What Is the Suzanne Somers Diet?

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Celebrity Suzanne Somers has developed several programs over the years to promote anti-aging, weight loss, and well-being. The Suzanne Somers diet plans, starting with "Somersizing," are among the most popular, and Somers has written a dozen best-selling books (including cookbooks) describing her diet philosophy.

What Experts Say

"The Suzanne Somers Diet is a low carbohydrate plan that utilizes food combining rules (certain foods must be eaten alone or apart). According to experts, there’s no scientific evidence for this. The diet also eliminates several nutritious foods like nuts and sweet potatoes."
Chrissy Carroll, RD, MPH

Background

Somersizing was the first diet plan Somers presented after she became well-known as Chrissy Snow on the popular 70s sitcom "Three's Company." Followers of the Suzanne Somers Diet learn how to lose weight via one of her best-selling books, such as Suzanne Somers' Eat Great, Lose Weight and Somersize Recipe Contest Cookbook.

Somers is not a doctor or a nutrition expert. She's someone who found an eating plan that works well for her and shared it.

How It Works

Somers' books and diet plan are based on food combining principles. That means pairing certain foods together to achieve faster weight loss. She claims that using these combinations can not only help you burn fat more efficiently, but also balance your hormones and improve your metabolism

According to Somers, certain foods should and shouldn't be eaten together. Foods are divided into groups called "carbos" or "pro/fats" and you learn to combine them, or keep them separated, for weight loss.

For example, you'll learn to eat fruit by itself and include vegetables, but never starchy carbohydrates, when you eat protein or fat. Pro/fats are foods that combine with protein and fat, and a few carbohydrates are included on an "acceptable" list.

The Suzanne Somers Diet is a two-phase process. On level one, several foods ("funky foods") are restricted and the food combination rules are also more strict. Level two is a maintenance phase and some of the rules are a bit more relaxed.

There is no calorie counting and you don't have to measure the correct portion sizes for weight loss on the Suzanne Somers diet. You simply eat until you are no longer hungry. She calls this state "comfortably full."

What to Eat

Compliant Foods

  • Vegetables

  • Fruits

  • Whole grains

  • Meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood

  • Butter and cheese

Non-Compliant Foods

  • White flour

  • Potatoes, squash, and corn

  • Sugar

  • Whole milk and yogurt

  • Caffeine and alcohol

  • Tree nuts and peanuts

Vegetables

Most vegetables are allowed and encouraged on the plan, except starchy ones such as potatoes and sweet potatoes. Somers suggests eating vegetables with both carb-heavy meals and "pro/fat" (protein and fat) meals.

Fruits

Fruits are allowed, but only on their own (not in combination with other foods). Wait three hours after eating fruit to eat anything else, the plan says.

Whole Grains

For "carbo" meals, choose whole grains (whole wheat bread, brown rice) over refined carbs, and don't add any protein or fats. For example, you can have fat-free cream cheese, but not low- or full-fat cream cheese, on a whole wheat bagel. Beans are considered carbs on this plan.

Meat, Poultry, Eggs, and Seafood

There are no restrictions on the type or amount of these pro/fat foods consumed; just don't eat them at the same time as you have carbs. So instead of a steak stir fry over rice, skip the rice and have the steak and vegetables on their own. For vegetarians, soy products such as tofu are in the pro/fats category too.

Butter, Cream, and Cheese

These are pro/fats as well, so they can be eaten only with other pro/fats or with vegetables. The exception is fat-free versions.

White Flour

This refined carbohydrate is not allowed on the Suzanne Somers diet. Choose whole-grain flours instead.

Starchy Vegetables

While many vegetables are unlimited on this eating plan, starchy ones such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, corn, squash, and carrots are all off-limits.

Sugar

Especially on level one, do not consume any added sugars (sugar, syrup, honey, molasses, etc.). Artificial sweeteners are OK according to the plan.

Whole Milk and Yogurt

Since milk and yogurt contain carbs, as well as protein and fat, these foods are considered "funky," or off-limits, because they combine carbos and pro/fats. Nonfat dairy products are allowed in the "carbo" category (so, not to be eaten with pro/fats).

Caffeine and Alcohol

Stay away from these, at least on level one of the diet. Somers says that if you really must drink alcohol, choose small amounts of red wine. Cooking with wine is fine.

Tree Nuts and Peanuts

Since nuts contain both protein and fat and carbs, they are a no-go.

Recommended Timing

Somers suggests three meals a day as well as snacks, because getting too hungry might cause you to overeat or eat something unhealthy or not compliant with the diet. Separate "carbo" and "pro/fat" meals by at least three hours.

Resources and Tips

Somers has a whole library of books and cookbooks explaining her plan. She also has a website where fans can buy the books along with supplements and a few foods, such as protein shakes, balsamic vinegar, and chocolate bars.

Modifications

Vegetarians and people who eat a gluten-free diet can follow the Suzanne Somers diet. She includes instructions for this in her books.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Promotes whole grains and vegetables

  • Recipes available

  • May be effective for weight loss

Cons

  • Complicated restrictions

  • No scientific evidence

Pros

Whole Grains and Veggies

Most people could use more of these two items on their plates, and with the Suzanne Somers diet that is likely (although she does restrict certain vegetables, and allows artificial sweeteners and fat-free products which may be processed).

Recipes Available

You'll find plenty of recipes (though not much in the way of meal plans) in Somers' cookbooks and on her website, as well as elsewhere online where users have posted them.

Weight Loss Is Possible

Since the Suzanne Somers Diet cuts out sugar, flour, and other "funky foods," it is likely that you'll lose weight if you stick to the plan. Eliminating those items from your diet will help you create a calorie deficit needed to lose weight.

Some users may see success with this diet. However, you should take Somers' advice with a grain of salt, since she is in the business of selling books, supplements, exercise equipment, and much more—and is not a qualified nutrition expert.

Cons

Complicated Restrictions

This plan may be a little tougher to follow than other low-carb diets because you have to pay close attention to every food you eat and then decide if it can be eaten alone or if it must be combined with another food.

You'll learn to apply the rules to your daily life and regular eating habits, rather than following a prescribed diet or meal plan. For some people, this might be too much work.

No Scientific Evidence

There isn't any high-quality research supporting the concept of food combining. Eating certain foods alone and other foods in combination may not make any difference in your weight loss program. If it works, it's likely the elimination of empty-calorie foods doing the job.

How It Compares

The Suzanne Somers Diet shares a lot of qualities with low-carb eating plans. And while some of its principles align with expert advice on nutrition, others do not.

USDA Recommendations

Food Groups

The USDA's MyPlate guidelines suggest filling your plate with a balanced combination of grains, protein, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. The Suzanne Somers Diet restricts some grains and vegetables, but it generally includes all food groups. They just won't be combined in the same meal.

Calories

For weight loss, the USDA suggests a daily calorie intake of 1600 to 2000, depending on age, sex, weight, and activity level. Somersizing does not include any calorie counting or food measuring at all. For some people, unlimited consumption of the foods on the diet (even the healthy ones, such as whole grains and lean proteins) could lead to weight gain, or to an inability to lose weight. In those instances, calorie counting might be necessary to create a calorie deficit. This tool helps you calculate a calorie target that could help you lose weight.

Similar Diets

Here's how Somersizing compares to some other low-carb eating plans you might be familiar with.

Suzanne Somers Diet

  • Nutrition: This eating plan has some nutrition pros, like an emphasis on whole grains over refined carbs. But also has some cons, like banning certain foods that are perfectly reasonable and healthy to eat. And the idea that eating certain foods in combination with others will cause you to gain weight has no scientific support.
  • Accessibility: All you really need to follow this diet is a copy of one of Somers' books; special ingredients and supplements aren't required (although Somers will sell you some, if you wish). The foods you'll be eating are readily available. Calorie counting isn't required, but you'll need to plan meals carefully in order to achieve the right food combinations.
  • Effectiveness: Experts say it's likely you could lose weight on phase one of the Suzanne Somers Diet, thanks to the restriction on sugar, alcohol, and refined carbs.

Sugar Busters Diet

  • Nutrition: As the name implies, on the Sugar Busters diet, you'll cut out sugar in all its many forms, along with refined carbs. Like the Suzanne Somers Diet, Sugar Busters has a list of off-limits foods that includes some nutritious items, such as pineapples, bananas, and many root vegetables.
  • Accessibility: In another similarity with the Suzanne Somers Diet, Sugar Busters does not require carb counting or measuring your food. Nor do you need exotic ingredients or supplements. It can take some time to learn which foods are recommended and which are not, using the book Sugar Busters! Cut Sugar to Trim Fat as a guide.
  • Effectiveness: Like other low-carb plans, this diet can be effective for many people—possibly due to calorie restriction and not carb-cutting, but it's a reasonable plan to try.

South Beach

  • Nutrition: The South Beach diet is a low-carb and low-sugar plan (like Somersizing) that uses glycemic index to help users determine which carbs to consume (like Sugar Busters). It also has a phased approach, as does the Suzanne Somers Diet. In general, it advocates for a balanced mix of carbs, protein, and healthy fats.
  • Accessibility: While you won't have to learn to count carbs or calories with South Beach, you will need to watch portion sizes. Certain foods are off-limits, and others are allowed in small amounts depending on what phase you are in. There's no need for special ingredients or supplements, but there are plenty of resources to turn to for help.
  • Effectiveness: The phased approach lets users tweak this diet until it seems to work best for them, and it includes a maintenance phase to help keep lost weight from returning.

Dukan Diet

  • Nutrition: On the Dukan diet, carbs are not great, but fats are considered much worse. So instead of replacing carbs with a mix of protein and fats, this diet is all about protein. To start, users switch between eating "pure protein" (80 to 90 percent of calories from protein) and eating protein plus vegetables. After they reach their target weight, they can slowly add some fruits and other foods with carbs. That means that at least in the weight-loss phase, the diet is lacking in many important nutrients.
  • Accessibility: Counting carbs and calories isn't necessary, which makes this diet simple, But it's very hard—practically, physically, and even psychologically—to eat a diet that is so high in protein.
  • Effectiveness: This diet could lead to weight loss. But it may be difficult (and even unsafe) to overcome its challenges and side effects.

A Word From Verywell

Many people follow weight loss programs developed by their favorite celebrities. This strategy isn't necessarily a bad one if you admire that person's lifestyle. Many television and fashion personalities even enlist the help of nutrition professionals to create sound programs.

But just because you follow the diet doesn't mean that you will end up with a body that looks anything like the celebrity who promotes that diet. So choose an eating plan that you think you can follow for the long term. Ask your health care team (physician, nurse practitioner, or registered dietitian) for advice if you need help finding the best plan for you.

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