Diet 'til you make it

Diet ’til you make it

FOOD rivals sex as one of life’s great comforts. But while hardly anyone ever complains about or has access to “too much” sex, an overabundance of food has led most of us down the path to diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity.

Here’s a look at three regimens to help us get our food intake back to sensible levels.


The Cohen Program

Few tactics work better in selling a diet than having a slim, well-spoken young person say that he or she, too, was obese less than a year ago. Before-and-after pictures seem like a hackneyed trick, but they work.

In the Cohen program’s case, the after pictures work particularly well. In the first four weeks of the six-month program, 70 percent of their clients lose 15-22 pounds. In Cebu last year, one client reportedly lost 153 pounds in 10 months.

The idea is to design a personal diet, based on your blood chemistry results, so that your body produces optimal levels of three hormones: the human growth hormone, insulin and serotonin. Blood is drawn at the beginning of the program and every month after that; your meal plan is supposedly created by no less than Dr. Rami Cohen himself, the ob-gyn who started the program 25 years ago.

The Cohen program, however, is not for everyone. Those under 15 or over 65 are not advised to take part; neither are pregnant or breastfeeding mothers and insulin-dependent diabetics.

For those who do qualify, the most immediate challenges are the program fee and the discipline required to stick to meal plans. The fee lies in five-figure territory. Portion control is so crucial that each client has to get a digital food scale, which may prove tricky for those who eat out often.

But, ah, the results.

To help you weigh the pros and cons, arrange for a free information session in the Cohen Lifestyle Center in Cebu, located in the Oakridge Business Center on A.S. Fortuna St., Mandaue City. Their phone number is (032)236-2334.

The Paleo Diet

Another regimen that has gained traction, especially among the CrossFit set, is the Paleolithic diet.

Its main idea is that our bodies have not evolved much in the last 10,000 years, yet our diets would be unrecognizable to the hunter-gatherers whose genes we inherited. “Socially, we are a people of the 21st Century, but genetically we remain citizens of the Paleolithic era,” wrote Dr. James H. O’Keefe Jr. and Dr. Loren Cordain, in a 2004 paper for the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Cordain is credited as the Paleo diet’s co-founder.

People on the Paleo diet are told to build their diets on a base of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Lean protein from fish, skinless fowl and lean cuts of red meat are allowed, in moderation. The diet includes no refined grains, sugars or legumes: no white rice, no commercial baked goods and no processed snacks like salty potato chips or honey-roasted peanuts.

There’s a reason this diet seems popular among adherents of CrossFit, which mixes aerobic exercise with weightlifting. Among the current exercise regimens, this high-intensity strength and conditioning program most closely mimics the physical activities of hunter-gatherers, who “lifted, carried, climbed, stretched, leaped and did whatever else was necessary” to get food and outrun predators.

One advantage this diet has over others? It considers the fact that most of us have lived most of our lives as omnivores and doesn’t ask us to give up all meat, all at once. If you think your path to fitness and health lies in unleashing your Inner Caveman, check out the literature on

Vegan Before 6

We’ve heard it all before: a plant-based diet is kinder on our bodies, our fellow animals and on the planet. But if it were that simple, majority of us would have become committed vegans long ago.

The American food writer Mark Bittman began his flexible or “flexitarian” diet while on the verge of a health crisis in 2007. His doctor had told him he would probably have to turn vegan to keep his pre-diabetic, pre-heart-disease symptoms from advancing. But Bittman “had no interest in becoming an isolated vegan in a world of omnivores and the world of omnivores is where I live. Full-time.”

So he devised a compromise. He would eat whatever he wished after 6 p.m., but would limit his choices to vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans during the daytime. Within four months, Bittman wrote, he shed 35 pounds and brought his cholesterol and blood sugar levels within normal range, and he has stayed within those levels ever since.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for those of us who want to try the “vegan before 6” or VB6 plan is finding the time to shop for fresh produce and to cook. For Asians, another challenge could be giving up or at least reducing the amounts of white rice we consume, and incorporating whole grains like brown rice, quinoa and bulgur in our diets. Tofu is a recommended source of protein but, as you probably know, is an acquired taste.

Bittman’s book (“Eat Vegan Before 6:00”, Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2013) includes a 28-day meal plan for those curious to try the diet, as well as 60 recipes.

At their core, all three diets share the same idea: eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, and less processed foods. What they do is provide some structure and perhaps make the idea of diets more accessible and sensible, if not downright sexy.(N. D. Plume)

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