I don't often post about diet books. I guess it's because I find the tenets of effective weight loss to be pretty basic; my favorite quote is by longtime obesity researcher Dr. Jules Hirsch, "Eat as little as you can get away with, and try to exercise more." Of course that doesn't address the importance of eating a high quality nutrient-dense diet or the greater complexities of keeping weight off, but I believe it'll do for straightforward weight loss. Another reason may be that I view diet books as gimmicks even if they're perfectly nutritionally sound. They simply find a new angle or approach to view weight loss. That doesn't mean I don't recommend them to some people who may need yet another magic bullet or new hope to try again. One book I appreciate is The "I" Diet by Susan Roberts. It's not new; it debuted in 2008 and was revamped in 2010 in paperback. But during this time, it's garnered great reviews from reputable sources and from, most importantly, success story readers. Dr. Roberts is a professor of nutrition and psychology specializing in obesity research, and the director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, with almost 200 published research papers. I've heard both Dr. Roberts and Dr. Blumberg (from last week's post) speak from my grad school days at Tufts and I can vouch that they are the best of the best in their research fields. This L.A. Times review details some points of the book, and then check out my recent interview with Dr. Roberts as she explains the reasons why The "I" Diet (referred to as "iDiet" below) has been such a success.
Q: The big question is what makes your diet book different from endless other weight loss books that people have tried and given up on?
A: iDiet has a unique dietary profile and a different type of behavioral program that makes weight loss easier:
- Most diets fixate on one specific dietary factor (e.g. high protein with the Atkins, or low glycemic index with The Zone) but the science shows that one single dietary focus doesn't work that well. iDiet is the only diet that packages together all the nutrition science into one diet. It effectively suppresses hunger and makes it more enjoyable (i.e., offering a greater range of good foods).
- Our behavioral support program in the groups is unique. We actually don't focus directly on weight loss, but rather on scientifically changing food preferences with 'cognitive restructuring' exercises, and also we put a lot of effort into making it easy. The combination of these things allows our program members to say 'It doesn't feel like a diet.' That is why they're able to stick with it and enjoy it more.
Q: What are the basic tenets of this diet?
A: We recommend a moderately high protein, high fiber, mixed glycemic index and high volume diet. That sounds complicated and it is, which is why we have lots of menus, recipes and no-cook meals that people can get started with to learn what a good, satisfying (and tasty) meal looks like.
Q: Can you briefly explain how the "I" or instincts are related to weight control?
A: Our 'food instincts' are the basic aspects of our biology that drive eating. For example, when we are hungry we have to eat (hunger is one of our instincts). When food is present we eat it (instinct: availability). We need to eat things we know and love (instinct: familiarity) and we love high calorie foods. The last instinct is variety: when we have a varied diet we eat more unconsciously. iDiet recognizes these basic biological drivers of what our body and brain need; it works with these instincts and harnesses them to make weight loss easier. We put a lot of emphasis on not being hungry. That is a huge revelation to most dieters. They love feeling satisfied, which allows us to work more effectively on psychological challenges like stress eating that some of our dieters are prone to.
Q: The book cover describes this as "A diet where the dieter never goes hungry or feels deprived." That sounds impossible for a weight-loss plan! You eat fewer calories, so you should feel hungry right?
A: No, that is the perception but we have the science optimized and people really don't feel hungry. It isn't that hard when you know how!
Q: Will I have to buy special foods or cook special meals, and can my whole family eat this diet (e.g., is it nutritionally complete for a child or teenager)?
A: There are no special foods or meals in the sense of it being weird diet food. We have our own menus and recipes (because that is partly what makes the diet work better than other diets) but they are family friendly and many of our dieters say that their family likes the food more than other things they used to eat. We have pizza, chicken parmesan, and Chinese and Mexican recipes. Some members do a combination of iDiet meals (the Mexican Lettuce Wraps are really popular) and foods the kids want (e.g., chicken nuggets) and then they have their own iDiet food for that meal. Over time, they often find family members trying and loving their meals. We have many adult partners come to our annual parties and rave about the food and talk about their own weight loss while their partner was in the program!
Want to hear more from Dr. Susan Roberts in person? Check out a dinner and workshop being hosted by Healthy Habits Kitchen in Wellesley on Tuesday January 29 at 7:00 pm. The $29 fee includes the workshop, a delicious HHK dinner, and a copy of her book.