In Search of a Vacation to Shed Pounds

The secret to losing weight and keeping it off!

For several years my wife and I have both wanted to lose ten pounds. We tried several diets. Some worked but we always gained the weight back. Then we tried a diet from an out-of-print book, and we both quickly lost 20 pounds and have kept the weight off for more than six months.

We were so thrilled with this diet that we wanted to learn everything we could about it. We took a plane to Durham, NC, at our own expense, to visit the Rice House, the facility where the diet originated. But before I explain what we learned at the Rice House, let me give you some background on the diet.

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Dr. Walter Kempner, a German-born Duke University physician, discovered the diet in 1929. He was treating a woman for high blood pressure, renal disease and a gamut of other medical problems. The physician learned that his diet not only caused her medical condition to improve, but she also lost weight!

The diet we followed from the out-of-print book was written by one of Dr. Kempner’s patients who had lost more than 140 pounds in nine months by following the diet. Months after my wife and I lost weight on the diet, we learned that this amazing diet is now available to the public in a new book called "The Rice Diet Solution", The World-Famous Low Sodium, Good-Carb, Detox Diet, published in January, 2006 by Simon & Shuster. This  informative and easy to read book was written by husband and wife team, Dr. Robert Rosati and Kitty Rosati,  who are both are instructors at the Rice House.

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Dr. Rosati is associate professor emeritus of medicine at Duke University and board certified in cardiology and internal medicine. Kitty Rosati is a registered dietitian who specializes in the prevention and reversal of obesity, heart disease and other chronic diseases. She was formerly the Nutrition Director of the Rice Diet Program at Duke University. She is also the author of a very informative book on health, "Heal Your Heart". Dr. Rosati and his wife are the directors of the Rice House and are authorities on the famous Rice Diet.

In order to lose weight on the diet and keep the weight off, you must be committed to making some lifestyle changes. Kitty Rosati said this is how the diet works. “The Rice Diet strictly limits salt and sodium-rich ingredients. Salt, like refined sugar, is an appetite stimulant so when you reduce salt intake, you lose water weight and are less inclined to overeat. The Rice Diet also limits saturated fats and instead relies on carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, grains and beans) as the main source of nutrition. The fiber cleanses your system and satisfies you so you feel full quickly. The Rice Diet makes it easy to limit calories; when you're eating foods that truly satisfy your hunger, it's a challenge to eat 1,500 calories per day!"

While we were in Durham, we stayed at The Millennium, a comfortable hotel that offers free shuttle service to the Rice House and to other diet and medical facilities in the area. The ride from the hotel to the Rice House takes about ten minutes.

The Rice House is an out patient facility. Patients travel from their hotels or apartments to the facility each day. The Rice House is located in an ordinary-looking large frame home in an area surrounded by trees. It is not luxurious by décor. As Kitty Rosati told us, "This is a no frills place. You're here to heal yourself".

Each day as patients arrive, their weight is taken, blood pressure checked, and they may meet with a doctor to discuss any questions or problems.

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The dining room is in the center of the home. Participants in the program write down their choices for meals from a selection on a chalkboard and servers bring the food to them.   

Each day is spent in a wide range of classes. For example, we took part in a yoga class that lasted more than an hour and was taught by a professional with many years of experience. Although we knew nothing about yoga, we were able to complete the class. Some patients who were not able to go through the yoga exercises by using mats on the floor, still completed all of the exercises while seated in their chairs.

There were classes led by physicians and psychologists. All were highly interesting and honed in not only on obesity, but other medical problems that many of the patients faced.  There were question and answer sessions where any question was welcome.

One theme was prevalent throughout all of the classes. Everyone realized that this was this was a learning experience, and that they would need to make the necessary lifestyle changes to lose weight and to avoid gaining it back later.

None of the patients are required to attend any of the classes, but we saw a large turnout for each class. We were free to talk to the patients, who were happily losing weight on the program as well as learning lifetime lessons on how to shed pounds and avoid diseases caused by obesity. Some intended to stay for a few weeks. Others planned to stay for several months.

Dr. Rosati and Kitty Rosati answered every question we asked and spent time explaining the entire program. Although fish, poultry and lean meat can be included in the last phases of the diet, we learned that we should not worry about getting sufficient protein on the Rice Diet.  On the Rice Diet, you get plenty of protein from grains, beans, and vegetables. If you need something to worry about, you should be more worried about animal protein and the excessive saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium associated with it.

At home the Rosatis never add salt to their food. They use sun-dried tomatoes and other flavorful no-salt-added ingredients. They said that optimally sodium intake should be between 500 and 1,000 milligrams of sodium per day, and that it is almost impossible to get to 1,000 milligrams without adding processed foods or salt. Most Americans consume several times that amount of sodium every day.

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We also learned that it is not difficult to stay on the Rice Diet even when eating out. Most restaurants are happy to assist diners who have dietary requirements such as not adding salt to the food.

During our visit to Durham, we learned that health care is Durham’s primary industry with 300 companies related to diet and medicine. Thousands of people travel to Durham each year from around the world to participate in a diet program.

While in Durham we visited two other diet facilities, both equipped with important health, diet and wellness information. One of those facilities was the Duke Diet & Fitness Center where the “Rice Diet” originated.

The Duke facility is designed to provide an intensive educational experience that emphasizes key components of successful lifestyle change through nutrition, fitness, behavioral health, medical management and lifestyle coaching. They still use many of the principles of the rice diet program but have expanded their menus to appeal to a larger group of overweight people.

We had a tasty low-calorie lunch in the lunchroom with the group of participants in the program, but were asked not to talk to them.

The facility has a variety of classes, a state-of-the-art fitness facility and an indoor swimming pool with pool exercises being conducted as we toured. The Duke Diet & Fitness Center was once a YMCA and has ample room for the program and can work with the Duke University Medical Center to treat people with various health problems.

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The Duke program has no lodging facilities but participants can stay at a motel across the street from the program. The Duke Diet & Fitness Center is not luxurious, but for those interested in learning more about weight loss diet, nutrition, and a healthy lifestyle from professionals in the field, it has the credentials to lead those with obesity problems on the path of wellness.

Our next stop was the “Structure House,” located on a 21-acre wooded campus. The facility provides a comprehensive, multi-component, residential weight-loss program that strives to help patients break the patterns that prevent them from overcoming obesity by teaching them the techniques that will allow them to make healthy food choices.

There are dieticians on staff, lectures, a fitness center, indoor swimming pool, and apartments where patients and their families can stay as they begin to shed excess pounds. The diet is based on caloric content and learning to make wise food choices.

The Structure House was founded in 1977 by Dr. Gerald J. Musante, a clinical psychologist, who began his career working with overweight patients in a hospital-based program. He observed that patients who lost weight while in the structured medical environment regained it when they returned home to their unstructured home life. We enjoyed a healthy meal at Structure House and were surprised at how much we got to eat.

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“Overeating is caused by more than appetite alone. A person’s relationship with food is like other relationships. Some people have a good relationship with food. Some have a dysfunctional relationship with it, and some have a crazy relationship with it,” Musante said.

At Structure House we were encouraged to talk to patients and met someone who had successfully lost more than 50 pounds and kept it off, but was returning for a refresher course, to play a little golf and also eat healthy meals at the facility.

All three of the diet programs that we visited in Durham offer sessions of varying lengths from a week to several months. Usually the first week is higher in price with the price getting lower with longer programs.

Although, the diets differ between the three weight loss centers we visited, the theme of each of them is the same. That theme is to make lifestyle changes in our eating habits. We learned that if we eat the way we did before we went on the diet, we will eventually gain all the weight back. My wife and I have made the necessary lifestyle changes and incorporated healthy food choices in our lives. We are committed to continue with this healthy lifestyle for the rest of our lives.

Durham, N.C is more than diet facilities. While in Durham, there are lots of interesting places to see and enjoy.

For those interested in architecture and beautiful structures in general, the Duke University Chapel is one of the most popular places to visit in North Carolina. Built in 1930, this English-Gothic Chapel features the Flentrop Organ (5,200 pipes) 50-bell carillon, and 210-foot tower. The stained-glass windows are among the most beautiful I have seen.

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If sculpture is your passion, don't miss the new 65,767 square-foot Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. The renowned Nasher collection is one of the finest collections of modern and contemporary sculpture. Visitors will also enjoy the galleries for special exhibitions. I even give high marks to the  café at the museum where I had lunch. Not only was the lunch delicious, but I explained my dietary needs to the waiter, and he carried out my requests perfectly.

The Museum of Life and Science is a state-of-the-art, interactive indoor/outdoor science-technology center. It includes the highly regarded Magic Wings Butterfly House, Bayer CropScience Insectarium, Ellerbee Creek Railway, and daily science shows. It was a rainy day when I visited the museum, but the bad weather couldn't keep big crowds of youngsters away from these interesting exhibits.

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The Greystone Inn and Conference Center is a granite and brick mansion built in 1911. It is the last remaining Chateauesque style dwelling in Durham and one of only a few such houses remaining in the state. It was restored to its original grandeur in 1998 and 1999 and reflects the opulence and prosperity of the early 1900's. The entire downstairs is available for off-sight business conferences, private catered parties, weddings, formal dinners and elegant corporate entertaining. It also serves as a bed and breakfast inn.

If you're crazy about antiques, the Blooming Garden Inn is the place to stay in Durham. This well kept bed and breakfast is loaded with wonderful antiques. Each room in this large house is a masterpiece, and owners Dolly and Frank Pokrass can give you the history of each antique piece in the inn.


For more information about Durham, North Carolina