What is the Scarsdale Medical Diet?

Helen Krasner

The Scarsdale Medical Diet was created by Dr. Herman Tarnower in the 1970s. It achieved popularity through his book, The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet, which was first published in 1978. The diet basically consists of a structured diet plan that involves eating specific foods over a period of two weeks, although this may be followed by another 14 day period of less stringent dieting.

Lean, skinless chicken breasts are typically allowed on the Scarsdale Medical Diet.
Lean, skinless chicken breasts are typically allowed on the Scarsdale Medical Diet.

According to Tarnower, the Scarsdale Medical Diet enables the dieter to lose up to 20 pounds (about 9.07 kg) in two weeks. He also claims that the diet helps the dieter to keep the weight off, as well. Many users of the diet report positive results; as with most diets, however, it does not work for everyone.

There is no clear consensus as to why the Scarsdale Medical Diet works the way it does. Tarnower claimed it was specifically because so few foods were eaten on each day, and that it was unique to his diet plan. Most people think that it is because the diet is high in protein and low in carbohydrates, and also has a reduced caloric intake. Some people claim it is similar to the Atkins diet, but the Scarsdale Medical Diet does include some complex carbohydrates – it is unlikely to have the adverse effects reported by some people on the Atkins diet after having eliminated carbohydrates.

Critics of the diet say that it works because of the reduced calorie intake only. They also claim that the diet is so extreme that it is unhealthy. Critics claim that most of the weight loss is due to water loss, as this is likely to be the case if a large amount of weight is lost using any weight-loss diet.

Tarnower's book actually gives five different 14-day meal plans. It is strict: no deviation from the chosen plan is allowed. After the first two weeks, there is a "Keep Trim" phase. This is similar to the diet plan, but allows many more foods and does not have any specific meal plan. People who have a lot of weight to lose can repeat the two weeks of dieting followed by the more flexible "Keep Trim" phase until the target weight is achieved.

According to Tarnower, those who lose weight using his diet will keep it off due to the healthy eating habits they will have developed while following the diet. His book also gives advice for keeping slim once the dieter goes back to eating normally. The Scarsdale Medical Diet is recommended for adults only and should not be used by people with special dietary requirements.

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