Monday, April 27, 2009

The Scarsdale Diet

The Scarsdale diet was published in a book called 'The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet' by Dr Herman Tarnower of Scarsdale, NY and Samm Sinclair Baker in 1979. Its popularity benefited from a storm of publicity in 1980 when Dr Tarnower was murdered by his long time lover, the headmistress of a well known girls' boarding school.

The claim is that you can lose up to 20 pounds in 14 days.

What Does It Involve?

The Scarsdale diet plan could be described as a more nutritionally varied version of the grapefruit diet. Half a grapefruit is included every day at breakfast for the supposed 'fat burning enzyme' that it contains.

Dr Tarnower proposes a strict diet plan which you follow for 14 days. You then follow a less restrictive plan for 1-2 weeks before going back onto the diet plan for another 14 days if you need to.

Generally, it is a high protein, low carbohydrate plan but with fruit and 1-3 slices of protein-enriched bread per day. Breakfast is half a grapefruit and 1 slice of bread. Lunch may be fruit alone, or meat, fish or cheese with salad or vegetables. Dinner is meat or fish with vegetables. Bread is allowed at lunch or dinner some days.

Snacks are limited to raw carrot, celery etc. You may drink tea, coffee, diet soda and of course water. You can use ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, mustard and herbs.

No potatoes, corn, peas, beans (other than green beans) or lentils are allowed, and no pasta, rice or other grains except for bread when specified.

Why Does It Work?

This is a strictly calorie controlled diet. Most people will lose weight over the 14 days if they can stick to it.

The cyclical nature of the plan (2 weeks on, 1-2 weeks off) is said to optimize results because it prevents the metabolism adjusting to the lower calorie intake.

Any Negatives?

Most people will be very hungry on this diet and that will make it hard to stick to. Some people use appetite suppressants but these may have risks of their own. If you can keep to the plan, most of the initial weight loss will be water.

There is a heavy emphasis on lean meats with most of the calories coming from animal protein foods. It would be a difficult diet for vegetarians to follow. There is no scientific basis for the idea of a fat burning enzyme in grapefruit.

The cyclical style of the diet is also difficult for many people. There is a risk you will go completely off the diet at the end of the 14 days and regain all the weight.

It has been criticized for promoting yoyo dieting where weight is constantly gained and lost in a short time. This is generally considered bad for the health. Consult your doctor before starting on the Scarsdale diet.

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