Several generations of people, especially women, are not able to drop those extra pounds because they have been taught to lose weight the wrong way, a health nutritionist warned Tuesday.

Kathy King Helm, a specialist in preventive nutrition, weight loss and sports nutrition in Lake Dallas, Texas, was keynote speaker Monday and Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Utah Dietetic Association in the Marriott Hotel."What we have been taught is starvation, very low-calorie diets. What this creates is a `starvation response,' where your body tries to protect you," Helm warned. "People are just like wild animals that go without food for long periods; when food is available they make up for it."

Helm, author of the book "The Entrepreneurial Nutritionist," said that during starvation, the body starts to burn off part muscle and part fat. This, she said, is detrimental because it's in the muscle where calories are burned.

"If you get rid of muscle, you can't afford to eat as many calories," she said. "Then when food is available, you have a rebound appetite, which means you have a ravenous appetite to help fill your body back up again of food and calories.

"Then you start to store fat at a faster rate," she said. "That is to protect you in case of starvation in the future."

Helm said by the time a person has gone on crash diets one time after another over several years, he or she has created a body that can live on bird food.

It's not, however, an irreversible trend.

"To pull out of this you basically need to stop starvation diets," she counseled. "You can cut down 200 to 300 calories from what you normally eat, but not 500 to 1,000 calories."

Along with cutting down calories, Helm said dieters must increase physical activity by burning off several hundred calories a day. This could be accomplished by walking 30 to 60 minutes a day.

"Basically I teach there is no food you can't have, because psychologically thinking you can't have it puts it on a pedestal and makes you want it even more," she said. "But there are foods that we know you have to eat more of, including fruits, vegetables and grains because those are high in water and fiber, vitamins and minerals, but not in calories."

Helm's advise is to cut down on fat content associated with dairy products and meats. Eat only lean meat and low-fat dairy products.

"Another guideline is for people to cut down on sugar content, not just because of the calories it carries, but because of the fat that causes blood sugar problems," she stressed. "When you eat sweets, they stimulate your body to release insulin, and insulin carries sugar into the muscle and makes you feel very hungry very soon again.