It’s been credited as the diet that got the Duchess of Cambridge back to her pre-pregnancy shape and helped actress Emma Thompson overhaul her diet, but is it just an extreme diet for the stars? Amanda Ursell investigates
When the first line from the author reads, ‘I loathe dieting. I’m actually on a mission to end it,’ you know there’s a good chance you’re going to like what lies ahead. In the case of Louise Parker’s latest offering, Lean for Life: the Cookbook, it’s a candid admission that she spent a decade of her life trapped in the ‘tediously boring’ round of fad diets and false promises, allowing what she ate, what she didn’t eat and what she weighed to define her mood each day. No doubt a familiar story for many.
This book, a follow-up to her 2016 title The Louise Parker Method: Lean for Life, reinstates the same four pillars (Think Successfully, Live Well, Eat Beautifully and Work Out Intelligently – see below), but this time with lots of recipes to help you put this philosophy into practice. Parker claims this approach is the blueprint for permanent success.
What’s the premise?
The Louise Parker Method is a way of life – a habit or attitude, rather than a diet in the traditional sense. The idea is that you give up yo-yo dieting and change the way you think, move and eat – for life…
The first pillar helps you learn to ‘Think Successfully’. This involves harnessing a positive mental attitude, assuming nothing but success, visualising your goal and keeping company with positive, inspiring people.
The second pillar involves achieving the ability to ‘Live Well’. To achieve this you need to de-clutter your surroundings, do a digital detox after 9pm and get seven to eight hours’ sleep each night and take a ‘brain-nap’ for 20 minutes each day.
The third pillar requires you to learn to ‘Eat Beautifully’, which essentially means eating three nutritious, balanced, beautifully presented meals and two snacks a day, not forgetting to stay well hydrated.
The fourth pillar requires you to commit to ‘Working Out Intelligently’. In other words, finding a way to do 10,000 steps a day, come what may, and committing to a minimum of 15 minutes of the exercise regimes featured in Louise’s first book.
What does it involve?
You begin with a 42-day ‘Transform Phase’. The idea is that you put all the pillars into action each day, repeating these 42 days as necessary until you reach your ultimate weight goal. This phase, as the name suggests, is designed to help you adapt to your new habits.
The second part of the programme is the ‘Lifestyle Phase’, in which these new habits are so well embedded that you’re able to feel balanced enough to splash out on treats. So you can say yes to a burger, a piece of birthday cake or a cheeky cocktail without falling spectacularly off the wagon and straight back into your previous way of life. Once you reach the Lifestyle Phase, the idea is that you’ve achieved the best version of yourself – and that you can keep it up for ever.
What can you eat on the plan?
Essentially, you can eat pretty much what we advise in Healthy Food Guide. In other words, meals and snacks that contain protein, low-GI carbohydrates (although it includes fewer wholegrain carbs than we and Public Health England recommend), a little healthy fat and plenty of fibre, vegetables and fruits. And, with 140 recipes, you won’t fall short on meal ideas.
Calories aren’t counted – instead, the focus is on portion sizes, which amounts to the same thing in the long run, given that the recipes have been already filtered for you and the calories they provide are implicitly sensible. If you follow the plan for 42 days on the trot, the assumption is that you’ll learn what appropriate portions sizes are and be able to use these when off the plan, to move forward in your life.
Typical breakfasts include chocolate and raspberry porridge, salmon tartine with lemon cream, and strawberry ripple bircher. Lunch could be anything from tabbouleh to broccoli, butter bean and pistachio soup. Days are rounded off with dinner choices such as ratatouille with eggs and goat’s cheese, whole roasted sea bass with olives and lemon, and pot roast beef. There’s also an eclectic selection of snacks, from winter nuts to roast pepper hummus and a vegan vanilla and almond smoothie bowl.
Is it effective for weight loss?
If you were previously over-consuming calories and were hooked on cakes, puds and crisps, there’s little doubt that getting stuck into the Louise Parker mindset and eating in this way with daily exercise is likely to see the pounds fall off.
Although Louise has more than a touch of the glossy, unobtainable ‘Chelsea set’ lifestyle about her, her plan is generally sound (with the exception of the need for extra wholegrain carbs). The recipes are overly aspirational in places, but you can see what she’s getting at, and the pillars provide a useful structure for getting into good habits. It’s one of the less extreme books on the diet shelves.
The Louise Parker Method Lean for Life: the Cookbook (Mitchell Beazley, £20) is out now