Naturally Thin

The Promise

Bethenny Frankel, one of reality TV's Real Housewives of New York City, is also a chef and former obsessive dieter. Instead of dieting, she recommends changing your relationship with food.

Frankel has 10 rules to losing weight, and they all follow the same basic principle: Eat well, but sparingly. You can still eat french fries or cake, but in small tastes -- not the whole plate.

She also thinks of diet as a "bank account" in which you balance all foods so you are not eating too much of any one thing. You balance starches with proteins, and vegetables with sweets. Whenever you splurge, you follow it with a calorie "save." For example, if you eat a cupcake, you might cut back later by having a salad instead of something with more calories.

What You Can Eat

Frankel's plan is heavy on vegetables, with some whole grains and lean protein added. She recommends eating organic, locally grown vegetables, whole grains, chicken, and beef, and avoiding processed and packaged foods.

No foods are off-limits. You can pretty much eat what you want, as long as you lean toward healthy foods and limit your portion sizes.

Level of Effort: Medium

You'll have to pay attention to what and how much you eat. Frankel suggests using small plates rather than focusing on portion sizes. But you will need a general idea of the calorie counts in foods.

Limitations: Some of her sample meal plans appear to be very low in calories and short on nutrition. By following her plan, you may eat far less than the 1,600 to 2,000 calories a day recommended for women, and the 2,000 to 2,400 calories recommended for men. Eating fewer than 1,200 calories without being under a doctor's care can be risky. Frankel is not a health professional. You would need to make sure you meet your nutritional needs.

You'll also need the willpower to limit yourself to a few bites of your favorite foods. Nibbling on a rich fudge brownie sounds great and may work for some people, but for others, it could be a problem.

Cooking and shopping: You can shop for and cook your own foods. Frankel's book provides sample recipes to help you plan meals.

Packaged foods or meals: No.

In-person meetings: No.

Exercise: Exercise isn't part of the plan. Frankel does recommend staying active and suggests picking the form of exercise you like best.

Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?

Yes. Frankel suggests honoring your own dietary preferences, whether you're gluten- or lactose-free, vegetarian, vegan, or kosher.

What Else You Should Know

Frankel, who is the founder of Skinnygirl Cocktails, includes up to two alcoholic drinks a day in her plan. That's double the one-drink-a-day limit experts recommend for women. Drinking too much is bad for you. It's also important to keep in mind that alcohol is high in calories and can boost your appetite.

Cost: None beyond your groceries.

Support: You do this on your own.

What Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, Says:

Does It Work?

There haven't been studies about the effectiveness of this plan, but watching your portions and eating mostly healthy foods will limit your calories, which should help you trim down.

If you try this plan, you may want to take a daily multivitamin and add a few servings of dairy to fill in the nutritional gaps.

Be careful where the plan calls for skipping meals and drinking alcohol. That formula is not recommended and can lead to low blood sugar levels, excessive hunger, and the temptation to grab high-fat, high-salt, or sugary comfort foods.

Is It Good for Certain Conditions?

While losing weight can improve many conditions, this plan is not right for you if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or high cholesterol.

The Final Word

There are lots of useful tips, sensible advice, and helpful concepts in Naturally Thin to help you improve your relationship with food.

If you want to unleash your skinny girl, give up calorie counting, exercise if you want to, eat whatever you want, drink margaritas, and free yourself from a lifetime of dieting, this book may be for you. Dieters who are tired of restrictive diets may find comfort and flexibility in this diet, where there are no forbidden foods.

Naturally Thin may not work for most people who need more structure and detail to help change their eating habits or who have certain medical conditions.

WebMD Diet A-Z Reviewed by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD on March 22, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

Health.com: "7 Secrets to Being Naturally Thin."

U.S. Department of Agriculture: "Calories: How Many Can I Have?"

Ello-Martin, J. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2005.

Frankel, B. Naturally Thin. New York, Simon & Schuster, 2009.

CDC: "Frequently Asked Questions - Alcohol."

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