Secrets of the Lean Plate Club by Sally Squires

You’ve probably heard of Sally Squires and her Lean Plate Club. This column, published in the Washington Post, has been a weekly habit for most of us since it originated in 2001. Squires has brought us new insight into the dieting world, complete with everything from easy tips to fitness advice and recipes. If you’ve missed out on the wealth of advice shared by Squires, don’t worry. She recently summed it up in a tidy little book titled “Secrets of the Lean Plate Club”.

Part One: The Basics

Secrets of the Lean Plate Club starts out with a five chapter section of diet basics. You’ll learn diet secrets, basic nutrition guidelines, the importance of exercise, and how to reach your goals. You’ll also complete a series of tests and questionnaires designed to help us take a closer look at our expectations and motivation. The “secrets” that you’ll find are actually refreshing and positive takes on dieting. Squires reminds us that losing weight takes time and requires a healthy approach. For example, we are told that nothing is off limits, and we have permission to eat. If you take her advice, you’ll feel good about yourself and your diet. The chapters include advice from successful dieters that have done every type of diet imaginable.

Part Two: The Lean Plate Club 8 Week Program
This is the crux of the book that will help you reach your goal. You may not reach it in 8 weeks, but you’ll be off to a solid start. The program is not a structured diet plan, but consists of guidelines to help you make better choices now and forever.

You may have heard us recommend Change One, a diet plan by Readers Digest. Change One encourages us to focus on making one change every week, so we don’t feel overwhelmed and fall off the wagon before we get anywhere. For instance, we may work on improving our breakfast every day for a week. The other meals don’t matter, we just have to eat a good breakfast. The next week we add a healthy lunch. Squires follows along the same route with her plan, though the suggested changes are quite different. Each week we will focus on a nutritional aspect of our meals, as well as add a small amount of exercise to our daily routines.

Within Squires 8 week program, we’ll learn to choose foods for their nutritional value. Colorful vegetables get priority in our shopping carts and on our plates. It’s interesting to see how she focuses on certain colors, and provides lists of corresponding fruits and vegetables. Eating blue? Choose plums or blueberries for your fruit, then choose blue corn or purple asparagus for your veggies. How many of us would think to seek out purple asparagus? Every color in the rainbow is covered with an extensive collection of irresistible fruits and vegetables. Once we’ve learned the benefits of exploring the colors of the rainbow in our veggie bins, we’ll move on to boost our fiber intake by choosing the most fiber rich foods. In week three, we’ll learn to master food substitutions so we replace the bad with the good. It goes on like this for 8 weeks, until we’ve become experts at making better choices. Success can’t be far off!

Besides making dietary changes, each weekly goal includes adding more fitness to our daily routines. Unfortunately, we think Squires’s advice is a little on the wimpy side. Week one doesn’t suggest adding exercise at all. Instead, we wear a pedometer and keep a log of how many steps we normally take without any extra effort. We also log any other exercise or other activities that we would have normally done anyway. This gives us an accurate look at what we usually do, so we can determine how to improve it. In week 2, we add a 2 minute daily walk to whatever we did during week 1. Week 3 sees an increase of 5 minutes. By week 5, you’ll add a small amount of exercise such as wall push-ups and ab curls. At the end of the 8 week program, you will have increased your daily walk by 30 minutes and added resistance training 3 times a week. We don’t think someone should dive head first into an exercise program if they’ve never worked out before. But we think the weekly goals should be bumped up just a little, and it wouldn’t be painful at all.

Part Three: Healthy Habits for Life
At the end of the book we find more success stories and advice from actual dieters. Recipes are sprinkled throughout the book, but there is also a chapter of recipes at the end.

We may not have been impressed with the advice on exercise, but we feel that the book is filled with plenty of other diet and health advice to make the book a worthwhile purchase. Squires proves that dieting doesn’t have to be painfully restrictive, and that there’s a solution to every problem. You’ll find them all in this book. You can purchase it at Amazon by clicking here.

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