The Scarsdale Medical Diet: What Is It? Does It Work?

The Scarsdale Medical Diet plan is based on a book of the same name published in 1979 by Dr. Samm Baker and Dr. Herman Tarnower. Much like Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution, which was published in 1972, the Scarsdale diet advocates for a low-carbohydrate (LC) approach. Some of the main points echo the ideas promulgated by Dr. Atkins and later by people like Dr. Agaston (author of The South Beach Diet).

That's said, the Scarsdale Medical Diet approach has several unique facets to it:

  • It’s a low fat, low carb, high protein approach.
  • It’s broken down into two-week planned menus.
  • Snacking is forbidden.
  • Ingesting supplements to speed up your metabolism (e.g. hoodia) is encouraged.
  • Alcohol is limited.
  • You're allowed artificial sweeteners but not sugar.
  • You're encouraged to drink lots of water.
  • The first 14 days of meals are planned out for you; these meals are extremely low calorie.

Calorie and carb restriction

The Scarsdale Diet postulates that the reason why people lose weight on the plan is calorie restriction, not carbohydrate restriction.

No jazzercise required

Dr. Tarnower did NOT advocate that people exercise to lose weight. He perhaps included this caveat because he was concerned that the extreme calorie restriction would make it difficult for dieters to work out without endangering themselves.

This "zero exercise needed" idea is relatively unusual--even among low-carb diet plans.

Diet popularized by scandal

Dr. Tarnower was murdered (shortly after he wrote his diet book) by the head of a prestigious girls' school in Virginia. The salicious details of the murder intrigued the nation and caused sales of The Scarsdale Medical Diet to skyrocket in the aftermath.

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