I have heard some people claim that focusing on eating ethically can be an effective way to help people lose weight or recover from an eating disorder. As a therapist who works with people trying to lose weight, I can see how this might be the case. If you chose your food based on something beyond calories, fat, and whether it will make us lose/gain weight, then some of the emotions that trip us up in our weight loss efforts (shame, self-doubt, etc.) tend not to be as close to the forefront. The focus is on doing good for animals and for the planet. Doing good makes us feel good, its been proven. When you feel good, you are more likely to make wise choices not clouded by emotional baggage.
So I was quite excited to be asked to review The Planet Friendly Diet because I thought this would tackle this whole issue. Its written by Cat Smiley, a Canadian weight-loss coach and trainer in British Columbia, who leads weight-loss retreats for women.
Its a 21 day guide to weight loss using earth-friendly strategies also designed to maximize health.
It starts with a day-by-day journal to track what you eat and your thoughts, feelings, etc. This is a key component of weight-loss according to most experts, but in my experience many people are resistant to it because they think its going to be too much work. Its not. If you don't want to hand write it all, believe me, there's an app or 500 for that!
Following the journal section and framework, are the recipes, shopping lists and details. Next, Smiley provides nutrition info and guidelines for the diet plan.
The diet is 1,200 calories, which is very little. Even though she advises increasing intake after 60 days to between 1,500 to 1,700 calories, I don't think many people will be able to stick to 1,200 calories even for 21 days. If you do, no doubt you will lose weight though! I don't like that two meals a day are smoothies, one, because I think smoothies are gross, but two, I don't think they are particularly satisfying, at least not satisfying enough to replace 2 solid-food meals.
The recipes for the third meal are simple and varied, and I like that they are intended to be affordable and quick to prepare, something overlooked by many diet plans. The 21-day plan is gluten-free and vegan, but she then advocates incorporating some gluten foods afterwards if you know for certain you aren't gluten intolerant (most people aren't). I am very happy to say Smiley advises readers to stick with whole grains and avoid refined carbs. A note to Canadians, when she talks about 'wheat' foods, that means refined wheat flour, and whole wheat, is, well, whole wheat.
Smiley doesn't forbid animal protein once the 21 day period is over either. She suggests choosing eco-friendly seafood, avoiding processed meats, and trying to eat vegetarian at least a few days a week. This is great for those unwilling to go vegan permanently, but I suspect a lot of people in the vegan community will say eating any animal protein is both bad for the environment and unethical. I like that she shows flexibility and clearly wants to accommodate the lifestyles of various populations.
The last section of the book contains information about different foods, macronutrients and action steps based on her recommendations. What I think is missing, is any discussion of what a person should eat in a planet-friendly way. As the anthropologist, Margaret Mead once said,
“It is easier to change a man's religion than to change his diet.”
Believe me, as someone who works with people to help them lose weight, I can tell you this is absolutely true!! So if Smiley wants to convince anyone to adopt a vegan diet, or even just a generally more eco-friendly diet, she's got to sell it to them. I think this is a serious omission in this book.
So do I recommend The Planet Friendly Diet? I think it is going to be useful for anyone already interested in eating a plant-based diet, who is looking for simple, inexpensive, low calorie recipes and a bit of a structured eating plan...and can deal with eating a smoothie as a meal twice a day.
Disclosure: I was sent this book by the publisher but all opinions on this blog are my own.