With more than 3 million members at his Web site and a growing library of fitness books, Jorge Cruise is fast becoming Americas favorite diet and fitness guru for the time-deprived. His 8 Minutes program helps dieters lose weight by pairing a quick at-home workout with an easy-to-follow eating plan. Readers familiar with the original 8 Minutes in the Morning (HarperResource, 2002) might want to check out more-recent books (8 Minutes in the Morning for Real Shapes, Real Sizes; 8 Minutes in the Morning to Lean Hips and Thin Thighs; 8 Minutes in the Morning to a Flat Belly) for Cruises new streamlined meal-planning strategy, called the “Cruise Down Plate.”

Cruises patented workout has a knack for making weight training accessible to the masses. In his book 8 Minutes in the Morning for Real Shapes, Real Sizes, Cruise even adjusts his exercise regimen for dieters who need to lose 30 pounds or more. If theres any quibble with the program, its with occasional advice such as telling readers that 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil will shrink your appetite. (Cruise also sells flaxseed oil on his Web site.) A little oil on a salad or a little butter on vegetables can help you feel full, true, but theres nothing special about flaxseed oil, at least not when it comes to weight loss.

Basic principles:

Cruise says building muscle is the secret to losing weight, but it doesnt require special equipment or hefty health-club fees. All you need are 8 minutes every morning, a set of dumbbells, and a rotating arsenal of exercise moves. Dieters work two different muscle groups each day. To go along with the resistance training, daily inspirational exercises help build self-nurturing skills and a positive attitude. The eating plan isnt a diet so much as a simple approach that encourages healthy portions and lots of veggies.

How the diet works:

Eight minutes of special exercises each morning are key. Resistance training builds muscle; and the more muscle you develop, the more fat youll burn. (Every pound of muscle burns 50 calories per day.) Dieters may recall that the original plan called for cutting calories, with limits as low as 1,200 calories per day. Paying attention to what you eat is still important to the program, but the new emphasis is on healthy choices rather than calories.

What you can eat:

In his first book, Cruise offered an “eating card” system that broke down food into groups; dieters ate a specified number of servings from each group. His online program and recent books have updated that plan with a system called the “Cruise Down Plate.” You fill half your dinner plate with vegetables, one-fourth with protein, and the remaining fourth with starchy sides like potatoes or rice. Fruit can replace veggies for breakfast. Fat is limited to small amounts of flaxseed oil, olive oil, or peanut butter per meal. Two healthful snacks and one treat, such as a fat-free cookie, are included.

Does the diet take and keep weight off?

Cruise offers his own weight loss and that of family members (his sister and his dad) as proof that the diet works. The books and Web site also include anecdotal stories and photos from dieters. However, no independent scientific studies have evaluated the plan yet.

Is the diet healthy?

For the most part. Cruises first book called for just one measly fruit serving a day, but his new plans allow a little bit more fruit, both at breakfast and for snacks. The Cruise Down Plate prescribes healthful portions and emphasizes veggies, both safe diet strategies.

What do the experts say?

“This program is not going to get you into Miss or Mr. America shape,” says Lona Sandon, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and an assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. “Its a good place to start, though.” Leslie Bonci, RD, director of sports-medicine nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, is more critical. She thinks the program misleads dieters when it says 8 minutes of exercise builds enough muscle to burn fat. “The amount of exercise is small. Its probably the smaller portions or low calorie level that is making dieters lose weight—not the exercise.” Bonci also questions some of Cruises nutrition advice, such as his endorsement of flaxseed oil and his assertion that dairy foods cause sinus problems. “Hes peppering in some wrong information,” Bonci says. “Its not necessarily going to be harmful, but its not correct.”

Who should consider the diet?

The hurried mom, the busy worker, or anyone trying to fit a weight-loss plan into a hectic life.

Bottom line:

Cruise does offer some good diet strategies. His exercise regimen is perfect for beginners, but eventually dieters will need a more challenging routine.
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