Who is Dean Ornish?
Dr. Dean Ornish is the founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California. He is also a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California. Ornish received his medical training from the Baylor College of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Massachusetts General Hospital. He started his education at the University of Texas and has since been honored by UT with an “Outstanding Young Alumnus” award, given to recent graduates of UT who have made a major contribution to their field.
Dr. Ornish is famous for his work in nutrition and diet, focusing on proving that making lifestyle changes can work to reverse the effects of serious diseases like coronary heart disease — all without the use of drugs or any kind of surgery. His diet and nutrition plans are recognized by Medicare, who recently began approving coverage for patients on his programs — this is big news, as it is the first time that Medicare has covered a program of lifestyle change.
He is the author of many best-selling books, including Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease, Eat More, Weigh Less, Love & Survival, and his most recent book, The Spectrum. He also writes a monthly column for Newsweek magazine.
How does the Dean Ornish diet plan work?
Unlike many other fad diets and diet guide books that tend to make impossible promises to their readers, Dean Ornish’s Eat More, Weigh Less makes few promises, choosing instead to offer suggestions that have been shown to be successful. The diet material in Eat More, Weigh Less is drawn from Dean Ornish’ regimen intended to reverse the effects of heart disease. Ornish is well known in the medical community for doing what was thought impossible — reversing blockages to the heart. His patients show improvement without the use of drugs or surgery, only diet and lifestyle changes.
Unlike other books, Dean Ornish’s diet plan contains clinical studies to back up his claims. Ornish’s explanations are simple — his main answer to heart and weight problems is eating a high-fiber, low-fat vegetarian diet. According to Eat More, Weigh Less, this kind of diet will not only help you stay healthy, but will also assist you in your goal of losing weight. How does it work?
According to Ornish, a combination of proper diet and exercise allows the body’s fat-burning mechanism to work at its peak effectiveness.
Dean Ornish suggests that those looking to lose weight or get their heart at its healthiest state will find success not by restricting calories, but by watching the kinds of calories we do eat. Ornish breaks food choices down into foods that “should be eaten all of the time, some of the time, or none of the time.”
These foods can be eaten whenever you are hungry, until you are full — in other words, eat away: beans and legumes, fruits, grains, and vegetables
These foods should be eaten in moderation: nonfat dairy (like skim milk, nonfat yogurt, nonfat cheeses, nonfat sour cream, and egg whites), and “Nonfat or very low-fat” products (like healthy frozen dinners or Haagen-Dazs frozen yogurt bars).
The list of foods to be avoided may seem difficult, but it is your life that is at stake: meat of all kinds, oils and oil-containing products, avocados, olives, nuts and seeds, dairy products (other than the nonfat products listed above), alcohol, sugar, and any commercially prepared product that contains more than two grams of fat per serving.
That’s as simple as it gets. Dean Ornish suggests that sticking to this plan will ensure that you consume less than 10% of your calories from fat, without the need to count fat grams or calories. Calories from fat, also called “empty calories”, are the kind to avoid. Dean Ornish suggests eating a large number of small meals throughout the day rather than two or three big meals. By spreading your meals out, you will feel full faster, and you’ll eat more food without increasing the number of calories, hence the name Eat More, Weigh Less.
Okay, so it isn’t JUST a matter of eating the right foods. Dr. Dean Ornish’s diet regimen is more than just a diet. Throughout the book, Ornish talks about incorporating at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, or an hour three times a week if you can’t exercise daily. Besides simple cardio exercise, Dean Ornish suggests any kind of stress-management technique — be it massage, yoga, therapy, meditation, or the stress reducing technique of your choice. And no, alcohol doesn’t count.
The research that Dean Ornish and his colleagues at the University of California conduct has been published in medical journals all over the world, from TheJournal of the American Medical Association, to TheNew England Journal of Medicine, the American Journal of Cardiology, etc. A documentary of Dr. Ornish’s work was broadcast on NOVA, the popular PBS science series. His work has been seen in all major forms of media, like cover stories in Time magazine, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report. He was President Clinton’s diet advisor while Clinton was in the White House, and appears regularly on talk shows both local and national to promote a healthier lifestyle.
Some people may have difficulty with Dean Ornish’ diet plan, especially the recommendation to discontinue eating meat. Dr. Ornish himself has adressed this issue, saying in his book that “if we can’t give up meat entirely, we should eat as little of it as possible”. The suggestion to ditch the carnivore lifestyle has led to some criticism of his diet plan — people feel like he is asking the impossible of meat-loving Americans. But those of us who eat little or no meat to begin with will find it quite easy to give up what little we consume, and his diet plan as well as his medical work has proven successful in reversing the effects of a poor diet and lifestyle like no other system. If you can handle giving up meat, you’ll find Dean Ornish’s diet plan very user-friendly. Stick to the proper foods, exercise and de stress on a daily basis, and watch the pounds shrink away. Dr. Ornish is not asking you to starve yourself — on the contrary, he is suggesting you “eat more” to weigh less. That’s a message that we typically greedy Americans can live with.