Just in time for those weight loss resolutions so many Americans made on New Year's, the editors of Prevention Magazine chose Good Morning America! to announce the launch of their new diet program: The Flat Belly Diet. (See video.)
"A flat belly is about food and attitude. Period. (Not a single crunch required!)" So runs the tag line at the official website of the Flat Belly Diet. Misleading or actually achievable? Since the official website offers more hype than actual answers, I went on a quest to find out exactly what this plan entailed, and evaluate it for myself.
To find out anything substantial about the program itself, one must head over to the main Prevention.com website, of which I am always skeptical, having once (many years ago) made the mistake of entering my email address, which I've paid for in 10+ spam emails a week ever since. (Having tried have a dozen times to cancel, I now simply mark them all spam and let the filter catch as many as it can.)
The premise, once you find it, is in fact very simple: Eat four 400-calorie meals a day, and include a food from one of the five "MUFA" groups with each one. MUFA is shorthand for monounsaturated fat, a so-called good fat, which helps reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol. The Prevention video "What is a MUFA?" touts all these advantages, but doesn't mention the tradeoff: In contrast to polyunsaturated, monounsaturated fats are less prone to rancidity, but they are less beneficial to cardiovascular health.
The Five Flat Belly Foods
On the Flat Belly Diet, each of your four daily meals must include a food from one of the five main MUFA categories:
- Nuts & Seeds
Sound good? Of course! The trick is in keeping your meals to 400 calories each, to maintain a 1600-calorie daily total (a fairly typical intake for a strict weight loss plan). Fats of any kind, even "healthy" ones, contain more calories per gram than protein, carbohydrates, or even alcohol. The good news is that they're more satisfying, allowing you to reach satiety faster and stay full longer. However, take a look at the sample recipes on the Prevention site--they may sound delicious, but check out the number of servings each recipe yields--the fact is, MUFA meals are probably pretty small compared to what you're used to.
Not to mention prep time. Convenience is one of the largest factors in whether or not a dieter sticks to a weight loss plan. The issue here is that creating your own combinations of foods that meet the MUFA requirements and fall under 400 calories is tough, so you're pretty much stuck with the recipes provided to you (a few in the book, others by subscription to the support site), most of which take 20 minutes or more to prepare. The average person on a weight loss regime doesn't have the time (or even the desire) to spend that much time in the kitchen, especially when you're eating only a small portion of what you prepare.
Flat Belly Diet Books
Is positive attitude a key to weight loss? Absolutely. Are good fats an important part of any diet (including those not aimed specifically at weight loss)? Yes, an often underrated one. But is the Flat Belly Diet the best possible plan combining these two factors? No. A better execution of these ideas, in my opinion, is described in the book "French Women Don't Get Fat," which emphasizes enjoying the act and experience of eating, as well as a balanced variety of foods (including healthy fats), and portion control.
As for a flat belly, not everyone's genetics enables her to have a stomach as pictured above. And with those for which it is possible, it certainly doesn't just come from eating avocadoes.
Alex Simring from Australia on August 07, 2011:
Nice hub and excellent share. MUFA is the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet, and this has well establised benefits in reducing blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. It may also play an important role in reducing fatty liver, although the role of MUFA and weight loss has not been established. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats should play a role in our diet, and I'm glad the emphasis has shifted from cutting out all fats to now reducing refined sugars and carbohydrates for weight loss. Chocolate on the MUFA list is an interesting one!
Sandrab on June 07, 2011:
I used the Dr Max Powers Burn for about two weeks and I lost 3 pounds so far. Amazingly, most of the weight loss came from my belly.
brennawelker on May 26, 2011:
Very interesting hub.
Ken on February 03, 2011:
I tried everything and can't seem to get flat belly no matter about diet u name it I did it. I lost weight but can't seem to get flat belly it's in my gens I think. Anyone can help??
drsachin83 on November 18, 2010:
Article sounds good!! . . . yes mufs are good for health, it help 2 reduce bad cholesterol. When it vomes to reduce weight 1 has do exercise and it should be supported with proper diet plan, add more proteins, dietery fibers, enough quantity of water.........avoid fatty food.
Harout on September 05, 2010:
Am not a dieter, our lebanese diet is based on olive oil, my problem is that have a gigentic apetite, 1 month ago I was 180cm/104kg...I cut my eating to one meal daily and few snacks...now, am 94kg..but will add dark chocolette and avocado to my daily eating..lets see what happens
Kelly Kline Burnett from Madison, Wisconsin on July 09, 2010:
Very motivational. I must loose my tummy! Loved your ending, I tend to carry my weight in my tummy and your practical advice is important. Thank you!
Ray on May 21, 2010:
Ive been on the flat belly diet since Sunday (today is Friday the 21st of May) and I have already lost 4 lbs. My first actual day of "dieting" (the 1st 4 was the quick start). This works and the meals are filling and I have not excersised. But it's a lifestyle change like others have said. No processed foods, no sugary snacks (except dark chocolate!) and no soda or juice. If you are willing to commit to it, it works. If you're not then dont bother. Nothing in life is easy people.
dunia on May 18, 2010:
This comments are very old! Are there any new ones as of this date?
Mufas5 on April 22, 2010:
I have only been on this plan for a week as of today and I have lost 10 lbs. I was very hesitant, but it's easy and filling. You don't feel like you are on a diet. If I want a burger, I will eat a buffalo burger with avacado on a whole grain bun. I don't think it's time consuming at all. I make large portions and divide for the week. I have lots of grilled chicken wraps and tuna and whole grain rice. These are very filling and tasty. I can't wait for another week and some more lbs to drop.
buttercup52 on March 29, 2010:
This has to be the BEST plan, which (btw) is NOT a diet, but a life changing idea! Please, people, go back to your high school chemistry and try (I know, many of you are dummies, but...) to understand that this is a perfect plan for eating well AND losing weight! How difficult can it be to snag a couple of nuts &/or seeds. olives, when you get a pang? Anyone who hasn't tried it is 1)ignorant of chemistry, 2)narrow-minded because they do NOT WANT to try losing their weight, or 3) just blurt out negativity online without even trying to understand the program. The notion IS NOT ABOUT DEPRIVATION, people. I sneaked it into my hubby's without his knowledge and he lost 20 lbs. in less than a month! Why? Because it's sane, delicious, and medically sound. OH DUH, anyone reading my post is probably smart enough to try it. Thanks, all, I want nothing more than for you and your children to be healthy. When you see how well it works, maybe we can go into the schools and make some REAL changes! Hugs, P.
alfasentari on January 12, 2010:
Nice Hub. Thanks for the information.
Valerie on January 08, 2010:
I have just finished the 4 day jumpstart and was quite successful. I do not find the menu plans onerous at all. It is easy to find something that I can take to work and eat and meal preparation for supper is relatively easy. I usually take at least 30 minutes to prepare supper on a regular day, so a recipe that takes 20 minutes is no big deal. I do like the smoothies for my after work and before dinner snack. It helps to control my hunger at supper. For breakfast I just have cereal(Kashi) with skim milk and take some nuts to eat after I am finished in the gym. It is a workable eating plan and has certainly helped me determine portion sizes, which are the biggest fault I have.
healthgoji on October 17, 2009:
Nice picture - nice hub - I think it's great all the comments and feedback this hub has gotten.
PS on September 07, 2009:
Thank you so much for your honest evaluation of the benefits vs the pitfalls of the MUFA flat belly diet. I was thinking about buying the book but I won't now. I have been using the five mufa's for years and have been putting on weight. I just can't get seem to enough of a good thing. I know that the key to losing weight is no special food group and no special diet. It is, simply stated; CALORIES IN/CALORIES OUT.
jemtan on July 06, 2009:
i wonder how amazing this book was.. the comments above was really convincing and came to know one of my friend owns this particular book, so i cant wait and read the 4 day jumpstart and get started.. after 4 days, weight did not seems to drop not even 1 gram, inches still the same as measured. and i'm still continueing til now is the 2nd weeks.
Maddie, this is very dissappointing. would like to know why... was my belly fat too stubborn or my body doesn't absorb at all the nutrients from flexseed oil, sunflower seeds, almonds and etc.. my everyday meal includes small portions of these. any other possible way to get rid of the fat around lower abdominal, the fats is all at the tummy belt kinda frustrating.
pgrundy on June 27, 2009:
Great hub, Maggie! I've checked out Prevention's Flat Belly Diet, but I've decided I'm sick of dieting. At 56 I have a belly that does NOT look like the one in the photo. Realistically, is it ever going to? Not likely. I'm trying to make small healthy sustainable changes instead, and get more exercise, and enjoy my life. I'm going to check out the French Women Don't Get Fat book though--the title alone makes it sound interesting. :)
SRogers on April 20, 2009:
Adding mufa's to your meals is actually very simple. Like with all diets or weight loss efforts, it takes planning. Sauté with olive oil, add milled flax seed to almost anything, add ground nuts to your soups and stews, when baking replace some of the butter with safflower oil....and the list goes on. The serving size depends on the mufa, but it's usually a tablespoon or two....very easy to work in. It really works!
AndyBaker from UK on April 01, 2009:
I have found that you can eat whatever you like...
so long as you do enough excersise to balance it out.
MamaBearJune on March 28, 2009:
Not sure if people here didn't read the whole book or if they changed it before I bought my copy. I started this on Feb 9. I lost 4lbs on the 4-Day Jumpstart. At the end of the 32 days, I'd lost 8.4lbs and 5 inches. (I think I could have done better, but had wrist surgery in the middle of the program.) I'm now down 13.4lbs and 8in as I continue to use the "rules" but have had some indulgences, like on my birthday. I found the recipes very doable and the variety offered can fit any budget or tastebuds. Plus they give you frozen meal choices, meal replacement bars, and restaurant choices. It makes it SOOOO easy. This is the quickest I have EVER lost weight and I find the plan easy to continue as a healthy way of eating. I had already established a habit of walking 6 days a week and lifting weights 3 days a week, so I continued that (except my post surgery week.)
For the person who asked about the chocolate, yes it is just DARK chocolate that has the healthy properties to be included on this diet. And they give you the specific portions of how much you can have. 1/4c of chocolate chips is actually quite a lot of chocolate. If you want to lose weight (and I really, really did!) then you limit your portions! This is the first time I really knuckled down and measured things and kept track of exactly how much I was eating and surprise, surprise, IT WORKS! :-) This isn't a fad diet or a promise of a miracle pill, it is a healthy way of eating - for LIFE! When I reach my goal weight I may be able to up my calories to more than 400 per meal 4x a day, but for now, it's working great and I'm NEVER hungry. (Except at some specific times of the month.) ;-)
On the go? I have small snack bags with 2Tbs of nuts and a couple of squares of Dark Dove Chocolate. I also will make up snack bags of an apple or a couple of clementines. Many of the recipes are VERY quick to fix. My favorite breakfast? A Cherry Chocolate Waffle. Takes about 3 minutes to prepare. Most of the lunches I have take less than 5 minutes. There's a double page spread with ingredients to make 400 calorie snacks-to-go. You can mix and match and that's what I love about it.
It may not work for everyone, but it is working GREAT for me! And I'm singing the book's praises. I think it's awesome.
sand on February 23, 2009:
nice hub maddie:),thank you...
Emma from Boston on December 28, 2008:
My mother ordered this book and I read through it before leaving for Florida. I think the biggest stumbling block is something you've already mentioned -- the recipes. Who has time to work on making these different recipes several times a day. I can't see the sense of it.
At the moment I eat a lot of Mufas, but I dumped the grains from my diet (for the most part) and I keep the food pretty simple.
bspilner from Altanta, Ga. on December 24, 2008:
the hard part, just like anything (esp. making money) is that if you really want to be successful you are going to have to do things you don't want. These are the same things nobody wants, but that is what it takes. If you get into a routine, you start training your body to want the healthier stuff. A balance of exercise, diet and lifestyle will start shedding that belly fat away. Occupy your time, because often people start craving when ...there is not a whole lot going on. great post and obviously there is no set way but you did a great job of hitting the nail on the head.
uillinoisgirl on December 17, 2008:
The only problem with this diet for me is that I am always running aroound. I already on average only take in 1200 calories a day. The problem i have isn't losing weight, its getting my belly to go flat. Even with my ab workouts I haven't seen good results.
Research Analyst on December 15, 2008:
I really like this flat belly diet, I have always been an advocate for eating foods that will benefit the body, soul and mind. MUFA foods sounds good, I have tried most on the list, I will keep the flat belly photo for inspiration.
Matia Capeta on November 26, 2008:
I like the idea of the flat belly Diet, but I see that you need extra money for it, the flex oil almost 10 dollars, florida avocado 2 dollars, flex seeds nowhere to be found, nuts some are cheap , but others not so much. I have to use what I can .that is a reality any time you want to losse some weight cost more but that added pounds don't cost nathing.
Also I found that drinking 2 litters of sassy water is imposible for me , I normaly drink no more that a one cup of anything a day, the rest is fruits and salads.
I will do my best to stick with the program, for the 32 day, and i hope to see some happy ending.
Karen on November 06, 2008:
on the apple cider vinegar, how much do you need to drink?do you mix it with something or drink it straight? I am 51 and have a little pooch I'd love to shrink. I exercise regularly & am very active. I try to eat healthy but ya know, sometimes ya can't help it. If cider vinegar helps I'll try it . I eat the avocados, nuts & dark chocalate just not with ervery meal. I could eat chocalate every meal, no sweat, which is the best?
Cathy on October 28, 2008:
What "oils" does this diet mean? And is the Chocolate just "dark" chocolate. I love choc covered raisons but do have a difficult time with portioning too. Any ideas?
Linda Lee on October 28, 2008:
I'm in a panic. I've gained 30 pounds, have hypothyroidism, menopause, just started bioidentical hormone replacement, can't sleep. Sound like a wreck? I'm up for anything and hope this works.
downeyfaire on July 16, 2008:
I saw this on Good Morning America, thought it sounded right, so I went shopping for MUFA foods. I love all of them and eating 4 meals a day is hard for me, as I am not that hungry for all of them, but I figure I need to eat to keep my metabolism up. I am 60, 5'5", started at 210 lbs., have had 3 caesarians, so I have that awful "hanging" thing on my belly, and my weight is very evenly distributed, not concentrated in one area. My blood pressure was 135-40/80-84. I started this and now, one week later, I am 202 lbs, 3/4 " less in my belly area, 1/4" less in arms and about the same, 1/4" less all over. I am down one size and I feel great and full all the time. I do not really excersize a lot, only walk every other day, about 3mph for about 2 1/2+ miles roundtrip. I did get some weights for my arms, but only use them 3 times a week and just started that a few days ago. I upped my water, but do not feel I need a ton of water. I drink a lot of tea.
So, in my opinion, MUFAS are good for me and it does work. I feel if I am consistent, and keep eating this healthy way, then I will prevail. I did lose 50 lbs. 3 years ago, then my husband died unexpectedly, so I just went in to a slump, and the result was all the weight back on in a 2 year period, even though I have been eating organic foods for years, I just ate the wrong things for a while. I will never go back to eating wrong again. I hope this helps someone make up their mind, at least to realize the importance of good fats in the diet and not do a fat free diet. Thanks for all the posts and suggestions and ideas. Oh, I have been drinking Apple cider vinegar for 2 months and my stomach has no acid issues and I think it helps with all this. I really have seen results in others with the cider vinegar. My skin is really bright and glowing. Hair is shiny. Blood pressure is about 117/67, not any higher. The organic kind apple cider vinegar, Bragg's, is excellent.
Finance Chick 911 from New York City on July 07, 2008:
I love the book reference -- great read!!
Maddie Ruud (author) from Oakland, CA on June 22, 2008:
At 11, you don't need to be thinking about weight loss. Your body is still developing and maturing. As you go through puberty and adolescence, your body will change shapes, and for a while you may be a little larger than you will actually turn out in the end.
Instead of thinking about "dieting," concentrate on getting the right balance of nutrients to help fuel these changes. Stay active and eat lots of fruits and vegetables, as well as some protein at every meal. Eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full. Drink lots of water. For more tips on a healthy diet (diet as in "what you eat," not as in "weight loss plan"), see:
tanessa on June 22, 2008:
excellent tooooooo goooood what is the ideal diet for a 11 year old kid do find out and let me know thanks
mad on May 08, 2008:
I too ordered the flat belly diet book. I'm the perfect candidate. I've always been happy with my body, except of course for my darn pooch. I've always been very thin but after two pregnancies I've been struggling to have my flat belly. It's only my lower abs that has the pooch my upper abs are washboard flat. I hate it! I'm good on portion control and sticking with a diet so we'll see. I'll keep you posted
Jonathan on March 10, 2008:
I've tried a lot of these plans, but I am currently using the Fatlossity weight loss system. I lost 6lbs the 1st week so I'm pretty happy... I'll let you know how I do from here
sunflower on February 22, 2008:
I've followed the Flat Belly Diet religiously for 11 days now (not counting the 4-day jumpstart diet). I lost 3 punds during the first 5 days and have been stuck ever since, despite working out at my club 4-5 times a week. I am beginning to think this is just another hype. What Maddie says does make sense; guess I could have saved the $$ for the book.
pilherup on February 21, 2008:
My mom had a stomach from having four kids. I had one after being a runner for many years. Anything is worth a try. I do eat nuts and peanut butter. What happens to the flab, does it become hanging loose flesh. I don't want people I tell to ask that question. Two to four pounds a week will make me look fabulous. So if I can get rid of the pudge that would be great. I walk for 8 hours a day, burn lots of calories, and use my treadmill every other day. To those with loose flesh, I recommend buying a some spanx or a girdle to hold it down, or in other words buckle up because we may be on to a newer and fuller you.
daliac on February 11, 2008:
I started today officialy the Flat Belly Diet. I'm not too overweight but I've got a little pouch I'm just dying to get rid of. I actually had a smaller version when I was at my fittest at 106 lbs. So it's definitely genetics, or eating habits thats prevented me from having a completely flat belly. I'll keep the posting my results. I just ate breakfast and it was darn filling, no kidding and coming from me it says a lot because I love to eat :)
vreccc from Concord, NH on February 10, 2008:
Something else that helps with losing weight is place everything you eat on a raw/processed continuum. Then, try to increase the raw foods you eat and decrease the processed foods. If you are eating more processed foods in any given day than you are raw foods, this could be one reason why weight is a difficulty for you.
How much of what you eat comes in a box, can or some other kind of packaging? Is it more than 50%? Even weight watchers stuff comes in a box. That's means it's been processed with all sorts of chemicals added.
I know Maddie wrote a hub on Kevin Treadue and how he is a scam artist. I haven't looked into this yet. All I know about it is what I read in Maddie's hub. I did read Kevin's book, however. And one thing he pointed out was how the food manufacturers have lobbied congress to be able to substitute the word 'natural flavors' for any of a variety of man made chemicals. That means when you read 'natural flavors' on a food label, it could be a chemical and not natural at all.
Anyway, I digressed a little there. The point is, if it's in a box, can or package you don't know what's been done to it and you should therefore be wary of putting it in your body. Even all fruit juice bought at the store has been pasteurized, which means all the enzymes (which help digestion) have been killed. If you like fruit juice, don't drink it out of bottle. Juice it yourself at home.
And... Lifewater!!!! This is a scam, too! I see people drinking this thinking they are being good to their bodies. It's full of sugar!
Ok... sorry!!! I'll stop here.
Eat more raw foods and less processed ones and you will lose weight.
wlynx27 on January 30, 2008:
I started this diet a few days ago and already can see a difference, I need to lose 30 pounds due to gaining weight after a thyroid tumor was removed in 2004. I am on medication and have been exercising like a nut-case (spin bike for an hour, eliptical trainer, free wieght, 100 sit-ups combination 6 days a week) I only lost 5 lbs. What is worse is when everyone kept telling me I was building muscle. I wanted to strangle them! Since then I hired a personal trainer and I only exercise 2x a week and I got better results toning up but still no weight loss. Then 3 days ago I started this diet, I can already see and feel a difference. I am sticking with it and see how if I can loose the 30 pounds I gained since the tumor started.
tenom894 on January 30, 2008:
I am through with any fancy diet. I have found taking apple cider vinegar is the way to lose excess weight and maintain my weight. I watch what I eat, no sugary or fried fatty food and running 6 km six days a week. Guess what when I got to menopause I just started to put on weight without over eating. Apple cider vinegar has given me back my slim body.
mathan1234 from Oklahoma City, OK on January 29, 2008:
Nana, I agree with you in the way you think of things like soda -as a treat. More people need that mindset, maybe less 44 oz sodas would be sold!
Nana on January 29, 2008:
I eat healthy- very healthy and far less than I did twenty years ago- we have always stuck with 100% whole grains, healthy fats, chicken, turkey, fresh fruits and vegies. It was the way we were raised- A treat like soda, or ice cream was a saturday evening event we looked forward to- not a daily intake.
And I agree- we love what we eat. I make the most fabulous chicken picatta with whole grain noodles and flour- everyone loves my cooking and all it took was a little imagination and some time saving skills. Everyone also knows there wont be seconds and so they tend to savor the moment- which helps.
Fashionbymarz on January 28, 2008:
Excellent hub. I must say that I have had some success through increasing my intake of good fats, fish oil, nuts and etc. However the best thing I have found is exersing using Kettelbells. Unbeliveable the results from Kettlebells
Baysuite on January 26, 2008:
Good post! But when it comes to chocolate and other things on the list we love, how likely is it that we will actually execute good portion control? Having that one bite of chocolate is what gets us in trouble in the first place, because it's so hard to have just one bite! Or two, or three! (can you tell I'm a chocolate lover?). These are good findings, and a very good hub. Thanks for sharing.
Channing on January 24, 2008:
Actually, my household has been doing the flat belly plan for 3 weeks now. It's great. We're all losing 2-4 pounds a week and multiple inches. Dinners are easy and lunches take some shopping and coordinating, but it's worth it. And MUFA's are heart healthy and you are adding only a bit to each meal. I love having a bit of fine, dark chocolate right after dinner. And by the way, people who need to lose weight must eat less (400 cals 4 x day) than what they're used to.
chabrenas from middle of France on January 20, 2008:
Good, solid information and intelligent comment, on a subect which is loaded with nonsense aimed at a gullible audience.
ang3lz on January 17, 2008:
Neat Hub Maddie. I need to lose my baby fat! I still have a kinda fat tummy...lol. But I do not eat any of that stuff..I am way too picky...don't even at fruits. I may have to force myself t try new foods even if they look yucky to me. Keep up the good work! :)
JohnnyDrama on January 16, 2008:
Thanks for the great post! Still, I was very impressed with the studies they did and it seems like the kind of thing anyone could benefit from, just by focusing on MUFA's in your diet. I couldn't find many recipes around, however, so I created a place to post recipes and success stories. Anyone who has recipes that use MUFA's or has a good success story from trying to incorporate MUFAs in their diet, please share it on mufamagic.com! The site is all free, just a place to share recipes, stories and articles on MUFA's.
Rik Rodriguez from Hawaii on January 16, 2008:
Great hub Maddie ;-) As always.
Earth Angel on January 15, 2008:
GREAT Hub Maddie!! Actually the list is about all I have eaten for years! Plus a little salmon!! And lots of supplements!! At 5'3" and 120 pounds my doctor recently commented during an annual that I have the body of a 30 year old!! Alas, I have the crows feet that give it away instantly!! GREAT Hub Maddie!! Blessings, Earth Angel!!
djtphn1 from Riverside County, California on January 15, 2008:
Very nicely done.....much better than my account, but I have to admit, I did mine too quickly and it probably shows.....Thanks
MoralsEthics1960 from Florida on January 14, 2008:
excellent subject ,it includes all my favorite foods. Thanks
Stacie Naczelnik from Seattle on January 13, 2008:
I do know how. But, avocados, like chocolate, bring me intense pleasure. I practice portion control by not having them at every meal...until I'm strong enough to resist temptation, that's my portion control.
Maddie Ruud (author) from Oakland, CA on January 12, 2008:
Stacie--You can! Why not? Just portion them! And I know you know how to do that, since you've written hubs on the subject.
Stacie Naczelnik from Seattle on January 12, 2008:
Good article, but I wish I could eat avocados at every meal!
mathan1234 from Oklahoma City, OK on January 12, 2008:
According to their website, I took the "flat belly quiz" and they say that I'm a perfect candidate for their course. What luck! (I can't wait to see how much spam the email address I gave them gets.)
It's a shame that for some reason people are searching for that magic diet, and paying money for it, when the ideal diet plan is free. Reasonable portions (read the lables for portion sizes!), fruits and vegetables, and even just a little bit of exercise will have so much more benefit than these fad diets. Of course, I'm preaching to the choir right now!
Good article as usual Maddie.