Several years ago I wrote this article about the Dean Ornish Program. I have edited it to reflect my current views and experience with clients utilizing the program. The Dean Ornish program is more suitable to people who have over 100 pounds to lose. It’s extreme reliance on carbohydrates without calorie counting is not effective for the individual looking to lose 10-30 pounds.
On January first, I, like many other people, took a good hard look at myself and discovered that I didn’t like what I was seeing. I once again tipped the scales at close to 205 pounds, a good deal of which(unfortunately) was not muscle. And since personal fitness training is my business, I decided that it might be a good decision to take my own advice to heart and lose that extra weight.
Having been overweight as an adolescent, I am constantly struggling with those 150,000 to 300,000 extra fat cells I possess. While they may shrink in size when I lose weight, unfortunately they never seem to go away. At the slightest hint of overindulgence they seem to expand to capacity(in other words, I gain weight at the drop of a hat!). I needed a permanent solution to the problem, not a quick fix, so I decided to look into the Dean Ornish program.
Those unfamiliar with the Dean Ornish Life Choice Program quickly come to the realization that Dr. Ornish did a lot of research prior to the formulation of his program. He maintains that the average American consumes almost 40 percent of calories as fat. Diets such as Lean Cuisine, Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers reduce fat consumption to 30 percent, so they must rely on small portion sizes to keep calories under control. This often leaves dieters feeling hungry and deprived. To remedy this problem, the Life Choice Program derives less than 10 percent of its’ calories from fat and has virtually no cholesterol.
How do you achieve a low-fat, no cholesterol, high volume diet where you won’t feel hungry? Here’s a list of foods you cannot have:
• Meats(all kinds, including chicken and fish)
• Oils(all kinds) and oil-containing products, including margarines and most salad dressings
• Nuts and seeds
• High-fat or “low-fat” dairy, including whole milk, yogurt, butter, cheese, egg yolks, cream and so-on
• Sugar and simple sugar derivatives(honey, molasses, corn syrup, high fructose syrup and the like)
• Alcohol (This is a deal breaker for a lot of people)
• Any commercially available product with more than two grams of fat per serving
This may all look pretty limiting, but when you realize that you can have as much of any food or food product that is not listed, it becomes a lot easier. There is no portion control or calorie counting on the program. Eating the appropriate foods adds fiber and bulk to the diet, giving you the feeling of ‘fullness’ without the additional calories.
So what can you have? The program goes into great detail in order to make sure you don’t feel hungry. For snacks you should always have on hand:
Bagels with sugar-free jam
Fat-free tortilla chips and homemade tomato salsa
Rice cakes with sugar-free jelly or jam
Steamed vegetables with fat-free dressings
Fresh fruit and vegetables
Non-fat frozen yogurt
So what about protein? Obviously meat and cheese are out, so you are going to have to look elsewhere. Of course beans and rice are always good alternatives, but what if you feel like sinking your teeth into something a little more substantial? Luckily most grocery stores are now stocking vegetarian meat substitutes. Theswe are largely made of Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP). Boca Burgers (80 calorie hamburger-like patties that have no fat) and Smart Dogs! (45 calorie hot-dogs with no fat) are good choices. Both of these are almost indistinguishable form the real things. One caveat: Eating TVP products have a side effect of increased intestinal gas, so you better have an understanding partner.
If you need more information, Dr. Dean Ornish has four books available at your local bookstore. Stress, Diet & Your Heart, A Lifetime Program for Healing Your Heart Without Drugs or Surgery, ($5.99, Paperback, Signet Publishing, 1984), is a fairly inexpensive introduction to the program. Some sections include:
What is coronary heart disease and how do stress and diet help to cause it?
Stress Management techniques including: Meditation, Visualization, Stretching and Breathing.
How to Quit Smoking
The Diet Itself
Three Weeks of Menus
Eat More Weigh Less, Dr. Dean Ornish’s Life Choice Program for Losing Weight Safely While Eating Abundantly($14.00, Paperback, Harper Collins Publishing, 1993), is an exhaustive study and explanation of his theory and program. It
includes 105 pages of exposition and 258 pages of recipes that are vegetarian and low-fat.
Everyday Cooking with Dr. Dean Ornish(150 Easy, Low-Fat, High-Flavor Recipes),($25.00, Hardcover, Harper Collins Publishing, 1996) is basically a low-fat meatless cookbook. Some sample recipes include:
Old Fashioned Potato Salad
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Spicy Mexican Rice
This book also has some helpful topics, including:
• How to Pack a Smart Lunch
• Good meat Alternatives
• What is an egg substitute?
So if you still can’t find something to eat after looking through these books, have no fear. There are many restaurants that actually offer Dean Ornish meals. If you are unable to find one of these meals, choose a vegetarian pasta with a marinara sauce or a salad with no cheese or croutons and a fat free dressing. There really are some good choices to be had when eating out.
While there is a strong tendency for people who have been on diets to regain weight(normally two-thirds of the weight lost is regained within one year), during the first year, patients on the Dean Ornish program lost an average of twenty-two pounds, and kept it off. My personal experience after three months on the program is a thirty pound weight loss.While this is not typical for the average person, it is very promising.
One final thought, The Life Choice Program maintains that comprehensive changes are easier to stick with than moderate ones. This is about as comprehensive as it gets. It is not meant to be a quick-fix, but a lifestyle change. What you have to decide is, is it time for a change in your life?