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Do Not Take Diet Advice From Roger Cohen

Speaking of obesity, Roger Cohen's column today is a bit of a strange bird. Forgetting his grotesque description of a fat young child ("her features had already surrendered to the glutinous march of obesity, disappearing into a pinkish and undifferentiated swelling, punctuated only by two small eyes and a very active mouth at work on the reddish-brown meat"), check out his actual diet plan:

The diet I was on is called the General Motors diet. I have a friend in London who, as he puts it, “does a G.M.” a few times a year to stay in shape. I’ll ask him how he is and he’ll say: “Fine, yeah, doing a G.M., going well.”

He has found it an effective week-long diet, yielding a weight loss of 10 to 15 pounds. My own experience confirms this.

Cohen's friend goes on a diet radical enough to tear through 10-15 pounds in a week a few times a year? And Cohen thinks this is a good person to take diet advice from, and has in fact put that plan in the New York Times? Bizarre.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 30, 2009; 4:30 PM ET
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Speaking of bad columns on health care by people named Cohen, I know that collegiality may inhibit your ability to mention it, but Adam Serwer had a great post a couple of days ago about a recent Richard Cohen column:

P.S. could we please get some simple html tools in these comments, most prominently hyperlinks but also italics and blockquotes?

Posted by: WarrenTerra | July 30, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

austere "cleansing" diets shock and deprive the system.
the way the body stays cleansed, is to take good care of it all of the time, in a way that supports healthfulness.
our bodies are so miraculous, in every way.
if we ever really take the time to focus on how our heart is beating, sustaining us everynight through our sleep, the way our body is constantly repairing itself, how it is constantly healing and protecting our eyes are blinking for years of our hard our fingers our working....every part of us is a miracle.....not even to mention our cognitive skills, our consciousness....
then, we would at least make an effort to feed our bodies in a way that gives them a fighting chance to stay healthy.
our bodies are for the very most part, amazingly forgiving and infinitely hardworking to keep us alive.

and also, regarding the description of the obese child....what a sad and dehumanized way to view a child.

Posted by: jkaren | July 30, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

weird diet. LIPTON'S ONION SOUP MIX!!!

During the first seven days you must abstain from all alcohol
You must drink 10 glasses of water each day

Day One All fruits except bananas. Your first day will consist of all the fruits you want. It is strongly suggested that you consume lots of melons the first day. Especially watermelon and a loupe. If you limit your fruit consumption to melons, your chances of losing three lbs. on first day are very good.

Day Two All vegetables. You are encouraged to eat until you are stuffed with all the raw or cooked vegetables of your choice. There is no limit on the amount or type. For your complex carbohydrate, you will start day two with a large baked potato for breakfast. You may top the potato with one pat of butter.

Day Three A mixture of fruits and vegetables of your choice. Any amount, any quantity. No bananas yet. No potatoes today.

Day Four Bananas and milk. Today you will eat as many as eight bananas and drink three glasses of milk. This will be combined with the special soup which may be eaten in limited quantities.

Day Five Today is feast day. You will eat beef and tomatoes. Eat two 10 oz. portions of lean beef. Hamburger is OK. Combine this with six whole tomatoes. On day five you must increase your water intake by one quart. This is to cleanse your system of the uric acid you will be producing.

Day Six Beef and vegetables. Today you may eat an unlimited amount of beef and vegetables. Eat to your hearts content.

Day Seven Today your food intake will consist of brown rice, fruit juices and all the vegetables you care to consume.

Tomorrow morning you will be 10-17 lbs. lighter than one week ago. If you desire further weight loss, repeat the program again. You may repeat this program as often as you like, however, it is suggested that you are allowed two glasses of white wine in addition to the instructions on the program. You may substitute champagne for white wine. Under no circumstances are you to drink any other alcoholic beverages with the exception of beer which is allowed. Any liquor (bourbon,vodka, rum) is forbidden. Cream drinks are especially forbidden. You may have an occasional cordial such as creme de menthe or schnapps, but you must always limit yourself to two drinks. If you wine, drink only wine that day. If you have beer, drink only beer that day, etc. Alcohol adds empty calories to your diet. However, after the first week it will help your digestion and settle your stomach.

G.M.'S Wonder Soup

The following soup is intended as a supplement to your diet. It can be eaten any time of the day in virtually unlimited quantities. You are encouraged to consume large quantities of this soup.

28 oz, Water, 6 Large Onions, 2 Green Peppers, Whole Tomatoes (fresh or canned), 1 Head Cabbage, 1 Bunch Celery, 4 Envelopes Lipton Onion Soup Mix, Herbs and Flavouring as desired.

Posted by: bdballard | July 30, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Roger Cohen's column is always a strange bird, but you're right, this is extra-strange.

Posted by: csdiego | July 30, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Yoyo dieting has been shown to be much worse for your health than just being consistently somewhat overweight.

Posted by: _SP_ | July 30, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Nobody loses 11 pounds of fat in a week unless they're also exercising like mad. Simply eating a weird, limited diet like this will drop a little fat and a lot of glycogen, which is why people keep going back on these diets. FFS.

Posted by: MFLC | July 30, 2009 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Did you actually read the diet, Ezra? That's gotta be the gentlest cleansing diet I've ever seen. It's a wimpy fast at best. Given the emphasis on plants, I think Michael Pollan would probably approve.

10-17lbs is pretty casual depending on your starting weight - for your average American, for instance.

Although in general I agree Roger is a weird one.

Posted by: roquelaure_79 | July 30, 2009 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Almost everyone I know in India swears by the G.M. diet, and none of them are even close to overweight. It's used more as a post-vacation cleanse or a jumpstart to healthier eating.

Most of the weight lost the first time around is probably water weight. But there is merit in weening oneself off the salt, processed sugar, processed flour, and alcohol which form the core of the fast food American diet.

Posted by: tammanycall | July 30, 2009 10:04 PM | Report abuse

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