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The Eat More, Weigh Less Diet
Research shows that the Eat More, Weigh Less Diet is a healthy, heart-friendly diet. To be effective, however, it calls for a serious lifestyle change.
By Katherine Lee
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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The Eat More, Weigh Less Diet was first published in 1993. This low-fat, vegetarian diet was created by Dean Ornish, MD, founder and president of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, Calif. Dr. Ornish, clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, demonstrates research that links lifestyle and dietary changes and the reversal of coronary heart disease.
The Eat More, Weigh Less Diet recommends consuming less than 10 percent fat and almost no cholesterol, and eating as much fruit, vegetables, and legumes as you want. Ornish also suggests eating moderate amounts of low-fat dairy and cutting out meats, oils, nuts, alcohol, and anything containing sugar, including honey, molasses, and corn syrup.
Eat More, Weigh Less Diet: How It Works
“Because you are eating more fruits and vegetables, you are eating foods that are low in calories, but high in volume,” says dietitian Lona Sandon, MEd, RD, LD, an assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “One ounce of cheese can be 120 calories, while two entire oranges can equal the same amount of calories.” Eating high-volume foods can help you feel fuller for a longer period of time.
Eat More, Weigh Less Diet: Sample Diet Item
There is no shortage of food on the Eat More, Weigh Less Diet. For instance, one sample day includes this filling menu:
Breakfast:Cold cereal, nonfat yogurt, berries, hot beverage, and orange juice
Lunch:Stuffed baked potato, broccoli, chickpea salad with lemon tarragon dressing, tossed green salad, and fresh fruit
Dinner:Bruschetta with sun-dried tomatoes and capers; pasta with red peppers, greens, white beans, garlic, and lemon zest; grilled asparagus with lemon, peppers, and caper vinaigrette; tossed green salad; and peaches cooked in red wine
Eat More, Weigh Less: Exercise
As for exercise, Ornish recommends regular daily exercise that you will also enjoy, Sandon says. It may be a combination of cardiovascular exercises and yoga, for example.
Ornish recommends that you start slowly if you haven't exercised, and build up your level gradually, says dietitian Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, a nutritionist and clinical associate professor at Boston University. Walking and swimming are examples of low-impact exercises recommended by Ornish. And he’s big on walking. According to the Ornish philosophy, walking five or six times a week will help keep your metabolism higher than if you walk less frequently.
As for how much weight you’ll lose, Ornish makes no promises in that area. “He really just tries to encourage people to make healthy lifestyle changes that will help them reach a healthy body weight,” Sandon says.
Eat More, Weigh Less Diet: Pros
Doctors, including members of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, have praised Ornish’s book. Unlike many other diets, the Eat More, Weigh Less Diet is based on extensive research. In a small, recent study, participants on the Ornish diet showed a significant reduction in their “bad” LDL cholesterol levels compared to when they started the diet. Other studies have also found that the diet has heart-disease prevention qualities.
This diet also helps people lose weight while eating healthy and flavorful dishes made from whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruit. “Americans are not eating enough whole grains and fruits and vegetables,” says Salge Blake. “Anything that increases those foods is good.”
Eat More, Weigh Less Diet: Cons
The Eat More, Weigh Less Diet may be difficult for some people to stick to, says Salge Blake. The Eat More, Weigh Less Diet restricts turkey, chicken, and seafood, and emphasizes beans, vegetables, and grains. “People have a difficult time being extreme,” says Salge Blake. “When you go out with friends and family to restaurants, it can be tough to stick to a vegetarian diet.”
Another potential problem with the Eat More, Weigh Less Diet is that people who follow the diet will need to make sure they are meeting all their needs for their gender, age, and where they are in their life cycle, says Salge Blake. “If you’re someone who’s young and very active, you may get filled up before your nutritional needs are met.”
There’s one possible side effect of the Eat More, Weigh Less Diet to keep in mind, says Sandon: “While there’s certainly no danger in eating too much lettuce, people who aren’t used to having a lot of fruits and vegetables may want to start slowly. Too much fiber can lead to gastrointestinal distress.”
Eat More, Weigh Less Diet: Short-Term and Long-Term Effects
With the Eat More, Weigh Less Diet, you will lose weight in the short term. As for long-term effects, nutritionists say the Eat More, Weigh Less Diet has beneficial effects that go beyond weight loss.
Research shows that a low-fat, vegetarian diet like the Eat More, Weigh Less Diet can not only improve heart health, but may also reverse the damage done by heart disease. “This diet is quite heart-healthy,” says Salge Blake.
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