The Rotation Diet by Martin Katahn Ph.D. (W. W. Norton: $15.95, 284 pp.)
Few diet books are lucky enough to have the strong supporting arm of the publisher much less a major supermarket chain in their promotion.
The Rotation Diet is one of the lucky few. Author Katahn has Vons Grocery Co. on his side. A weigh-in program and a copy of the book in pamphlet form has been in circulation in 183 Vons supermarkets as a free community service throughout Southern and Central California and Las Vegas. And now Wendy's is offering salads and meal combinations approved for the Rotation Diet. The help of the grocery chain and restaurants, television, radio, a major health organization and Katahn's videotape put the book on the New York Times best-sellers list.
The Man Behind the Diet
No one could be more surprised than Katahn, a low-profile personality whose life has been devoted to scientific research as professor of psychology and director of the weight management program at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.
According to Katahn, Vons' goal is to encourage participants to collectively lose 5 million pounds and qualify for a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Why is Vons in the dieting game?
"With 90% of the Americans believing they need to lose at least five pounds and 20% actually overweight, Vons is pleased to provide a nutritionally balanced program to help make Southern California healthier," said Bill Davila, president of Vons.
And yes, the game is not without profit. "Our program calls for consuming only fresh produce. In the grocery business there is more profit in fresh produce than in canned or packaged foods. The diet also calls for fresh fish in which is there is more profit margin than in meats," Katahn said.
The Rotation Diet with three components of weight loss--food, exercise and behavior modification--is somewhat more palatable than most restrictive diets because the diet alternates low-, medium- and high-calorie days over a three-week period. After three weeks, dieters rotate off the diet for one or two weeks of maintenance (about 1,500 to 1,800 calories for women and 2,400 calories for men, depending on energy expenditure). "Our research has shown that by dieting in a rotating manner, one avoids the discouraging and inevitable plateau usually reached after body liquid is lost," Katahn said.
The premise behind the diet is that it does not lower the dieter's metabolic rate, which increases the chances of keeping the weight off. In a test group studied, 85% have maintained their desired weights, Katahn said.
Disagreements Over Diet
The scientific community, which often denounces quick weight-loss diets as unrealistic, has had mixed feelings on Katahn's recommended approach. Their basic quarrel is with the initial 600-calorie diet taken three days and repeated for another three days during the third week with a 1,200-calorie diet in the second week and fourth week and a 1,800- to 2,000-calorie diet in the fifth week. The American Dietetic Assn. says that 600 calories is unbalanced, but most nutritionists say that a brief period of low-calorie intake will not be harmful for normal healthy people. However, Katahn said the diet is not recommended for children, pregnant women, diabetics and people with heart problems or hypertension. "Anyone embarking on a low-calorie diet should see a physician first," he said.
A sample menu indicates that "free vegetables," such as asparagus, celery, chicory, Chinese cabbage, cucumber, endive, escarole, lettuce, parsley, radish, spinach, watercress and zucchini can be consumed in unlimited amounts.
Here is a sample of the first day's diet for women (men may add two more grain servings of bread, cereal or crackers, 50% larger portions of meat, fish or fowl, one tablespoon of butter, oil or salad dressing and three safe fruits (low-sugar type, such as apple, berries, grapefruit, melon, orange, peach, pineapple and tangerine).
Breakfast: half a grapefruit, a slice of whole-wheat toast and a slice of cheese, plus a no-calorie beverage.
Lunch: 2 ounces of canned (water-packed) salmon, unlimited vegetables, five whole-wheat crackers and a non-caloric beverage.
Dinner: 3 ounces of baked chicken, one serving of cauliflower and one cup of beets, one apple and a non-caloric beverage.
Fruit, says Katahn, are an excellent substitute for sweets. "People should think of fruit when they want to have a snack between meals for an energy lift. That's the best way to control the impulse to eat high-calorie sweets.
The recipes are rather basic--lemon-baked chicken, chicken with yogurt, poached fish fillets, broccoli with olives.
About eight glasses of water are recommended to facilitate weight loss and regularity. Behavior-modification techniques are outlined to avoid overconsumption when planning meals, shopping, storing foods and cooking, with emphasis on serving size. "If you don't have a good idea of serving sizes, it is worth your buying a scale and other measuring implements and measuring for a few days," Katahn said.
There are guidelines for returning to a full-scale maintenance diet, such as increasing food intake slowly to 1,200 calories for women and 1,800 calories for men for the first week, then increasing calories to 1,500 for women and as much as 2,400 for men to determine where weight will stabilize with a new level of physical activity, which Katahn has introduced in his program. Exercise may include anything from walking briskly, bicycle riding or swimming, racket sports or rowing. There are alternate menus for the Rotating Diet for both maintenance and weight loss should the need arise.