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Rating Calorie-Control Diets For Seniors

The Duchess Plan for Seniors

Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, has been a spokesperson for Weight Watchers for years. Now she has a diet book that integrates much of the Weight Watchers diet program with her own philosophy about weight loss and maintenance.

Quick Take

  • A balanced, reduced-calorie plan emphasizing fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Emphasizes regular physical activity for weight loss
  • Maintains that self-esteem and a good body image are critical to long-term success
  • Expected weight loss is about two pounds per week

This Diet Is Best For

Those who want to make some healthy changes in their diet and lose weight and who are willing to devote some extra time to planning, shopping, and preparing food, as well as exercising regularly

Who Should Not Try This Diet

People who have unusually low or unusually high calorie needs and those who are not willing and able to devote a considerable amount of time to food preparation

The Premise

The diet is based on the premise that all calories count. No one type of calorie counts more or less than another. However, the diet counts points not calories, in keeping with the Weight Watchers program. In Weight Watchers, foods are given point values and you are allowed a maximum number of points each day.

The Duchess emphasizes self-esteem and body image, and she lays out a no-nonsense eating and lifestyle plan that incorporates exercise. In fact, the Duchess' plan emphasizes physical activity more than most other plans.

The Rationale

Like Weight Watchers -- which is what this diet plan actually is -- the diet tries to be realistic and accommodating while encouraging slow dietary changes. The diet is designed to help you cut back on foods high in fat and sugar, but nothing is actually forbidden. A quick quiz helps you assess your current diet and how much you need to improve it.

Dieting traps are considered a real problem for people trying to lose weight, so the Duchess gives several potentially disastrous scenarios along with a plan of action for each. Regular exercise is encouraged not just because it helps with weight loss but because it will give you a healthier, longer, and better quality life by boosting your immune system, lifting your mood, and reducing your cancer risk.

Exercise also plays a role in heating up your sex life, preventing osteoporosis, improving sleep, reducing your risk of heart disease, improving your memory, and enhancing your body image. There's even a guide to help you discover your personal exercise style and a separate chapter on how to fit exercise into your busy life.

Eating on the Duchess Plan

Four weeks of menus are provided, and Weight Watchers planned points are provided for each food, each meal, and each day. Depending on how much you weigh in the beginning, you are allotted anywhere from 18 to 35 points a day. Each food has a point value. For example, one cup of grapes is one point, and one slice of pizza is nine points.

The higher the point value of a single food, the fewer the points left over for the rest of the day. The book includes about 80 recipes for foods in the four-week plan. The meals are varied and allow for small indulgences. However, as presented in the book, the diet requires a lot of food preparation.

A typical day's menus include breakfast brushcetta and orange juice in the morning; leek and potato soup, a mini crudite platter with dipping sauce, herb-crusted grilled chicken breast, and fat-free milk for lunch; and citrus-seared tuna, mango salsa, green beans, and couscous for dinner. A snack might be a carton of low fat, artificially sweetened yogurt with fresh strawberries.

What the Experts Say

Just about every nutritionist believes in the Weight Watchers diet program. However, the Duchess' program falls short by not providing a way to individualize the program either for points or calories. Point value lists are given only for the prepared dishes, not for individual foods in the menus or for any other foods, making it difficult to plan your own meals or dine out.

This separates the Duchess' diet from the original Weight Watchers plan, which came with detailed lists showing the point values for hundreds of foods. However, the Duchess' diet plan does get an "A" for its emphasis on physical activity.

The diet is designed for a gradual weight loss of up to two pounds per week. Unlike the Weight Watchers program, it appears to be a one-size-fits-all diet. There are no guidelines for adjusting calorie intake or for making menu substitutions in the menus provided. The menus simply provide a certain number of calories, regardless of your build, your activity level, or your metabolism.

The diet is obviously lower in fat and calories than a typical diet, with lots of healthy low fat, high-fiber foods (good for the over-50 crowd trying to fend off heart disease, diabetes, and constipation), so it should result in weight loss for most people. But it doesn't make allowances for people whose calorie requirements might be unusually high or unusually low.

Calorie quota: The diet uses the point system, as does the Weight Watchers program, and no calorie counts are provided, though the diet is low in calories.

Yes: Positive attitude, lean meats, lots of fruits and vegetables, fat-free dairy products, lots of water, high-fiber foods, regular activity

No: Inactivity, sugar, fatty meats, whole-fat dairy products

Other similar diets: Nutri/System, Richard Simmons, Volumetrics, Weight Watchers

Continue to the next page to read about the Jenny Craig Program.

To learn more about senior health, see: