This "sushi" salad was made with all our favorite ingredients from makizushi: tuna, carrots, veiggies, soy-based dressing...but no rice!

Low-carb diets. My advice: Don’t do it. All you’ll do is lose water and ketones fast, then… the carbs come back and you stop losing and even gain.

I’m not saying NO carbs. I’m saying whole grains in small quantities. And mix ’em up: brown rice, quinoa, barley, bulgar, etc.If you want to use rice, make a meshi, not fried rice; a meshi is a meal or side dish in which other ingredients have been incorporated, including vegetables and even some meats or fish.

Watch which low-cab ingredients you buy. They may not be what they seem.

Now understand, if Top Chef included me in one of those “Give us your last meal” challenges, my desire would be for some fresh, country-style bread, lots of room temperature good quality butter (European, for choice) and a glass of red wine or, as I don’t drink, a glass of diluted pomegranate juice. I LOVE carbs. White rice and housemade gravy is my go-to comfort food. I’d follow with a piece of homemade lemon cake with tons of frosting (from Grand Cafe and Bakery).

But if I’m trying to lose weight or stay where I am, this is what I advise based on years of interviews with people who know their stuff:

1. At first, cut out all refined carbs. Eat small portions (no bigger than the a circle that would sit inside your palm, and not piled high). Do cut out butter. Do cut out alcohol of any kind. Do cut out sodas, even “diet” sodas.

Whole fish with vegetables from Lahaina's Mala Ocean Tavern.

2. Focus on lowfat protein or fatty fish.

3. Go semi-vegitarian and make use of tofu and such.

4. Pump up the herbs and spices and put the shoyu and salt away.

Vegetables: For fiber, nutrients, water, flavor; this was chef Kevin Tate's arsenal when he cooked Southern-style at my home.

5. Eat fruit and fresh vegetables. Really fresh. Nutrients disintigrate fast. Farmer’s markets are best for shopping for these.

6. I don’t care about organic, but if you do, blessings be on your head.

7. Eat early and often. But stop as dark falls.

8. Drink a lot of water to wash away those ketones and avoid dehydration. And fill you up.

9. Eat real food, not packaged calorie-counted meals. They’ve got lots of nasty, gelatinous junk in them in place of fats. Be aware that calorie counts on dietary labels are often in error, or flat lies.

My basil: everything tastes better with fresh herbs.

7. Allow a treat often, but nothing LARGE and nothing that offers little nutrition. Nuts, fruit, half a wrap sandwich. Allow a no-holds-barred treat, in a small portion no more often than once a week, the fewer times the better.

8. Strike while the iron is hot, while you’re committed and determined. Start with a very strict, calorie-counted regimen and make a food diary of everything you ate. Better yet, do this before you make any changes and see how much you’re eating, esp. the fat, sodium, sugar content. Then, while your enthusiasm is high, begin with smaller meals, high-protein/medium unrefined carb meals/vegetables and/or fruit at every meal. Choose your fruit wisely; some is very high in sugar (I once went on a mango diet and GAINED weight).

9. Your best friends are lemons, limes, calamansi, which give a salty, acidic flavor without many calories. And fresh herbs. Grow ’em in pots on the lanai; they’re expensive.

10. Always carry something with you to assuage hunger pains. I like Kashi chew energy bars, esp. the flax and honey.

11. Never shop when you’re hungry. Never eat at the office goodie table, even if it’s your birthday or that of someone you care about.

12. Rest, sleep, reduce tension and stress, pray, meditate, go inside. A frantic schedule of stress-inducing hurrying and difficult dealings promotes a need for comfort and food is comfort to many of us.

13. Find someone to whom you  are accountable and share your successes and failures. Seek out like-minded others and share ideas and recipes.

14. Make things taste good, but not so good you go back for seconds. (This is from Frank DeLima, who has lost 100 pounds and kept it off).

15. Learn some important kitchen techniques: poaching, liquid sauteeing (with water, nontfat broth or wine or sherry, cooking with alternative sugars from Splenda to brown rice syrup. Evaporated can syrup is gaining a following, as are stevia and Truvia.

16. Pore over Web sites that focus on eating light but have nothing to sell you that you don’t need. Sorry, Jenny Craig, but I don’t think giving people calorie- and fat-restricted versions of familiar foods work to reset their internal caldulator as to what a plate should look like. It should not look like chocolate cake.

17. Dairy products are a treat. Use lowfat or nonfat where it works or avoid them most of the time. (Two products I like: nonfat cream — Safeway—  and nonfat sour cream (Daisy). Wean yourself gradually from full milk to two percent to nonfat (which still does contain some fat) and try the better soy milks, such as Silk, but note that they’re not fat-free; there is a lowfat or fat-free Silk.

18. Cured products such as ham, bologna, sausage all contain a high degree of fat. Use the lowered fat version and use them only as flavor accents: bits of turkey bacon, bits of 97-percent ham in an egg-white omelet.

19. Egg yolks are gone. Use the chilled, plastic-tub whites. Mayonnaise is another problem; try vegennaise from the health food store instead (90 calories a tablespoon as compared to 40 for real mayo made with canola oil BUT no cholesterol, no saturated fat). You will crave runny things: gravy, runny egg yolks, sauces, spreads. Learn to eat without these by substituting oil-based dressings (like the tuna subs at Subway), sauces made from fat-free stock with starchy white rice cooked jook-style to thicken, tomato sauces.

20. Recommit every day in a period of silence in the morning. It may be prayer to a Higher Power or it may be talking to sourself or it may be just making a plan-and-pack schedule for the day.

Finally, a craving rule I learned from a 12-step group: Cravings last, on average 10 minutes. When you’ve got a bad one, mark the time on the clock and wait 10 minutes. You’ll probably even forget to look at the clock again. Persistent cravings should be analyzed: If it’s ice cream you want, would chilled yogurt do? If it’s cake you want, would a soft, chew energy bar do?