This was the first email from the subscriber with specific feedback on the new WW program. It is very cool to read this, especially the idea of "Diet Fusion" that we have developed here. People are frustrated and tired of "failing" at dieting, and this new approach of focusing on gradually increasing fruits and vegetables appears to be working really well. Even NutriSystem is getting in on the act with their new "Select Program" where you can choose fresh frozen foods.
It is important to highlight these new approaches to dieting, because so many people have been losing and then regaining with low fat and low carb diets like Atkins or South Beach. The South Beach Diet has been the subject of a lot of debate on PT recently, with some people pointing out how for many the gains can be short term. And a couple MD's now have weighed in on the subject pointing out the dangers of these low-fat low-carb focused diets.
The most important part of diets like Momentum and Eat To Live and Eat For Health is that they are gradual things you can't really fail at. It is just work that you do or don't do. But it is not this frustrating thing where you start to eat carbs again after restricting them and you ballon back up. Which is something we see all the time.
I just wanted to drop you a line and thank you for all the PEERtrainer
resources. I have been receiving your Tips of the Day for a couple
months, and while it has taken a while for things to sink in, I am
really coming to appreciate your approach. Specifically, the concept
of 'diet fusion' has been very helpful, previously I was always
looking for the 'perfect' system, that would make it easy.
rejoined Weight Watchers (I really like the new Momentum program),
have read Eat to LIve and Eat for Health, and am working on
incorporating much more plant foods into my diet. I'm a vegetarian who
didn't eat much vegetables. :-)
I have listened to a couple of the
boot camp calls, and Dr. Fuhrman's call last week. I don't currently
use the site for logging, but have been using the principles of
accountability and support via an 'accountability partner' that I meet
Your tips, and blog are relatable and helpful, and I truly appreciate
that you share the resources at no cost.
One of the great things about having a group of doctors participating in PEERtrainer is that often they can bring some insight or perspective that one would not normally get. We have observed that many people have been successful on South Beach, at least in the short term.
But in the course of our work with Dr. Joel Fuhrman, he began to take strong exception to our highlighting the South Beach diet as an option one might consider, among many, to hep them lose weight. He has written a fairly extensive and footnoted article that we have just published, and you can view it here.
The basic argument is that any diet that puts people into a "Ketogenic" state can expose them to sudden cardiac death. We did some research into this ourselves and it does seem that this controversy has been out there. And there are people who argue strongly against this view point. But we did find external research to support at least delving into this debate. We are sure there will be a ton of debate, and we are interested in hearing all viewpoints on this issue.
Update: There is some HEATED debate in the community from people who have lost a lot of weight with SB and who have kept it off. There are also some links to some of the references Dr. Fuhrman cites- different researchers and doctors who also point out the danger of low-fat, low carb, ketosis inducing diets- also pointing out the risk of sudden death. Very interesting all around. Would love to hear from Dr. Agatston and will publish any comments from him on this subject.
NutriSystem has just launched their "Flex Program", where you are on the program for 5 days and then off for two "Flex Days." NutriSystem Flex is also their cheapest program ever. The women's program is $200 a month or $7 a day, and the men's program is $230 a month or $8 a day. On your flex days you can buy frozen vegetables in bulk and add high doses of very healthy foods for cheap.
Does NutriSystem Flex Work As Well As Their Regular Program? Will It Help Me Lose Weight?
This is a commonly asked question. People often see the success stories on TV or hear about them from friends. The idea is that if you follow this plan and eat their foods, you will lose weight. But what happens on those two days a week that you are off the program? Will you do so much damage that you will lose the benefits of the previous five days? In our view this is both a risk and an opportunity for you. We have written much more about it here in a review of the NutriSystem Flex program which goes into the detail of the overall program and what you might want to be doing on those flex days.
Is NutriSystem Select Offered In The 5 Day Flex Format?
It would make sense if they did, because it would help to manage the cost a little. NutriSystem Select is a new, more expensive version of their plan that delivers foods that are frozen fresh and that feature fruits and vegetables in the meals that are delivered. Adding high levels of fruits and vegetables to your diet is seen by many as being the only path to sustainable and healthy long term weight loss.
What Fruits and Vegetables Can You Eat On NutriSystem Flex?
The overall NutriSystem Diet plan is based on the Glycemic Index, which is basically a good carbs, bad carbs approach. This is especially helpful for Type 2 Diabetics and people at risk for Metabolic Syndrome. Most doctors simply tell you to "avoid the white stuff"- so maybe go easy on the potatoes. But hit the greens hard. Things like spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, romaine lettuce salad- those are going to juice your diet, give you a ton of nutrients you really can't get elsewhere in this high a level of concentration. Same thing for fruits like Strawberries and blueberries. Those are high in cancer fighting anti-oxidants and nutrients.
How Long Does It Take To See Results From NutriSystem Flex?
This obviously depends on you personally, and how much weight you have to lose. In general we observe that when people really focus on their portion control and have a way of measuring it each day lose weight. If you are on NutriSystem Flex specifically, you are going to have to really pay close attention to your flex days, and learn to do "Diet Fusion" where you incorporate different elements of other proven diets. For example you might want to count Weight Watchers points on your flex days if you know that system. You will also want to try eating a cleansing diet very high in salad, greens and fruits that you like. Doing a combo of controlled points with a cleansing diet will help you see results very quickly.
How Long Should I Be On The NutriSystem Flex Program?
Your long term goal should be to develop solid eating habits where you eat a diet high in plant-based nutrients and low in animal protein. A decent target to shoot for is to bring your animal-based foods down to about 10% of your diet. Things like meat and cheese should be used as dressings for salads, not the meal itself. As your intake goes above 10% your risk of disease goes up, and unless you are a hardcore vegan, you really don't want to get too far below this level based on available science.
So use your flex days to begin to develop these habits of high fruit and vegetable intake. You will find specifically that this approach helps fight hunger. Weight Watchers focuses a lot on this with their new "Filling Foods" list, which include things like Avocado and Hummus. The idea is that those foods are high in protein but also contain high levels of important nutrients. Your body is pretty smart and knows when it is getting what it needs. The result is you are less hungry.
NutriSystem Flex can be a great tool to give you some "training wheels" to get you to this long term point. At PEERtrainer we call this "The Point Of No Return" and many of you who read this blog are members of this coaching program that focuses on the mindset issues with weight loss, and assumes you are going to be on your own chosen combination of diet approaches. Our coaching team at PEERtrainer has put together a series of articles to help you with the psychological aspects of weight loss and how to develop the motivation to lose weight. One of our most popular articles focuses on the importance of understanding the difference between desire and expectation. There is a big difference between the two and one needs to develop an expectation of weight loss in order to really succeed.
Can I Choose My Flex Days?
According to the NutriSystem website you can choose any two days a week to be your flex days. They say some people will choose the weekend for convenience. What is interesting is that this new program really allows people to mix and match their diet approaches.
What Should I Do On My Flex Days?
NutriSystem has some sensible recommendations on their website when you sign up. Many people do NutriSystem and participate in PEERtrainer to give them added support and a very broad range of ideas. One idea is to make use of ideas put forth in our free Tip Of The Day weight loss coaching program.
This offer is good for the basic program, diabetic program, silver program and the vegetarian program.
Should I Do South Beach On My Flex Days?
We have been alerted to some of the dangers of diets like South Beach and Atkins. While we hear that they work in the short term, there are a series of health risks associated with these diets. Follow the instructions from the company and also start adding high levels of green vegetables and salad on the flex days to lose the most weight and fight any cravings.
If you've picked Fat Smash or Eat To Live Or South Beach as your "diet", the thing that is SO important to having a "back up" diet like Weight Watchers or counting calories is because sometimes you just don't feel like eating vegetables or eating anything that resembles "healthy". You know you should, but you just don't. All the positive self -talk and all that you do to avoid eating pasta or pizza or a cheeseburger just isn't going to happen. You just don't care. Your mind goes on automatic pilot and you head straight for the nearest comfort food. And unfortunately, sometimes you stay there for DAYS. One choice after another becomes pizza, more white bread, dessert and so on.
Until you get back to your Fat Smash Diet regimen, or Eat to Live or South Beach, or whatever you've chosen, you have to have a way to "portion control" the really bad trajectory of crazy comfort foods because the reality is, it happens to everyone. If you have a "back up" diet and you're incorporating diet fusion for those days that no matter what anyone says, you're not going to pick the salad, you're just hungry for white bread and you're going to have it, you'll be able to monitor yourself and frame the "bad days" with a semblance of control.
If you count Weight Watchers Points, you know that 2 slices of pizza is 12 points, and if you have a white bread sandwich at dinner, you'll count the points again. If you have some method -whether it's points or calorie counting or whatever -to be able to hold yourself accountable, you will not eradicate all the effort you put into the Fat Smash or other plant based/vegetable diet you did. And when you "come to", when you get back on the more nutrient dense road, you won't have an extra 10 pounds to fight. This is why you have to have a "portion control" back up plan.
We have been looking into the NutriSystem diet recently, and specifically NutriSystem for men. We are seeing some merit in this approach for some men because it is so easy and very low cost because you are already paying to eat each day. But we wanted to dig into the actual diet itself and begin to analyze the science behind it. One of the core ideas behind the program is the concept of the Glycemic Index. It was developed by a scientist in Canada in 1980 and is used widely in the weight loss industry. And NutriSystem makes it part of the core of their program. This is an excerpt from their site (and I hope this is ok to print here):
"The Glycemic Index is the science behind the NutriSystem program. It measures the quality of carbohydrates and their impact on your blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates that break down slowly in your body encourage stable blood sugar levels, which is good, so they rate well or "low" on the Glycemic Index. On the other hand, carbs that break down too quickly cause your insulin levels to spike, and high insulin levels can cause your body to store fat. These "bad carbs" are given higher glycemic values and most often leave you hungry soon after a meal. So if you’re looking to lose weight, you should stay away from "bad carbs" and instead, seek to incorporate more "good carbs" with low glycemic values into your diet to help keep your blood sugar levels stable and your appetite in check. NutriSystem ready-to-go foods make that simple."
I asked Dr. Laurie Rothman her take on the Glycemic Index and if she used it with her own patients. Because I know there is some controversy around this. There seems to be controversy about everything!
"It is not something I rely on heavily. It is a good concept for people with
pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome to get a handle on what foods to eat. For
example, white rice has a very high glycemic index -raises blood sugar and
insulin levels quickly, as do white potatoes. Sweet potatoes would have a
lower glycemic index. I would have to reference an article or 2 up to give a
better clinical answer...Honeslty, I just give my patients the concept of
whole grains and complex carbohydrates rather than having them need to refer
to yet another chart. At the end of the day, avoid anything white....flour,
sugar, rice, potatoes, pasta and you are good to go for lower glycemic index
This is an interesting comment because it bolsters our observation that NutriSystem can be a great starting point for people who need to get jumpstarted on weight loss. Most people need things to be easy at the start. Long term people really have to learn the concept of nutrient density. But if you have not yet lost weight, you have to for long term survival and quality of life. It is not an option.
There is no failing on this approach- and there is no magic bullet. You are the magic bullet when you learn to master a wide array of tools and master what we at PEERtrainer call "Diet Fusion." The most important thing we try and advocate is that "weight loss is possible." Whatever starting point works for you, just do it and find it. And keep going along this path. If you get frustrated just try a different starting point. Something will work as long as you keep working. One thing we have observed also is that when people join our Tip Of The Day program, sometimes they will get the messages for 30 days and then take some action. It helps them manufacture "readiness." At that point they might start logging on PEERtrainer, they might join Weight Watchers. Again, we are trying to point out a very broad array of ideas here.
The reality of long term weight loss is that the apex of an ideal diet is bringing your consumption of greens and vegetables to a very high level each day. Higher than you might think. And you need to bring your consumption of animal protein lower than you think. Dr. Fuhrman recommends about 20oz a week as an ideal target.
I am going to ask Dr. Fuhrman his thoughts on the Glycemic Index and if he uses anything like this with his own patients and in his books. We are also continuing this discussion in the PEERtrainer community, so if you have some experience or input, please chime in.
I wrote about a conversation I had with a doctor friend recently and started to think about how different diets could work together. I wanted to find out what diets were best for short term as well as the long term.
"I have found that South Beach diet is as successful as any other diet...if it is followed it is very successful. However, most people have difficulty sticking to any diet for very long. I often recommend doing South Beach and Weight Watchers together. I like South Beach for the types of foods that everyone should be eating and Weight Watchers for helping teach portion control.
Even w/South Beach diet, it is possible to overinduldge in "good" or "healthy" foods. If one would go from South Beach to Weight Watchers then the food choices open up to include almost anything on the planet...just in smaller quantities. I like that South Beach keeps food choices to healthful ones. It is a particularly good diet for those with metabolic syndrome."
The first key point that is made in the comment above is that the combination of portion control and a high nutrient diet is the correct and effective one.
For those of you doing the new PEERtrainer Cheat System, you'll see that this is exactly what you are guided toward in the PDF you downloaded. The "Cheats" are the portion control, and your incentives really help ensure your nutrient quality is high. This combination is the reason people are having success.
Especially those who have been through the traditional programs, and know the basics of portion control.
The second key point made is that most people have a hard time sticking to traditional diets. For those of you who are big Dr. Fuhrman fans, you'll know that his ideas has really helped to change this. A high nutrient diet, once you get up to speed on it, will help to reduce the traditional food craving cycle that throws most people off traditional diets.
One drawback that we have seen is that many people have a hard time going "full Fuhrman" out of the gate. We designed the Cheat System almost as a "gateway" where we teach people the basics of nutrient density, which will then put them in a position to take the next, often more aggressive step in their eating overhaul.
It does look like in addressing some of the past weaknesses of their program they get a side benefit of better competitive position vs South Beach. Given the perception of South Beach as something that is hard to stick to, it would be interesting if WW was able to essentially make a SB type diet doable for the long term. We will keep you posted!
And if you have any experience with doing these two diets together- or any other combination of diets, let us know in this discussion thread. I am also interested in learning more about the South Beach Diet being especially good for metabolic syndrome. This is not the first time I have heard that.
Habib and I were having dinner with another couple a few nights ago, and the subject turned to the friends husband's new diet. He had recently lost 25 pounds on a low carb, Atkins type diet that his doctor had prescribed for him.
He was looking a lot better, and he mentioned that he had done this before on the South Beach diet. His comment on the South Beach diet was that "it works if you do exactly what they tell you to do." But it obviously was not something he could sustain long term, and he now found himself on a new diet that was low in carbs, and featured a good deal of meat as well as some shakes.
But he had a lot of questions for me and really wanted to know my take. I try to not give advice per se, but to present information in a way that people can make good decisions for themselves. He sort of knew he was potentially on another short term path, where he would lose weight and then start to gain it back.
So I mentioned to him our observations about Weight Watchers and how we see the long term success many have in the PEERtrainer community. We see South Beach as an excellent short term thing that will work, but with Weight Watchers there is a lot more focus on long term behavior change.
After sharing this observation with him he immediately mentioned that he had a male co-worker who had recently lost 80 pounds. He mentioned it because they had been watching a company video from a year ago, and this guy had lost so much weight that he was now unrecognizable.
So we are reaching out to this guy and try and get his story. We are focusing a lot on men's weight loss in the Tip Of The Day email coaching series and are also developing a program that focuses on the emotional, night eating and binge component of eating for men.
This conversation was interesting also because of Weight Watchers Momentum Program, which is the latest update of their program. Both the in-person and online versions of the program have been updated to provide even more of a focus on long term and healthy change. If you are one of those guys who yo-yo's, you might want to try their online program. The cost is roughly $5 a week which includes the signup fee. That is the price of a nice beer at a bar.
Many guys like the structure that the online version of Momentum can provide and are also comfortable with the computer. So if you feel stuck just sign up for the online component to start. Maybe do the meetings as a second step. Whatever works for you. And if you do join and are a subscriber to the Tip Of The Day please please let me know how it goes. I would love to blog about this. If you are a try before you buy person, you can also do a series of free assessments on the Weight Watchers site. Otherwise just click on the orange button below which takes you to the online version for men.
I am also starting a thread in the community about Men's success with WW. I am especially interested in how the program improves results with their new refresh. Also if Weight Watchers is not for you or you have tried it in the past, maybe it might make sense to take a crack at South Beach for a period of time. The success you have there might help with your transition period to a healthier, long term diet.