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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Diets

Posted Dec 14 2008 9:49pm

When I was 30 pounds heavier nearly 20 years ago, I lost it with rice crackers and grapefruit. I was persuaded then that a low fat—a very low fat—diet was the way to lose weight.

My patients still were still overweight, however, and I knew that what had worked for me might not work the same way for them.

So, I went to cooking school and worked at Chicago’s Topolobampo for nearly four years, to learn how to keep the weight off and create food that tasted better than “diet food.”

The report of “low fat”, “Mediterranean” and “low carb”, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, reminded me of our own unusually successful Chef Clinic. (After two years, the latter two groups had kept off ten pounds, which is a little better than the average six pounds. The “low fat” group kept off six pounds.).

In Chef Clinic, though, I could never bring myself to say “eat low”…even low fat. I want people to “eat high”. Experience the dripping wet pleasure of a succulent Santa Rosa Plum; the colorful explosions in Double Sesame Salmon with Mango-Avocado Salsa; the earthy nose of a really ripe, home grown tomato. And lose pounds, not flavor.

What I began to realize is that nearly any diet would work, as long as my patients stuck to it. Keeping it off is as simple and as challenging as four concepts: self-monitoring, accountability, individualization of diet and adequate exercise.

But what’s hard—and lasting—is to learn to listen to what your body needs, and how it feels when you’ve eaten one thing, and not another. You’ll find that it’s rarely “diet food” that satisfies: instead, it’s food that brings you joy, energy and the promise of the next

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