Monday, August 10, 2009

Intriguing weight loss: the cookie diet

By Alison

A cookie diet. That sounds great, doesn’t it? Yesterday morning I repeatedly saw a commercial with a woman prancing happily across the screen that she lost weight eating cookies. No wonder she was so happy. Eat cookies and lose weight? That’s fabulous!

Already having my suspicions that it’s another gimmicky weight loss program, I figured I’d do my due diligence and get the facts before blogging about it. Well, my suspicions were correct.

This “cookie diet”, marketed as the Smart for Life diet, allows dieters to eat one Smart Cookie every two to three hours. Up to six cookies are consumed prior to dinner. For dinner, you are allowed to eat a 6-12 oz portion of lean protein (chicken or fish only) and five cups of vegetables. The diet promises 10-15 pounds of weight loss per month.

I watched a FOX Detroit interview with Smart for Life’s medical director, Dr. Sasson Moulaui, or “Dr. Sass”. He touted the medically-supervised version of the diet where the dieter will consume at most 800 calories/day. Each cookie provides approximately 100 calories, 5-6 g protein, and 1 g fiber. Also, Dr. Sass says the cookies have some omega-3s, “complex sugars” (whatever those are), are made with triple-filtered water and 60% organic ingredients. So wow – they’re really natural, right? Nothing with 20 ingredients that can sit endlessly on your shelf is “natural”.

There’s more.

Eight hundred calories per day makes my blood boil. There are many published studies that have revealed a link between an 800 calorie/day diet and weight loss. You know what? Anyone who drops down to 800 calories/day will lose weight, no doubt. Does that make it a good idea? Absolutely not.

You will never sustain a healthy diet on 800 calories/day. Once you are ready to maintain weight loss, you will need to start eating at least 1200 calories/day to maintain your weight healthfully (up to approximately 2,000 calories/day depending on individual factors including height, weight, gender, and activity level).

Dr. Sass claims that once you are ready to start a maintenance plan, the cookie diet has trained you to eat “small, multiple meals throughout the day.” No, it doesn’t. It trains you to rip open a package of cookies every few hours. How will you know how to food shop? What about the types of meals to prepare and the right serving sizes? How will you handle going out to eat, holidays, weddings and other occasions?

Here’s another statement by Dr. Sass that really makes me crazy:

“There’s no fruit on the diet because fruit has sugar and it makes you fat and hungry.”

He went on to say that we eat fruit to get vitamins and fiber. On this cookie diet, according to Sass, the vitamins and fiber are in the cookies so we don’t need fruit. But you know what else is also in those cookies? A bunch of junk. Junk like “organic fractioned palm oil” and “organic invert sugar”, which is basically like any other added sugar. Both of these are not necessary in our diet but are required to keep the cookies shelf-stable. There is also “organic brown sugar”. You know what that is? SUGAR.

True, fruit does have sugar, but it most certainly is not fattening, unless you are eating it in an apple pie or blueberry muffin. Fruit is truly “natural”: there are no unidentified ingredients and it contains naturally-occurring sugars (not added). You can’t put fruit in your cupboard and leave it there for months, and this is a good thing.

Per the website, Smart for Life has locations where you can receive “weekly accountability and personalized counseling”, and your progress will be monitored by an “on staff physician”. If this is all true, then perhaps Smart for Life has a leg-up on the typical diet centers run by a so-called weight loss authority with no registered dietitian (RD) credentials. But don’t be fooled. Dieters still have a lot of work to do on their own.

Smart for Life smells like another empty promise in the weight loss dreamland. Drink the shakes, eat the bars, detox your body and you’ll get that coveted jump start to weight loss. If you are considering this or a similar diet, please reconsider.

Don’t be fooled. Losing weight is hard work. Anything that makes weight loss seem effortless like chomping down packaged cookies should raise an eyebrow. Just because it is backed by a doctor doesn’t mean a thing. It’s important to consult with a trained professional, such as a registered dietitian, who is going to teach weight loss through eating real food, regular exercise and learning behavior modification techniques.

A good place to start is doing some homework. Be sure the facts are coming from reputable resources. Here are some links to help you get started with the proper approach to weight loss:

Health Castle’s Weight Loss Center – tons of information on healthy weight loss, plus reviews of other gimmicky diets, all written and reviewed by registered dietitians

Children eat when hungry, stop when full – my post from 8/6 about learning to get in touch with your true hunger.

Steps to a Healthier Weight – At All content written by trained healthcare professionals.

Physical Activity Tips via the Center for Disease Control’s website (CDC)

Good luck!

1 comment:

  1. how ironic - as I was reading this I overheard a co-worker telling someone how she just started her "6-day, liquid detox diet"

    I have seen commercials for this cookie diet on tv and its just sad that anyone would promote this!