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Dr. Shapiro's Picture Perfect Weight Loss Diet: What You Need to Know

Shapiro frowns upon deprivation because it leads to cravings and overeating. Instead he recommends that you understand the choices you make. See more weight loss tips pictures.
Publications International, Ltd.

Dr. Howard M. Shapiro, a weight-loss doctor to the rich and famous in New York City, has developed a weight-loss strategy that helps dieters develop "food awareness." By visually demonstrating the choices you can make in your diet (for instance, 1 fat-free, sugar-free muffin has the same number of calories as 1 whole pineapple, 1/2 cantaloupe, 2 pears, 1/2 papaya, 5 ounces grapes, 1/2 kiwifruit, and 2 whole-wheat rolls together), Shapiro says you'll be able to make better food choices -- choices that will allow you to eat any food you want and yet lose weight. In more than 100 pages of photographs, he shows you how to get more food for fewer calories. In his 20 years of counseling people about losing weight, Shapiro says he has learned that there is no single weight-loss program that can work for everyone. More recently, Dr. Shapiro has added a cookbook and a 30-day plan guidebook.

The Rationale

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The rationale behind Shapiro's diet is one found in several other diet plans -- it's the calorie concentration of foods that is the key to controlling weight. You can eat more of foods that have a lower calorie concentration than you can of those with a higher calorie concentration. Through clear explanations and graphic illustrations, Shapiro shows you which kinds of foods are more concentrated. And he dispels a lot of myths about low-calorie choices. Think you're being virtuous by having a dry bagel? Well, it turns out that only one-third of that dry bagel provides the same number of calories as a vegetarian "ham" sandwich on light bread with lettuce, tomato, mustard, and a pickle. The sandwich will fill you up more, and it also is more nutritious.

Shapiro frowns upon deprivation because it leads to cravings, which lead to overeating. Instead he recommends that you understand the choices you make and adjust your diet accordingly. He considers portion cutting an "ill-advised exercise in a false kind of willpower." You don't need to have smaller portions but rather larger portions of lower-calorie food. He doesn't discourage eating carbohydrates -- either sugar or starch, asserting that a calorie is a calorie, no matter what it is made of or when you eat it. Shapiro encourages dieters to keep a food diary to increase their food awareness.

 

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The diet allows anything your heart desires, as long as you keep your calorie count under control. While it gives no guidelines for daily calorie intakes, it encourages dieters to stick with low-calorie foods that are high in volume. According to Shapiro, there are no bad foods and there are no correct portions. It's all up to your ability to visualize the calorie counts and portion sizes of foods and make the right choices.

Fact or Fiction: What the Experts Say

If you can trust the calorie comparisons in the photographs, then his idea makes some sense. Eating more for less (fewer calories) is a concept all nutritionists try to teach. But, according to Kathleen Zelman, R.D., nutrition consultant in Atlanta, Georgia, dieters should double-check the portions, since some of the photographs appear to underestimate the serving size of high-calorie foods and overestimate the serving size of low-calorie foods. In addition, Shapiro's complete focus on caloric density seems to overlook the nutrient density of foods. Choosing foods that offer the most nutrients for the fewest calories is also an important weight-loss strategy.

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Gains and Losses/What's the Damage?

Although Shapiro's basic idea is a good one, he seems to have sidestepped nutrition. Very little consideration is given to making sure you get enough calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, folic acid, or any of the other nutrients that are so important for your continued good health. Neither does he mention the possibility of getting too much of some nutrients, such as sodium. If you follow his concept carefully, you should lose weight and feel more satisfied, but there's no guarantee that you'll be getting all the nutrients you need. One chapter of the book is devoted to exercise and gives a broad overview of how to get fit. While it's more information than some diets offer, there is very little in terms of day-to-day guidelines on what kind of exercise to do and how much of it to do.

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