Suzanne Sommers Diet Review: Criticism of food combining diet plans

Suzanne Somers Diet Review: The Pros And Cons Of Somers' Food Combining Diet
Letter grade: C+  Weight loss is much more complicated than simply eating your carbs separate from your protein and fat although this can be helpful for those who have digestive issues.


Suzanne Sommers, whose birth name was Suzan Mahoney, grew up in an Irish family eating high amounts of potatoes and other carbohydrate foods. As Suzanne got older and her metabolism slowed down, she started to gain weight on her high-carb diet. When she took a trip to France in 1992 she learned about food combining from a popular best selling book written by French nutritionist Michel Montignac (Eat Yourself Slim, The French Diet). According to published interviews with Montignac, Somers copied his information and renamed it “Sommersizing.” Sommersizing is following the rules of food combining and keeping most of the food low-carb.

Level One Food Combining Rules:

  1. Eliminate all “Funky Foods” (sugars, high starch foods, caffeine, and alcohol)
  2. Eat Fruit alone on an empty stomach.
  3. Eat Protein/Fats with Vegetables.
  4. Eat Carbohydrates with Vegetables.
  5. Keep Protein/Fats separate from Carbohydrates.
  6. Eat at least three meals a day.
  7. No nuts, olives, liver, avocados, coconuts, low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, tofu.

The theory behind food combining is that “proteins require an acid environment to be digested and carbs require a base environment. When proteins and carbs are eaten together, the enzymes cancel each other out, creating a halt in the digestion process.” Poor digestion means that your body has less energy to eliminate toxic wastes from the body which accumulate into excess weight.

Summers also teaches that sugar is the real culprit in weight gain, not fat. Fat-free and low-fat foods are worse than the natural, full-fat food because they contain more sugar, starches and artificial chemicals to compensate for the missing fat. Sommers also recommends eating whole grain carbs like whole wheat pasta and whole wheat bread because they have more fiber.

A typical menu for Sommers may include:

Breakfast: Fruit, and later toast or cereal

Lunch: Salad with chicken

Snack: Cheese

Dinner: Animal protein, vegetables and a salad

Once you have reached your goal weight, you are ready for Phase Two which is Phase One plus cheating, but if you gain weight you have to go back to Phase One.

Praise For Sommersizing:

Unlike most other diet books that recommend artificial sweeteners, Somers advocates eating whole natural foods instead of sugar-free or fat-free artificial foods containing chemical fillers.

Food Combining has a popular following. One of the most popular nutrition books of all time is Fit For Life (1985), a book about food combining. Both the Bible and Edgar Cayce, a famous medical clairvoyant, allude to food combining. Sommers’ books have very high reviewer ratings. There are endless testimonials in these reviews on how her diet worked for people. Furthermore, the recipes got rave reviews.

Criticism of Somersizing:

1. All five books are clones of each other except for different recipes.

Some Amazon reviewers felt cheated by this as they expected each book to be different.

2. Food combining has not been scientifically proven to help with weight loss.

Opponents of food combining believe that people lose weight just by forgoing the starches and sugars that are not allowed on the diet.

In a search on PubMed, there was only one research study* that compared a food combining diet versus a balanced diet (protein, carbs and fat at each meal). Both diets contained 1,100 calories per day. After six weeks, both groups lost the same amount of weight (about 15 pounds) although the balanced dieters lost more fat weight.

*Reference: Golay A. Similar weight loss with low-energy food combining or balanced diets. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2000 Apr;24(4):492-6.

3. Food combining rules are difficult to follow.

Sommers’ admits in Slim & Sexy Forever that she went to see Dr. Schwartzbein a few years ago to find out why she was gaining weight even though she was living on Level One and eating almost no carbs. Dr. Schwarzbein explained that her carb restriction had depleted her serotonin levels and “without knowing it, [she] was craving sugars and cheating on the side.”

I’m a bit confused by this statement. How is it possible to follow Level One and eat no carbs and at the same time cheat by eating carbs and not know it?

Trying to follow the rules of food combining is difficult because everything we eat is a mixture of protein, fat and carbs. To me, being obsessed with following food combining rules seems neurotic and unappetizing. Can you picture ordering a chicken sandwich and having to choose between the meat or the bread? Sommers insists that if you eat carbohydrates, there can be absolutely no fat or protein. One of her suggestions for a pure carbo meal is plain brown rice and peas. But a meal like this has no fat that can give satiety. I urge you to try to eat a bowl of rice and peas for lunch and see how long it lasts. Probably not more than an hour.

4. Contradictions galore

Sommers’ emphasizes in every book that you need to stick with whole natural foods and avoid things like artificial sweeteners and hydrogenated oils. And yet, her SommerSweet sugar replacement contains Acesulfame K, an artificial sweetener and her baking mixes contain hydrogenated oils and artificial colors all of which are potential carcinogens.

Here’s another contradiction: Phase One of her diet is the same in every book with a strict adherence to food combining rules. But once you’ve obtained your goal weight, Sommers’ later books then recommends Phase Two which is the opposite of Phase One. She explains:

“Now that your body is clean, you will find that your body needs a small amount of carbohydrates with your Pro/Fats meal. In fact, your body will welcome it. Eating proteins, fats, and a small portion of carbohydrates at every meal will help keep your entire hormonal system balanced.“

So let me get this straight, at first food combining is necessary to lose weight because mixing macronutrients will cause great digestive distress but once you’ve lost the weight, you need to give up food combining and go on a Zone diet in order to keep your hormones and weight in balance? I think it is important to find a diet that works and stick with it for life not flip-flopping back and forth between two opposites.

5. Somers eats dessert once a week and recommends the following because they are "lower in sugar": cheesecake, pudding, crème brulee, chocolate mousse and ice cream. I’ve read hundreds of nutrition books but never heard anything as preposterous as this. These desserts are loaded with sugar! I’m beginning to wonder if seeking dietary advice from Suzanne Sommers is comparable to asking a great-grandmother how to optimize your computer.

6. Sommers’ books also double as a Sommers’ family photo album.

This did not bother me personally but some of the Amazon reviewers were annoyed. For example, in Get Skinny On Fabulous Food she has photos of herself and her family on every page and long-winded stories about what she ate and when and who was there and what was said. Basically what this said to me is Sommers didn’t have enough new material to write about so she had to use a great deal of recipes, photos and fluff to act as fillers. The endless descriptions of what she ate and how fabulous it was made me wonder if she was not obsessed with food. I honestly can’t remember what I ate today let alone a three page description of what I ate every month of the year.

7. Fruit and carbs are recommended for breakfast instead of protein.

Actually it is very important to eat protein in the morning to give you strength and energy for the day. This is when you have the highest levels of hydrochloric acid in your stomach and it is this acid that is needed to digest protein.

8. Somers recommends whole wheat pasta.

Have you ever tried to eat whole wheat pasta? It's not tasty. Instead, I recommend making your own noodles out of zucchini. I also eat rice and mung bean noodles from time to time which tastes just like regular pasta but without the harmful wheat and gluten.

In conclusion, I don't recommend Sommers' books for weight loss advice although if you need another cookbook, the recipes are supposedly tasty.


About the Author:
Dr. Kendra Pearsall, N.M.D. is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor specializing in natural weight loss and food addiction. She created to help millions of people achieve optimal health, natural weight loss and life success with her free weekly e-newsletter (sign up at the top of this page.)