BEST DIETS

REPORTER: HELEN WELLINGS.

It's the battle of the bulge -- once again. Heavier winter foods, snacking, sitting around the heater, are a recipe for weight gain. On average we stack on 2 to 5 kilos during these colder months, especially around the waistline. The weight is easy to gain, but potentially deadly near the heart and vert, very hard to lose.

So, which of our three top selling diets really works best -- the one that's not going to make you go hungry, guaranteed to lose the most kilos, make fat disappear quickly and the easiest to stick to? Is it the Mediterranean Diet based on food eaten in Greece 60 years ago -- lots of fish, vegetables and olive oil, full of anti-oxidants and healthy monounsaturated fats?

Or the Dukan Diet from France, followed by 5 million skinny French men and women and a barrage of stars, like Giselle and JLo. Joanna Hamill lost 11 kilos over 3 weeks on the Dukan Diet following a menu of no, then low, carbohydrates, and high protein, only gradually adding vegetables, fruit and bread.

Then there is the Flat Belly Diet, the latest wonder diet. Just released in Australia, it was developed in America 2 years ago. It's claimed as an anti-bloat, science-based, no-hunger, rapid weight loss plan, targeted at tummy flab. Natalie Filatoff, Editor Prevention Magazine, says "It's been hugely successful and has sold more than 11 million copies".

Four meals a day, five times a day for 32 days and lose 7 kilos. The first four days, the anti-bloat jump-start phase -- lose up to 14 cm and drop up to 3 kilograms; no salt, coffee, tea, alcohol, raw foods, chewing gum, sugar substitutes, fried or fatty foods.

Natalie says, the book tells you "What to buy and every meal is described, how to make it, they are very easy meals and are delicious and satisfying". She says in the next four week phase, the key to getting that flat belly is eating monounsaturated fatty acids -- every meal. "Foods containing high amounts of them such as avocados, olives, nuts and seeds, mono-unsaturated fatty oils and dark chocolate -- eating four meals a day of 400 calories each or 1600 kJ each. You don't have to do any crunches, no more crunches, no more sit-ups, you just follow the diet", Natalie said.

Rochelle McDonald weighs 80 kilos and Libby O'Meara weighs 86 kilos -- both aim to lose 10 kilos on the Flat Belly Diet.Judy Davie, who runs the Food Coach, advocates the Flat Belly and the similar Mediterranean Diet because they include all the healthy food groups. Judy says abdominal fat is "visceral fat".

The fat we can pinch, that we want to get rid of, is subcutaneous fat. "What you need to get rid of is the abdominal fat, the visceral fat that lies deep within the abdominal cavity. It is the fat that causes the stomach to stick out, it is that fat that causes chronic disease", she said.

Judy believes the Dukan diet's too extreme. "The Dukan Diet has phases and in these phases it limits particular food groups which I really don't advocate. It is quite dangerous", Judy said.Her recommendation for weight loss is the Flat Belly Diet.

Associate Professor, Dr. John Dixon, Head of Obesity Research at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute at Monash University, says, "The Flat Belly Diet is a very healthy diet, based largely on the Mediterranean Diet, but is designed to be a little more restrictive. I think the more restrictive a diet the more likely people are to fall off the diet".

Dr John Dixon, the weight loss guru recommends the Dukan Diet. "If I want to rate these diets for losing 10 kilograms, this is losing it soon, then the Dukan Diet is the best way to go. It achieves rapid weight loss. Then the Flat Belly diet will achieve that 10 kg weight loss but you will have to stick with the diet longer to achieve that".

He rates the Mediterranean Diet third for quick weight loss, but for a long-term eating program he says it is the opposite way around. "If we want to lose weight fast, the Dukan Diet, if we want to maintain a healthy lifestyle over the long term, the Mediterranean Diet, but we may when we put on weight have to go on to more stringent diets to control our weight in the short-term", he added.So how have our dieters fared? On the Flat Belly Diet, Rochelle has lost 3 kilograms in the first week and Libby's trimmed 5 cm off her waist."Start now, eat well and you find when summer comes along you strip the clothes off and you are bikini ready to go", Judy said.

CONTACTS:

"Prevention" Magazine Editor: Natalie Filatoff.

Judy Davie: Dietitian of The Food Coach,

www.thefoodcoach.com.au

or

judy@thefoodcoach.com.au

Associate Professor Dr John Dixon, Head of Vascular and Hypertension Obesity Unit, Baker IDI, Monash University, Melbourne,

www.bakeridi.edu.au