T he Beverly Hills Diet is a fad diet that focuses on a lifestyle of "conscious combining," a technique, which involves eating specific mixtures of food in a specific order for optimum digestion. Mazel asserts, "It isn't what you eat or how much you eat that makes you fat; it is when you eat and what you eat together" (Mazel and Shultz 1981: vi). The diet relies heavily on fruit (especially pineapple) and recommends never eating protein with carbohydrates, eating carbohydrates with fats and other carbohydrates, eating fruit alone, as well as a variety of other rules regarding the order in which foods maybe eaten. The key to her system is her reliance on "enzymes," both in the foods consumed and in the process of digestion, to break down foods without gaining weight. She also advocates avoiding the "perfect food," milk and most dairy products as difficult to digest. In addition, she stresses over and over again, though this is not part of her "combination" theory, that portion size is also vital.
Mazel was the youngest of three daughters and "began life as a skinny" (Mazel and Schultz 1981: 10). She began to gain weight in puberty: "When I graduated from grammar school, my mother was shocked because I was too fat to fit into children's clothes" (Mazel and Shultz 1981: 11). Her autobiography is the keystone to her argument about successful weight loss. This claim (if I could do it, so can you) was first developed in the mid-nineteenth century by William Banting as a layperson's answer to the medicalization of dieting. Mazel struggled with her weight for many years, trying everything from diet pills to thyroid medication, smoking, and laxatives. But she found success in none of these. She was riddled with guilt, hiding pizza boxes under the bed and dumping them in the neighbor's trash.
It took a skiing accident in the mid-i970s that left her bedridden to make her rethink her perceptions of food and metabolism. After researching the literature, she began dieting and experimenting with food combining based on her understanding of food's enzymatic content. The modern origins of this approach lie in the food fad-dism of the nineteenth century. Within the next few years, she lost 78 pounds, which she kept off for twenty-two years. Based on her success, Mazel, together with the ghostwriter, Susan Schultz, published the first edition of The Beverly Hills Diet. It became a New York Times bestseller that year, selling more in a shorter period of time than any other book in history up to that point.
In the twenty-five years since the original publication, Mazel has published The Beverly Hills Diet Born Again Skinny Trilogy, which includes The New Beverly Hills Diet (1996), The New Beverly Hills Diet Little Skinny Companion (1996), and The New Beverly Hills Diet Recipes to Forever (1996), as well as books like The Beverly Hills Style: How to Be a Star in Your Own Life (1986), and the Beverly Hills Diet Lifetime Plan (1983). The diet, which promises at least 15-20 pounds of weight loss in the first thirty-five days, boasts support from celebrities such as Jack Nicholson, Jodie Foster, and
Maria Shriver. As with her first book, all of her subsequent volumes rely heavily on testimonials. Most recently, Mazel branched into the world of children's diets, coauthoring Slim and Fat Kids: Raising Healthy Children in a Fast-Food World (1999).
See also Banting; Celebrities; Graham; Hay; Milk; Self-help
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