Let me put on my ex-university instructor hat: The only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you take in. That's it. All diets are devised to help you meet this goal. If anyone tells you otherwise, he or she is trying to sell you something.
The Game On Diet works under this premise. It is not so much a diet as a way to help you learn how to make sane choices at the table: healthy foods in the correct portions. This is not a diet of deprivation: You are allowed a free day each week plus a free meal each week plus a 100-calorie treat every day.
Because everyone needs motivation to make changes and stick with them, the game part of the diet involves earning points, playing in teams, and getting prizes. The game lasts four weeks. After the month, you should be able to maintain your new healthy way of life without the game.
How to Earn Points
1. Eat five healthy mini-meals a day spaced 2 to 4 hours apart
2. Exercise at least 20 minutes 6 days a week
3. Sleep 7+ hours a night
4. Drink 3 liters of water a day
5. Add a healthy new habit
6. Get rid of a bad habit
7. Communicate with your team and the other players
How to Lose Points
1. Weighing yourself too often
2. Eating snacks
3. Talking someone else into cheating with you
4. Drinking alcohol on any day but your free day or free meal
5. Not doing your good habit or continuing to do your bad habit
What Can You Eat?
1 fist-size portion of carbs or fruits with every meal
1 palm-size portion of protein with every meal
1 thumb-size portion of healthy fat with every meal
2 fist-size portions of veggies a day and unlimited green veggies
1 (100-calorie) treat a day
Healthy sweeteners very sparingly
I like the basic Game On Diet plan, and I love the way the book is written: lots of tips, recipes, Q&As, and personal stories from people who have tried the plan. The eating plan is sensible, and the exercise goals are reachable.
The list of no-no foods--called F.L.A.B.B. foods (for fat-loading and belly-bloating)--is quite reasonable and contains few surprises. F.L.A.B.B. foods include sugar, white flour, candy chocolate, lunch meat, fried foods, soda, and full-fat dairy products.
I have an argument with the idea that fruit juices (as in 100%, no sugar added) are not allowed. The authors note that juices are high in calories, which is true. On the other hand, I really doubt that an 8-ounce glass of juice in the morning is making anyone fat.
Another problem I have is with the amount of water required: a whopping 3 liters. I am sure that I'd never be able to drink that much water. The diet will not let you drink decaf black or green iced tea instead. You can, however, substitute herbal iced tea. I have issues this: Herbs have physiological effects on the body, and the amount of active herbal ingredients is not regulated in teas. Thus I am not sure about drinking 3 liters of herb teas daily for a month. Because good-quality black and green tea is decaffeinated via a natural water process (no chemicals added) and provides important anti-oxidants, I really don't understand this rule.
The final problem I have is that the amount and types of recommended foods are the same for everyone. There are no divisions based on age, sex, weight, body size, general lifestyle, or general health. If I am reading the food chapter correctly, a 125-pound woman is supposed to eat the same amount of food as a 225-pound man, a 25-year-old is eating the same as a 60-year-old, a lactating woman is eating the same as a nonlactating woman, and a person with a desk job is eating the same as a person with a very physical job. At the least, most experts would adjust the portion sizes and types of foods based on age, sex, and lactation.
One thing I like about this diet plan is eating more meals more often. This is an excellent way to even out your blood sugar throughout the day and is healthier than the typical peaks and valleys most of us experience.
Almost all of the foods on the forbidden list should be eliminated from most people's everyday diet. But because the diet includes a free meal and a free day, you can indulge when you need to (holiday, birthday party) or want to (weekend, meal in a restaurant). So really nothing is totally gone for life.
The free meal and free day serve two other purposes: One is you don't have to panic or stress over not eating your favorite foods because you have two chances each week. This makes it easier to stick with the plan the other days. The other is that the free meals prevent your body from going into a starvation or conserving mode, so you are less likely to hit a plateau if you are trying to lose weight.
Another bonus: Weight loss is not necessarily the end goal of the Game On Diet. If you are satisfied with your weight but just want to be healthier, this plan will work for you.
And I love the healthy habit aspect. Stress is a known contributor to weight gain and general ill-health. By picking up a positive habit and getting rid of a bad habit, not only can you feel better about yourself but you can relieve some of your daily stress.
Do I Think It Will Work?
I think this is a good, solid plan for most people, and it is based on the only known weight-loss formula (eat fewer calories than you burn). I think the vast majority of people in American will find it difficult to make the food changes and to commit to 6 days of exercise.
But I'll let you know what I really think at the end of July. I'm going to try the plan for a month with three teams of twitttering bloggers. So you'll see a dozen of us asking questions and cheering each other on.
Wish me luck!
Published by HarperCollins, 2009
Challenges: 999, 100+