Registered Dietitian Nutritionist's Book Club Review "The Slow Down Diet"


Registered Dietitian Nutritionist's Book Club Review "The Slow Down Diet"

04, November 2015 9:00 AM

In October 2015, the San Jose Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Book Club met to discuss "The Slow Down Diet" by Marc David. The book, celebrating it's 10th anniversary, includes an eight-week program designed to produce weight loss while promoting eating pleasure and energy levels. 

The author has a master's degree in the psychology of eating and has studied nutrition at a variety of schools, but is not a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or a clinical psychologist. At the core of the Slow Down Diet are the eight universal metabolizers; Relaxation, Quality, Awareness, Rhythm, Pleasure, Thought, Story and the Sacredwhich the author considers the missing pieces in our view of metabolism. 

People are successful on his diet plan, at least temporarily, because they stop fighting food and start embracing it. This helps them shift their focus from denial to nourishment and adopt a positive relationship with food. 

Many of his clients eat very quickly, causing them to overeat since they fail to notice the food they just consumed. Some of the simple techniques he recommends are to slow down while eating, focus on their breathing, eat high-quality food, eat earlier in the day (breakfast and lunch), get more sleep, enjoy their food and eat more smaller meals.

Where We Agree

We agreed with many principles in the book, a primary one being focusing on how to eat as well as what to eat. Many books by respected authors have made this case to focus on the "how" of eating, specifically Fearless Feeding, Slim By Design and Intuitive Eating. Slowing down to enjoy food and eating balanced meals with minimally processed foods is completely consistent with the nutrition philosophy of everyone in our club. I especially liked this sentence, "Vitamin T - Time for meals - is the most fundamental nutritional requirement and one that is lacking in the diets of many in the civilized world."

Differences of Opinion

Even though we agreed with the author on the main principles of the book, we were disappointed by the author's tendency to play "fast and loose" with the science. Here are just a few of the dubious assertions about metabolism. Our comments follow in italics:

  • Taking in more oxygen results in greater calorie-burning capacity.
  • Foods eaten in a relaxed state yield fewer net calories due to changes in the digestive process... how you think about food, or the "cephalic phase digestive response" accounts for 30 - 40% of our digestive response to food. The author cites only one study to support this assertion.
  • Relax to build bones. In contrast, the four steps to build bone as recommended by the National Osteoporosis Foundation are eating calcium-containing foods, getting enough vitamin D, participating in regular exercise and avoiding smoking.

The author, in our opinion, does not back up these assertions with well-established, consensus science. Instead he seems to build his theories on a grain of truth or the findings from one single study.

Additionally, he offers some food recommendations that range from unclear to downright dangerous:


  • Remove "unenlightened food products" from your home. How can a food product be enlightened? What are the criteria for food enlightenment?
  • Consume raw milk. The Food and Drug Administration strongly advises against consuming raw milk since it is associated with considerable health risk. Ironically, he recommends consuming highly processed dairy-free alternatives (like soy, almond and rice beverages) which do not have the same nutrient package as milk. 


The Bottom Line

Members of our book club have a wide range of experience in nutritional counseling. We know that some clients respond well to the intuitive approach, slowing down and making peace with food while others respond better to tracking numbers, keeping a food or activity diary and wearing a fitness device to track physical activity patterns. Still others respond best to managing their food environment such as using smaller plates and keeping snack food off the kitchen counter. 

As RDNs, our role is to assess the client and utilize the best approach from our counseling tool kit to meet the their needs. We are also charged with helping clients separate fact from fiction, and to recognize the 10 Red Flags of Junk Science in order to use nutrition resources grounded in consensus-based scientific evidence.

Healthy eating patterns that include food enjoyment and slowing down to smell the roses (or that pot of homemade soup) are highly recommended by our book club. Just be sure to validate nutrition assertions that sound too good to be true! 


Maureen Bligh, MA, RDN
Director, Resource Development and Marketing


Maureen is a registered dietitian nutritionist  and member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Tags: balanced meals calcium Dietitians Book Review food diary healthy dietary patterns registered dietitian book club

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