Sick of strict diets? Forget ’em forever! A panel of experts from Harvard, Yale, and other top universities recently said that a very flexible eating style is unbeatable. They call it the “flexitarian” plan, or “super keto,” and many agree that it really works.
What is a flexitarian, or super keto diet?
“You start by eating all kinds of healthy plant foods — veggies, fruit, nuts, tofu, beans, whole grains, even olive oil. And then you can also add high-quality protein from cheese, eggs, seafood and meat,” explains flexitarian expert Travis Stork, MD, author of The Lose Your Belly Diet (Buy from Amazon, $16.75).
Beyond that, there are no rules. Really! “‘Flex’ means you tweak it to work for you,” adds Dr. Stork.
To that end, a growing number of flexitarians opt to load up on produce and sidestep excess carbs. “It feels easy and works so well,” says 110-pounds-slimmer Oklahoma retiree Debbie Yearwood, 68. “It’s like super keto!”
Debbie lost 110 pounds!
Debbie Yearwood remembers standing helpless amid billowing smoke. “There was a fire in my building, but between my Parkinson’s and my weight, I couldn’t get down the stairs,” recalls the Oklahoma grandmother, 68.
After she was helped to safety, she vowed to make changes. “I’d read keto can help with weight and Parkinson’s symptoms, so I started strict, using the Lose It! app to track my carbs.”
It worked. “But I didn’t feel as good as I could,” she admitted.
The internet led Debbie to gradually go flexitarian, focusing on seafood, more veggies, beans, and oats. With her Parkinson’s in remission, she adds, “My bipolar disorder, blood pressure, and cholesterol also improved.”
Debbie shed 110 pounds and got off 11 meds. “Sometimes I run up and down the stairs just because I can! I’ve lost thousands of pounds over the years, but this is the first time I’ve ever kept it off.”
How does the flexitarian diet work?
Yes, going flexitarian can work better than keto — and better than popular low-fat vegan diets too. How? Studies show most of us simply give up on extreme plans.
“Long-term success is the real goal, and flexitarian delivers,” notes Stork. The best part: “No matter what choices you make, you’re not off the wagon.”
So, eat healthy versions of what you love. “Think of pizza as a veggie-delivery system. You can go for a cauliflower crust, then pile on peppers, onions, and mushrooms,” he says.
And if you want to indulge in junk from time to time, “just compensate later.” It’s not cheating — it’s flexing.
Secrets to Quick Results
To amplify short-term results, try any (or all!) of the flex-friendly options that follow.
Keto bursts. “Trying plant-based keto for a few days can be a good way to jump-start weight loss,” says Dr. Stork, who personally uses the strategy. Just skip starch and high-sugar fruit, filling up on healthy protein, veggies and good fat. The initial switch to low-carb eating triggers a surge of special immune cells that help fight countless diseases and rev metabolism, per exciting new Yale research.
“Keto may actually work best in small doses,” notes study head Vishwa Deep Dixit, PhD. That’s because every time you start over, you set yourself up for another flood of slimming supercells. Plus, only doing keto for short periods means you never feel deprived.
Fiber magic. “Fiber is the unsung hero of both weight loss and overall health,” Stork insists. Turns out, it boosts bacteria in our GI tract that are linked to every aspect of good health. Research shows that fiber-loving gut bacteria play a huge role in whether we are naturally lean or not.
Cruciferous veggies. All veggies are good for us, but if you want to shrink with ease, “load up on cruciferous vegetables,” urges Stork. Breakthrough research shows options like broccoli and cabbage release a chemical called sulforaphane that changes our fat tissue in a way that reduces its prevalence.
Another Success Story
California grandmother Shay Gaudon, 46, had been trying to slim down since she was 17.
“I always felt restricted on diets and had a tough time sticking to them,” she shares. “But with each one, I gained a little knowledge about what feels good for my body.” So when the healthcare organization she works for shared an article on the benefits of flexitarian-style eating, she says, “It really sparked my interest.”
Shay found recipes that mixed keto and vegan elements, and she and her husband were soon tucking into stuffed zucchini, lean stir-fries, and protein-packed burgers. “I felt so satisfied, I realized hunger and cravings wouldn’t be an issue for me like in the past.”
Also not an issue: tight waistbands. Shay steadily lost five sizes as her energy soared. “I’m able to walk every day. My blood pressure normalized and my low vitamin D and anemia are gone,” she reports.
“I love what I eat and I love how I feel. This was the best decision I’ve ever made!”
Note: Be sure to speak with your doctor before trying any new dietary regimen. A doctor will be able to offer you the best advice with your health in mind.
A Flexitarian Recipe to Get You Started: Carrot Cake Bites
Try this yummy and easy flexitarian treat!
- 1 cup of almond flour
- 1⁄3 cup of coconut flour
- 1⁄4 cup ground chia seeds
- 1 1 ⁄2 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice
- 1⁄4 cup of keto maple syrup
- 1⁄4 cup of shredded carrots
- 1⁄2 teaspoons of vanilla
- 1⁄3 cup of unsweetened coconut
Mix flours, chia, and spice. Blitz in food processor with syrup, carrots, and vanilla. Shape into 20 balls. Roll in coconut. Chill until firm. Serves 20.
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A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.