Don’t waste your money.
I am an idiot. Throughout the past ten years or so, I’ve been conned by at least a half dozen “best-selling” diet books. I thought I’d learned my lesson. But when I picked up The Flat Belly Diet book at a Borders bookstore last week, I said “this is the last diet book I’ll ever buy.”
I should have quit with the previous one.
Another “Breakthrough Diet Plan”
The Flat Belly Diet is yet another attempt — apparently successful — to sell America’s overweight women on an easy way to lose weight. Trouble is, there’s there’s not much that’s either easy or effective about it.
Every “breakthrough” diet has a gimmick. This one has three:
- The Four-Day Anti-Bloat Jumpstart. This is a mind game, pure and simple. You follow a strict and not exactly convenient diet plan and keep a journal of your thoughts, feelings, and challenges for four days. The goal? Lose your water weight. Up to 7 pounds of it! Well, that’s what one person on the plan lost, anyway. I’m not stupid enough to confuse water weight and bloating gas with fat.
- MUFAs. This is the biggie. MUFA (pronounced MOO-fah) stands for monounsaturated fat. It’s the “good” fat and The Flat Belly Diet presents one example after another to prove why MUFAs are healthful foods. (Okay, I get it already.) But this is a gimmick with real punch for women — after all, dark chocolate is a MUFA! Yes, ladies, this diet lets you eat chocolate. How can you resist?
- Get a flat belly without doing “crunches.” Yes, like most diet books, this one promises again and again that you can flatten your belly without exercise. But then it includes an exercise program — if you want better results. Better results than a 6-pound loss in 32 days? What the hell do you think?
Of course, the book is only part of a huge marketing machine. There are already add-on pocket guides and cookbooks. There’s also a Web site, which is offered on a free “trial” basis to book readers. After that, you have to pay. And pay, and pay. After all, isn’t that what “breakthrough diet plans” are all about? Creating a money-making machine to separate desperately overweight people from their money?
When will we see MUFA-fortified “snack packs” on supermarket shelves in yellow in pink packaging? Give them a month or so — they’re probably in production now.
Here’s the reality of dieting and weight control for middle-aged women. You put on fat when you consume more calories — the energy in your food — than you burn in your daily life. As you age and your hormone situation changes, your metabolism slows down and you burn fewer calories. You start fattening up.
If you want to lose weight, you need to take in fewer calories than you burn. You can do this three ways:
- Eat less of the same stuff. Let’s face it: portion control in this country is a joke. We often choose restaurants based on portion size for the money spent rather than quality or flavor. It’s the American Way of eating. Next time you sit down at a restaurant with a typical portion in front of you, cut it in half and take half home for tomorrow. At home, simply make less food. Use smaller plates. There are many things you can do to eat less. Stop making excuses and just do it.
- Eat smarter food. Yes, a bag of potato chips is a wonderful-tasting snack. And yes, it seems to “satisfy” your hunger better than a handful of carrot sticks. But guess which one has fewer calories? Duh. Read the damn labels on the food you eat — choose foods with fewer calories per serving. Eat more unprocessed foods, like salads and fresh vegetables and fruits.
- Get more exercise. Take a walk around the block at lunchtime. Walk to do your errands. Walk your dog. Take a hike with your spouse or kids or grandkids. Take the stairs at the mall. Park on the far end of the parking lot rather than in the closest space. These little bits of exercise can make a huge change in your metabolism if you simply keep moving.
The thing that got me to buy The Flat Belly Diet was the fact that it mentioned calories. (So many diet plans don’t — they lead you to believe that you can eat as much as you like of certain types of food — the hell with balanced diets!) Its diet plan is pretty simple (after the first four days): four meals a day, 400 calories per meal, 1 MUFA per meal. Do you really need a book to tell you that? Of course not. I just did.
But I’ll tell you this, too: 1600-calories a day might not be the right number for you. I know it’s not the right number for me. I don’t lose weight until I drop down to 1000-1200 calories a day. This is probably why so many people on The Flat Belly Diet only lost 5 or 6 pounds after 32 days of dieting. I can lose 5 or 6 pounds in a week and not even feel it — that’s normal body weight fluctuation for me.
In defense of The Flat Belly Diet, they’re trying to convince you that following their plan helps you make a lifestyle change. 1600 calories a day is doable, they argue. It won’t hurt. Is that true for you? I know it’s not for me. When I want to lose weight, I quickly get frustrated when I hit a plateau and stop losing. I know 1600 calories a day won’t do it for me — not unless I take up jogging.
And here’s another thing: I’ve looked at the book’s recipes and menus and portion sizes and guess what? They cover the first two points of my Reality Check list above. This is common sense stuff, ladies! This is the same thing you’d learn in Weight Watchers or by consulting a dietician. Eat less, eat smarter. Toss in one or two good, brisk walks a day and you’ll be able to lose weight without yet another fad diet guiding your meal plans.
What will I be doing with my copy of The Flat Belly Diet? Donating it to my local library. Hopefully, I can save some of my neighbors a few bucks.