Fit for Life

It's baaack! After 40 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list in the mid-'80s and with 12 million books sold, Harvey Diamond has reintroduced his "Fit for Life" philosophy of food combining for weight loss. Heavy on text, the new tome, Fit for Life: Not Fat for Life (HCI, 2003), offers detailed discussions on topics ranging from eating to environmentalism to spiritualism. Dieters who want recipes, menus, or more details about food combining will need to refer back to the original "Fit For Life" books or cookbooks that Diamond and his now-ex-wife, Marilyn, first produced.

Diamond likes to say his plan isn't complicated. There's just one rule: "Eat more living food than dead food." In reality, it's not all that simple since you can't eat fruits with other foods, and you can't combine proteins and starches. Dieters who are into the meat-potato-vegetable routine are in for some dramatic changes. And while it makes sense not to chug a glass of fruit juice in two gulps, Diamond's advice about "chewing juice" so it doesn't disrupt the digestive system is just plain strange.

Basic principles:

First, there are "dead foods" (meats and starches), which tax the digestion system and zap energy. Then there are "living foods" (raw fruits and vegetables), which aid in digestion. To keep fit and to promote weight loss, dieters need to strike a 50-50 balance between the two. You must also follow certain "food combining" rules, since improper food pairings are supposedly toxic and can make you fat. For example, dieters can't eat proteins and starches together. And forget eating fruit with other foods.

How the diet works:

It's fruit or fruit juices from the early-morning hours up until noon. For lunch and dinner, it's live foods (salads) and a dead food (protein or starch—not both). Portions are not measured. Diamond now has a Web site that sells nutritional supplements to go along with the diet.

What you can eat:

Fruits and vegetables galore—just don't eat them together. Steaks, chops, chicken, seafood, pasta, and potatoes are OK—just don't combine the starch and meat. And make room for big salads at lunch and dinner. Use moderate amounts of salad dressing, preferably the kind without chemical additives. By the way, all this info is in Diamond's new book, but be prepared to sift through a ton of rhetoric to find it.

Does the diet take and keep weight off?

No clinical studies or anecdotal evidence show it does.

Is the diet healthy?

Not really. On the surface the diet sounds good since so much of it is about eating fruits and vegetables. Yet it's way too loose regarding the kinds of starches (carbs) and meats you should choose, making it possible to either shortchange yourself or overeat. The omission of dairy foods means you may not get enough calcium, particularly since there are absolutely no indications of which veggies are calcium-rich. Also problematic: Diamond's advice that it's OK to drink juice and eat fruit all day. There's no way that an all-fruit diet will provide the nutrients you need.

What do the experts say?

"When this diet first came out in the '80s, the lack of science behind it was obvious," says registered dietitian Jackie Berning, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. "Diamond says you can't eat protein before noon because it rots in the stomach. That doesn't make sense." Berning says the human body needs a mix of nutrients—protein, fat, carbs—to keep energy levels high. "You're going to be hungry if all you eat is a banana or an apple," she says. Noted weight-control expert John Foreyt, Ph.D., of Baylor College of Medicine, admits he's not up on all the details of this diet, but he labels it a fad. Food-combining as a strategy for weight loss? "There's no data to support this," Foreyt says. "It's just silly."

Who should consider the diet?

No one.

Bottom line:

Dead foods? Come on. This plan is beyond ludicrous. Sure, some folks might lose weight, but that's probably because they won't be able to make sense of all the bizarre rules and so will end up eating very little.

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