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The fat flush diet is a combination weight-loss and detoxification (‘detox’) or cleansing diet, formulated by the well-known nutritionist Ann Louise Gittleman. It is a low-carbohydrate, restricted-calorie diet, which is designed to boost metabolism, decrease water retention, and promote loss of fat.
Ann Louise Gittleman, a certified nutrition specialist with a Ph.D. in holistic nutrition, first introduced the idea of ‘fat flush’ in her 1988 book Beyond Pritikin. Gittleman created her diet after working as a nutritionist at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Florida, where she observed that many of her clients did very poorly on Nathan Pritikin’ extremely low-fat diet The author of some 25 books on nutrition, dieting, and health, Gittleman is America’ self-described ‘First Lady of Nutrition.’ The Fat Flush Plan became a bestselling diet book in 2002. It received additional publicity in the 2006 film Last Holiday starring Queen Latifah.
The theory behind the fat flush diet is that eating the correct combinations of foods and eating more often will increase the body’ metabolism and lead to the efficient burning of fat. Therefore, rather than totally restricting fat, the fat flush diet calls for eating the correct fats, as well as the correct carbohydrates and proteins. However, in order to maximize the body’ burning of stored body fat 24 hours per day, the liver and lymphatic system must first be detoxified.
According to Gittleman there are five ‘hidden factors’ that sabotage weight loss, lower energy levels, and interfere with good health:
- A liver that is overloaded with toxins and functioning poorly cannot burn fat properly.
- Food sensitivities and intolerances lead to water retention and ‘waterlogged tissues.’ The fat flush diet eliminates foods that cause water retention and prescribes protein-rich foods, filtered water, and diuretics to remove excess water
- People are afraid of eating fat. The fats in Gittle-man’ diet accelerate fat burning, satisfy hunger, and maintain lean muscle mass
- Insulin is a fat-storing hormone and excess insulin is caused by food that are high in rapidly released carbohydrates
- The stress hormone cortisol causes the body to store fat, particularly around the abdomen. Cortisol levels can be controlled by timing meals
The fat flush diet includes:
- 8 oz (225 g) daily of lean protein as lean meat, eggs, and fish
- fruits and vegetables
- omega-3-rich fats such as flaxseed oil and evening primrose oil
- spices such as ginger, cayenne, mustard, and cinnamon, to speed up metabolism
- ‘long life cocktail’ consisting of one teaspoon of powdered psyllium husks or one tablespoon of ground or milled flaxseed in 8 oz (237 ml) cran-water (one part unsweetened cranberry juice, four parts filtered water), a diuretic to speed the detoxification process and balance hormones
- a supplement called GLA. Gamma linolenic acid or GLA is an essential fat from black current seed oil that Gittleman sells as 90-mg capsules. Gittleman claims that GLA-90 boosts weight loss by activating brown adipose tissue (BAT) and ‘balancing the body’ sodium/potassium pump.’
Specific fat flushing diet rules include:
- only one protein item per meal, with the exception of eggs
- no fruits and vegetables together
- no milk and meat together
- no water with meals, fluids only between meals
- eating about every three hours
There are three phases to the fat flush diet:
- Phase 1 is a two-week very restrictive cleansing diet.
- Phase 2 is a less restrictive diet that is continued until the desired weight or body size is achieved
- Phase 3 is a typical low-carbohydrate diet that can be maintained for life
PHASE 1. The two-week phase 1 of the fat flush diet is designed to detoxify the liver so that it can efficiently burn fat. It calls for eight glasses per day of cran-water to reduce water retention or ‘bloating’, lose fat, cleanse the lymphatic system, and reduce cellulite. Caloric intake is restricted to 1100-1200 calories per day. So-called ‘metabolism blockers,’ such as wheat and dairy, are prohibited.
The phase 1 diet consists of:
- long life cocktail
- one tablespoon twice daily of organic high-lignan flaxseed oil in non-heated food
- GLA supplements twice daily for a total of 360–400 mg
- hot water with the juice of one-half lemon before breakfast as a detox drink for the liver and kidneys
- 8 oz (225 g) of lean protein daily
- one-eggs per day
- at least two portions of fruit daily
- unlimited raw or steamed vegetables
- one chicken, beef, or vegetable stock without salt for cooking
- herbs and spices
The lean protein may be: .
- any fish or seafood
- lean beef, veal, or lamb
- skinless chicken or turkey
- high-protein whey powder for thickening
Allowable vegetables include:
- bamboo shoots
- black olives without oil
- Brussels sprouts
- green beans
- water chestnuts
Acceptable fruits are:
Allowable herbs and spices are: .
- apple cider vinegar
- bay leaf
- coriander, cilantro
- dried mustard
Forbidden foods during phase 1 include:
- oils and fats, except flaxseed oil
- starchy vegetables such as beans, potatoes, carrots, corn, and peas
- dairy products
- most herbs and spices
A sample phase 1 daily meal plan calls for:
- upon waking: a long life cocktail
- before breakfast: 8 oz (237 ml) of hot water with lemon juice
- breakfast: ‘vegetable scramble’—two scrambled eggs with spinach, green onions, scallions, and parsley; 8 oz (237 ml) of cran-water
- snack: one-half of a large grapefruit
- 20 minutes before lunch: 8 oz (237 ml) of cran-water
- lunch: 4 oz (110 g) of salmon with lemon and garlic, warm asparagus, mixed-green salad with broccoli florets and cucumber, one tablespoon of flaxseed oil, 8 oz (237 ml) of cran-water
- mid-afternoon snack: 16 oz (474 ml) of cran-water
- 4 P.M. snack: one apple
- 20 minutes before dinner: 8 oz (237 ml) of cran-water
- dinner: 4 oz (110 g) of grilled lamb chop with a pinch of cinnamon and dried mustard, sauteed kale in broth, baked summer squash with a bit of clove, one tablespoon of flaxseed oil
- mid-evening: long life cocktail
PHASE 2 This ongoing phase of the fat flush diet is designed for continued weight loss with a more moderate cleansing program and a slightly increased variety of foods. The caloric allowance is raised to 1200-1500 calories. Phase 2 is continued until the desired weight loss or size is achieved.
Carbohydrates that may be added back into the diet, at the rate of one per week, include:
- sweet potato
- brown rice
- fresh or frozen peas
- butternut squash
PHASE 3 Phase 3 is a lifelong weight-maintenance plan with a daily caloric allowance of 1500 calories or more. The diet is made up of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat, and may include two dairy products and four carbohydrates per day. Some starchy vegetables, fruits, gluten-free grains, dairy products, and more oils are introduced into the diet one at a time, to check for any adverse reactions.
Other fat flush components
There are very few options for eating out on the fat flush diet, although choices such as fish tacos or grilled chicken sandwiches are possible. Since caffeine stresses the liver and, according to Gittleman, impedes fat burning, coffee should be tapered off and eventually replaced with one cup of herbal coffee per day. Alcohol is strictly forbidden during phases 1 and 2 because of its damaging effects on the liver.
Exercise is an important component of the fat flush plan. The first two phases call for brisk walking for 20-30 minutes five times per week and five minutes daily of 100 jumping jacks on a mini-trampoline. Exercise is increased in phase 3 and includes lifting weights for strength training twice per week.
The fat flush plan calls for exactly eight hours of sleep per night and for the dieter to keep a journal.
Gittleman runs residential fat flush and ‘Fast Track’ cleansing programs and an online forum. She sells a line of organic processed foods and a 30-day fat flush detoxification kit that includes vitaminsand minerals, GLA-90, and a weight-loss formula. The latter contains high amounts of chromium and L-carnitine. Chromium is a nutrient that can assist the body in utilizing protein, sugar, and fat. According to Gittleman, L-carnitine maximizes fat burning by helping the body transform food into energy. Her formula is also advertised to contain blood-sugar-stabilizing agents, appetite controllers, fat burners, and lipotropic nutrients and herbs.
The fat flush diet first uses a detoxification regimen to improve fat burning and then implements a plan for losing weight rapidly, followed by a maintenance plan. It is considered to be a healthy weight-loss program. It is a balanced diet with a significant exercise component and is designed to be followed for life.
Benefits of the fat flush diet may include:
- detoxification or cleansing of the liver and lymphatic system
- rapid weight loss of up to 10 lb (4.5 kg) in the first two weeks
- elimination of bloating
- weight loss accompanied by body toning
- maintenance of weight loss
- decreased hips, waist, and thigh measurements
According to Gittleman, this plan will also:
- increase metabolism
- permanently eliminate cellulite
- increase energy
- improve sleep
- improve health and appearance
- manage hormones and stabilize mood swings
- improve attitude
- create a healthy lifestyle
The fat flush diet is only appropriate for people who can maintain a very strict diet for the first few weeks in order to lose weight rapidly. It may not be appropriate for vegetarians because it specifies animal protein. Vegans should add an amino-acid supplement and possibly protein powder. It is not known how often the fat flush diet leads to permanent weight loss. As with most diets, if healthy eating habits are not maintained long term, any weight lost will be regained and the other benefits will be lost.
Some experts advise against following diets that eliminate entire food groups and/or require the taking of supplements whose effects are unknown. The fat flush diet prohibits wheat and dairy during phases 1 and 2 and requires supplements. Whole-wheat grains are considered to be one of the best foods for reducing the risk of heart disease. Low-fat dairy products provide calcium and nutrients such as magnesium and riboflavin that may be hard to obtain from other foods. The fat flush diet requires expensive supplements including flaxseed oil, evening primrose oil, GLA, and protein powders.
Those following the fat flush diet should be aware of additional precautions:
- The caloric allowance in phase 1 may be too low for some people, particularly men.
- The calorie levels in phases 1 and 2 are too low to support a strenuous exercise regimen
- The low calories may slow down, rather than speed up, metabolism
- Although eight hours of sleep is sufficient for many people, other people require more sleep, particularly with 40 minutes of brisk walking per day and two strength-training sessions per week
- Medications should be taken an hour before or after the life long cocktail because the fiber in the cocktail may interfere with absorption of medicine
The fat flush plan can disrupt menstrual cycles. Gittleman suggests using black current seed oil rather than evening primrose oil as a GLA source to avoid this. According to Gittleman black current seed oil has a better omega-6 to omega-3 ratio for balancing hormones.
Gittleman’ fast flush kit contains chromium, which has been linked to ulcers and liver and kidney damage. Large doses of chromium can be lethal.
There is little scientific evidence to support claims made for the benefits of detox diets. Gittleman claims that her plan speeds up metabolism, detoxifies the liver by flushing out waste and fat, and helps digest fatty globules in the lymphatic system. Registered dietician Jane Kirby, in her book Dieting for Dummies, says that there is no scientific evidence that the liver is a ‘fat-burning furnace.’ She says: ‘It’ just a low-calorie diet. Most people lose weight when calories are cut this low.’ Dr. Donald Hensrud of the Mayo Clinic was quoted in O: the Oprah Magazinein August of 2006: ‘There’ no such thing as a metabolism-blocking food; the liver and lymphatic system have no link to weight loss that we know of; there’ no medical purpose for cleansing the body with a diuretic; and while the fat-burning supplement recommended [GLA] has been tested in animals, there’ very little data on its effect in humans.’.
The fat flush diet is very popular. Gittleman is a highly respected nutritionist who has written many articles and books on women’ health, nutrition, and detoxification diets, and the fat flush diet has received much publicity in the popular press. Testimonials as to the success of the diet are abundant on the Internet. According to Gittleman’ Website, some individuals have lost up to 12 inches (30 cm) from their buttocks, hips, and thighs in the two-week phase 1 of the diet. One individual claims that it eliminated 95% of her intractable chronic pain. The fat flush diet has proved so popular that other entrepreneurs are selling their own fat flush kits.
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Gittleman, Ann Louise. The Fat Flush Fitness Plan New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004.
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Michelle, Lynne. ‘Health: The Fat Flush Diet; Do You Dream of Dropping a Dress Size in as Little as Two Weeks? Do You Want to Burn Fat Faster, Detox Your System and Send Your Energy Levels Sky-High—All in a Fortnight? Well, Here’ the Healthy Eating Plan You’ve Been Waiting For.’ Sunday Mirror(London) (January 12, 2003): 34.
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American Dietetic Association. 120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2000, Chicago, IL 60606-6995. (800) 877-1600. <http://www.eatright.org>
American Obesity Association. 1250 24th St. NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20037. (202) 776-7711. <http://www.obesity.org>. An organization dedicated to education, research, prevention, and treatment of obesity, as well as consumer protection and fighting disrimina-tion against overweight individuals.
Key to Health Foundation. <http://www.annlouise.com/alg_keytohealth.asp>. Ann Louise Gittleman’ foundation dedicated to education and research on women’ health.
Margaret Alic, Ph.D.