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Monday, January 9, 2017

Buddha's Diet:The Ancient Art of Losing Weight Without Losing Your Mind (Book Review)


Yeek, not only is it Monday. Its the kids' first day back at school. It's January, and its grey and cold. I suspect a lot of people had a hard time getting going this morning.

Despite the dreariness of this time of year, its when everyone has vowed to turn over a new leaf and adopt better habits or give up bad ones. Losing weight, of course, is always at the top of the list.

Losing weight is hard. Very hard. But not impossible.

Want to know the secret?

Find a strategy that works for YOU. Keep trying different ones until you do. The ones that work best for most people are not radical or extremely strict.

So, if you are looking for another weight loss strategy to try, and are sick of eliminating entire food groups, or only drinking liquids, you may want to try Buddha's Diet.

Don't worry, it doesn't involve committing yourself to a new religion, but it does rely on the philosophies of Buddha and most of it makes a lot of sense.

The book, Buddha's Diet: the Ancient Art of Losing Weight without Losing Your Mind, is written by Tara Cottrell and Dan Zigmond, two people I'd never heard of.  But here are their bios:

TARA COTTRELL is a writer, digital strategist, and mom. She consults and writes for lifestyle and wellness brands in Silicon Valley and is a well-being advocate for at-risk and foster youth. She is currently the web content manager at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. When she’s not working, writing, or parenting, she’s shoe shopping. She lives in Menlo Park, CA.

DAN ZIGMOND is a writer, data scientist, and Zen priest. He advises startups and venture capital firms about data and health. He is a contributing editor at Tricycle, the largest Buddhist magazine in North America, and teaches at Jikoji Zen Center, a small Buddhist temple in the Santa Cruz mountains. In May 2015, he was named one of “20 Business Geniuses You Need to Know” by Wired Magazine, as he frequently reminds his kids. He lives in Menlo Park, too.


Two rather eclectic individuals! Neither are doctors, however Zigmond is a data scientist, and Cottrell a health writer, so I see how their various skills come together in this book.

So what the heck is Buddha's Diet?

Essentially its a form of intermittent fasting,  which, as I have discussed before, actually has some sound science supporting its efficacy for weight loss and maintenance. Unlike the 5:2 Diet, however, its not eating sensibly 5 days a week and ultra low calorie 2 days a week, or some variation of that, instead, its limiting your eating to a window of hours during the day. They suggest the ideal is 9 hours, but, frankly, I suspect that would be very difficult for most people. Between 12 and 10 is probably more realistic, depending on your lifestyle.

Its really not that hard, as eating for only 10 hours, for example, could be eating breakfast at 8am, and then not eating after 6pm. For most of the time you are sleeping so it makes no difference. Probably where it has the most impact is on eliminating nighttime eating, which is when most people pack in too many and the wrong kind, of calories. Think about it, if you are going to succumb to emotional eating or binging on chips, ice cream or cookies, its far more likely to be at 10pm than 10am!

What does this have to do with Buddha? Well apparently he forbade nighttime eating. The book actually includes a lot of info on Buddha, whom I previously didn't know anything about. That alone, I found very interesting!

Fortunately, Buddha's Diet isn't just about meal timing, its also about one's approach to food and eating.

The authors recommend regular weigh-ins, to keep you on track, they avoid drinking alcohol (apparently Buddha was very against drinking!) or other liquid calories, they recommend regular exercise, both for health and the fact that it helps keep lost weight from returning. They also stress the importance of sufficient sleep, and caution readers to avoid using food for comfort or distraction. All of this is good advice.

Being Buddha's  Diet, they, of course, also discuss the importance of eating mindfully, and getting in touch with one's physiological hunger, and learning to distinguish it from the external cues that often drive us to eat. Gratitude is also a component of this diet, as is empathy and kindness, which must be practiced, not only toward others, but towards oneself and one's body.

You may be wondering, what do you eat on Buddha's Diet? Well, whatever you want, however, the author's emphasize that you will have the best results if you eat healthy, whole foods rather than processed foods and sugar. Isn't that what I am always telling you people??

I love that they address the fact that while its fine to celebrate with food and the occasional indulgence, most of us have turned this into a daily affair. Instead of cake and ice cream once a year on our birthday, we now have it every time we have a rough day as a reward just for making it through. Not good! They also discuss emotional eating, which is important, because using food as a distraction, comfort or to numb oneself is a very common problem.

I was surprised how much I liked this book. It is not at all preachy, and written in a very light-hearted tone that was easy to read. I love that they address the societal pressures to look a certain way and emphasize focusing on health, instead. I appreciate that they have done real research for this book, based on peer-reviewed research (not just personal anecdotes like some of the crap I've read lately). All their sources are listed in the end notes.

Do I recommend this book? Yes, absolutely! But if a 9 hour eating window isn't realistic for you, anywhere between 10-12 may work, just play around with it. If you are really lost in terms of what to eat, consult a dietitian for some guidance.