Update: This is one of my most requested posts and very popular at this time of year when many people are thinking about diet, weight loss, and better health. Enjoy!
For more, also see 12 Healthy and Delicious Vegetarian Soup Recipes.
I tried the Cinch diet for a week and wrote down all of my impressions. If a diet is going to work, it has to be realistic to stick with it. This one was a challenge but I did lose a good amount of weight…see what you think and consult your doctor before trying this or any other new diet or exercise program.
I also finally learned to run (at middle age). If I can do it, you can too!
Before You Get Started: How Does Your Belly Measure Up?
Are you fit and healthy? Here’s one way to measure:
- Take your height in inches and divide the total in two.
- For example, if you are 5’6″ tall (66 inches), your waist (at your belly button) should measure 33 inches or less. How many here meet that criteria?
If your waist is more than half your height (in inches), you may have an unhealthy amount of omental fat (belly fat). That’s the fat that builds up against your abdominal organs, behind the abdominal muscles. The waist area is the most dangerous place to have extra fat on your body. The extra weight pulls and stresses the organs, making them work much too hard, which in turn creates a bunch of other problems.
Cinch Fast Forward Menu Plan
I had this belly fat problem (hello middle age!) and tried a week of the SASS Yourself Slim diet to kick-start some fat loss. While you can’t target fat loss, with weight loss in general, eventually the omental fat has to surrender too.
The Cinch Fast Forward Menu Plan is based on five simple foods: eggs, non-fat yogurt, raspberries, spinach, and almonds. Easy and relatively inexpensive!
Cinch Fast Forward Meal Plan – Four Meals A Day
Here’s what I’m having each day:
- one egg plus one cup of spinach scrambled
- 6 oz plain fat-free yogurt
- 1 cup raspberries
- 2T almonds
- 6 oz plain fat-free yogurt
- 1 cup raspberries
- 2T almonds
- dash of cinnamon
- 2 cups spinach
- 1 cup raspberries
- 1 hard-boiled egg
- 2T almonds
- balsamic vinegar, squeeze of orange juice, pepper
- 6 oz plain fat-free yogurt
- 1 cup raspberries
- 2T almond butter
This is an abbreviated version of the plan. You’d have to read the book or check Cinch discussion boards or blogs to get more details. Herbal teas and water are encouraged between meals.
My Week On The Cinch Fast Forward Menu Plan
Day One Report
- 7:00 am Scrambled egg with spinach is very good and filling.I’m tempted to add garlic but I don’t like having garlic breath all day…
- 10:30 am I held off eating the fruit, almonds, and yogurt until mid morning.
- 12:30 pm HUNGRY! Ate Meal Two. More yogurt and berries.
- 4:00 pm Gave green tea another try: BITTER! Will stick with my favourite peppermint tea. You probably have to find a good source of loose green tea to find a winner. Green tea in bags: yuckaroni.
- 5:46 pm HUNGRY! Made a salad with the spinach, almonds, raspberries, balsamic and orange juice, and boiled egg. Very enjoyable though the salad was too wet from the raspberry juice. And you can never wash spinach too much: it was a bit sandy. Wished for a second egg. A girl can dream.
- 9:00 pm It’s suggested to have a smoothie but I have very cold-sensitive teeth so I just had the yogurt and raspberries and enjoyed the almond butter on the side. Yummy. You know you’re really hungry when everything tastes that good and vivid. The kid was eyeing my yogurt and berries but I could not share. I had to guard my rations. I am already getting very hungry between meals.
- Night time: Woke up to pee twice. Goodbye water retention!
- So far I’m splitting the breakfast meal into two portions about two hours apart, having the egg and spinach scramble first, and the berries and almonds later. Knowing how little food is coming my way the rest of the day, it’s best to spread it out and not get too full at any one meal.
- Raspberries can be very tart. I just read a tip suggesting squeezing some juice from an orange (permitted) over them to sweeten them up. I must try it. I’m not a fan of sour and tart tastes.
- The book mentions that a feeling of lightness should come about now and it has. I like it. I despise feeling full or bloated. You can’t feel weighed down when you’re eating like this!
- From dieting in the past, I know when I’m losing weight. There’s a distinct feeling to my hunger that would always show in pounds lost on the scale the next morning.
- Throughout the day, I have to handle/prepare food for other people. Food that I wouldn’t otherwise think twice about but now tempts me because I feel so hungry. I am determined not to nibble or sample a thing. I’m like Pavlov’s dogs the way I salivate. The five-hour gap between Meals Two and Three today just about killed me. (I could have eaten earlier but I wanted to have one meal with my family. The book recommends 3-5 hours max between meals.)
- I noticed my hands were shaky (they always tremble when I’m overly hungry) and I had to take it easy. I knew if I did the harder, physical work I had planned, it would send me into hunger overload. I didn’t want to eat any earlier because I imagined getting too hungry in the evening. Oy! But I’ll suck it up: it’s just five days and seriously, how wimpy can one woman be?
- Speaking of whining, holy cow, time passes slowly when you’re hungry. I might do better with more distractions, but right now I’m working alone at home, so it’s just me and my impulse control. Besides the shaky hands, I’ve also had headaches and stomach aches. I know some people experience this when they give up soda/pop for the diet or coffee, but I’m just a water drinker so I have no excuse that way. If I was on the Biggest Loser and had to diet and exercise like they do, I would die. Just sayin.
- I haven’t read what I’m supposed to do after these five days but I’m guessing pasta* is not part of it. I get vivid cravings when I know I can’t eat something, even if I rarely eat it at all. Crazy brain! For now I just want to make it through these five days and then pray to god I can have a slice of whole grain toast on Day Six. The nightly tablespoons of almond butter are my prize for making it through another day of this.*Actually, I checked and I can have whole grain pasta and a variety of breads. Woot!
- I feel like I’m on Survivor and the rice rations are getting a little repetitive. Enough whining. You know it’s bringing the changes I wanted when I am feeling this rattled.
- The breakfast scramble is delicious and filling.
- The raspberries are getting a little repetitive.
- Almond butter is my saviour. One tablespoon and all is forgiven.
- Wow, I must have been doing a lot of eating because I’m sure not now!
- I’ve always preferred to graze rather than have fixed meals so it’s been a little rough that way. I am certainly more aware of how much I normally graze when I can’t do it. I also think a lot about people who intentionally under eat their whole lives for longevity (800 calories per day). That does not sound fun to me. I’d rather check out earlier with some happy meat on my bones.
- Last night I read more of the book. I have actually only skimmed through it so far, since it was easy to get started on the Fast Forward. It said if you get the shakes (shakey hands or whatever), add another egg to dinner. Woot! Just what the lady was wanting. I think that’s where my grazing habit started: if I don’t eat for hours, I always start trembling.
- On the topic of eggs, I gave up eggs for years. Then, when I started getting interested in hen keeping, I thought I might try eating them again, since it would be kind of silly to have access to a lot of fresh eggs and not use them. Commercial eggs have come along way in recent years. While the cost is greater, there is nothing better than free range (or, better yet, free run) + Omega 3 eggs. Delicious. Way better than the cheap, factory-tortured ones most commonly sold in grocery stores. Not only do they taste much better, but the shells are also much stronger which is good for the compost and, I suspect, indicates the chicken had a much healthier life.
- When I was pregnant with my youngest girl, my only food cravings were soft-boiled eggs and oranges. And that’s about all I ate. I was admitted to hospital a few times during the pregnancy and each time I unpacked my suitcase while checking in, my two dozen oranges would come rolling out. They knew by the look on my face that there was no way they were going to confiscate or control my oranges. Back away from the oranges! Yum-o. Mind you, there is no such thing as a good soft-boiled egg in a hospital. Blech! . [To be clear, what I ate was not the cause of my pregnancy-related illnesses.]
- I started reading the plan for the next 25 days after my five days of Fast Forward. There’s a lot of choices for both meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans, but I have to say I find the meal suggestions a little overwhelming and not in keeping with how I like to run my kitchen. For example, it’s just not realistic to me to use 1/4 an avocado at a meal. Open avocado does not keep well and there’s no one else here who would eat it, so that’s an expensive, un-local, and wasteful choice for that little bit of yumminess. I like the Fast Forward options because it’s so simple: five foods. Period. But it would not be nutritionally sound to carry on with such a limited group of foods.
- I think I will have to devise my own longer-term plan based on the daily intake suggestions to come up with a workable plan. At this point a piece of whole grain toast to go under the daily almond butter sounds rather delightful.
- This plan also suggests eating some dark chocolate every day (50-100 calories worth, at least 70% cocoa). I’m afraid to know how small a piece that is but it will probably seem grand when I’m done this Fast Forward phase.
- So I survived Day Three. For exercise, I had to shovel the driveway several times as the snow kept coming in strong bursts. That, plus walking the kid to and from school was quite enough. I can tell I would get very light-headed if I exerted myself any more. Let’s hope the blubber is indeed melting away.
- What started as a desire to change my eating patterns quickly morphed into an exercise in stubbornness as well. The belly must go! I don’t want to be a potato-shaped human! I really, really didn’t want to fall off the wagon during these five days and guess what?
- I have not. I have resisted temptation and stuck with the meal plans. I did add an extra egg at dinner, as recommended, to combat some shakes and light-headedness, but otherwise, I have followed it to the letter.
- I think the afternoon of Day Two was the most brutal so far. I was REALLY annoyingly HUNGRY.
- Today I think I went into a bit of a starvation mode with more light-headedness, shaky hands, and achy legs. I’m not saying this is good for any prolonged period of time, but I think for five days it’s relatively harmless and helps snap me out of old overeating patterns.
- I’ve pretty much broken the plan into five meals a day instead of four because I can’t eat everything suggested in one meal at the start of the day. I love the egg and spinach scramble, which I now add fresh garlic to. But I’m also supposed to have a cup of raspberries and 2T of almonds as well. I save that for about two hours later when I’m hungry again.
- I did a fair amount of house painting today (new body, new house), so there’s lots of repetitive crouching and standing. I got woozy a few times.
- I’m excited to be done Day Five tomorrow but a little worried about what exactly I will do next. The book has about 100 recipes (not a lot of them are grabbing me so far) but also includes instructions on how to devise your own meal plans, so I’m working with that. I know I have to eat a bit more and exercise more for it to be sustainable. Otherwise I’ll go into starvation mode where weight loss halts due to under eating.
- I’m proud of myself so far. It’s been hard but I feel like it has really started shifting things. I’m very mindful of every bite I eat and how everything tastes. And the belly is definitely shrinking.
- One more day to go and then I’m a Fast Forward graduate. I’ll sum up the five days at that time. What comes next will decide everything.
I did it. Five days of the Fast Forward plan. Phew!
Here’s a summary:
- Day One was fine because I went into it with onion rings in my belly from the night before. True confession!
- Day Two was the hardest. It was the habit-breaking day, shifting from how I was eating, to how I will eat. This day showed me how often I had been grazing on food (i.e. whenever I felt a twinge of hunger). I did not cave, but instead simply let myself feel the hunger. Amazingly, one doesn’t die from this. (That’s a jab at my dramatic alter ego who has been overly pampered.)
- If I may get philosophical for a moment, Day Two reminds me of something my brother taught me when I worked for his renovation company. When you are hammering a nail, there’s only two states. The first is where the nail completely resists your efforts to hammer it. The second is where, in an inperceivable instant, it surrenders to the hammer and starts going into the wood. Each state seems so definite, you can’t believe it could be different.
- This is how I experience things when I want change but there is resistance. I think of the nail. Days One and Two were my habit’s efforts to remain the same. During dinner at Day Two, the nail starting going nicely into the wood. As if it always intended to.
- Day Three had me hoping for the finish line. But that too is a problem. For years I fell prey to the ‘I’ll be happy when’ type of thinking. Or, ‘everything will be great when…(I do this, or get that, or experience this). HALT! So long as you place your happiness in a container over there, it will be OVER THERE. Stuff and experiences don’t bring it to you. You are the bucket of whatever it is you want right now. And that’s the problem with a diet. It immediately feels like a temporary means to an end. In reality, if I want to reduce my dangerous belly fat, I’m going to have to crack the code on what kind of eating and exercise has to be my new norm. Forever and ever amen.
- If you think about it, overindulging is never done with a presence of mind. Because when one is present, one is in tune with what the body needs. Overeating is done when one is not tuned in.
- On Days Four and Five, I still had some light-headedness. I am certain this is not entirely due to the eating plan, because I’ve always experienced dizziness from simply bending over or getting up too fast (orthostatic hypotension). It just the way I’m wired. And I always get a bit more of it with weight loss. Fortunately, I could adjust my activities accordingly.
- If you’ve been here a while, you’ve seen me through several exercise and eating missions. I’ve done raw foods for many months at a time, daily workouts and strength training, and more. All had good effects. There is nothing comparable to raw foods for feeling sharp and clear-headed, more energetic, healthier, and free of body odor! It’s a euphoric way to eat/live. My daily workouts brought me from one push up to twenty in little time. And while all of these helped my overall fitness and feeling of well-being, nothing really tackled the belly fat. Or only marginally.
- The five days of Fast Forward did more to reduce my belly fat than months of the other things combined. That’s profound. Besides vanity, which is very important to one’s overall feeling of well-being, belly fat is seriously unhealthy. The weight of extra fat in one’s midsection stresses all the internal organs, stifling their abilities to function properly. I do not take this lightly. I have taken this more drastic step of an (initially) austere diet because other slow and steady attempts have done a lot of good things but not significantly reduced the belly. The goal is to have my waist measurement half (or less) my height. That’s where this train is headed. I want to do everything I can do to ensure good health.
The Cinch Core Program/Sass (Day Six Onward)
Days Six onward begins the Core Program. There’s a wealth of food choices within a specific formula. You have four meals a day, each one with:
- whole grain
- lean protein
- plant-based fat
- SASS (seasonings, herbs, spices)
The serving sizes are specific to each food. It’s all in the book and I’m sure you can find it online somewhere.
I lost seven pounds in five days. When I resumed more ‘normal’ eating, I regained two, and then lost a few more pounds during the rest of the month by increasing my exercise and eating ‘normally’ (not dieting).
Here’s some of the questions I have received:
1. What happened next? Did you follow the rest of the Cinch plan?
No. There were several food combinations I really enjoyed and I continue to eat (eggs scrambled with garlic and spinach; raspberries with plain yogurt and some almonds), but I did not continue with the plan.
On a side note, I really wrestle with meal times in our household because we have three people with very different food preferences (total carnivore-my husband, mostly vegetarian-the kid, mostly vegan-me). I try really hard to find middle ground all of us can share. To me, vegetables are the answer but good luck convincing my people.
2. Is this a vegan plan?
No: vegan means there are no animal products whatsoever. No dairy, cheese, milk, and obviously no meat. The Fast Forward plan is vegetarian because it contains dairy products but no meat.
3. Did you lose more weight?
Yes-ish, but not because of the diet. Two pounds bounced back (probably from the initial water loss) and then I increased my exercise and lost a few more pounds that month while eating ‘normally’.
I’m sure just about any diet will work if you can stick with it. I found this one too severe.
4. Would you do it again?
No, not the Fast Forward plan, and not cold turkey. Honestly, the hunger I felt was the worst I can recall during a diet. In hindsight I should have just added one extra meal a day, or followed the Core program instead, and that probably would have resolved the hunger and prevented the light-headedness.
Also, in hindsight, it would probably be best to simply remove all sugar from one’s diet for a week before starting the plan. This way, the headaches and symptoms of stopping sugar would be resolved beforehand.
5. Are you glad you did it?
Yes and no. I don’t think it’s healthy to feel extremely hungry. I think it triggers overeating and a fixation on food. But, I was really proud of myself for getting through all of the days despite this. But again, it’s probably not good to mess with one’s body this way.
While I’m still too thick around the middle for my liking (hello, middle age), I can say my weight varies very little which is a big improvement from years ago when it was a yo-yo situation which can be very hard on the heart and metabolism.
Wanna Try It?
Here’s the Cinch/Sass book if you want to give it a try. Always consult your doctor first before starting any diet or exercise program.