I recently had the chance to review Cinch!, a new healthy eating plan, by Cynthia Sass. I don’t usually accept review opportunities for “diet books”, but the information provided about the book spoke about the attention to balancing blood sugar and helping to prevent diabetes. I was intrigued because, as you know, both are relevant in my own family.
I found the science and nutrition information in Cinch! to be fairly mainstream and common-sense. The book also included recipes that would be easy and quick to prepare, which is always a bonus. The core of the plan is to learn to eat whole foods in a specific combination (the five-piece puzzle), four times each day. The five pieces of the puzzle are produce, whole grain, lean protein, plant-based fat and seasonings (SASS – slimming and satiating seasonings). Each of the four daily meals must contain a single portion from each of those five. Mastering this five-part puzzle allows plan participants to successfully build their own meals that fit easily into the program. The only other rigid rule is to eat on a consistent schedule. This simplicity makes the program easy to individualize to each person, which I believe will account for its success.
The basic premise of the book is solid and I really believe it could be an effective way to manage health and weight. My only concern is that for the average midwest family, it’s probably not 100% practical day in and day out. No red meat is not an option that will be easily achieved in a “meat and potatoes” family. It would NOT be a terrible difficulty to cut back on red meat consumption, but to eliminate it isn’t likely to happen, in our house.
It also recommends tofu and soy milk as vegan alternatives to other plan foods. I try to avoid soy products for my family because of research I have read that shows possible links to Alzheimers and its estrogen-like properties which complicate PCOS and poses risks for breast cancer survivors. All three of these conditions are concerns in my family and soy will not be included in our diet except in very limited and exceptional circumstances. Because of so many alternatives being provided, the plan could still provide helpful information for us.
The program includes a Five Day Fast-Forward that allows the user to lose up to 7 pounds in the first five days following the plan. After that they move in to the core program and after the next 25 days can possibly lose as much as 15 lbs, in that first month. Ms. Sass is very intuitive about the reasons that women eat and how individualized a weight-loss/ nutrition program needs to be for each one to be successful. She includes a quiz to help determine if the Fast Forward fits your individual personality and needs or if you should move straight into the Core Program. The program is all about managing portion sizes and still being satisfied at the end of a meal, looking at the emotional side of why we eat and correcting those bad habits, as well making every time we eat packed with essential nutrition and satiating fiber from five, well-balanced “food groups”.
The only other drawback I could see to this plan is the potential cost of food. As the shopper and cook for a large family, it is not appealing or time efficient, to me, to prepare one meal for my family and something else for myself. Ingredients like raspberries and almonds, in the quantities they are used (They are two of the five exclusive foods that are eaten during the Five Day Fast Forward. A single person, participating in the Fast Forward, will consume 20 cups of raspberries in that first five days.) don’t fit easily into a limited grocery budget.
The program does provide extensive lists of foods that can be traded and exchanged in each of the five main categories, so if there is something you truly don’t like it isn’t difficult to find a substitute, though picking the same substitutes all the time, because of cost or taste issues, could make the plan easy to get bored with, if you don’t choose carefully. Cinch! also includes food diaries and exercises to help you identify when and where you are eating as a “response” to something, rather than out of hunger. I especially liked the recipes, menu plans and grocery lists that take the guesswork out of planning and preparing meals.
For me personally, there will be much that I have learned from this book, and that I could incorporate into my own family’s meal planning. While we won’t be able to completely eliminate red meat or afford some of the more costly produce options, there are plenty of substitutes that could work for us. I learned so much about foods and seasonings that are perfect for triggering the feeling of satiety and revving up metabolisms and I can’t wait to incorporate those into my menu-planning, too. We definitely won’t be following the plan, as written, but can glean useful information for our diets.
The final noteworthy part of this program, that I want to share, may seem shocking to those who have bounced from diet to diet. The program requires the consumption of dark chocolate EVERY single day. That’s right. Besides making us feel good, dark chocolate has been shown to help regulate blood pressure and help in reducing the chances of heart attack and stroke. As Ms. Sass explains, the saturated fat in dark chocolate isn’t like the artery-clogging fat in a hamburger. It is actually stearic acid, which converts in the body to oleic acid, and helps lower bad cholesterol, as well as raising the protective HDL cholesterol. In the Cinch! plan, dark chocolate is considered a plant-based fat and at some point every day, incorporated into the eating plan. Yum! I wouldn’t have any problem getting behind that portion of the program.
I’m anxious to see how the knowledge I gained from Cinch! can improve my and my family’s health and eating habits. My guess is that over time, even though we don’t follow the plan to the letter, we might notice a difference in the way we feel and look. In my opinion, Cinch! is one of the few diet programs that truly focuses on health and nutrition, and that alone is a plus. It provides a system for changing the way that we think about eating and that can be learned quickly and incorporated for a lifetime.
I was provided an uncorrected proof copy of Cinch!, through One to One Network, in order to complete this review. No monetary compensation was received and a positive review as not required. The views and opinions expressed are wholly my own, based on my reading of the book. Writing this review has also entered me into a random drawing for a $50 gift certificate.