The food lover’s diet has received an undue amount of criticism online, with some detractors highlighting the poor usability of the diet guide and other shady, underhanded customer service tactics being used by Provida, the original author of the diet. This is never a good sign, but what we’re most concerned with is whether the diet itself proves effective, according to nutritional science, or whether there is a deeper problem with Provida’s diet.
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The food lover’s diet, however, seems pretty solid. The approach pushes calories and macronutrients out of the picture a little, which is a cause for concern, but the diet itself is structured to meet some great nutritional goals and focuses on the quality of foods. This is a great approach, but can all the internet critics be totally wrong? This article is going to place special emphasis on the scientific grounding of the diet itself, though there will be some discussion of the customer service, and the worries you might have when dealing with Provida.
The food lovers diet is a plan that claims to provide you with the tools and methods to be able to lose weight without restrictive dieting. The exaggerated claim that you can ‘eat your favorite foods and lose weight’ is plastered across promotional and marketing materials, along with pictures of cake and waffles.
The problem with this approach is that it promotes weight loss and health as being the same thing, then presents you with options for losing weight at the expense of health. You might be able to eat whatever you want and lose weight (if you eat little enough of it – that’s how calories work), but you’ll severely damage your health and reduce your longevity.
The food lovers diet calls for a diet that contains very few starchy vegetables, whilst containing large quantities of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean protein sources, and healthy fats. A focus on food quality is the crucial factor here, and acts as a proxy for reducing calories, improving macronutrient balance, and reducing the negative health effects associated with consuming too much processed food. In this sense, the food lovers diet may claim to reject calorie restriction, but the plan itself restricts calories artificially and improves satiety.
The beauty of the artificial restriction of calories – through eating healthier and more satiating foods – is that it does reduce the overall calorie intake and contributes to the reduction of body fat. This means that, fundamentally, the food lovers diet is an effective diet for the reduction of body weight, and body fat particularly. This is dependent, however, on the individual’s overall diet and food/portion selection.
The food lovers diet may be popular for its flexibility, but this is also one of the biggest stumbling blocks to new dieters: being allowed to eat whatever you want (even within the “clean food” guidelines of the food lovers diet) is not always the best prescription for a new dieter, who may not have the knowledge to choose healthily. The diet may be flexible, but it is a real possibility that this flexibility could hinder the progress and confidence of the new dieter, resulting in frustration and poor results.
The problem with the diet is that it lacks a coherent structure and the guidelines are exactly that. Say what you want about restrictive dieting – and it definitely has its flaws – but for new dieters, or those with a poor understanding of nutritional science (i.e. most people), too much responsibility for figuring out how to diet is going to result in confusion and failure. The food lovers diet has been criticised for being too expensive, too hard to implement, or requiring too much prep time for the average dieter to engage with it properly. When asked “does it work?” the answer is “it depends on the person”: the diet isn’t what makes the food lovers diet work, the individual makes it work!
One of the real problems with this diet is the focus on clean foods. This might sound counter-intuitive: clean foods are healthy and all the foods in the food lovers diet are good for you, at least in reasonable portions. The problem is the shift away from the focus on calories and macronutrients, towards a hunger/satiety approach to dieting. Simply put, the problem with a whole foods and satiety approach is that different people have different appetites.
Whilst clean foods are high in satiety, meaning that they will be very filling, and tend to be quite low calorie, it is still possible to over-eat. The problem with the varying appetites between individuals is that there are two, very broadly-defined groups that become overweight. The first group will find the food lovers diet to be a great choice, and very effective: these individuals don’t struggle with over-eating, but with poor food choice in their day to day lives. This group is likely to eat calorie-dense foods but at a normal or above-average volume.
The second group of dieters suffer from a totally different problem: they have an appetite that is greater than their TDEE. The TDEE is simply a rough estimate of the number of calories used in a day through exercise and metabolism. This “second group” refers to those who will struggle to make progress – or at least consistent progress – on the Food Lovers Diet. For this group, calorie density is not the problem, overall food volume is. Food volume is the sheer mass of food that you are able to consume and is generally referred to by the term “appetite”. If you give this group of individuals a diet that says you can “eat all your favorite foods and reduce your waistline”, the result will be a calorie surplus made up entirely of beans and rice and low-fat dairy products.
This hints at one of the bigger problems with the Food Lovers Diet: it is a structure that should be adapted to individual needs, but it is sold as a cookie-cutter approach to weight management for everyone. Of course, we are all bound by the same biological processes – eating fewer calories than you use will always reduce weight and body fat – but the way we achieve this needs to respect individual differences to optimize body composition and dieting effectiveness.
As you might have gathered, we’re fairly ambivalent on the Food Lovers Diet. It can provide a stellar tool for limiting the intake and food-quality of individuals who eat regular volumes, but calorie-dense foods. This is a great intervention to apply some hard and fast rules to the kind of “burger and fries” dieters we all know.
However, it seems to have received so much poor feedback because it completely misses out another demographic in the overall population of dieters: those with a huge appetite or poor portion control. Telling someone that they can eat as much as they want, as long as it’s the right foods, flies in the face of all the science on the subject of nutrition, and is going to cause approximately ½ of people to see sub-optimal results.
Chicken, kidney beans, chickpeas, onions, garlic, and spinach might be great foods for your diet, but if you put them in a casserole, it is very easy to over-eat. The Food Lovers Diet needs to account for the importance that calories play in mediating between the two types of dieters: the calorie-dense eaters, and the high-volume eaters.
We’re sad to see the Food Lovers Diet being so poorly received. There is real potential in this diet if applied widely enough and with enough consideration. The diet could be so much better if only it was applied with some self-awareness: be sure to try a diet like this if you’re susceptible to eating poor-quality foods, but don’t eat lots of food. If your downfall is a few gross junk foods, rather than a pound of oatmeal, you should probably try this diet to improve your food choices, if nothing else.
The addition of a concern for calories is also important: calories are the driving force and best tool available for weight loss and body composition change. Calories cannot be looked over because they are complicated or inconvenient. Despite the insistence that calorie counting is psychologically burdensome, the fact is that counting provides a great regulator to the quantity of food you eat and is a great way to ground the Food Lovers Diet in science, rather than leaving irresponsible dieters to eat as much as they want.
This sounds harsh, but if these individuals were able to self-regulate their dietary intake (especially in terms of volume), they might not need to go on a diet in the first place!
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The Food Lovers Diet shows real promise, but it needs to be tweaked and repackaged in a way that makes it accessible, and puts it in the hands of those who need it most, and can make the most of it. The price tag of $65 each quarter is astronomical for a diet that could easily be constructed without any charge (learning basic nutrition is free online), and the materials themselves have proven off-putting to many clients.
Amanda is a gym instructor and a diet and nutrition fanatic that has reviewed 100s of supplements for the benefit of consumers. She struggled with obesity 7 years ago and after losing more than 30lbs, dedicates most of her time in helping others achieve similar results and transform their lives.