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Diet, Fitness Plans Add Weight to a Losing Proposition

January 05, 1998|CATHY WERBLIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

You've consumed 3 pounds of See's candy, one 20-pound turkey, two platters of fried potato latkes, a ham, one pumpkin pie and just a crumb of your grandmother's fruitcake.

There was also eggnog, chardonnay and champagne.

If you're like many of the rest of us, you've eaten enough over the holiday season to add 4 to 8 pounds.

The holidays are "an excuse to eat more--both regular foods and sweets," said Dr. Kevin Steele, vice president of health services and fitness education for 24-Hour Fitness. "It's just not uncommon to put on that much weight during [the holidays]."

And it's not uncommon to panic in January.

Every year, holiday bingers resolve to lose pounds with memberships to gyms and diet centers, investments in weight-loss formulas and diet pills, and personal commitments to therapy, hypnotism and plastic surgery.

Typically, January is the busiest month of the year for health club operators, who see an influx of customers spouting new year's resolve.

But Steele and others caution dieters that new year's resolutions often turn to failure if weight loss isn't done slowly and with a commitment to changing exercise and eating patterns.

It's also important to find a facility or program that caters to the whole body rather than guaranteeing immediate weight loss, experts said.

"Go to a place where you'll get an assessment--a measure of blood pressure, flexibility and strength to determine what you're capable of doing today. Design a program to gradually progress to where you want to be," Steele said.

The Sports Club, Irvine offers the Private Trainers System, a six-week membership from about $500 to $800. The program teams a client with a personal trainer who counsels him or her on exercise, nutrition and eating strategies.

Jeff Dilts, a manager with the club, said the program is designed to combine nutrition with exercise to help dieters reach their goals.

"We know that awareness is higher in January than at any other time, except just prior to summer," Dilts said. "Every gym in the country gets a huge influx--[dieters] all try their best and make it until the middle of February."

The problem, according to the health club manager, is that losing weight takes more time than customers predict, results don't always come quickly and losing pounds and inches is difficult.

"It's easy to slip off and fall into old bad habits," Dilts said.

Kristi Walsh, a psychoanalyst with An Alternative Choice, a Tustin-based weight-loss clinic, said people who have failed with other diet programs in January visit her office in February.

"People try some kind of quick fad diet in January and fail by February," she said. "My big time is February. People are ready to deal with the deeper issues."

Walsh said once dieters discover why they are overeating, weight loss efforts become more successful.

James Harder offers dieters hoping to lose between 15 to 25 pounds another solution--hypnosis.

Harder said his approach, through the Hypnosis Center in Newport Beach, is based on breaking patterns and offering alternatives to automatic eating.

"There are myths about hypnosis from stage hypnotists," Harder said. "It's not a magic pill."

Through post-hypnotic suggestion, Harder said he can help his clients reach for something other than food for comfort, support or fulfillment.

With costs from $65 to $110 an hour, Harder said hypnosis can be an effective alternative to diet foods and centers. Harder said his program is based on specific client needs.

Referring to diet centers as "one size fits all" programs, Harder said they often fail to take individual eating patterns into account. "Those pattens aren't broken by buying food that is low in calories," he said.

One option not available to dieters this year is the now-banned drug combination commonly known as fen-phen. The compound, removed from the market by the Food and Drug Administration in September, helped patients lose weight by tricking the brain into feeling full.

Dr. Robert Skversky of the Weight No More clinic in Newport Beach said the drug's removal has been "devastating" for his patients.

Although the popular fen-phen is no longer available, the FDA recently approved a new compound known as Meridia, which Skversky plans to make available as soon as it hits the market in February. Meridia is designed to enhance the brain's natural appetite-regulating chemicals.

Skversky said medication is the only weight-loss program that has been proved effective over time.

"Ninty-five percent of the patients on commercial weight-loss programs put back on the lost weight and then some," he said.

Skversky, who believes weight is dictated by genetic predisposition, said long-term dosages of weight-loss medications have been proved effective in helping patients lose and keep off excess pounds.

"Its like insulin--you don't stop taking insulin when your blood sugar is normal, so why stop medicine when your weight is normal?"

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