As a rule, we’re pretty anti diet books around here. (It’s why we wrote our anti-diet book, after all!) But when the 21-Day Diet by Liz Vaccariello landed on my doorstep, I knew I wanted to review it. Many of us want to get rid of extra weight around the middle, and with the book’s promise to lose up to 19 pounds in three weeks, I was skeptical. The diet said it will soothe and shrink any belly fast — which seemed like one of those quick but unsustainable fixes that chronic dieters would fall for looking for a miracle cure. But getting past the hype of the cover, it’s actually chock full of some great information.
It’s not just about getting bikini-worthy abs: The book makes the connection that foods that cause weight gain can also lead to tummy troubles, like heartburn and acid reflux, gas, bloating and more fun digestive issues. In 21-Day Diet, the author leads you through some food rules that will help get digestive issues under control should you suffer from them. The bonus is that those foods are also healthy foods, hence the possibility for a slim-down.
The book breaks down Belly Bullies — foods that can wreak havoc with your system — and Belly Buddies. Some of the Belly Bullies are ones we should try to limit anyway: white flour, sugar, processed foods, fast food. But some of the Bullies are foods you’ve been told to eat your whole life, like beans, apples, pears, plums and nectarines. Now, we hate when foods are off limits. It screams deprivation — and that’s a surefire way to have someone fall off their diet. But if you’re someone who is trying to get to the bottom of chronic digestive issues, you should hear them out. The foods that are off limits are no-gos for good reasons, like they’re pro-inflammatory (certain meats), high-fructose (those yummy fruits) or high lactose (certain dairy products). I won’t get into all of the science as they do it way better in the book, but there are legitimate reasons for nixing these noshes for the 21 days.
Belly Buddies, on the other hand, are meant to help with losing weight while keeping the digestive system humming along happily. That means these are high in fiber, magnesium and anti-inflammatory fats, so the list of Buddies is quite extensive — nuts, seeds, Greek yogurt, lean proteins, and all kinds of delicious fruits and veggies like bananas, blueberries and potatoes. Even better, they include recipes and shopping lists to make your diet as accessible and easy as possible. They even include tips for dining out on the diet.
The dieters who are featured in the book — 11 colleagues of Vaccariello’s — shed some serious inches and dropped some lbs. But their pictures and testimonies say a lot: there is a noticeable difference in the before and after pictures, and their stomach aches and pains and issues were drastically improved.
So what happens when the 21 days is up? Glad you asked, because it was one of my questions, too. The thing that makes the diet a winner in our book is that it’s designed to improve your overall digestive health — not just drop some pounds. So those foods you nix for the three-week plan? They have a clear strategy mapped out for identifying your personal Belly Bullies — those foods that just do not agree with your system but have never been able to pinpoint. So once your diet is up, you can test certain foods to see if you reactive. For instance, you’ll take the lactose test by drinking a cup of milk or eating yogurt for two to three days in a row to see if your digestive issues reappear. If not, you’re cleared to enjoy those items again. The testers were able to identify foods that didn’t work for them and nix them, with improved digestion and decreased pains as a result.
So while yep, it’s a diet, and nope, I hate when foods like apples are off limits, this book has a clear reason for the deprivation. (And testers swore they didn’t feel deprived because of the delicious foods they could eat!) And if you’re someone who deals with constipation on a regular basis or notices frequent tummy upset but don’t know why, this might be a cool way to try to narrow down those problem foods for you and design a healthy way of eating that really works for you.
If you’re interested in reading the book yourself, leave a comment below telling me why! (You don’t have to get too detailed!) I’ll pick a winner in about a week. U.S. residents only, please.
Do you have tummy issues you’d love to cure? Think a diet like this might help you narrow down the suspects? —Erin