Is This Cheating? The Flat Belly Diet Review

I’m back from Chicago and am stunned that I haven’t posted in a week! I’ll have final tour pics up in a day or two. Right now I’m playing catch-up, and revising plans for my next book.

So, forgive me if I’m a little lazy today and post the review of the Flat Belly Diet Book I did a few weeks back for the Grand Rapids Press. I went on the diet myself and the paper had me do a small feature piece with before and after pics. Do I recommend the diet? Yes, with reservations.

The Flat Belly Diet, by Liz Vaccariello, Editor-in-Chief of Prevention Magazine, with Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD
Rodale, $25.95, 340 pages

When I suggested that I would be willing to follow the Flat Belly Diet as part of my review of the book, I had no idea what I was getting into. I’ll say right off that my Body Mass Index was in the normal range when I began it, but I—like so many other people—seem to imagine life would surely be better if I could only lose five to ten pounds. In the end, I lost six pounds during the thirty-two days of the diet. Since then, I’ve gained back two for a net loss of four.

The Flat Belly Diet is based on the idea that monounsaturated fatty acids act as an “antidote to belly fat,” that “a growing body of research indicates they may actually help to unclog an protect the arteries from buildup.” The program includes a prescribed serving of these MUFAs in every meal to encourage weight loss and good heart health. Some examples of MUFAs: Macadamia nuts (2 Tbl), olive oil (1 Tbl), green or black olives (10 large), semi-sweet chocolate chips (1/4 cup), natural peanut butter (2 tsp).

The book is frontloaded with research on fat and the science behind MUFAs. There’s also plenty of Prevention Magazine-like advice on living a less stressful, more healthful life. The plan itself follows, with Success Story profiles scattered throughout. Most of the book is taken up with recipes (some were appetizing, but several ingredients were on the expensive side), a daily journal and workout programs, thus making it a whole-life diet. It’s a sensible if overwhelming approach.

The authors make the claim: “Not a Single Crunch Required.” Considering that the first four days of the diet have one eating only 1200 calories daily, and 1600 calories thereafter, it seems reasonable. One should ostensibly lose weight quickly at 1200 calories per day, less quickly at 1600 calories per day. At 46 years old, my metabolism is different from a 30 year-old’s. When I didn’t exercise during the 1600 calorie phase, my loss was very slow.

During my thirty-two days on the diet, I recorded my thoughts and weight changes at I kept myself within the calorie and MUFA boundaries, eating healthful, low-fat foods with a MUFA at almost every meal. I’m certain that the horribly bland Four Day Anti-Bloat Jumpstart at the beginning only exists to make the rest of the diet appear expansive and delicious in comparison. I’d compare it to hitting oneself in the head with a hammer because it feels so good when one stops. The book’s journal was useful for noting what I ate, but I found the accompanying journal exercises distracting and a tad annoying. The one pleasant surprise of this diet was that I rarely hungry because MUFAs are quite filling.

I did feel better overall while on the diet and believe it’s a healthful way to live. Will it work for you? Mine is no expert opinion, but I would say that it works as well as any other low-calorie, well-balanced diet when supplemented with exercise. It doesn’t hurt that semi-sweet chocolate is on the MUFA list, either.

Excerpts from my blog journal:

Day 2: Got on the Wii Fit which told me I was up two pounds! Not encouraging. Asked if I knew why I gained weight. I said “no.” It proceeded to lecture me about not eating late at night–which I never do. I turned it off.

Day 13: My family is beginning to rebel against my uber-healthy MUFA dinners. Seems I forgot that they hadn’t signed onto the diet, too, and they’re missing things like our weekly homemade pizza night, pasta, low-fat burgers, and chili.

Day 23: Grisly stomach flu. Can’t even remember what I ate, though I vaguely recall a one ounce bag of feel-better potato chips. A lost day. But I spent much of it writing in bed. I could definitely get used to that part.

Day 27: I don’t know whether it’s this diet or the suddenly cold weather that’s making my hair look like straw. I pick the diet.


By the way–The Wii Fit and I are not currently speaking. If I want a lecture, I have plenty of other options!

10 thoughts on “Is This Cheating? The Flat Belly Diet Review”

  1. I’d rather continue to look like a hairy laughing Buddha than a waif of disciplined proportion.

  2. Hey beautiful,

    I saw this book and was tempted, but realized my diet is so poor that I couldn’t make the leap, not even close. The only time my stomach was flat was after two weeks in the hospital — that might have been the real miracle of that entire debacle. 🙂 I love the dresses in these pictures!

  3. P.S. Also, I don’t think when Mark and I go to the Coney, it’s conducive to the flat stomach diet — Aretha Franklin swears by Detroit Coney Island. But all the waitresses still love Mark best!

  4. jodi says:

    I just keep plugging along the old fashioned way, but I like your review. I eat that way already, but am still tempted to read every diet book in sight. You look fab, doll!

  5. That’s it Brooks, your new project can be the “Bubble Butt Diet!” You’d sell a million just in the D.

  6. Pyzahn says:

    Talk about serendipity…I just happened to stumble across your blog…AND I’ve been waiting for this book to come to my library. It was great to hear your experience, so I may splurge and buy the book instead of waiting. There are no accidents!

  7. Mark–There’s absolutely nothing I can say to you after the phrase “Bubble Butt Diet!”

    Hi, Jodi–I’m totally impressed that you eat this way already. You must be delightfully healthy and alert and fabulous. I’ve gotten back in the habit of making a starch with meals, but serve teeny-tiny portions!

    Michelle–Please, honey. Don’t even think of doing this–you are gorgeous just as you are and the last thing you need right now is a diet! And you know that you totally inspired me to wear dresses again. I love your collection.

    Pyzahn–Welcome! I’m so glad you found the blog. Hope you’ll come back soon and let us know how it goes!

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  9. Jesslyn says:

    Hi, in the flat belly diet book, it calls for 1/4 cup of pasta in the meal combos. does that mean that we measure out 1/4 cup of pasta and cook it, or do we cook it and then measure out a 1/4 cup of pasta? it seems that 1/4 cup of cooked pasta is a little small…thanks!!

  10. Hi, Jesslyn. Sadly, I’m afraid that it really does mean a 1/4 cup of cooked pasta. And you’re right–it isn’t very much. I found that it wasn’t really worth the calories and ate very little pasta.

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