From a reader:
"I received this e-mail from a friend in the States about a combination diet (Fit for Life) that says not to combine meats with starches. Don't tell me this is one fad diet that works! Please enlighten me because I am as confused as ever with all sorts of quick weight loss programs and surefire diet fixes. I am in my mid-30s and already quite on the heavy side (at 5', I weigh 70 kilos!). I want to seriously start losing weight before it really gets too late."
Yes, Fit for Life is another fad diet. An old one too! It's been around since 1985 when the book, written by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond, was first published. The food-combining concept of Fit for Life goes back even further to a religious cult in the 1800's that worshiped the Greek nature goddess Hygeia. In 1948, the American Natural Hygiene Society (the Diamonds are lifetime members) published a small booklet called "Food Combining Made Easy". The Diamonds took the concept and with the right marketing and promotions made millions on their book, which easily became a bestseller.
Harvey Diamond claims to have a doctorate in nutrition. In reality, he got it from a mail-order school in Austin, Texas which was closed down by the Texas Board of Education for being a ''diploma mill". They have since divorced. Marilyn no longer espouses food combining but is now selling enzymes. In an interview with Allure Magazine in 1995, Marilyn said, "I do not want to take pizza away from the American public, and I don't believe you need to". Harvey has been quoted, in the same interview, as saying that Americans are too ''obsessed with food combining''. You see, he had been caught several times in public eating chocolate cake (a big no-no since it contains a combination of protein, starch, and fat).
No truth to food combining.
There is no truth to the concept that the "wrong" combination of food (protein and starch) will make you fat or will rot in your stomach. If this were true, then millions of Japanese, Chinese, and other Asians would be very overweight since their traditional diet consists of rice, fish and vegetables or noodles, chicken/beef/pork, and vegetables. Asians get fat just like any other group of human beings - by eating too many calories. This is accomplished quite easily when they adopt that great cultural contribution from the West -- junk food and fast food.
People get fat because they eat too many calories -- no matter where those calories come from. People also lose weight when they eat fewer calories -- no matter where those calories come from.
Additionally, there are many foods that nature has created which have both protein and starch. A good example is mongo. Wheat is also a combination of both. Human breast milk is a combination of all three -- starch, protein, and fat. If combining starch and protein were so bad, why didn't nature invent breast milk to carry these nutrients separately?
Lower calories the real reason.
The reason many people lose weight on a food combination diet or any other fad diet (high protein included) is that they are eating less calories. Imagine a person who used to eat tapa, eggs, and fried rice for breakfast everyday and is now eating only fruits for breakfast. Of course, that person will lose weight. Compare the calories of the oily breakfast with a breakfast of fruits. The person is saving anywhere from 300 to 500 calories not because he or she is eating fruits at the right time of the day (the Diamonds claim that the best time to assimilate fruits is before noon) but because fruits are really lower in calories than the "tapsilog" breakfast.
Then, imagine that same person who is used to eating a typical fast-food lunch of French fries, a hamburger, and a soft drink and fried chicken, rice, and ice cream for dinner now eating only vegetables and rice for lunch and meat and vegetables only for dinner. Of course, they will lose weight. Again, not because they are combining their food properly but simply because they are eating less calories.
Another reason that people lose weight because of the food-combining rules of the Fit for Life diet is that it limits your choices of food. You "can't" eat a chicken sandwich because it is a combination of protein and starch. You "can" eat rice with vegetables but you "can't" eat daing with rice. The diet is so restricting that a person loses weight from lack of food choices!
If this diet works for you as a psychological tool, well and good. However, don't fall for the scientific mumbo-jumbo that the "wrong" combination of food will make you fat.
Good points of diet.
Like all things in life, the Fit for Life diet has some kernels of truth. The Diamonds recommend eating more raw fruits and vegetables. Everyone should really do the same since fruits and vegetables are low in calories, contain fiber, vitamins, minerals and, most importantly, cancer-preventing phytochemicals (plant chemicals).
Fad diets are unrealistic.
To lose weight and be healthy, you need to exercise and eat properly. Eating properly means eating just the right amount of calories and nutrients. The easiest way to do this is to eat more fruits and vegetables, lean protein (meat and dairy sources with little fat or plant sources), unprocessed carbohydrates instead of refined carbohydrates (a potato instead of a croissant, whole wheat bread instead of an ensaymada, etc.).
There is no surefire way or quick fix to lose weight. Your friend put it very well -- she knows plenty of diets but when faced with the food, she only remembers she is on a diet after she has stuffed her face!
Fad diets are unrealistic. You can't follow them forever. It's like holding your breath; you can only do it for so long, eventually you have to breathe. Fad diets deprive you so much that eventually you end up bingeing and overeating like there was no tomorrow.
You have to choose a way of eating and exercise that you can live with for the rest of your life. It's easy to lose weight on a fad diet if you are determined, but how can you prevent the pounds from coming back if you don't know how to eat healthy and exercise regularly.
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