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One diet doesn't fit all, so tailor yours to fit you

January 06, 2003

Netty Levine

Dietitian for Outpatient Counseling Center, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center; registered dietitian; age 51; lives in West Los Angeles.

After more than 20 years of helping people with their diets, Netty Levine has heard of lots of diets, but the ones that bother her most are those that cut out an entire food group. Take the high protein/low carbohydrate diets: "Initially people will lose water weight, but the diet is tough to sustain. You need some complex carbs for energy. People should accept gradual weight loss and a well-balanced diet. What you don't want to do is lose weight and sabotage health. You just trade one set of problems for another."

Most of what she does involves tailoring diets to individuals. "What works for your friend may not work for you. You have to take into account health problems and histories, metabolism, activity levels, muscle mass, cultural backgrounds, heredity, age and gender."

Those who not only lose weight but also keep their weight off, she's noticed, do three things for the rest of their lives: They keep a food and exercise diary, noting serving sizes and calories. They exercise regularly. They weigh themselves at least once a week. Here are a couple other tricks she's learned that help her: Don't drink your calories. ("I gained 25 pounds in my first year of college because I learned how to drink," she says, adding that the most she drinks now is one glass of wine a week, half a glass at a time). And always eat the cold hors d'oeuvres (the hot ones tend to have more calories).

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Personal habits

Diet: For breakfast has high-fiber cereal (some combination of All Bran, Kashi Go Lean, Trader Joe's High Fiber cereal) with one cup blueberries and nonfat lactate milk (because she's lactose-intolerant). She also has one cup of coffee with nonfat milk and a teaspoon of cocoa powder.

Exercise: Walks on the treadmill four times a week for 45 minutes to an hour.

Weakness: Hershey's chocolate Kisses. There's a bowl of them at work, and she allows herself four a day, or three if they have almonds. Some days she resists.

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