If you’re looking for dieting advice and help, one place you might want to look at is the Dr Gourmet site. “Dr Gourmet” himself emailed me and explained that:
I think that this may be something your readers would be interested in. One reason is that we are the only such software that takes families into account for the menu plans. Meal plans can be created for groups of any size, age, or weight. The system also handles leftovers by sorting them into meals later in the week. Our users have told us that nobody wants to cook every day so we built this into the system.
Best of all, it’s free.
The software now also includes a Food Diary, Exercise Diary and Goal Tracking features. In addition users can add their own recipes to a Recipe Box for storage, nutrition analysis and to use in the two week menu plans.
So, is it worth trying out?
Creating an account is straightforward. The site lets you specify how many calories you should be eating, based on your doctor’s instructions – or you can let Dr Gourmet decide. You’re also asked about any health issues (such as allergies), and food dislikes. The interface seems simpler than that for Sensei.com, as it just involves one screen rather than a series of twelve.
One of the aspects of Dr Gourmet that struck me was the amount of flexibility involved. For example, you can choose to follow a meal plan, or just count calories. If you are following a meal plan, you can create profiles for all the members of your family – and since most of us don’t cook and eat alone, this is a big bonus over more “traditional” diet plans.
As someone who enjoys her food, I also appreciated the emphasis on good food and interesting recipes! The recent Spanish Beef Stew with Olives looked very appetising.
The “Quality Calorie Diet” seems to be the core one for the site, but Dr Gourmet also offers a number of other plans – in a similar way to Sensei.
I liked the layout of the meal plan, which allowed a lot of flexibility over lunch in particular:
The provided clear guidelines on what constituted a “serving” (a single triangle sandwich, basically):
Whole Sandwich = 2 lunch servings (two yellow triangles)
2 slices whole wheat bread with 2 ounces lean meat OR 2 ounces reduced-fat cheese
Half Sandwich = 1 lunch serving (one yellow triangle)
1 slice whole wheat bread with 1 ounce lean meat OR 1 ounce reduced-fat cheese
The meals do look a little repetitive, but I’m assuming this is because I entered myself as a group of one – so the site is trying to save on grocery bills by using ingredients in bulk.
The site is quite ad-heavy, and though it seems rich in features, the design isn’t especially snazzy. If you want a great looking weight-loss site, this one probably isn’t for you!
Personally, I’m not too bothered about the looks – and seeing as Dr Gourmet is free to use, the ads don’t bother me. The basic, plain design could be an advantage if you’re on a slow internet connection.
At times, the richness of the features made it a little hard to get started. It took me a while to figure out that I needed to create a “group” consisting of just myself in order to access meal plans, for instance!
If you’re looking for a free healthy meal plan, or even just some more healthy living and eating tips, Dr Gourmet is well worth a glance. The advice seems good and authoritative, and the site is feature-rich, considering that you don’t have to pay for membership.
I’ve been checking out the site Sensei – aimed at Americans who want a healthy-eating plan customised to suit them. It costs $15/month for Web-only access, and $20/month for mobile and Web access.
The key element of Sensei is your diet plan. You need to fill in a 12-stage profile when joining the site so that meals can be customised to suit you. Most of this was perfectly straightforward and sensible – but at times, I found it a little annoying to have to keep on filling in details when I wanted to get to the food plan! (As the longsuffering Boyfriend can tell you, though, I tend to be a tad impatient with all things internetty when they don’t go fast enough for me…)
Sensei lets you select from three basic options: the “Mediterranean plan”, the “Sensible carb plan” (if you want a low-carb diet) and the “Sensible plan”.
There’s an option to eliminate certain foods from your plan, if you don’t like them or don’t eat them (for example, if you’re vegetarian):
The plans are based around three meals and a snack, and you’re supposed to specify the time which you eat these on weekdays and at the weekend. I can see that this would help people who struggle to lose weight because they don’t eat at regular intervals, but I felt it was a rather unnecessary step. My mealtimes tend to vary from day to day, and I usually grab a healthy snack when I’m hungry, not at a specific time in the day!
You also choose what type of meal you’d like in each slot (breakfast/lunch/dinner, weekday/weekend):
The diet plan which I received offered a range of interesting and yummy-sounding meals, each one listing exactly what I should use to prepare them. Here’s a sample day:
Like most people, though, I tend to eat pretty similar breakfasts and lunches most days of the week (cereal and milk, or ryvitas with cottage cheese for breakfast; and ham sandwiches for lunch feature strongly on the menu!) Although I like variety, I wondered how much time and effort I’d end up spending on food shopping and preparation if I followed the given menu exactly.
Handily, I was also emailed a shopping list that would enable me to prepare the meals for the week.
On the site, you can “shuffle meals” (replace your whole week), and you can also select alternative meals for a particular slot.
On the whole, I thought the general advice offered by Sensei was good. For example, in the “Welcome” email I received after signing up, I was told:
It’s best to weigh yourself once a week, on the same day and at the same time. We recommend weighing yourself every Sunday morning, first thing when you wake up. Feel free to weigh yourself more frequently if you wish. Your weight graph will track the most recent weight entered (up to once a day), but be aware that weight can fluctuate quite a bit throughout the week.
I thought the profile step of entering my biggest challenges in healthy eating/living was interesting, but I found this a bit clunky and cheesy in the suggestions it offers. If you have deep-rooted emotional eating problems, or long-formed habits, a single line tip along the lines of “take a healthy lunch to work so you don’t snack on unhealthy foods” is probably not going to have a big impact.
Sensei seems to advocate a sensible and very workable approach to weight-loss. I’ve been interested in healthy eating for years, and I’m confident about creating my own meals and snacks to fit with health and with what I enjoy – but if you’re someone who likes to have a “diet plan” to follow, this one’s much more likely to be to your tastes than one from a book.
One small thing which gave me pause was that when setting my weight-loss goal, I was given the option of choosing between 0.5 and 3lbs per week. Most dieticians recommend not aiming to lose more than 2lbs per week. I can see 3lbs per week being reasonable for someone with a lot of weight to lose, but for me (I’m a healthy weight, with a BMI of 22), a 3lb loss would require a starvation diet!
The site charges for monthly membership ($15/month online membership, $20/month “anywhere” membership), but you can get a seven day trial for free to see if it’s for you, and you don’t need to enter your credit card details for this.
Best of luck with your dieting, healthy eating and exercising – and check back on Monday for the next post in the Good Habits series.
I came across the Best Health Magazine site a few months ago, when they linked to one of my articles on The Office Diet (much appreciated!) It’s a gorgeous site, and because it’s part of Best Health magazine, it clearly has the funding and development behind it to allow content-packed, authoritative features.
The Best Health site has the tagline “Live Better. Feel Great.” If that sounds like the sort of inspiring and uplifting site you want to visit, read on…
The Best Health site has four main sections:
As you can see, it’s a value-packed site with articles covering a great range of topics.
I loved the way that the menu offers a “sneak preview” of each section when I run the mouse over it – this gives instant, easy access to the most recent articles without having to click off the page I’m on.
There’s also a site forum, though it doesn’t seem to get much traffic. If you’re based in Canada (Best Health magazine is Canadian), it could be a good way to hook up with fellow Canadians interested in health/fitness.
The A-Z health index (run your mouse over the brown ‘A-Z health index’, part way down on the left of the page) is an easy way to browse through topics of particular interest to you.
The Best Health site is a great one to browse through during a coffee break – the advice, and the friendly, encouraging tone of the site are great. I should mention that it’s fairly female-focused – but men could definitely find plenty of useful advice on nutrition and health, too.
Do you know a great health/fitness website that you’d like me to share with The Office Diet’s readers? Drop me a line: email@example.com
I’ve recently come across a site that I think many of you will enjoy, called “You On A Diet”. Like The Office Diet, it has a lot of great, practical advice and advocates sensible, sustainable weight-loss habits … not faddy food-restricting diets.
So what can you find on You On A Diet?
The home page has several nice features, including a handy BMI calculator – which works for both imperial and metric measurements – so that you can check whether you’re overweight or at a healthy weight.
My one reservation about this was that if suggested considering a supplement (diet pill) if you are overweight. I would strongly advise trying to lose weight by simply eating more healthily and exercising: you don’t risk side effects, and you’ll be building up good habits for life.
You On A Diet also has a “Blurb of the month” on the homepage, linking to a site or resource that they especially recommend. I was delighted to hear that they’re linking to my Dieting Basics ebook throughout November! (Have you got your copy yet?)
At the bottom of the homepage, you’ll find their latest blog posts, and weight-loss related videos from You Tube. Great for a quick coffee-break!
You On A Diet usefully reviews a lot of popular diets; you can access these by clicking on “Lifestyle Diets”, “Meal Based” or “Supplements” in the orange navigation bar at the top – depending on what sort of diet you’re interested in. Rather than wasting money on the latest celebrity-endorsed book, check You On A Diet first to see what their verdict is.
The reviewers aren’t afraid to speak their mind, and suggest the dangers or pitfalls of a particular diet plan:
The recommended daily calorie intake for the Kimkins diet is set at a dangerous 700 calories a day which is well below the recommended level set by medical practitioners to maintain good health.
– The Kimkins Diet
But they’ll praise diets which promote sensible eating habits – and where you get to enjoy your food!
The Sonoma Diet™ comes with plenty of guidance. The food enjoyed in this diet makes you feel like you’re not on a diet at all. The key is what you eat and when you eat it. Feedback from our readers refreshingly stated they no longer needed to have cheat meals or craved for fatty foods when using this diet.
– The Sonama Diet
You On A Diet has recently started publishing regular blog posts (click “Diet Blog” in the orange bar, or “Home” if you’re on the blog section itself). These articles deal with a range of weight-loss and healthy eating topics. Here are a few that I particularly enjoyed reading:
Remember, all it takes is saving 250 calories a day to lose half a pound a week: That’s over 25 pounds a year—probably faster than you gained it!
Some great tips here on how to cut 250 calories a day without even noticing. This could be as switching to skimmed milk in your latte, swapping a chocolate bar for a granola bar, and making some canny choices at lunch and dinner.
Think before you eat and decide whether you will really enjoy the food and feel good about eating it; whether you would rather lose weight by passing up on those fattening treats; and whether you are willing to be more active to burn the calories off.
I often ask myself whether the calories in something are worth it – sure, one of those giant cookies on sale at the canteen might go nicely with my cup of tea, but I know the heavy dose of sugar won’t help my afternoon productivity much! There are some great tips here on considering whether the enjoyment of something really justifies the calories.
Without question one of the most dreaded effects of quick weight loss programs is the fact that 9 out of 10 will gain all the weight back.
Like The Office Diet, and Diet Blog, You On A Diet promotes sustainable, healthy weight loss to reach a realistic goal weight – not crash-dieting in order to become a stick-figure. This article is a great reminder of why fast weight loss is really bad for you.
Why not check out You On A Diet today? I’ve added them to my list of Recommended Reads, and if you want to get all their posts, you can simply subscribe to their RSS feed. There’s also a newsletter that you can sign up for on the site – look for the envelope-style icon and yellow post-it note that appears on the top right of your screen when you visit the site.
I’ve mentioned the site Weight Loss Resources before; it’s a great service for anyone who wants to lose weight or who is struggling to maintain their weight loss.
|Price||£7 – £9 per month|
|Software type||Online system|
|Main features||Food/exercise diary, food/exercise database, charts and reports of nutritional intake and weight loss achieved, articles, contests, forums.|
|Aimed at||Anyone, male or female, with regular internet access. The community includes a lot of office workers.|
Weight Loss Resources is centred around its food diary. Each day, you log everything you’ve eaten, and how much exercise you’ve done – the site automatically calculates how many calories you should eat and how many of those you’ve consumed.
I rarely stick to filling in a food diary, and Weight Loss Resources (often abbreviated to WLR) is the only long-term method that’s worked for me. It does all the adding-up automatically, and is a great time-saver. The site allows you to create recipes which you can reuse. For example, I made one for “Stir Fry, Prawn, Veg and Noodes” rather than separately entering every food on my plate every time I ate that meal:
Being able to see charts and reports is also a big boost to motivation – and lets you know if you’re veering off the rails. I particularly like the daily pie charts of how many calories were consumed at each meal, and what percentage of calories came from carbohydrate, protein, fat or alcohol.
The site has a very active user community, as shown in the forums; discussions tend to be chatty, friendly and very supportive. My one gripe is that the Advice & Support and Off Topic boards tend to be so “noisy” that posts from the morning have often slipped onto the second page by the time I get home in the evening.
The databases of food (there are UK and US versions) cover a huge range of supermarket and restaurant brand items, as well as generic products. If you try to find a product which isn’t in the database, you can add it yourself – you just need the nutritional information for 100g, 100ml, or per serving (usually on the package) and the serving size.
WLR has an wonderful, friendly, Help Team who are on hand 8am to 10pm to answer queries about health, exercise and nutrition, and also to assist with any technical problems. They’re very good at sourcing nutritional information for products which don’t have this on the packaging, and they’ll also “clean up” any duplicate or old entries in the database if you drop them an email or post on the Help Team forum.
The site does charge a subscription fee – ranging from £7-£9/month (depending on how long you sign up for). If you just want to track calories, or just want to join other dieters on web forums, there are plenty of free sites where you can do this.
My impression of the software is that it’s a bit “clunky”. There have been some great upgrades over the past few years, since when I began using it, but the site doesn’t have the smooth, modern look and feel of others such as the Times Health Club.
The WLR site sometimes crashes and is occasionally offline for several hours. This can be very frustrating if you’re busy and have little time to spend on the site.
If you’re looking for motivation, an easy way to track calories, advice, support and friendship, and a safe programme for successful weight loss – go for it! I’ve lost about two stone during my on-and-off membership of WLR. And seeing figures such as fibre, fruit and veg, and exercise completed on the screen was a real encouragement towards healthy habits.
Lots of articles (such as product reviews, tips, and general advice) are available pre-login. You can also get a 24 hour free trial – and you don’t have to enter any card details for this.
I’ve always found Weight Loss Resources great value for money. I’ve unsubscribed now – having finally achieved my goal weight! – but still strongly recommend it. You’ll almost certainly make some new friends, too: Anna, our diarist, is a lovely woman who I “met” on the site.
(Disclaimer: I’ve not been paid, bribed or encouraged in any way to write this post – I don’t get anything from Weight Loss Resources if you do sign up, I’m just reviewing and recommending it because it’s been a hugely helpful and enjoyable resource for me! All screenshots are taken from the Weight Loss Resources/Times Health club sites)
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The March and April copies of Women’s Fitness were being given away for free in my gym earlier this week. All the copies were taken within a couple of days, and having browsed through the magazine, I can see why – it’s a great, value-packed read.
|Sections||Features, Regulars, Exercise, Health, Nutrition, Directories|
|Aimed at||Women of all ages with moderate-high level of fitness.|
The sections cover
Overall, the magazine is a great mix of practical advice, quick ideas, latest news and interviews with real women. I was especially pleased to see an emphasis on a healthy lifestyle over simply losing weight – the article writers were clear about the need to consume enough calories, especially when exercising.
The magazine is probably suited to the intermediate to advanced exerciser – beginners who are at a low fitness level might find “Get triathlon fit – Be prepared for the ultimate challenge” a bit daunting!
The only things I disliked was a slight over-emphasis on advertising and products, and a rather busy visual layout with small text, sometimes with a poor contrast between text and background colour. I probably wouldn’t buy this every month, but only because one issue has enough content to keep me going a good while. And if you’re keen on escaping the office life, track down a copy of the March issue, which has a guide to careers in fitness… (just don’t stop reading The Office Diet if you do find a new job!)