Yes, I said it: I will devote the coming six weeks to losing weight.
My approach to dieting has always been that it is a bad idea. Don’t get me wrong – now and then I tell myself that losing a few pounds would improve my looks. But those times of doubt never last long, because I have always defined my self-worth through my capabilities rather than the image the mirror throws back at me.
What’s wrong with dieting for looks?
In college I had a small group of female friends who made evaluating the physical appearance of others into a sport. They stratified society into leagues of good looks and told me in no uncertain terms that I did not make the top league. This hurt me initially, but then I shrugged it off because I knew: Placing this much emphasis on physique when you’re young is bound to bring you misery down the road. You age, your beauty fades, and you will never be able to live up to the high bar that you set for yourself and the rest of the world at the prime of your youth. It’s better to choose a standard that moves closer into view as life progresses.
To me, dieting has meant buying into my girlfriends’ value system of leagues. Why allow others –Vogue, Hollywood, the peddlers of weight loss products – to make us hate our bodies? Why punish ourselves by counting calories instead of enjoying them? That’s what I thought then and still think now.
Weight loss for health?
But what if a weight loss program does not require you to deprive yourself and if following it will make you healthier and stronger? That is what Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Six Week Plan promises to do. Outlined in his book Eat to Live, it explains that animal products and processed foods are off-limits. Like several other nutrition experts Fuhrman considers them unhealthy. Starches – grains and root vegetables such as my beloved sweet potatoes – are only allowed in limited quantities. Fruits, non-starchy vegetables, and legumes are allowed in unlimited amounts.
The Six Week Plan is a low-carb program. The carbohydrates in legumes are to a substantial degree resistant starch: Even though they store energy, much of that is not accessible to the human body, resisting digestion. That quality together with a high level of fiber, says Fuhrman, enables legumes to stabilize blood sugar and make you feel sated.
The program seems very healthy to me: The high level of non-starchy vegetables delivers large amounts of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that you won’t get from the Standard American Diet. Plus, as my blog post “How Inflammatory Is your Diet?” shows, these veggies are a great means for combatting inflammation. Fruits have many of the same benefits. In addition, they satisfy one’s sweet tooth.
I would not go on a diet simply for looks. Such a program would make me feel the dupe of social forces that do not have my best interest in mind. But wellbeing is a different story. A diet that grounds me in the web of life and enhances my health is worth following. The big question will be if the Six Week Plan can really blunt my quite substantial appetite. I have no talent for depriving myself and believe that a diet that is based on deprivation will ultimately fail. Six weeks is a time period I am ready to commit to finding out.
Below I’ll share the outline of the Six Week Plan with you. If it makes you curious, consider getting the book. It’s an edifying read.
Dr. Fuhrman’s six-week plan
Eat as much as you want of:
- All raw vegetables (goal: 1 lb. daily)
- Cooked green and non-green nutrient-rich vegetables (goal 1lb. daily; non-green nutrient-rich vegetables are eggplant, mushrooms, peppers, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cauliflower, among others)
- Beans, legumes, bean sprouts, and tofu (goal: 1 cup daily)
- Fresh fruits (at least 4 daily)
Enjoy these items in limited amounts:
- Cooked starchy vegetables or whole grains: Butternut and acorn squash, corn, white potatoes, rice, sweet potatoes, bread, cereal (not more than one serving, or 1 cup, per day)
- Raw nuts and seeds (1 oz. max. per day)
- Avocado (1 oz. max. per day)
- Dried fruit (2 tablespoons max. per day)
- Ground flaxseeds (1 tablespoon max. per day)
Don’t consumes these items at all:
- Dairy products
- Animal products
- Between-meal snacks [my understanding is that fruits between meals do not count as prohibited in-between meal snacks]
- Fruit juice