The Park Avenue Diet: What It Is
You don’t need to live on Park Avenue to have that well-heeled look -- all you need to do is follow the Park Avenue Diet plan, according to the author of The Park Avenue Diet. The six-week Park Avenue Diet program is more than a low-calorie diet. It includes a lifestyle makeover encompassing beauty, etiquette, poise, fitness, and fashion, designed to give you the look of the rich and famous.
"The Park Avenue Diet can help everyone be more successful by working from the outside in and inside out, because looking better is more than just eating properly," says Manhattan internist Stuart Fischer, MD, author of The Park Avenue Diet.
Dieting alone won’t do it, Fischer says. You also need to address the seven fundamental components of your lifestyle to have a better chance of physical and mental self-improvement. Those components, according to the book, are: weight, physique, hair, skin, clothing, self-confidence, and interpersonal skills.
"Two behavior modifications work on self-confidence and interpersonal skills, and the other sections focus on appearance, which is so much more than just weight. It is what everyone notices when you walk into a room," Fischer says.
For the book, he assembled a team of experts (not including any registered dietitians), each of whom offers a chapter of advice on everything from hair styles and make-up to self-confidence.
But no matter how you slice it, this plan is a temporary, low-calorie (1,250-1,350) restrictive diet with some added advice on other aspects of life. It is not intended to be the sort of lifelong healthy weight approach that most nutrition experts recommend.
The Park Avenue Diet: What You Can Eat
The Park Avenue Diet plan is a fairly well-balanced meal plan of three meals and one snack, totaling about 1,250-1,350 calories daily. The diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and seafood, as well as a limited amount of dairy products and whole grains.
The book is organized into daily menu plans with recipes and nutritional analysis so you can determine your exact nutrient intake. Anyone watching sodium intake should be careful, as many of the recipes are high in sodium.
All the recommended foods are readily available, and there are no gimmicks or strange food combination, even though Fischer served as the associate medical director at the Atkins Center for years. Dieters are told to forego sweets, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, fruit juice, and milk (except skim in coffee or tea). There are a few dessert recipes that can be enjoyed on occasion, but for the most part, dieters will need to satisfy any sweets cravings with the natural sweetness of fruit.
"We eliminate artificial sweeteners, sugar, and most sweets other than the few recipes included because, in my experience, sweet treats are like giving an alcoholic a drink, furthering the temptation for more," Fischer says.
The book does not encourage dietary supplements, yet the author sells them on his web site and at his practice (which is in Manhattan, but not on Park Avenue).
The Park Avenue Diet: How it Works
Following this six-week, reduced-calorie plan, you should see a healthy 1-2 pound weight loss per week. The plan is designed to help you eat a lower-calorie, nutritious diet, incorporate healthy new habits, dress more fashionably, and work positive new ways of thinking into your life. At-home exercises are mapped out each day over the 42-day period, with the intensity level increasing over time.
Phase 1 of The Park Avenue Diet is a two-week self-discovery stage that teaches the dieter how to apply each of the seven principles discussed in the book. Phase 2 is a week of "preparing for greatness" by practicing your new skills. And finally Phase 3, "making the A-list," unveils the new you.
Defying conventional wisdom, The Park Avenue Diet does not recommend regular weigh-ins.
"You don’t need a scale to tell you how you are doing, how your clothes fit, or how you feel," Fischer says.
"All the compliments you will get are better reinforcements than a number on the scale."
The book briefly addresses maintenance, suggesting a continuation of what has been practiced over the six-week period, yet it defines no particular maintenance plan. Sustain the fundamentals you learned throughout the program and it will last a lifetime, Fischer says.
However, the diet's 1,250-1,350 daily calorie level is inadequate for weight maintenance There is no guidance on increasing exercise, calories, alcohol, or adding foods, such as more dairy and whole grains.
Park Avenue Diet: What the Experts Say
Studies show that any reduced-calorie diet plan that includes exercise, like The Park Avenue Diet, is a good bet for weight loss success.
"The Park Avenue Diet is a good overall lifestyle plan, but the calorie level may not be adequate to satisfy hunger," says Elisa Zied, MS, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. (Fischer suggests a snack of a slice of turkey wrapped around a carrot or celery stick if you get hungry.)
Zied likes the lifestyle approach to losing weight but says the plan is so restrictive that it may be hard to sustain. She also says the menus are generally good, with a few exceptions.
Zied, author of Feed Your Family Right, suggests adding low- or non-fat dairy foods and whole grains such as popcorn to fill in the nutritional gaps and help satisfy hunger.
"You may eat a few more calories, but at least the diet will be nutritionally balanced, similar to the recommendations of the [U.S. Department of Agriculture's] Dietary Guidelines, and more satisfying so you can stick with it long-term," she says.
Zied also cautions that rigorous exercise may be challenging without adequate calories to provide necessary fuel.
The Food and Drug Administration and American Dietetic Association recommend consuming at least 1,600 calories daily to meet all of your nutritional needs.
Park Avenue Diet: Food for Thought
Anyone looking for simple beauty and self-confidence advice, along with a basic, low-calorie menu plan, will enjoy the Park AvenueDiet.
If you increase the plan's allotted calories slightly by adding more low-fat dairy foods and whole grains, you'll have a more nutritionally balanced plan. The added calories will give you fuel for exercise, help satisfy hunger, and provide a blueprint for long-term success.
Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, is director of nutrition for WebMD and the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.