Can eating meals made up of just a single macronutrient really increase energy and ease bloat? A-listers think so! While most nutritionists recommend balanced meals made up of a combination of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats), celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Catherine Zeta-Jones reportedly have gotten wow-worthy results by doing the exact opposite. They are said to be fans of the Dissociated Diet, a method of food combining that calls for consuming only one food group at each meal or even for the entire day.
"I've tried to rotate my foods, which my nutritionist says increases weight loss," Jennifer Lopez said. "So I might have two days of carbs and fruit and then two days of proteins and vegetables... it's given me a lot of energy."
What is the Dissociated Diet?
Also called the Hay Diet, the Dissociated Diet food formula was originally developed by William Howard Hay, MD , as a healing protocol following his own heart attack in 1905. At the time, Dr. Hay wrote that eating a variety of food groups at each meal taxes the body's digestive system. He reasoned that the digestive organs have to create and release enough digestive fluids and enzymes to simultaneously break down animal proteins and dairy (which are digested in an acidic environment) and starches (which are digested in an alkaline environment). Dr. Hay believed this process overworks the organs, slows digestion, and ultimately leads to a buildup of toxic by-products that cause fatigue and other health-sapping side effects. Dr. Hay's cadre of influential followers, including motor magnate Henry Ford, reportedly optimized their digestion and enhanced their well-being on the doctor's food formula.
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Now, modern science from Penn State University shows that Dr. Hay's eating strategy may actually be a more powerful weight-loss tool than even the doctor himself thought. The researchers found that when dieters are offered the same flavors and textures over and over (like a meal made of all proteins or a meal of all fruit), they tend to stop eating sooner and consume about 35 percent fewer calories than those who are offered a meal with more varied flavors and textures. Scientists call this "sensory-specific satiety," where food becomes less satisfying and less pleasant when the flavor and texture are monotonous.
The Dissociated Diet Downsides
Despite the potential slimming benefits, though, some healthcare professionals caution that the extreme food boredom and self-restriction inherent in Dr. Hay's program can actually trigger intense cravings and erode self-control over the long-term — a double whammy for women looking to lose weight. Doctors also warn that limiting the variety of foods eaten from day to day can lead to potentially dangerous shortfalls of vitamins and minerals that are necessary for controlling appetite, increasing metabolism, and warding off fat storage.
Another potential downside of the diet: Restricting some meals to only starches and fruit — without introducing any protein or fat to help slow the release of sugars into the bloodstream — can cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate wildly over the course of the day. These rapid changes can actually encourage exhaustion, brain fog, mood swings, and abdominal-fat storage. It may also make the food formula particularly dangerous for women with diabetes, so it's important to consult with a healthcare professional before switching to this way of eating.
The Dissociated Diet: Our Health Expert Weighs In
"Maybe overly restrictive," says Jorge Cruise, celebrity fitness trainer, nutritionist, and bestselling author of more than 20 books including The Belly Fat Cure Sugar & Carb Counter ($8.99, Amazon). "This plan incorporates sensible strategies like eating fresh, whole foods and waiting four hours between meals. One caveat: Following these guidelines from meal to meal may prove beneficial, but I do not suggest limiting yourself to just one macronutrient per day — this kind of restrictive eating can lead to shortfalls of nutrients necessary for health and fat loss."
How to Use Hay Diet Principles to Lose Weight and Boost Health
Interested in giving this trend a try? Enjoying a fruit-based breakfast smoothie is a healthy way to introduce Dissociated Diet principles into your daily routine. Low-sugar berries and citrus fruits provide sweetness and enough fiber to help keep blood sugar balanced, plus they deliver phytonutrients shown to jump-start metabolism.
To make a sip that fits into the Hay Diet plan's guidelines, combine the ingredients below in a blender and puree until smooth:
- 1 cup of spinach
- 1 peeled orange
- 2 ⁄3 cup of frozen peaches and
- 3⁄4 cup of plain yogurt
This story originally appeared in the February 26, 2018 issue of First for Women magazine.