It’s an annual ritual engaged in by hundreds of thousands of teenagers from coast to coast who have chosen to embark on the next step of their educational journey–COLLEGE! Just as the dog days of summer begin to wind down and the changing of the seasons begins to take place, enthusiastic young skulls full of mush pack up their belongings, leave mom and dad in the house they grew up in, and move into that bastion of independence known as a dorm room. Anyone who’s ever spent time in a college dormitory knows all the unique challenges that await you from oddball roommates, strange smells and noises coming from nearby rooms, and the free entertainment that can happen late at night–it’s quite the adventure. And when it comes to trying to be “healthy,” you can just about forget about it! They don’t call the weight gain that happens to first-year college students the “Freshman 15” for nothing. But Daphne Oz wanted to buck that trend by offering up some advice that helped her take off 10 pounds in her freshman year (she struggled with her weight in high school) which she wrote about in her bestselling book The Dorm Room Diet: The 10-Step Program for Creating a Healthy Lifestyle Plan That Really Works.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a famous cardiologist father known to millions of Americans for his wisdom when it comes to nutritional edicts–Dr. Mehmet Oz. Dr. Oz wrote the foreword to his daughter’s book where he applauds the efforts Daphne has made to not just share information with readers but to empower them to make better choices that are right for them. You can tell he’s so very proud of the work his daughter is doing because she’s basically the spittin’ image of her dad. Some would say that’s both a blessing and a curse, but I’m willing to check out what Daphne has to share on her own merits without being prejudiced by her family background one way or another. Does she speak nutritional truths in The Dorm Room Diet or is she just trying to ride daddy’s coattails? Let’s find out.
The 10-step program she offers some specific something to “get.” STEP 1 promotes getting INSPIRED by the fact that Daphne herself dealt with being overweight so that you can relate with her personally having to come to grips with the reality of this issue for herself despite having one of the most famous diet doctors in the world advising her. STEP 2 encourages the reader to become INFORMED by taking a self-assessment test to determine your “Family Eating Portrait” through a series of 15 probing questions. It’s an in-depth test that will show you why you may be struggling now and Daphne offers up ways to get your eating plan back on track again. She even discusses the sensitive subject of eating disorders and emotional eating and how to recognize if you are dealing with this or not–along with simple solutions to help you manage the new stresses that college life is sure to bring.
STEP 3 delves into the nitty gritty of the book discussing HEALTHY EATING 101. Here’s where the rubber meets the road when it comes to knowing whether or not Daphne understands what good nutrition looks like. Sadly, like father like daughter on this one as less than two pages into this chapter she describes the healthy Atkins low-carb lifestyle change as “Fatkins.” She exhibits a lack of basic knowledge about metabolism when she states that “your body requires nutrition from three macronutrient groups–carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.” Uh, no it doesn’t. The body absolutely needs fat and protein, but there is no dietary NEED for carbohydrate at all. The body is able to make glucose to fuel the body from the protein consumed thanks to a process known as gluconeogenesis (didn’t your dad tell you about this amazing biochemistry concept, Daphne?). She goes on to say that if you don’t eat carbs (which Atkins is not a “no-carb” diet as she repeatedly describes it), then you can’t replenish your glycogen stores and all you lose is “water weight.” Hmmmm…so are you telling me that the 180 pounds I shed on the Atkins diet in 2004 was all water weight, Daphne? Surely you jest. Of course, all the usual criticisms of the Atkins low-carb diet are throw in for good measure by the junior Oz, including that it leads to depression, fatigue, mood swings, binge eating, and a constant craving for carbohydrates–yadda, yadda, yadda. We’ve heard it all before about eating a “balanced” diet, Daphne, and it just doesn’t work for some of us. I’m glad it worked for you, but it’s not very wise to lampoon the very way of eating that has helped so many of us get our health back in order again. Plus, why single out the Atkins diet for your criticism? Where is the backlash against other dietary approaches that greatly reduce or eliminate whole categories of foods like veganism and vegetarianism? Oh yeah, that’s right, you don’t want to get daddy in trouble with his buddies who are in high positions supporting these diets.
The nutritional advice she shares is primarily high in complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits and veggies without regard to their sugar/starch content (she claims that “the sweetest fruits don’t come close to the sugar in a candy bar.” Uhhhh, have you looked at a banana’s nutritional makeup lately Daphne? It’s got 30 grams of sugar in it which comes pretty darn close to the 40 grams contained in a 3 Musketeers bar), fat-free and low-fat dairy foods, moderate protein from lean meats like chicken, leaner ground beef, beans, and tofu, and omega fats from fish and flax. Fiber is also emphasized with limited portion sizes heavily promoted for weight management. Daphne’s Dorm Room Diet healthy “grab-and-go” food recommendations are quite shocking when you see the list: oatmeal, granola bars, cereals, bagels, crackers, and sugary fruits. Carbs, carbs, and more carbs! It’s the “stop-drop-or-roll” list of foods she claims will make you “tired, hungry, and fat if you eat too much of them” that has the much healthier foods on them: full-fat cheeses and high-fat red meats, but she also includes fruit juice, alcoholic beverages, fried foods, brownies, cakes, cookies, doughnuts, pancakes, pies, pretzels, waffles, white bread, white rice, sugary soda, biscuits…yes, this girl has completely lost her mind lumping healthy full-fat cheeses and meats with this carbage!
The nutritional lunacy continues with her recommendations to drink coffee (no biggie, although there is concern some people experience an insulin spike from it), consume chocolate (as a “pick-me-up” to stoke your serotonin levels–hey, I thought only a low-carb diet made you depressed and moody?!), and eat bread before a meal. Say what?! Are you kidding me, Daphne? The theory is you’ll eat less calories if you consume whole wheat or whole grain bread with olive oil (don’t you dare use butter though!). Whatever. No wonder we’re so bassackwards nutritionally these days with such nonsense as this being promoted as “healthy” from the kid of a well-known diet guru. She encourages readers to ALWAYS eat breakfast, drink “half your body weight in ounces of water” each day plus one glass prior to each meal, eat every three hours for a total of five “meal” times daily, slowly count to the number of your age if you feel the urge to “cheat” (hey, I thought you were all about not depriving yourself!), and to avoid eating within two hours of bedtime. Incredible! This is what passes for healthy nutrition in the 21st Century. We must be living in The Twilight Zone!
STEP 4 tells you to get a GRIP on how to implement these new healthy habits (“complex carbohydrates” are “your friends” while “fatty cheeses” are “your foes”) with tips on choosing the right foods when eating at the cafeteria, sit down restaurants and fast food joints. Recommendations to ask for the “low-fat” entrees is also heavily promoted. STEP 5 is on being PREPARED for the “danger zones” that are sure to come, including the pressure to study or finish an important paper, tailgating events, campus parties, watching television, and late-night chatting. The key points Daphne makes is to not allow yourself to be trapped by any of these situations by preparing ahead of time with appropriate action steps so you’re not stuck making a poor choice. It’s pretty good common sense advice for people who are health-conscious, even if it does focus on lean proteins and veggies. I do applaud her for helping college students break their addiction to sugar and learning to be happy without it in their lives. At the same time, though, she does promote fruit roll-ups, dried fruit and peanut butter which is all still loaded with sugar although I’ll grant her that it’s still less than the junk food most dorms are filled with.
STEP 6 transitions to the subject of MOVING your body–aka exercise. This one goes without saying for the enormous benefits beyond fat loss for college students. Specific exercises are demonstrated with pictures and descriptions to work out every part of your body. STEP 7 is on the subject of VITAMINS and the supplements you should be taking. Kudos to Daphne for understanding the importance of taking vitamins, including a solid multivitamin, antioxidants, minerals, essential fatty acids, and Vitamin D. She includes lists of foods that contain the highest amounts of key vitamins and minerals for your body as well. This chapter also provides some curious home remedies to the most frequent health ailments suffered by college kids, including the common cold, sore throat, nausea and stomachache, PMS and cramps, headache, sore muscles and minor sprains, fatigue, insomnia, urinary tract infections, yeast infections, constipation, and diarrhea. Hmmmm, are you sure it isn’t that dastardly Atkins diet causing all this stuff, Daphne?
STEP 8 says it’s time to get HAPPY to effectively manage the stress that surely hits you when you are under the kind of pressure college puts you through. Regular massage, aromatherapy, and meditation are pushed as ways to deal with it best. STEP 9 shares why being CONSCIOUS about your eating (a new chapter in this revised and updated version of the book) so that you know the impact of your foods choices on the planet and ecosystem. Sure, she’s obviously been affected by the local food movement promoted in films like Food, Inc. and books like Fast Food Nation. Her indignation for the factory farms in favor or more traditional farms is something I wholeheartedly agree with her about 100%. If more people cared about buying good quality grass-fed, organic, certified humane, local foods and became strong advocates for it as Daphne suggests, then the world would indeed be a healthier place. And in STEP 10, recipes are shared in the COOKING section of the book–of course, mostly high-carb, low-fat ones to fit within the overall nutritional theme she espouses.
The Dorm Room Diet is a total mixed bag for me. I like what she has to say in certain parts of the book that make me want to stand up and cheer while other parts of it are as disappointing as they can possibly be. Perhaps as Daphne Oz continues to educate herself about healthy nutrition and breaks free from what Papa Oz has shared with her over the years, she’ll realize the folly in some of the ideals she is promoting as “healthy” for a large segment of the population. While this book has mostly become a bestseller thanks no doubt to the name recognition of her famous father, maybe someday Daphne can use this writing platform to teach the next generation about what the proper relationship between nutrition and health is really all about.