Flat Belly Diet
By Liz Vaccariello with Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD Rodale (2008) Reviewed by: Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN
The Flat Belly Diet claims you can lose up to 15 pounds in 32 days and flatten your belly - all without a single crunch. The editors claim the Flat Belly Diet is grounded in cutting-edge science that has found a link between monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and the accumulation of belly fat and is the safest, most satisfying way to lose weight. On the Flat Belly Diet you get to eat satisfying, healthful foods and lose the weight you want.
Synopsis of the Diet Plan: The Flat Belly Diet consists of two parts: a four-day anti-bloat jumpstart and the four-week eating plan.
The jumpstart is designed to flush out fluid, reduce water retention and relieve digestive problems. Dieters are told to avoid the salt shaker, salt-based seasonings, highly processed foods, excess carbohydrates foods (pasta, bananas, bagels and pretzels), bulky raw foods, gassy foods (legumes, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions, peppers and citrus fruits), chewing gum, sugar alcohols, fried food, spicy foods, carbonated drinks, alcohol, coffee, tea, hot cocoa and acidic fruit juice. Dieters must also drink two liters daily of "sassy water": a blend of ginger root, cucumber, lemon and mint leaves. The jumpstart meal plan provides 1,200 calories daily and a four-day shopping list and sample menus are provided.
The four-week eating plan has three basic rules:
- Eat 400 calories per meal.
- Never go more than four hours without eating.
- Eat a MUFA at every meal.
This phase of the diet provides 1,600 calories daily from three meals and one snack. (Men are instructed to go to flatbellydiet.com to customize their calorie counts.) The book includes 28 sample breakfast, lunch and dinner and snack options of 400 calories each; a chart of MUFA foods; charts listing Flat Belly meal replacements, frozen meals and fast foods; and more than 80 recipes with nutrient analysis for calories, protein, carbohydrates, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and fiber.
The diet is based on a healthy, Mediterranean-style meal plan with menus and recipes provided to support the reader. Recognizing many dieters are eating on the run, there are also options for fast-food dining as well as meal replacements. And although the books claims "not a single crunch required," there is an illustrated chapter touting the health benefits of cardio, strength training and core-focused exercises. Success stories with before-and-after pictures serve as strong motivators for weight change. However, there are only two calorie levels provided -- 1,200 calories for the jumpstart phase and 1,600 calories for weight-loss phase -- but no adjustments for calorie levels based on gender, height, weight, activity level or any other pertinent variables.
Nutritional Pros and Cons:
Despite having a relatively healthy eating plan, there are components of the book that are indicative of a fad diet, including:
- The jumpstart phase requires dieters to suddenly stop consuming caffeine, which can cause severe headaches as well as other symptoms associated with withdrawal.
- Dieters are led to believe MUFAs are the "silver bullet" for weight loss.
- The book claims to be "grounded in cutting-edge science" but the authors fail to provide any scientific rational for "sassy water."
- Rapid weight loss may result from being on this diet, but most of the weight will be water weight.
Based on the Mediterranean style of eating, the diet portion of this book is healthy. For individuals who require a 1,600-calorie plan, this book is great. Those requiring other calorie levels will need to work with their registered dietitian to individualize the meal plan.
h their registered dietitian to individualize the meal plan.