The 90/10 Weight-Loss Plan for Seniors

Registered dietitian Joy Bauer, the author of the 90/10 plan, says that years of developing nutrition plans for clients have convinced her that there is no diet that will magically melt fat away. The key to weight loss, she says, is to sensibly cut calories, and that's why she developed the 90/10 plan. The "90" in her title stands for "90 percent sensible choice" and the "10" for "10 percent fun food choices," which allows for some flexibility and indulgence.

Quick Take

  • Low-calorie, mostly balanced diet
  • Relatively low in fruits and vegetables
  • Allows a once-a-day controlled splurge on junk food
  • Limits refined carbohydrates, aside from the "Fun Food" daily splurge

This Diet Is Best For

People who find it impossible to give up a little junk food treat every day but otherwise are willing to stick with a balanced, low-calorie plan

Who Should Not Try This Diet

Those who find it tough to stop once they've started eating cookies, chips, or cake. Total abstinence from forbidden foods might work best for them.

The Premise

Bauer believes that no matter what the diet, you won't stick with it for long if you're not already used to eating that way. She asserts that carbohydrates will not make you fat -- disputing the claims of low-carbohydrate diets -- and that including them in your diet will, in fact, make weight loss easier while keeping your energy level up.

While her diet discourages eating refined carbohydrates such as sugar and candy, the 10 percent rule allows for what she calls "soul-soothing" foods that aren't exactly healthful. The diet is a realistic food strategy, not exact math. The program places more of an emphasis on exercise than most diet plans.

The Rationale

Bauer says the reason her plan works is because it's realistic. Any diet that forbids favorite foods is an invitation to "cheat," which is followed by guilt and surrender to old eating habits. By allowing 10 percent leeway in choosing some typically forbidden foods, it gives dieters freedom of choice. Exercise is also an integral part of the plan.

There are factors such as heredity, age, frame, and metabolism, over which Bauer says you have no control. Her diet focuses on the factors that you can control, such as food intake, exercise, and your metabolism. While you can't control the inherited part of your basic metabolism, she says, you can increase your metabolic rate through exercise.

Her suggestions for physical activity range from walking to weight training. The point, she says, is to exercise regularly. She provides lots of tips for warming up and even provides forms for keeping track of your activities.

Eating on the 90/10 Weight-Loss Plan

The 90/10 plan offers more menus than most other diets. It provides two weeks' worth of menus for each of the three calorie levels (1,200, 1,400, and 1,600). The lowest-calorie diet plan is for women who exercise little and who have only two to ten pounds to lose and want to lose it fast. The 1,400 calorie plan is for most women with moderately active lifestyles and who have between 2 and 50 pounds to lose.

The 1,600 calorie plan works well for most men, whether they exercise or not, and women who are 5'6" or taller. A lengthy list of fun foods that can account for one serving (250 calories) a day is also provided.

As long as you don't exceed the serving size specified, just about all of your favorite foods are allowed. The menus are pretty bland compared to a lot of other diet plans, and the amount of food is fairly small.

On the 1,400 calorie plan, a typical day might include scrambled tofu and a toasted whole-wheat English muffin for breakfast; pita pizza for lunch; a baked apple for a snack; fish, sweet potato, and green beans for dinner; and a fun food at some point during the day.

What the Experts Say

The diet is a relatively balanced plan, but because it is so low in calories, the diet falls far short of the recommended intakes for calcium and vitamin D. And it doesn't provide enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains each day to meet current recommendations.Experts say that the calories "spent" on the daily allowance of "fun food" would be better spent on more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Add a little more produce each day, along with a calcium and vitamin D supplement, and the nutrition would be much improved. The 90/10 plan gets a gold star for its emphasis on physical activity and the flexibility it allows in designing your own activity plan.

Bauer promises a weight loss of up to ten pounds during the first two weeks, depending on how much you have to lose and how low you go on calories. However, health experts consider that much weight loss in that little time to be unsafe. After the initial rapid weight loss, you can expect to settle in to a loss of about one to two pounds per week.

If you follow the diet for an extended period of time without taking a calcium and vitamin D supplement, you could be putting yourself at risk for osteoporosis. And the lack of high-fiber carbs at the lowest calorie level could cause constipation, an often troublesome problem for folks over 50.

Calorie quota: There are three different calorie levels to start out with: 1,200, 1,400, and 1,600 calories, based on the amount of weight you want to lose and how fast you want to lose it. Calorie counting is incorporated into the diet plan -- assuming you stick with the menus.

Yes: Following preset calorie limits, keeping a written record of what you eat, regular exercise, using a predetermined number of calories each day for a junk food splurge

No: Eating more than the allowed "fun food" daily serving, going over the calorie count

Other similar diets: Weight Wathcers

In the next section, read about the pros and cons of the Nutrisystem program for seniors.

To learn more about senior health, see: