Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Review of the Flat Belly Diet

I'm surprised I don't hear MORE about fad diets, but after a patient told me about the "Flat Belly Diet" and her consumption of "Sassy Water" I just had to delve deeper.

WebMD performed a thorough amount of research on the current diet trend, commonly referred to as the "Flat Belly Diet". The cover of the book instructs a flat tummy being thanks to food and attitude...not crunches. Oh, and for the record, exercise is encouraged...but not necessary.

The Flat Belly Diet includes four 400-calorie meals spaced 4 hours apart. Prior to starting on this plan (to be followed for 28 days), however, Flat Belly dieters are to go through a four-day "anti-bloat jump-start", knocking their calories down to 1,200-1,400 calories a day. During this time, it is instructed that dieters consume 2 liters of "Sassy Water" -- water chilled over night with cucumber, lemon, ginger, and mint leaves. Volunteers explains that the Sassy Water "reduced bloating, constipation" and helped them rid of the "sluggish feeling" [1]. Interesting thought...sounds delicious!

After the four-day jump start, Flat Belly dieters consume their four 400-calorie meals that are consistent with a Mediterranean-style diet with a strong emphasis on monounsaturated fat, which are consumed at every meal from sources such as olives, avocado, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, soybean, flax, and olive and sunflower oils. Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD and nutrition director at Prevention, states that research has linked monounsaturated fatty acids to belly fat reduction [1].

Belly Fat dieters do not count calories. Rather, they choose from a list of 28 interchangeable mix-and-match breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snack packs. Eight recipes are also included with a nutrition analysis including calories, protein, carbohydrates, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and fiber [1].

Depending on the combination dieters choose, it is possible to intake 40% of calories in the form of fat on the Flat Belly Diet -- this exceeds the National Institutes of Health's recommended 20-35% of calories from fat. Individuals can, however, go online to configure a diet providing a total calorie intake between 1,200 and 2,000 [1].

The diet "works" based off the premise of calorie restriction (1,600 calories a day), consuming a monounsaturated fat at each meal, eating every 4 hours, and getting regular exercise (though it is listed as "optional") in order to produce belly weight loss of 15 pounds in 32 days [1]!

What does Mayo Clinic say?

Dr. Michael Jensen, Mayo Clinic obesity researcher and endocrinologist specialist, states that while excess belly fat is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, it is premature to associate belly fat loss with a specific food (MUFAs) or diet plan, such as the Flat Belly Diet. Christine Rosenbloom, PhD, RD, encourages consumers to remember the acronym "SED" which stands for "strength", "exercise", and "diet" when wishing to address belly fat. Those seeking belly weight loss should STRENGTH train to build and preserve muscle mass, EXERCISE aerobically on a regular basis to burn calories, and focus on DIET to include a healthy, calorie-controlled intake which includes healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fats, over the unhealthy trans and saturated fats [1].

While the Flat Belly Diet can certainly produce weight loss, always consider the feasibility of a diet long-term. Weight loss and maintenance goes beyond one's ability to follow a meal plan for 32 days, so I encourage everyone to find a sustainable, healthy approach suitable for themselves, whatever that may be.

[1]. Zelman, Kathleen M. The Flat Belly Diet. WebMD: Expert Review.


  1. Great review, thanks for providing it. I have never read this book, nor have I reviewed it, but I love hearing about the latest diet trends, for obvious reasons. This diet sounds sensible, but I agree with your last statement, a healthy diet plan goes beyond a 32 day meal plan, you have to learn how to do it yourself!

    Love the new template, by the way, I stole it! I had been trying to find a way to increase the width of my text, so thanks for helping me out there.

  2. I have actually seen the book. Thanks for the thorough review. And I totally agree with your last paragraph!