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Anne Collins weight loss program

Definition

The Anne Collins weight loss program is a weight loss system accessed on-line after payment of a yearly subscription fee. The system consists of nine separate diet plans plus advice regarding nutrition, exercise, and specific physical disorders; an on-line support community; and personal advice available through e-mail. There are no diet foods, nutritional supplements, appetite suppressants, exercise equipment, or any other products sold as part of the system.

Origins

Anne Collins is an Irish nutritionist who says about herself, “For 24 years I have been involved in the weight loss and fitness industry as a diet consultant, nutritionist, and personal adviser. I have written for many newspapers and magazines including a weekly weight loss and health column.” She states that she first formulated her weight loss system in 1982 but does not mention the date that her Internet Web site opened.

The Anne Collins Web site claims that it has had nearly 7.5 million visitors and is ranked the eighth most popular online diet Web site by Hitwise (an online competitive intelligence service that researches market trends). However, a much lower number of people have actually tried the Anne Collins system. The Web site states that it helps “over 250,000 people all over the world to lose really stubborn fat deposits and to achieve a lean body.” Therefore, it appears that most visitors to the Web site choose not to subscribe to the system.

Overview

The Anne Collins system is available only through the author’s Internet Web site (URL:http://www.anne-collins.com. Some parts of the Web site are available to the public, but most pages require a $19.97 US annual subscription. The subscription fee must be paid online by credit card, as there is no telephone number on the public portion of the Web site. A comment on the Web site encourages visitors to subscribe immediately and states that rates will be increasing due to the site’s popularity. It is unknown on what date the promotion actually ends.

What the dieter obtains for the subscription fee is access to the following: any and all of the e-books for the nine specific diet plans; a community forum; updates to the existing diets and any new diet plans; advice about nutrition and exercise; shopping lists; advice and tips to stay motivated; and personal support either online or by telephone available any day of the year. The e-books average 55–60 pages in length; they contain daily meal plans for a 28-day period, including options for snacks and fast foods. The motivational articles, nutrition information, and other sections of the Web site come to about 600 pages of material.

The Anne Collins weight loss system is not available in a print edition, either paperback or hardcover, even though there is an illustration of what looks like a paperback book on the Web site. In addition, neither the Library of Congress nor the British Library has a record of any book on nutrition or weight loss written by Anne Collins.

Specific diets

This diet plan includes a number of food substitutes, advice on eating in fast-food restaurants, a shopping list, and a list of acceptable snack foods.

LOW GLYCEMIC INDEX DIET. The glycemic index (GI) is a measurement system devised at the University of Toronto in 1981 for ranking dietary carbohydrates. The GI measures carbohydrates in individual foods on a gram-for-gram basis in regard to their effect on blood glucose levels in the first two hours after a meal. The higher the index number, the more rapidly the carbohydrate breaks down in the digestive tract and the more rapidly it raises blood sugar levels. A lower GI number is thought to relate to a longer feeling of fullness in the stomach, better control over insulin and blood sugar levels, and lower levels of blood lipids.

The Anne Collins low glycemic index diet plan is designed for people with type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, or women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS, an endocrine disorder associated with obesity and insulin resistance) who need or want to lose weight rapidly. Like the Anne Collins low-carbohydrate diet, the low GI diet has a 28-day cycle of meal plans and shopping lists, but is not divided into two phases. It is fundamentally a lean-protein with low-GI carbohydrate diet, intended to stabilize the dieter’s blood glucose level during weight loss. The meal plans allow about 1,100 calories per day but may be adjusted upward to 2,000 calories for men (and for dieters who wish to lose weight more slowly) by adding calorie-controlled snacks.

10-MINUTE MEALS DIET. The Anne Collins 10-minute meals diet is geared for dieters who wish to lose weight rapidly but have little time to cook. This plan is also for 28 days and is not divided into phases. The lunch menus have fast-food, brown-bag, and quick-cook options. Dinners provide fast-food, quick-cook, and two-day meal options; which are dinners intended to last for two days, thus freeing the dieter from having to cook twice.

Like the meal plans for the low GI diet, the meal plans for the 10-minute meals diet allow about 1,100 calories per day, adjustable upward to 2,000 or 2,100 calories through a choice of snacks, including fast-food options. After four weeks, the dieter can either repeat the 28-day cycle or choose another Anne Collins diet plan.

CHOLESTEROL-LOWERING DIET. This diet is intended for people who must lower blood cholesterol levels while losing weight and/or who wish to lose weight rapidly. The 28-day cycle of meal plans shows the total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol content of every food item on the diet as well as the calorie values. The diet allows about 1,200 calories per day, with an average content of 22 g total fat, 4 g saturated fat, and 120 mg cholesterol. The meal plans are rich in dietary fiber, particularly soluble fiber, which has a number of important health benefits that include lowering blood cholesterol levels. The cholesterol and fat values of this diet plan fall within the guidelines recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As with other Anne Collins diet plans, the calorie level can be adjusted upward for men and people who desire to lose weight more slowly.

The e-book that comes with this plan contains suggestions about and guidelines for exercise as a way to further lower blood cholesterol levels. The diet plan suggests that cholesterol levels should begin to fall within two to three weeks of beginning the diet. After four weeks, the dieter may repeat the cycle if blood cholesterol has not fallen to the desired level, or choose another diet in the program to continue losing weight

14-DAY LOW-CALORIE BOOSTER DIET. This diet plan has only a 14-day rather than a 28-day cycle. It is intended for dieters who have only a short-term weight-loss goal (such as fitting into a specific outfit for an important event) or feel unable to reach a longterm goal and want a quick breakthrough. The plan allows for six meals or snacks per day to promote rapid food metabolism. The meal plans include a number of quick-cook recipes and convenience food or fast-food options.

The basic diet plan allows about 1,000 calories a day to maximize weight loss but can be adjusted upward for men.

VEGETARIAN QUICK-START DIET. The Anne Collins vegetarian quick-start diet is a rapid weight-loss plan for committed vegetarians, those who would like to try a vegetarian lifestyle, and those who would simply like to lower their meat and poultry consumption. Technically, the diet is ovolactovegetarian, which means that it includes eggs and dairy products.

NO-NONSENSE BALANCED DIET. The no-nonsense diet plan is intended for dieters who want to lose weight rapidly but also want some flexibility in a diet plan. This diet also has a 28-day cycle, with meal plans averaging 1,100 calories per day. Flexibility includes home-cooked and convenience meal options for every lunch as well as every dinner.

As with the other Anne Collins plans, the calorie level can be adjusted upward for men. Sample menus from this diet are as follows:

  • Breakfast: 2 low-fat pancakes; 1 tbsp maple syrup; 2 slices Canadian bacon; one-half cup berries. Alternate menu: 1 cup fat-free yogurt; 2 tbsp wheat germ; 1 medium banana; 1 tbsp sesame seeds.
  • Lunch: Convenience option: Subway six-inch roasted chicken breast submarine sandwich and 1 serving fruit. Home-cooked option: 1 cup low-fat ready-toserve soup; 2 slices whole wheat bread spread with 2 tbsp fat-free mayonnaise and filled with chopped vegetables; 1 oz fat-free cheese.
  • Dinner: Convenience meal option: Lean Cuisine angel-hair pasta meal; 2 cup salad; 1 tbsp fat-free dressing; 2 graham crackers with 1 tbsp fat-free cream cheese; 1 serving fruit. Home recipe option: 1 oz (dry weight) pasta or thin spaghetti; 3 oz very lean ground beef; one-half cup sliced bell peppers; 1 large tomato, chopped; 1 clove garlic, minced; one-half tsp oregano, one-half tsp Italian seasoning.
  • Snacks: Select from list included with diet plan.

DIET FOR LIFE. The diet for life is essentially a slow weight-loss or maintenance-level diet plan that contains a 14-day starter set of meal plans. The meal plans are low in fat, moderate in protein, and high in carbohydrates. In addition to the usual calorie counts, this plan contains guidelines for lifelong sensible eating habits. It can be continued indefinitely, or the dieter may switch to another Anne Collins plan.

The basic calorie allowance in the diet for life is 1,300 calories per day, adjustable upward to 2,000 or 2,100 calories.

VEGETARIAN DIET FOR LIFE. The vegetarian diet for life is similar to the general diet for life plan, with a 14-day set of starter menus, a large number of easy-toprepare recipes, and advice about lifelong sensible eating habits. Like the diet for life, the vegetarian diet for life plan is low in fat and moderate in protein. The menu plans provide about 1,250 calories per day and can be adjusted upward.

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR DOCTOR

  • What is your professional opinion of the Anne Collins weight loss system?
  • Do you know of any published clinical studies of the Anne Collins program?
  • Have any of your other patients tried it?
  • Which of the nine diets did they use?
  • Were they able to lose weight and keep it off?

Function

The Anne Collins weight loss system is intended for the dieter who is “looking for safe permanent weight loss without using pills, special foods, or gimmicks of any sort.” Most of the nine specific plans are intended for more rapid weight loss, but several are maintenance diets including a maintenance diet for vegetarians. All the specific plans can be tailored to allow higher calorie intakes for men or for dieters less concerned to about losing weight rapidly.

Benefits

The system’s Web site claims the following benefits for the nine diets:

  • The dieter can lose weight “without going hungry.... Have you ever felt that horrible gnawing feeling on other diets when you feel that your stomach is eating itself? Well you’ll never feel this with my system. If you’re feeling hungry my advice is always to go eat.”
  • The dieter will “stay motivated.... With the Anne Collins Weight Loss Program you will be supported every step of the way and if you happen to slip up at any stage I’ll be there to pick you up, dust you down and get you back on track. You can say goodbye to yo-yo dieting forever.”
  • The system does not depend on appetite suppressants, dietary supplements, or other special products.
  • There are no forbidden foods. The dieter can fit fast foods, chocolate, and other foods that are avoided on most diets into most of the specific diets.
  • The dieter will lose the excess weight permanently. “With my system you will learn how to make realistic and sustainable changes to your eating habits for ever.”

Many dieters seem to like the flexibility of the Anne Collins plans, in particular the option of using convenience foods and switching among the various plans to avoid monotony. Opinion is mixed, however, regarding the use of fast foods in the Collins plans. Some reviewers maintain that the fast-food options are a necessary adaptation to contemporary eating patterns, while others regard the fast-food choices as exposing dieters to a high degree of temptation to cheat on the diet together with a high level of unhealthy saturated fats and sugars.

Precautions

Although none of the Anne Collins diet plans are very low calorie diets (VLCDs) or otherwise extreme, it is always a good idea for people who need to lose 30 pounds or more; are pregnant or nursing; are below the age of 18; or have such chronic disorders as diabetes, kidney disease, or liver disease to check with a physician before starting a weight-reduction diet.

Risks

There do not appear to be any significant health risks associated with any of the nine plans for dieters who have been evaluated by a physician for any previously undiagnosed disorders.

Research and general acceptance

Although three physicians are listed on the Web site as approving the Collins system, two are identified only by initials. The Anne Collins system does not appear to have been used in any clinical trials reported in the medical literature, possibly because of the sheer number of different diet plans included in the program. In addition, Collins’s credentials as a nutritionist are not listed on her Web site, which makes it difficult to verify her qualifications as a weight loss expert. Existing feedback about this diet is informal as of early 2007, consisting solely of testimonials on the Web site itself and comments or reviews on various Internet diet Web sites and online chat groups.

KEY TERMS

Glycemic index (GI)—A system that ranks carbohydrates in individual foods on a gram-for-gram basis in regard to their effect on blood glucose levels in the first two hours after a meal. There are two commonly used GIs, one based on pure glucose as the reference standard and the other based on white bread.

Insulin resistance—A condition in which normal amounts of insulin in a person’s blood are not adequate to produce an insulin response from fat, muscle, and liver cells. Insulin resistance is often a precursor of type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes.

Lipids—Organic substances containing hydrocarbons that are relatively insoluble in water. Lipids in the blood include such substances as cholesterol and fatty acids.

Ovolactovegetarian—A vegetarian who consumes eggs and dairy products as well as plant-based foods.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)—An endocrine disorder characterized by irregular ovulation in women of childbearing age and excessive amounts of androgens (masculinizing hormones). It is a leading cause of infertility and thought to affect between 5 and 10% of women. PCOS is often associated with obesity and insulin resistance. PCOS is also known as Stein-Leventhal syndrome.

Soluble fiber—The part of a food plant that resists digestion and absorption in the human small intestine but is fermented partially or completely in the large intestine. This fermentation yields short-chain fatty acids, which are beneficial to health by stabilizing blood glucose levels, lowering blood cholesterol levels, and supporting the immune system.

Very low -calorie diet (VLCD)—A term used by nutritionists to classify weight-reduction diets that allow around 800 calories or fewer a day.

BOOKS

Scales, Mary Josephine. Diets in a Nutshell: A Definitive Guide on Diets from A to Z. Clifton, VA: Apex Publishers, 2005.

ORGANIZATIONS

Anne Collins Weight Loss Program. [cited April 26, 2007]. <http://www.anne-collins.com>.

Rebecca J. Frey, PhD


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