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This article was published 4/4/2010 (3478 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
'F&*% dieting," writes Dr. Melissa Hershberg provocatively on the first page of her new book, The Rebel Diet.
It's the first time, but not the last time, the Winnipeg-born physician and nutrition expert drops the F-bomb, which shares space in her health tome with other naughty words that reference body parts, bodily functions and sexuality.
Hershberg's core message: Healthy eating shouldn't mean adhering to a stringent set of rules.
To further illustrate her point, the cover of the well-presented The Rebel Diet depicts a book-sized chocolate bar, with its silver wrapper partially peeled away.
"At first I was a little nervous about that. Are people going to get it? I think it comes off well. I think it gets the point across that you can still have chocolate," says Hershberg, 32, during a phone interview from Winnipeg's Richardson International Airport while awaiting her plane. (She just spent a few days in town visiting her parents, Pamela and Gary Yan, a former teacher and a dentist).
"Basically we can have our chocolate cake and eat it, too."
Canadians may know the Toronto resident from her 2007 release, The Hershberg Diet, in which she advised readers to eat their water. In other words, she said they could lose weight if they chose nutritious, high-water foods like vegetables, chicken and fresh fruit rather than "dry," calorie-dense ones such as crackers, chips and raisins.
Her first book was released shortly after she graduated from medical school.
The attractive blond who grew up in Tuxedo has since made the national media rounds, appearing on television and in magazines to speak out about healthy eating.
The Rebel Diet hit shelves earlier this year. In it, Hershberg takes on a decidedly more daring tone. Like a coach and cheerleader, she urges her readers — women — that they, like Hershberg herself, can "Eat. Cheat. Defeat."
Darker times ignited the former competitive gymnast's passion for nutrition. That's when the then-15-year-old St. John's-Ravenscourt student sustained a knee injury that forced her to give up her sport. After packing on 20 pounds in a short period, Hershberg took extreme measures to lose the extra weight.
"Thank God it only lasted for a year of my life," says Hershberg. "It definitely impacted me. I tried to turn a negative into a positive."
Moderation is key, according to Hershberg, who serves as medical director for U Weight Loss, a diet chain. She says most people can break the so-called diet rules as long as they do so sensibly.
"It's the dose that makes the poison," she says, noting a mantra she repeats throughout her latest book.
Her philosophy has softened a bit in her second book. The Rebel Diet approves of small amounts of cream in coffee, for example. Hershberg's debut volume, on the other hand, advised readers not to "waste" calories on cream and sugar — but to, instead, use skim milk.
"The joke is, the reason I wrote The Rebel Diet is so people could get off my back about what I'm eating," says Hershberg. "If you were to go to the grocery store with me, you won't only see organic, perfectly healthy food. Because I'm human."
The first half of The Rebel Diet outlines the diet rules she says were made to be broken — including the classic "no sugar," "no fat" and "no large portions" rules. The no-no that bugs her most, she says, is the "no carbohydrate" commandment that many dieters over the past few years claim to live by.
It's a claim that Hershberg hears often from her friends and patients.
In reality, most people don't truly understand what a carb is, she says. Nor do they understand that carbs — particularly in the form of coloured vegetables — actually aid in weight loss and good health.
"I feel like it's almost trendy to say, 'Oh, I don't eat sugar. Oh, I don't eat carbs.' I think a lot of the time it's all just lip service," says Hershberg. "I think a lot of people out there don't know the difference between carbs and starches."
The second half of The Rebel Diet outlines what to buy, meal plans, simple recipes and specific weight-loss-friendly items. She discovered them after hours at the grocery stores.
"I'm proud of the fact that I really spent a lot of time researching products that I think people would love to hear about," says Hershberg, a physician at the Toronto Clinic, a cutting-edge private medical centre specializing in preventative medicine.
Among her favourite innovative grocery-store fare are Almond Breeze unsweetened almond milk and shirataki noodles (a no-calorie noodle made from yam fibre).
As well as providing her patients' medical care (she prefers to call them "clients"), she offers them diet counselling.
"Your health starts in the grocery store. Weight loss starts in the grocery store," says Hershberg. "Almost every patient I see has either an overweight issue or high blood pressure or gout or high cholesterol or diabetes — something related to what they are eating."
Hershberg says although some of her clients need cholesterol-lowering drugs and other medication, she first teaches them how to eat well.
"For me it's rewarding to see them make those changes rather than having to be on a pill."
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Dr. Melissa Hershberg's Favourite Rebellious Foods:
Shirataki noodles (calorie-free Asian noodles that made from the soluble fibre in yams)
Blue Diamond Almond Breeze unsweetened almond milk
Astro Original Balkan Style Natural Yogurt
Source: The Rebel Diet