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May 7, 2004 -- Low carb is America's latest miracle weight-loss diet. But this craze has put most Americans into "calorie denial," a new survey shows.

A nationwide survey involving 1,000 telephone interviews -- released by Slim-Fast Foods Company -- shows that half of Americans believe that weight loss is possible by cutting carbohydrates with no need to count calories.

Low-Carb in a Nutshell

The Slim-Fast researchers found that, among low-carb dieters:

  • Almost half -- 46% -- believe they can lose weight just by cutting carbs without cutting calories.
  • More than half -- 52% -- believe that they can lose weight and also keep it off long term by cutting carbs but not cutting calories.

  • One-third -- 34% -- believe that they do not need to control portion size.

  • More than half -- 55% -- do not worry about getting all the essential nutrients they need in their diets.

Don't Be Scared of Potatoes

"The low-carb phenomenon is unfortunate," says Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic. "Some really good, healthy foods are being banned. You cannot deprive yourself. You cannot simply ban so many foods. It's unhealthy. And it does not work in weight loss."

To lose weight, "you simply have to choose wisely, have balance in your diet," says Magee. "We've lost the idea of eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans. And guess what -- those are carbs, what I call 'smart carbs.' They are great foods!"

We also need to curb our appetite, says Magee:

  • Eat only when we're hungry.
  • Stop eating when we're comfortable -- not continue until we're stuffed.

"When you stop eating before you're stuffed, you end up eating a reasonable portion of food," Magee tells WebMD. "If you eat for the right reasons, you truly do get comfortable fairly quickly. Then you end up eating smaller meals during the day. That's what helps us lose weight.

"Besides, where's the joy in cutting so many foods from our lives?" asks Magee. "We need to experience joy in eating but at the same time make health a priority. I'm personally not able to eliminate sugar and processed carbs from my diet -- sugar or some white-flour products. But I eat it in small amounts. Living a healthy lifestyle is about finding the balance, where you can trim."

Potato chips, french fries, ice cream: "Many people think they have problems with high-carbohydrate foods, controlling the amounts they eat," she says. "Well, it's not just carbs that are the problem, it's fats and carbs -- that combination is what's killing us. There's nothing wrong with a potato -- until you fry it in fat. Potatoes are high in fiber, vitamin C. We need to remind ourselves of that."

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