Losing some weight in 2017 is a surprisingly difficult task. Not for the lack of will – it’s just that it’s incredibly hard to find a proper starting point. The market is flooded with products that will instantly help you to lose X pounds in a matter of just Y weeks, and everyone has their own take on how an efficient diet should look like.
Suzanne Somers, a TV star and health spokeswoman, is only one of the celebrities who have joined the conversation and put their own twist on this subject. Today, at the age of 70, the star of “Step by Step” still looks stunning, which is a fact she contributes to a self-envisioned high-fat, low-carb diet she advocates in a series of popular books that include Get Skinny on Fabulous Food, Eat, Cheat, and Melt the Fat Away and Fast & Easy: Lose Weight the Somersize Way with Quick, Delicious Meals for the Entire Family.
So, we can all agree that “Somerizing,” as she likes to call her weight-loss program, is doing an amazing job in at least one case. But what’s the Suzanne Somers Diet all about and does it have any real scientific backing?
The Five Food Groups -Things to Eat and Things to Avoid
According to Ms. Somers, everyday food can be roughly divided into four groups:
- Veggies – Veggies includes a long list of fresh vegetables including broccoli, artichokes, green beans, tomatoes, onions, etc.
- Carbos (Carbohydrates) – Carbos are nutrients that provide complex carbohydrates like pasta, bread, beans, and cereals.
- Fruits – Though they are rich in carbohydrates, various fruits are also a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, so Ms. Somers puts them into their own
- Pro/Fats – Finally, we have the pro/fat group that covers the food that offers protein (poultry, meat, and eggs) or fats in their natural state (cheese, butter, cream, olive oil).
Ms. Somers also makes the list of “Funky Foods,” harmful nutrients you should avoid altogether. This list covers foods like nuts, whole milk, sugar, white flour, bananas, and avocados. All these foods have a high glycemic index. Obviously, Ms. Somers is guided by the fact that stable glucose levels allow your body to burn fat more efficiently. (1)
The Suzanne Somers Diet Basics
Are you then allowed to consume other four groups however you see fit?
Ms. Somers mandates a couple of rules you should abide by:
- You can combine vegetables with proteins and fats, but no carbs.
- You can combine carbs with vegetables, but no fats.
- You can eat fruit, but only separately and on an empty stomach.
- You need to wait at least three hours between different meals and meal combinations.
Unlike other weight loss programs that are based on calorie reduction, Somerizing doesn’t prescribe calorie counting. A number of carbohydrates your body needs to function properly will come from fruits and vegetables. As long as you are following these simple directions, and limit your meals to the portions that make you “comfortably full” you shouldn’t partake in any additional self-imposed limitations. Since the National Institutes of Health’s Medline Plus doesn’t recommend diets that include an intake below 1,200 and 1,500 calories (for woman and man respectively), this is a plus. (2)
Two Steps to Slimmer Body
This is the phase when you’ll adjust your body to the new nutrition regime, unload excessive sugar from your body’s cells, heal the metabolism and make the biggest weight loss. Although Ms. Somers doesn’t provide any specific prescriptions, meal plan suggestions and recipes found in her books are indicative enough. A typical Phase One meal plan should look something like this:
- Breakfast: Fruit salad and herb tea
- Lunch: Grilled salmon and green salad
- Snack: A medium-sized piece of string cheese
- Dinner: Steamed broccoli, steak with mushroom sauce
Phase Two is all about maintenance. You are still required to abide by prescribed food combinations, but this time you don’t need to be so rigorous and you are allowed to indulge yourself from time to time. Also, although the Suzanne Somers diet doesn’t require any specific type of exercises for you to experience the benefits, Ms. Somers does advocate any type of activity that will help you to maximize fat burning like weights, jogging and HIIT training.
And now, the typical Phase Two meal plan:
- Breakfast: One cup of coffee, fried eggs, spinach and mushrooms
- Lunch: Grilled chicken with Caesar salad
- Snack: Strawberries with nonfat yogurt
- Dinner: Whole-wheat pasta and green salad
- Dessert: Crème Brulee
Hidden Diet Saboteurs
Finally, the Suzanne Somers diet covers the issue of “hidden diet saboteurs” (3) that may be keeping you overweight.
According to Ms. Somers, these “diet roadblocks” are:
- Artificially sweetened diet foods and drinks
- An unknown food allergy
- Toxic products lurking around your home
- Hidden insulin triggers
- Monosodium glutamate in your food
- An imbalance in your hormones
If you want to experience the full benefits of the Suzanne Somers diet, you should pay attention to these obstacles and conditions and consult your doctor about them.
The Scientific Backing (and the Lack of It)
Unfortunately, although Somerizing scores some obvious points, it does lack a solid scientific foundation. But, let’s start with the positive aspects.
First, cutting the number of carbs will help you to stabilize your blood sugar levels and thus regulate your weight easier. Second, after 5+ hours without food, your blood sugar begins to plummet, and you reach for whatever you can digest to compensate for the loss. (4). Such behavior leads to overeating. Also, the overall reliance on protein as the main pillar of your nutrition will make sure that 45% of the potential excess calories will be stored as muscles instead of fat. (5)
But that’s the point where the scientific backing disappears. The biggest issue regarding this diet is the lack of proof that different food combinations are more than traditional calorie reduction. According to the International Journal of Obesity, any excess calories will cause you to put on more weight, regardless of the source. The World Health Organization also points out to other harmful nutrients Somerizing fails to consider such as trans-fats, processed foods, salty snacks, etc. (6)
At the same time, beneficial fruits like banana (7) are needlessly “blacklisted.”
The Suzanne Somers Diet is an interesting approach to nutrition that can open the doors to certain benefits. However, without solid scientific backing for the core “food combination” concept, the best way to make this diet work for you is to augment it with the reduced calorie intake and regular physical activity.