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I picked up this really great book at the Goodwill the other day for $5, and I’ve got to tell you about it. I think it may be the secret behind why I’ve struggled to lose weight in the past, in spite of a fairly good diet.

Eat More, Weigh Less by Dr. Dean Ornish is a simple diet plan that anyone could do. It’s more a change of lifestyle than your typical diet, though. His basic idea is that you cut your dietary fat down from 40% of calories from fat (the typical American diet) to 10% (much lower than the recommended 30%), and increasing your carbohydrates. He does this by cutting out meat (which is pretty much always more than 10%), nuts, and other fatty foods. The idea is that you can eat until you are satisfied (not stuffed), and will actually get fewer calories and thereby lose weight.

Dr. Ornish believes that this radical change in diet (removing meat and cooking without oil) is easier to make than simply cutting down on the amount of fat, as the FDA recommends, because the results are almost instantaneous. For instance, on a typical diet that provides 30% of the recommended calories from fat, you have to eat small portions and often feel hungry when the food is all gone. On his diet (which he calls the Life Choice diet), you are able to until you are satisfied, so you are less likely to reach for some not-so-healthy snack later. In fact, in a study done on some women, some of whom ate his diet and some of whom ate the typical 30%-from-fat, small-portions diet, they found that those who ate the low-fat diet ate about 15% fewer calories and lost twice as much as the other group.

This makes a lot of sense to me. I have heard the typical “calories in must be less than calories spent to lose weight,” but I could not imagine trying to count calories. I remember reading sample diet plans and thinking, “How could I survive on that little food?” Then there was my husband, who could eat as much as he wanted and still not gain—who exercises to gain weight! I realized that the missing ingredient in the whole counting-calorie thing was the metabolism. If you have a fast metabolism, you can (and should) eat more. If it’s slow, you can eat almost nothing and you might even gain weight.

Most diet books don’t address this issue. They just focus on calories in, calories out. But Eat More, weigh Less spends a great deal of time on this issue. In fact, in that same study I just mentioned, “the principle investigator, Dr. David Levitsky, [stated that] your metabolic rate is related to the amount of carbohydrates you consume. . . . When you increase consumption of carbohydrates, your metabolic rate may increase.” That makes a lot of sense.

Plus there’s always the issue of gaining weight back once the “diet” is over. That’s why this book is not a diet that you go on to lose weight, then go off of when you’ve achieved your goal. It’s a comprehensive lifestyle change that you will continue for the rest of your life.

Dr. Ornish suggests that it is easier to make such a drastic change in diet than to make a small change, because the results are so instantaneous. He actually developed this diet not as a weight-loss program but as a heart-disease reversal program. There are many benefits to this kind of a diet, and many of them can be felt within days or weeks. This “quick fix” kind of reaction, Dr. Ornish argues, is just the motivator people need to stick with the diet and make it part of their lifestyle.

Now, maybe you’re thinking, “I couldn’t eat a diet that low in fat. It couldn’t possibly taste good.” Well, I haven’t mentioned the best part of the book: it has over 250 recipes, all low in fat or even fat free, made by gourmet chefs. I tried a couple of them last week, and was very pleased. Even my husband liked them! They come up with creative ways to cut the fat without sacrificing flavor. For instance, instead of sautéing onions in oil (which helps seal in the flavor), they use a little vegetable stock. This gives more flavor without the fat. It’s likely on one would even realize that the dishes are fat free “diet food” unless someone mentioned it. They are colorful and delicious. I am looking forward to trying a number of them.

I will say there are things in the book I do not agree with. Things like grazing (eating a little all day long) and meditating (eastern style). But those things don’t detract from the overall message of the book.

There is a lot more in the book, but I’m not going to rewrite the it! You should go and find yourself a copy—even if you just borrow it from the library to read it. But let me tell you, those 250 recipes it contains are worth much more than whatever the price tag might be, so I highly recommend you buy it for yourself!

You can get a copy of the book here:

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