Since Flat Belly Diet! was published, my philosophies have been enhanced by a wealth of new research. I’ve attended several scientific conferences, counseled many more people, and traveled to other parts of the world to study nutrition and public health. In this book, I combine some of the research I used to develop the Flat Belly Diet! eating plan with new studies, fresh insights, added wisdom, and exciting new studies about how to lose weight and keep it off.
In a nutshell here’s how this plan is similar – This plan also:
• Emphasizes a Mediterranean-style eating plan with produce, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats, including MUFAs (monounsaturated fats).
• Provides lists of quick and easy meals you can make as described in the book.
• Provides interchangeable meals. In Flat Belly Diet!, all of the meals were interchangeable; in this plan, breakfast and snack are interchangeable and lunch and dinner are interchangeable.
What’s Different – Unlike Flat Belly Diet! This plan:
• Emphasizes portions and balance instead of calorie counts.
• Places a much stronger emphasis on whole, unprocessed options and local and natural foods.
• Ensures that you get a specific number of servings from each food group each day, including two fruit and four veggie servings.
• Lets you customize the size of your meals to your body’s needs.
• Adds coconut oil to the list of good-for-you fat options.
• Is vegetarian and vegan friendly and recommends more plant-based meals.
• Includes specific guidelines for water and other beverages.
• Includes SASS, Slimming and Satiating Seasonings, at every single meal.
• Offers a meal-building “puzzle” that teaches you to create your own plan-friendly meals at home or away from home.
• Includes a walking program that easily fits into your daily schedule.
• Actually insists on a daily dark chocolate indulgence!
In a nutshell, this plan provides a specific strategy that teaches you exactly what to eat, why, how much, and when, that you can easily follow no matter where you go - without counting a single calorie. After reading the book, you’ll be able to visualize precisely how to put meals together, whether at home or at a restaurant – meals that are satisfying, nourishing, and delicious that make you feel amazing inside and out.
How does it work without counting calories?
I built the calories into the blueprint (aka the '5 piece puzzle') by using specific portions of fruits or veggies, whole grain, lean protein, and plant-based fat at every meal. Because the structure of each meal is fixed, and the portion sizes are specific and uniform, your calorie intake will automatically fall into place, right where it should be. And most importantly, you’ll get the right types of calories in the right balance, along with the right nutrients. By following the plan you’ll always automatically exceed the daily recommended servings of fruits, veggies and whole grains, and eat a lean protein, plant-based fat and antioxidant rich seasonings at every meal. As a registered dietitian, this ‘big picture’ approach is one of my favorite aspects of the plan. Throughout the years, I’ve counseled many clients who followed weight loss plans that only emphasized calories, fat or fiber, and as a result they failed to consistently meet their needs for other nutrients or achieve an ideal balance. With this plan, consistency is key.
Is it a one size fits all plan?
No. The book is based on a core plan that will meet the needs of most adult women, but I’ve also included a tool that teaches you how to customize the plan for your own body’s needs. A woman who is 5’4”, fairly inactive, and 39 years old shouldn’t follow the same plan as a 5’8” 23-year-old who works out five days a week or a 5’10,” 50-year-old man. In the book, I’ll show you how to ensure that your personal strategy is designed for your body. This plan is also customizable based on your dietary preferences. The meals are separated into categories, including vegan, vegetarian and omnivore lists. In addition, you can adapt any meal in the book by swapping out a food that counts in a given ‘puzzle piece’ for another food within the same group. For example, if a meal calls for whole wheat pasta but you’re gluten intolerant, you can swap the pasta for wild rice, corn or quinoa. Or if you see a recipe you like that includes chicken, but you are a pescetarian or vegetarian, you can trade the chicken for shrimp or beans. Once you have the '5 piece puzzle' down pat, you can create unlimited combinations tailored to your preferences or what’s in season.
What about exercise?
In S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim I dedicate an entire chapter to falling in love with walking. For numerous reasons (I outline more in that chapter) I believe walking is the perfect exercise. To name a few, all you need is a great pair of shoes, you already know how to do it (you’ve probably been doing it since you were about one year old) and it’s just as effective as running for weight loss and health benefits. In the book, I lay out a plan for how to create your own walking plan. It includes specifics about the ideal speed and frequency, and how to use walking as “you time” to create, bond and sort through important issues.
Does S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim address emotional eating?
Yes. In my experience counseling people for nearly two decades, it’s one of the major obstacles to weight loss success. In S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim, I included an entire chapter on emotional eating. In it I lay out some of the most effective exercises I’ve used with my clients to help them better understand their relationship with food and begin to transform it. Most of us developed an emotional relationship with food as children. We were comforted, consoled, lulled, rewarded, even babysat with food. From a really young age, you probably learned to turn to food as a companion or coping mechanism for just about every feeling, from fear to joy. But the good news is you can change that. The powerful exercises I included in the emotional eating chapter can show you how.
How did you come up with this plan?
I’ve been in private practice for many years, nearly two decades, and in my experience people want and need concrete strategies (otherwise figuring out what to eat is too overwhelming), but in order to be both effective and sustainable the approach needs to meet three important criteria:
1) It has to take the big picture of nutrition into account – not just calories in, calories out, but overall food quality and balance, so you won’t miss out on key nutrients that affect energy, immunity, or even satiety.
2) It has to be customizable – we live in a ‘have it your way’ society where people want to marry a concrete strategy with their own personal preferences and individualized needs. A one size fits all approach just won’t cut it, for anything from managing your finances to managing your diet.
3) It has to be easy. I love that so many of the people using this plan have proclaimed how easy it is to understand and to follow.
4) The food has to be delicious. I may be a nutritionist, but I’m human, and I love food as much as anyone. I know that no matter how healthy a meal is and how good it makes you feel the real driver, especially long term, is taste. I’ve never believed that losing weight means sacrificing the flavor and enjoyment of food.
In all my years as a dietitian/nutritionist, I thought through every approach that had caught on, and each one had a flaw – one of the above four criteria was missing. Here’s what I mean:
Diet trend: Low calorie
Pros: Nearly every weight loss study ever published confirms that ultimately cutting calories is the bottom line for successful weight loss.
Cons: Too few calories can cause the loss of muscle and suppress immunity and low calorie artificial, processed foods aren’t healthy just because they’re low in calories.
Bottom line: For long-term weight loss and health, it’s all about getting the right amount of both calories and nutrients.
Diet trend: Low fat
Pros: Fat packs 9 calories per gram compared to just 4 in protein and carbs, so reducing fat is an effective way to cut excess calories.
Cons: Cutting fat too low reduces satiety so you feel hungry all the time, and fat free junk foods like cookies are still loaded with calories and sugar. Finally too little “good” fat can actually increase your risk for heart disease.
Bottom line: The focus needs to be on eating the right kinds of fat and the right amount.
Diet trend: High protein, low carb
Pros: Prior to low carb diets, many women weren’t getting enough protein, because the low fat fad cut out a lot of protein-rich foods. Adding protein back boosted energy and immunity, as well as key nutrients like iron and zinc. And protein is filling, so it helps blunt hunger, even at a lower calorie level.
Cons: Too much protein and too few carbs can up the risk of heart disease and cancer because you miss out on fiber and the abundant antioxidants in whole grains, fruit and starchy veggies.
Bottom line: Portion controlled amounts of a balance of protein, good carbs and heart healthy plant-based fats make for the healthiest diet.
I wanted to create a plan that would allow people to achieve the ideal balance of everything their bodies need (good carbs, lean protein, healthy fat and nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants) – but it also had to have the simplicity and specificity that allows people to really “get it” and be able to use it no matter where they are (at home, out to dinner, on vacation). That’s where I came up with the basic '5 piece puzzle' principle. I added the SASS (Slimming and Satiating Seasonings) and daily dark chocolate escape based on cutting edge research about their weight loss and health benefits (plus they’re delicious and satiating!). I’m incredibly excited about and proud of this plan. Before finalizing it, I thought it through a million times, and I truly believe it includes everything you need to get you started on day one, and keep you going for a lifetime!
What are the Fast Forward Menus?
Some people have asked for these. My publisher has not OKed giving out the 5 Day Fast Forward recipes because there are only 4 of them in total in the book – the exact same 4 recipes (1 scramble, 1 smoothie, 1 salad and 1 parfait) are consumed every day for 5 days. Also you really do need the book for the “rules” of the fast forward, the quiz, beverages, seasonings, expectations, modifications, and diary. I do not recommend trying to figure it out on your own as I tested the Fast Forward using the specific plan in the book, and the chapter that covers the Fast Forward is 41 pages long.
Can I make substitutions during the Fast Forward?
Blueberries share similar properties with raspberries, but I did not “test” the plan (in terms of results) with any other berries or fruit. Same for yogurt. You can certainly try skim or soy milk or nonfat cottage cheese, but these don’t contain the ‘good” probiotic bacteria found in yogurt, which I talk about on pg 49. However I don’t want anyone to eat anything they don’t like! The plan is all about enjoying healthy foods! If you decide to make any swaps in the Fast Forward please let me know how it goes! Also please keep in mind that the Fast Forward is completely optional.
Can I make substitutions during the core plan?
Yes! One of the things I love about how I constructed the core plan is that you can swap out any food for another that counts within the same puzzle piece. I created 100 recipes/meals in the book that follow my '5 piece puzzle' principle, but all 100 can be customized using what I call the 'great swap out rule' - if a meal calls for shrimp as the lean protein and you don't like shrimp or don't eat it, you can swap the shrimp for any other food on the lean protein list in chapter 6, which could be a plant-based lean protein (beans, lentils, tofu), another seafood option (like salmon or tuna), poultry (chicken breast, extra lean ground turkey) or dairy (cheese, etc.). If a meal calls for whole wheat pasta and you follow a gluten free diet, you can swap the past for quinoa or wild rice or a gluten free pasta like brown rice pasta. If a meal calls for a fruit that's not in season, you can swap it for one that is. That’s the beauty of the '5 piece puzzle!' The book also includes a chapter on how to use the puzzle piece lists to build your own DIY meals.
Can I exercise during the Fast Forward?
No. As I say on pg 236, I do not recommend being active during the Fast Forward. You'll actually get better results! The Fast Forward is all about ending diet chaos, rebooting and resetting your digestive system, hunger hormones and taste buds, and keeping things very simple and repetitive. This is easier to do when you aren't active.
Exactly when should I eat the snack?
The snack meal can be enjoyed any time, as long as you follow the two timing rules 1) eat breakfast within one hour of waking up and 2) space your meals no sooner than three, and no more than five hours apart. Some people eat breakfast at 8am, lunch at noon, the snack at 4pm and dinner at 8pm, while others may have breakfast at 8am, lunch at noon, dinner at 5pm and the snack at 9pm. You can vary the timing of your snack from day to day based on your schedule if needed.
Can I skip the snack if I’m not hungry?
Yes. If you are able to eat breakfast within one hour of waking up, eat lunch and dinner no more than five hours apart, and there are three hours or less between dinner and the time you go to sleep then yes, it's OK to skip the snack if you don't feel you need it. For example, let's say that you wake up at 8am, eat breakfast at 9am, lunch at 1pm, dinner at 6pm and go to bed at 9pm, you may not need the snack. However most of us are awake about 16 hours a day and do need the extra fuel. If your snack is the last meal of the day, and you'd like to try to only eat part of it or half, it’s perfectly OK to experiment and monitor how your body responds. You can either halve everything or choose two of the five puzzle pieces in these combos: fruit with either lean protein or plant based fat (such as a pear with 1 string cheese or 2 Tbsp almond butter); or the whole grain with either lean protein or plant based fat (such as ½ cup cooked oats with 1 cup skim or soy milk or 2 Tbsp sliced almonds).
Can vegans follow this plan?
Yes! There are numerous vegan meals in the book, including the Mediterranean Lentils Over Whole Wheat Couscous on pg 132, Strawberry Avocado Tacos from pg 102 and Cherry Almond Green Tea Smoothie from pg 104. Also, every meal in this plan can easily be customized to meet your personal preferences, including a vegan diet. In any of the meals that include eggs, dairy, poultry or seafood as the lean protein source you can swap these foods for plant-based options - beans, lentils or tofu. For more information click here.
Don’t nuts and nut butters count as protein?
While nuts and nut butters do contain some "bonus" protein, they provide more plant-based fat than protein, so I prefer to categorize them there.
If you are allergic to almonds or other tree nuts but have no allergies or intolerances to peanuts or sunflower seeds you can substitute the almonds and almond butter for:
Peanuts and natural peanut butter
Sunflower seeds and sunflower butter
But before doing so please check with your personal physician and read the information in this link to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network about tree nut allergies: http://www.foodallergy.org/page/tree-nut-allergy
This company claims to be completely nut free in terms of equipment: http://www.sunbutter.com/allergy-nutrition.php
Why a maximum for water?
For women, the Institute of Medicine's guidelines for fluid call for 2.7 liters of total fluid per day, which includes all beverages, as well as water-rich foods such as fruits and veggies. As you've seen in the book, the plan includes 4 cups of veggies and 2 cups of fruit, and I highly encourage drinking tea. So between the 10 cups of water, 5 cups of tea, 1 cup of coffee and those fruits and veggies, it's unlikely that a healthy person would need more than 10 cups of water per day. However, if you drink more and would like to continue to do so please do.
For vegetables such as spinach that cook down a lot, do I measure the 2 cups before or after cooking?
Is it OK to mix protein sources in a meal as long as it equals one serving of lean protein (based on the amounts in chapter 6)?
Yes, if you’re careful. I try to keep the meals pretty simple, so they don't require too many ingredients. And I feel that when you "split" a puzzle piece it can be tempting to have a little too much of each half portion. But if you're very aware of the amounts, it's A-OK to use half portions of each.
What are whole oats and should the oats be cooked?
Quick cooking oats are whole oats. They work very well in the smoothies and many of the recipes/meals, such as the parfaits, mock “ice creams” and apple crisp. For cooked oat breakfast and snack meals, you can also use steel cut oats if you'd like. In some of the recipes I use dry oats, uncooked. If the recipe/meal does not specify that the oats should be cooked, they are not cooked. For example, the oats in the smoothies and parfaits are dry, uncooked and they taste great! You can also toast them on a cookie sheet if you prefer.
Can I follow the plan if I have diabetes?
People with diabetes should skip the Fast Forward. The core plan is very diabetic friendly in that it is balanced in carbs, protein and healthy fats, well timed, can be customized and there is no added sugar or salt and no processed foods. However, I always have to advise you to get your physician’s OK before starting this plan, especially if you are on insulin. Please let your doctor and personal dietitian know that they can contact me directly if they have any questions.
Can I eat potatoes on the plan?
Hand cut French fries are my personal can’t-live-without splurge. I talk about how to build them (and other must haves) into your plan on pg 251, but for plain potatoes (not fried) you can swap them in occasionally (twice a week) in place of the whole grain. Just be sure to stick with 1/2 cup cooked, skin on.
I’m feeling hungry. Help!
Mild to moderate hunger is a good thing (please see chapters 1 and 2), but you should not feel intense hunger. During the 5 Day Fast Forward, please see pg 60 about how to adjust the “detox” if needed for hunger. And on pg 154, you'll find a “my size” quiz to show you how to adjust the core plan (e.g. add food to it) if needed based on your gender, height, activity level, etc.
Can I follow the plan if I’m breastfeeding?
Congratulations on your new baby! Nursing moms should skip the Fast Forward and double the whole grain portions of the core meals, but be sure to get your physician’s OK before starting this plan.
What if the ‘eat like clockwork’ rule means eating right before bed?
If possible it is ideal to have 1-2 hrs between dinner and bedtime, but it’s much more important not to let over 5 hrs go by without eating whenever possible. So if you had breakfast at 8am, lunch at noon, a snack at 4pm and 8pm and went to bed at 9pm, it would be OK.
How I can I ‘eat like clockwork’ if I work a 12 hour shift?
If you’re awake over 16 hours, try to eat about every 5 hrs if you can, even if that meals adding one extra meal or half meal to your schedule. If you’re working a very long shift, like 7pm to 7am you will need the extra fuel!
What should I do if I usually work out before breakfast?
If you work out very early in the morning and don’t want to eat your entire core meal before exercising, I recommend having the fruit and plant based fat puzzle pieces before your workout and the other 3 puzzle pieces after (such as a small banana and almonds before, and oats folded into nonfat organic Greek yogurt with cinnamon after). This will fuel your workout (and thus prevent burning muscle mass during exercise) and refuel/heal your body in the hours after exercise.
Can I drink herbal tea? Can the coffee &/or tea be decaf?
On pg 20 in the beverage list I did include herbal tea. And yes, the coffee and tea can be decaf.
Why is coffee limited to just 1 cup? What if I drink it black?
There are several reasons why I chose to limit coffee to 1 cup. Many people are not able to drink coffee without adding milk &/or sweetener, and those extras can add up to impact your results. But even for those who enjoy coffee black, it is an acidic beverage, which can impact digestive health as well as appetite regulation. And without the addition of milk or a calcium-fortified milk alternative, coffee been shown to impact bone density. I also have been gathering numerous studies about the health benefits of tea (including weight control), so I chose to include 1 cup of coffee and up to 5 cups of tea in addition to the water for optimal overall nutrition.
What about other natural sweeteners?
I only recommend 1 tsp or packet of raw sugar daily. I personally do not recommend any additional added sweeteners of any kind, because in my experience they may stoke a sweet tooth and/or disrupt appetite regulation. This is just my opinion/experience and what I personally recommend.
If I’m making a recipe for my family of four do I just quadruple all of the ingredients?
Yes, however when making multiple servings, I do recommend leaving the whole grain out if you can, so you can be sure to include the ideal portion size for your meal. For example, when making a pasta dish, boil the whole wheat pasta and set it to the side, make four times the rest of the recipe, then add 1/2 cup cooked pasta to your plate, and top with 1/4 of the remaining recipe (veggies, lean protein, plant based fat, SASS). The same can be done for many of the dishes that are served over a bed of wild or brown rice or quinoa, etc. Also, any time you can leave out the plant based fat until you’re ready to serve (such as drizzling a salad with oil, or garnishing with chopped avocado or nuts) you’ll be more likely to stay on track with the portion sizes.
I have generally not found that people tend to re-gain after transitioning from the Fast Forward to the core plan. The Fast Forward is more strict, but because the whole grains in the core plan are portion controlled, spread out with proper timing, and because there is no added salt and sugar, many people are able to transition to the core plan without a weight rebound. My goal was that the addition of whole grains in the core plan should only be enough to fuel your body, not enough to feed your fat cells, or even store excess carbs that are unneeded in the hours after the meals. However, for info about weight fluctuations and why they may occur, please see pages 249-250.
What if I’m on a limited budget?
There are many meals in the plan that call for readily available foods, such as whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, and corn, chicken, tuna, eggs, etc. If you are concerned about the plan on a limited budget, and you have not purchased the book yet, you may want to take a look through the book at the book store before you decide if it’s the best plan for you. Also, please remember that in the core plan you can swap out any puzzle piece for another in the same category. So if a meal in the book calls for organic chicken (higher cost), you can swap that out for canned tuna or beans (lower cost). If a meal calls for quinoa (higher cost), you can trade that whole grain puzzle piece for brown rice (lower cost). I believe that makes the plan customizable based on both your preferences, food availability, and budget.
My e-reader won’t print pages, help!
I am sorry about this. I have never purchased a book in electronic form myself, so I did not know that pages aren’t printable. I’ve passed this issue on to my publisher, and they are looking into a solution for possibly being able to print the food diaries, etc. Once I know something, I’ll post to my Facebook page.
Can men follow the plan?
Yes, men can follow the plan. On pg 154 I included a “my size” quiz, which explains how to adjust the plan if needed, based on height, gender, weight, activity, etc. Men may want to skip the optional Fast Forward. But if you do decide to try the Fast Forward, please see page 56-61 about what to expect and how to adjust for hunger if needed.
Can I follow the plan if I must avoid gluten?
I think it’s very doable to follow the plan gluten free. The book includes meals that use buckwheat, corn, quinoa, and wild and brown rice. And for items like crackers, cereal, oats, etc. and other foods that may include gluten, you can certainly use gluten free brands such as:
Food for Life Wheat & Gluten Free Whole Grain Brown Rice Bread
Food for Life Wheat and Gluten Free Multi Seed English Muffins
Food for Life Whole Grain Brown Rice Tortillas
Arrowhead Mills Rice and Shine Hot Cereal
Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal
Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix
Mary’s Gone Crackers Sea Salt Sticks & Twigs
Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Quick Rolled Oats
Also one of the things I love about how I constructed the plan is that you can swap out any puzzle piece for another in the same category. So if a meal in the book calls for whole wheat pasta, you can swap it out for quinoa or wild rice, etc. Same with any puzzle piece. If a meal calls for a fruit that’s not in season, swap it for one that is. If a meal calls for wild rice and you prefer brown rice, make the swap! This should make it easy for you to follow the plan gluten free and based on your preferences.