Yesterday while coming home on the plane, I read a diet book that I actually really enjoyed. Authored by Cynthia Sass, it’s called Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds, and Lose Inches. I first heard about it when Cynthia appeared on the Rachel Ray show to promote it, and it sounded extremely gimmicky; however, I saw it at my local library, I figured I’d give it a spin.
As it turned out, I ended up being pleasantly surprised! The initial “Fast Forward” quick start to the program was indeed gimmicky – make all your meals based on these six superfoods that will jumpstart your weight loss – and promised insane benefits (“I lost 8 pounds in 5 days!” False – you lost some water weight in 5 days). There were also some cutesy aspects that didn’t sit well with me – for example, the idea of adding “SASS” (“slimming and satiating seasonings” that are meant to boost your metabolism and flavor your food without adding many calories) to all of your meals. However, the science and logic behind the diet made a lot of sense, and I think this would be a great plan for long term success.
I’ll let you read the book to get the whole plan, but the gist of it is that each meal should be made up of five “puzzle pieces”: produce, whole grain, lean protein, plant-based fat, and SASS. While calling them “puzzle pieces” makes the whole thing seem like a cheesy game, there’s nothing gimmicky about the fact that at least the first four are what you should be eating all the time. As for SASS, I don’t think you get enough of a metabolic boost from things like capsaicin and vinegar to make them required condiments, but I do agree that they’re much better choices than the rich dairy products many people use for flavor (e.g., butter, cream, mayonnaise, sour cream, cheese). I don’t necessarily believe that you have to fit each one of the puzzle pieces into every single meal, but I do think that striving for five is a balanced approach that will ensure you get all of them into your diet in good amounts.
There were some great recipes in the book that I copied down for later use – Strawberry Cardamom Smoothie, Raspberry Brazil Nut Pita, Cranberry Walnut Quinoa Pilaf, Strawberry Avocado Tacos, Green Tea Chicken with Avocado Corn Salad, and Chickpea and Red Quinoa Lettuce Wraps, to name a few. Yum! All of the recipes contained only a few ingredients and seemed to be very easy to prepare, and as you can tell by the titles above, all the flavor combinations seemed to be fairly unique and mouthwatering. I’m already itching to get some time at home this weekend to give them a try! I think one of the biggest takeaways from the book for me was the importance of eating more fruits and berries (I usually pass on them in favor of veggies or less-sweet things) – tomorrow I really want to have some form of cottage cheese/raspberries/blueberries for breakfast.
While the book doesn’t really address working out or fitness, at the end of the book, there is a short chapter on walking. I really liked the following gem (paraphrased), which I think can easily be applied to running as well: there are four unique benefits of walking. You can walk to connect (with the outside world by seeing what’s around you), to think (about your problems and how to relieve your stress by solving them), to dream (and get inspired), or to bond (with your walking buddies). I have had runs that accomplish each of those purposes, but had never broken them out like that – it’s a neat framework and one I want to remember going forward.
Overall, I think this book would be great for anyone who doesn’t have to eat out on a regular basis, particularly those who aren’t great cooks and want to learn how to get away from processed foods in an easy and fairly low-effort way. However, I think you need to look at the book a bit more broadly rather than follow the gimmicky structure it lays out. That is, I think you should take the ideas holistically rather than worrying about piecing together “the puzzle” all the time. To me, that’s just more confusing and stressful than following the basic tenets!
As for the “Fast Forward” plan, I never think it’s a good idea to limit your food variety… though Cynthia does acknowledge this and emphasizes that it shouldn’t be done for more than the 5 prescribed days. However, I think it’s nonsense that she says you can lose 5-8 pounds in that Fast Forward period – that’s just setting people up for disappointment when they either don’t reach that number on the scale, or gain it all back since it’s water weight and not permanent fat loss.
Do you think it’s okay to make gimmicky promises to get people to start eating healthy? Is the end goal more important than the path to get there?