“You are naturally thin. You may not know it yet. But you just need to make some basic changes in your life so your natural thinness can shine through, no matter your body type.” So begins the book Naturally Thin by Bethenny Frankel, known to television audiences as a participant on the Martha Stewart Apprentice and The Real Housewives of New York City reality shows. She’s also attended a culinary school, worked as a chef for celebrities, and developed a line of low-fat baked goods free of wheat, egg, and dairy.
As far as Frankel’s entrance into the weight-loss world goes, several dietitians give her Naturally Thin diet mixed reviews. Though they cite plenty of good ideas, they felt that mixed messages in the book could lead readers toward an unhealthy relationship with food.
The Naturally Thin Diet: About the Plan
The notion that “your diet is a bank account.” In other words, splurge a little here and there, but balance your account by cutting back elsewhere.
“Taste everything, eat nothing.” This is the opposite of the typical American approach of eating without really tasting food. The Naturally Thin diet recommendation is to try small amounts of a variety of foods.
Don’t clean your plate. In restaurants, share some of your food, bring some home, or just leave a portion on your plate. But don’t eat all that the waiter puts in front of you.
At the end of the book, Frankel offers, in table format, everything she ate in a three-week period, down to the spoonful, such as a dinner including: one bite of a mozzarella stick, a piece of turkey and Swiss Panini, “tiny” piece of cheese, side salad with chicken, and a glass of wine.
Naturally Thin Diet: Pros and Cons
“I do like that she gives the message to stop dieting — that dieting is a really bad idea, it’s unsuccessful, and is an utter failure for most people. She encourages readers to stop disparaging remarks about their body. I like positive messages about body acceptance,” says Juliet Zuercher, RD, director of Nutrition Services at Remuda Ranch Programs for Anorexia and Bulimia, in Wickenburg, Ariz. “And then she proceeds to write a diet book.”
Zuercher does support Frankel’s idea that people should eat more “real food,” rather than fat-free or sugar-free foods, and is enthusiastic about some of Frankel’s snack ideas, like toast with peanut butter and edamame.
Robin Werner, MS, RD, a New York-based dietitian in private practice, says that Frankel “has her 10 rules and they are common-sense, and from a registered dietitian standpoint, I agree with all of them.” After all, even the American Dietetic Association suggests that diners share a large entrée or take some home.
However, neither registered dietitian was supportive of the notion of taking a few bites of food: It’s hard to do, it can be wasteful, and it’s not a healthy way to eat your food.
“What’s conveyed in the book, [through] the tricks she uses in meals to keep portion sizes small, [is that] she’s pretty consumed with counting calories and these little food games,” says Zuercher.
Werner, like Zuercher, senses that the message of the Naturally Thin diet could encourage readers to develop an unhealthy relationship with their food. Werner also feels that Frankel’s example of a low-calorie diet wouldn’t provide enough calories to support a typical woman’s energy needs.
Naturally Thin Diet: Short-Term and Long-Term Effects
If you do try the Naturally Thin diet and cut back on your calories, you can lose weight over the short-term, just as you would on any low-calorie diet, Werner says. But she suspects people would have a hard time buying food and eating three bites of it over the long term.
While motivational in spots, the Naturally Thin Diet appears to be a little thin on substance.