
LIQUID DIETS AND FASTS
Þ Are liquid diets a good way to lose weight?
Þ Is fasting a good way to lose weight?
WEIGHT LOSS ORGANIZATIONS, PLANS, AND DIET BOOKS
Þ Are doctors knowledgeable about all diets?
Þ How does Weight Watchers work?
Þ How does Jenny Craig work?
Þ How does Nutri/System work?
Þ How does Overeaters Anonymous work?
Þ How does TOPS work?
Þ How does "Stop the Insanity" work?
Þ What is the Carbohydrate Addict's Diet?
Þ What is Dr. Atkins' diet?
Þ What is the Zone diet?
Þ What is the "TJ Soup diet" (a.k.a. "The Sacred Heart Hospital Diet" or ”
Cabbage Soup Diet")?
DIET AIDS (PILLS, ETC.)
Þ I’ve heard about several weight loss aids like herbal teas, "fat-burning"
pills, etc. Do any of these
Þ What about prescription drugs (phentermine, fenfluramine)?
Þ Do I need to take a supplement (vitamin/mineral pill) while dieting?
Þ What is chromium? Can taking a chromium supplement help me lose or
Þ I need to lose weight, but I really hate to exercise. Can I lose weight by
eating a low-caloriediet
Þ What are the most effective types of exercise for losing fat/weight?
Þ How hard do I need to exercise?
Þ What is anaerobic exercise?
Þ How often and how long do I need to exercise?
Þ How many calories do different types of exercise burn?
Þ Does "passive exercise" (e.g., toning tables) work?
Þ I move around a lot during the day; I try to use stairs instead of
elevators, park my car on the far side of the parking lot, etc. Would I
qualify as a "moderately active"
Þ I've started a diet and exercise program, but I'm finding it really hard
to stay on track. Any
INFORMATION AVAILABLE VIA THE INTERNET
Þ Mailing lists
Þ World Wide Web sites
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND RECOMMENDED READING LIST
ABOUT THE ASD FAQS
-What is the purpose of alt.support.diet?-
To provide emotional support, encouragement, and practical advice to those
who wish to improve their health, appearance, and/or self image through a
weight loss or weight maintenance program. The name of the group,
alt.support.diet, is somewhat unfortunate because: a) exercise is just as
important as diet in weight loss, and b) the word "diet" is often
interpreted as "a temporary regimen hat's somehow expected to lead to
permanent weight loss," rather than its original meaning of "how one eats."
The membership of a.s.d ranges from those who wish to lose relatively small
amounts of weight (e.g., the 5-10 pounds that many of us tend to put on over
the holidays), to those who are 100 ounds or more overweight, to those who
have already completed a weight loss program and wish to maintain their new,
healthier weight and lifestyle.
-Are advertisements allowed on a.s.d?-
Because a.s.d is not a moderated group, there is no way to prevent
individuals or companies from posting advertisements for their products.
However, anyone contemplating posting such messages should be aware that
advertisements, particularly those for weight loss plans or diet aids
emphatically not welcome here. This includes, but is not limited to,
herbalife, metabolife, colorad, chitosan, pyruvate, other weight loss
supplements, plans, methods and aids . Our definition of an ad includes
posting info about a product and saying e-mail me for more info, posting
another's web site URL if the web site sells a product, and any other
product recommendation where you stand to benefit financially should the
readers of your post purchase the product recommended. Anyone posting any
type of ad will reported their ISP for placing an ad in a noncommercial
newsgroup that does not allow advertising. Furthermore, the web site host,
should it be different from the spammer's ISP, will be alerted that spam is
being posted in regards to the web site that they host.
Many a.s.d readers have already learned the hard way that sustained,
healthy weight loss doesn't come from over-the-counter remedies, and that
"too good to be true" diets are just that. (a.s.d readers who encounter
advertisements posted to the newsgroup should mail the advertiser a copy of
this FAQ and report the ad to the spammer's ISP.) . Should there be a
question posted about a product you sell, please do not respond. The
that you stand to benefit financially from the recommendation you would
make, makes the credibility and motivation of your recommendation
There are a few newsgroups (those in the biz.* hierarchy, and those with
"marketplace" or "forsale" in their names) where ads are permitted.
Advertisers who are interested in reaching dieters or nutrition-conscious
readers should check out alt.forsale.nutrition in particular. An
to advertising via Usenet is to set up your own site on the World Wide
The URL (address) of your Web site can be included in the signature file
that you append to posts you make in alt.support.diet, but please do not
post articles that contain nothing more than pointers to your Web
articles fall within the technical definition of "advertisements."
including advertising in your Web site, be sure to check with your
service provider; many ISP's prohibit commercial ventures from personal
-What is YMMV?
Your Mileage May Vary, is a very important part of the ASD philosophy on
weight loss. No two people are alike. We differ in terms of likes and
dislikes, metabolic speed and efficiency, health issues, moods, body
an many other ways. Many of us have learned the hard way that there is
"one diet fits all" weight loss solution. Therefore we ask that you do
insult other's diet choices or post that one diet is "the only one that
works", or "the best diet" or "the only diet". Furthermore, we request
you do not post that a particular diet is not safe. This is especially
relevant to low carb type of diets. We have learned through medical and
scientific studies, as well as anecdotal evidence that for certain
low carb is not only an effective weight loss method, but also improves
their health, blood lipid profiles, and heart attack risk. All diets
involve an element of risk and could be harmful to some people.
it is important that you educate yourself as much as possible about your
chosen diet. Read any books written by the author of the diet. Do the
necessary urine testing, blood work, and other medical suggestions made
the authors of the diet. That way you will know the state of your health
and can access whether or not a diet is the right one for you.
-AM I OVERWEIGHT?
-What do the terms "overweight" and "obese" mean?-
Physicians usually define "overweight" as a condition in which a person's
weight is 10-20% higher than "normal", as defined by a standard
height/weight chart. "Obesity" is usually defined as a condition in which a
person's weight is 20% or more above normal weight. "Morbid obesity"
variously means 50% to 100% over normal weight, more than 100 pounds over
normal weight, or sufficiently overweight to severely interfere with health
or normal functioning.
-Is using a standard height/weight chart a good way to tell whether I'm
Your weight is only a very rough indicator of the amount of fat that your
body contains, and most physicians feel that the percentage of your weight
that comes from fat tissue is far more important than total body weight
(which includes not only fat but also muscles, bones, and bodily fluids).
Height/weight tables could indicate that a lean, muscular person is
"overweight", while a person whose weight is within the "normal" range might
actually be carrying around more fatty tissue than is healthy. Covert Bailey
states in The New Fit or Fat that standard weight tables can be off by as
much as 20-30 pounds for any given person.
-I've decided to start a weight loss plan. How should I determine what
weight I want to reach?-
Remember that your weight is just a small part of the whole picture. Other,
more valid, indicators of your fitness level are:
* How do you feel--energetic or wiped out?
* Do you have good muscle tone, or are you flabby? *¨ Are you able to walk
up a few flights of stairs without panting?
* Are you able to accomplish the daily tasks that you want/need to do?
If you've been overweight since childhood or adolescence, you may not even
know what a "good" weight for you would be. Setting a goal of a normal body
fat percentage (see "Is using body fat percentage a good way to tell whether
I'm overweight?") or a certain clothing size is probably more realistic than
aiming for a specific weight, but even here you should use your common
sense. Most women would love to wear size 6 (or smaller) clothes, even those
whose large frames make this a totally unrealistic and unhealthy goal for
-How often should I weigh myself?-
As mentioned above, weight is only a rough indicator of fitness. However,
many people engaged in a reducing or fitness plan find it desirable to check
their weight regularly. Opinions on how often one should weigh vary widely.
The natural tendency of a person on a weight loss plan is to weigh
frequently, perhaps several times a day ("I've lost a quarter pound since
this morning!"). It's important to remember, though, that your weight will
increase and decrease throughout the day depending on your activity level,
food and fluid intake, etc. Even your day-to-day weights will fluctuate,
mostly due to varying degrees of fluid retention. (Many women tend to gain a
few pounds during their menstrual periods due to "water weight," and men and
women both tend to retain extra fluids after ingesting large quantities of
sodium, e.g. Chinese food.) For this reason, many a.s.d members feel that it
is more reasonable to weigh less often, perhaps once a week or once a month,
to obtain a more realistic pattern of weight loss or maintenance. Even this
approach has some drawbacks, though--what if you just happen to be heavy due
to fluid retention on the one day per week or month that you weigh?
If you do decide to weigh yourself regularly (at whatever frequency you
think is most appropriate for your emotional well-being), we recommend that
you: a) Weigh yourself under similar conditions each time. For example, if
you weigh yourself daily, do it at the same time every day, wearing
approximately the same clothes each day, on the same scale. Probably the
best time is in the morning, right after getting up and going to the
bathroom, before eating or drinking anything. b) Look not at specific
numbers but at trends in your weight patterns. If you weigh daily, you might
wish to average your daily weights to obtain one weekly average, which you
can compare to previous weeks. Try plotting your weight on a graph, and look
for a gradual downward inclination, ignoring the occasional sharp peaks and
dips, which are probably due to differing degrees of fluid retention.
Some people have abandoned the scales entirely, preferring to rely on other
indicators, such as:
* How well do your clothes fit? Are they tight or loose through the chest,
thighs, or waist?
* The "pinch test": Can you "pinch an inch" of fat at your waistline or at
the back of your arm?
* The "jiggle test": Jump up and down in front of a full-length mirror,
nude. Does anything jiggle that shouldn't
* Overall muscle tone: When you put your hand on your thigh or hip, do you
feel muscle or fat?
-Is using body fat percentage a good way to tell whether I'm overweight?-
Most physicians consider your body fat percentage to be a far better
indicator of overall fitness than weight. Normal ratios are 12-18% body fat
for men and 19-25% for women; very fit people (e.g., athletes) may have much
lower percentages. Unfortunately, body fat percentage is more difficult to
determine than weight (see below).
-What's the best way to measure body fat percentage?-
Several methods are in use, and unfortunately the same person is likely to
get different readings from different methods. As with weighing yourself,
your best bet is to pick one method, stick with it, and watch trends rather
than specific numbers.
* Immersion: This method is based on the fact that lean tissue (muscles,
bones, etc.) tends to sink in water, while fat floats. The client is seated
in a chair which hangs from a scale, rather like a scale in a supermarket's
produce section. The chair and the client are lowered into a pool of water
until the client is completely immersed, and the client's weight (while
immersed) is recorded. The fatter you are, the more you tend to float, and
the lower your immersed weight will be--muscular people weigh more than fat
people while immersed. The immersion method is highly accurate, but
obviously requires a lot of equipment. Covert Bailey advises that you can
estimate your fat ratio by seeing how well you can float on your back in a
regular swimming pool: above 25% fat, people float easily; people with
22-23% fat (a healthy level for women) can usually float while breathing
shallowly; at 15% fat (low for a woman, healthy for a man), one will usually
sink slowly even with a full chest of air; at 13% or less fat, one will sink
readily even with a full chest of air, even in salty ocean water.
* Calipers: The physician or technician making the measurement gently
pinches up folds of tissue in areas that normally accumulate fat readily
(such as the back of your arm, your stomach just above the waistline, and
your hip area), then uses calipers to measure the width of these folds. The
thicker the folds are, the higher the fat ratio in your body. This method is
only somewhat accurate since it measures just the fat which accumulates in
these regions, not that which is imbedded between muscle fibers. However, it
is a simple and inexpensive procedure. ¨ Electrical impedance: This method
is based on the fact that fat and lean tissues have different levels of
electrical conductivity (muscle tissue conducts electricity better than fat
tissue does). The test is simple, completely painless, and takes just a few
minutes; a couple of sensors are attached to the body (e.g., to a hand and a
foot) and used to measure the body's resistance to a weak electrical
* Infrared measurement: This method is based on the fact that an infrared
beam travels faster through muscle than fat. An IR beam is bounced off a
bone (e.g., in the upper arm) and the time that it takes for the signal to
return is measured. As with electrical impedance, the procedure is simple
and completely painless.
-Are there any other ways to find out whether I'm overweight/overfat?-
If you're overweight you probably already know it, but there are a couple of
indicators that can let you know whether your weight increases your risk for
health problems like heart disease. Waist-to-hip ratio is a useful
indicator, and is simple to determine. Stand in front of a full-length
mirror so that you can easily see the areas you are measuring. Use a tape
measure to measure your waist circumference at the level of your navel.
Next, measure your hip circumference at its widest point. (Do not pull the
tape measure too tightly.) Divide your waist measurement by your hip
measurement to determine your waist-to-hip ratio. For example, if your waist
measures 26" (66 cm.) and your hip measurement is 36" (91.5 cm.), your
waist-to-hip ratio is 0.7. For men, a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.95-1.0 or
greater indicates an increased risk for heart disease. Women should have a
ratio of 0.8 or less.
Another useful measurement is your Body Mass Index (BMI). If you have a Web
browser (such as Netscape) which is capable of displaying tables, check out
http://www.loop.com/~bkrentzman/obesity/bmi1.html for a handy BMI chart. To
determine your BMI manually, multiply your weight in pounds by 703, then
divide by the square of your height in inches. For example, if you weigh 130
pounds and are 5'4" (64") tall, your BMI is (130 * 703)/(64 * 64) = 22.3.
(If you use the metric system, divide your weight in kilograms by the square
of your height in meters.) A BMI of 25 or less indicates that you are at low
risk for heart disease; 30 or higher suggests that you are at moderate to
very high risk. BMI, like height/weight charts, does not take into account
individual physiques, body fat percentages, etc., but does at least allow
for a range of weights.
-What is cellulite?-
Strictly speaking, there's no such thing, although vendors of high-priced
creams, special scrubbing sponges, and exercise equipment would like you to
believe otherwise. The term "cellulite" was coined at a European diet spa to
describe the deposits of fat that many women (normal and overweight)
accumulate on their thighs and buttocks. Concentrations of fat in these
areas often have a wrinkled or puckered appearance because the fat bulges
out between the fibers that connect the skin to underlying tissues; the
actual fat itself is no different than that found anywhere else in the body.
Short of surgical measures such as liposuction, there is no way to remove
fat concentrations from one part of the body, although a diet and exercise
program targeted at reducing fat throughout the body may eliminate, or at
least reduce, such localized deposits.