Richard Simmons Diet: What You Need to Know

Richard Simmons attends the 2010 World Fitness Day in Atlanta. See more weight loss tips pictures.
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Richard Simmons is hard to miss, so chances are you've heard about or seen him even if you weren't thinking about losing weight. He's been the star of several television shows, infomercials, and videos, and he has written an autobiography. For some, his explosive enthusiasm is hard to take. His diet is a healthful one, but there is little that's unique about Richard Simmons' diet plan other than Simmons himself. He is indeed the main attraction. His diet plan is updated regularly and repackaged; the latest version is called SlimAway. The program, also referred to as "Richard's Clubhouse," is available mainly through his Web site (www.richardsimmons.com).

It includes daily motivational messages via e-mail, 30 days of meal plans, recipe cards, a restaurant guide, food tracking sheets, access to message boards, chat rooms, and an online FoodMover program that allows you to keep track of your daily food allowances, water intake, and exercise expenditures. Membership in Richard's Clubhouse also allows you to purchase any of his exercise videos/CDs/DVDs and other items (such as books, dolls, clothing, and key chains) at a discount price. His videos are unique in that they feature people of all sizes and shapes. Having been extremely overweight himself, Simmons obviously empathizes with anyone who's unhappy about their weight.

The Rationale

With Richard Simmons as your personal cheerleader, you may find the motivation you need to get with the program and to stick with it. His overriding philosophy is one of inclusiveness. No matter how overweight you are or how miserable you feel because of your weight, Simmons reassuringly offers hope to even the most hopeless among us. Register as a member on his Web site (it's $19.95 for the first 12 weeks and $9.95 per month thereafter), and you can join dieters' chat rooms and an occasional live chat with Simmons himself. Simmons places considerable emphasis on physical activity, and this is the one trait of his weight-loss program that stands out and puts it a notch above the rest. In fact, Simmons was, and probably still is, best known for his exercise programs that include aerobic activity to the beat of a wide variety of music, from disco to Broadway. Though some of his advice smacks of pop psychology, for some people it may be just what the doctor ordered.

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Richard Simmons Diet Foods and Results

SlimAway lays out a well-balanced and varied diet that admirably includes a minimum of seven servings of fruits and vegetables and two servings of low-fat dairy foods a day. He also wisely recommends not going below 1,200 calories and drinking eight glasses of water each day. It's a no-nonsense program that sets clear guidelines but leaves individual food choices up to the dieter. There are no prepackaged foods, and he encourages you to choose from fresh foods, such as fish, strawberries, greens, oranges, and whole-grain breads. The foods are grouped according to categories, and the diet is set up much like the exchange system used by many people with diabetes. For example, one slice of bread equals one bread exchange, 8 ounces of skim milk equals one milk exchange, etc. You're allowed a certain number of exchanges from each group, depending on your daily calorie quota. The FoodMover Exchange booklets also include exchanges for international cuisine and restaurant meals.

Fact or Fiction: What the Experts Say

Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D., a nutrition consultant in private practice in New York City, says she believes the Richard Simmons program makes sense and is not extreme. Plus, she gives him extra points because he acknowledges and accommodates the needs of even the most overweight people. Few experts take real issue with any of Richard Simmons' programs, with the exception of the inclusion and marketing of his own brand of supplements.

Gains and Losses/What's the Damage?

Those who follow Simmons' diet could run a little low on calcium and vitamin D, even though it includes more dairy than many other weight-loss programs. As admirable as the program is overall, Simmons loses face over the addition of his own brand of supposedly energy-boosting supplements, which are hawked by a telemarketer soon after you place your order for the program. Still, if you ignore the hype and just buy any over-the-counter multivitamin, there's little bad to say about the Simmons plan. If you follow his recommended calorie intakes, you should expect to lose about one to two pounds per week. It is a diet and exercise plan that's designed for long-term success.

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