Celebrity Diet Lowdown: What’s the Deal with Mariah's Food Combining?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Food combining became popular back in the 1980’s, when the book Fit for Life was published. Written by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond, the premise of the book was that when foods were not eaten in specific ways, the body had a hard time digesting and absorbing the nutrients.

The book, which my nutrition professors back then wrote off as unfounded and unsound, theorized that since foods made the digestive process work too hard, they contributed to digestive distress and became fat instead of being used by the body. Eating food groups in specific combinations and frequency, the book's authors explained, would cure digestive ailments and assist with weight loss because of a natural sort of cleansing process.

Food combining eventually fell off the radar, replaced by other fad diets. Then a few months back, Mariah Carey unveiled a 20-pound weight loss that returned her to her "high school body." The singer revealed her new workout and diet secrets, which apparently included not eating protein and carbohydrates together (basically food combining).

So, is food combining something worthwhile to help you reach your goals?

The Fit for Life plan as well as Mariah’s eating plan is really not something new, basically just some old diet gimmicks reintroduced in a new package.

Food combining principles actually came from a diet developed by Dr William Hay back in 1911. The Hay diet recommended that starches and sugars should not be eaten at the same meal with proteins and acidic fruits. Instead, starches and sugars should be eaten with “neutral” foods such as oils, butter, or cream. Likewise, Hay recommended that non root vegetables (any that are not grown in the ground), could be combined with either starch or protein foods.

Hay also advised waiting four hours between starch meals and protein meals. Much of the focus was on the pH balance of the gut and how different foods alter and affect that balance. That people would jump on board with these ideas just goes to show that the desire for weight loss (and to deal with digestive issues) is very strong. So strong that people are willing to try almost anything to lose weight and feel better, even if it doesn’t really make a lot of sense.

The idea that certain foods and nutrients were not intended to be eaten together is not logical for several reasons.
1. We were designed to consume breast milk as babies to grow and thrive. Breast milk is a combination of carbohydrates, protein and fat.
2. The body was designed to secrete a variety of digestive enzymes, which are capable of breaking down any food or combination of nutrients at the same time.
3. Most foods naturally contain a combination of carbohydrates, protein and fat that aren’t designed to be separated.

If you look at the big picture, there are a couple healthy ideas included in the food combining approach.
• Eating every few hours helps keep the metabolism primed and the body burning fuel efficiently.
• Food combining encourages eating fruits and vegetables frequently, which most of us need encouragement to eat.

Food combining isn’t really a practice that will promote digestion or weight loss any more than most of the other specialized diet routines that are touted. Personally, I have a hard enough time coming up with healthy meals for a family on the run, and the idea that I have to follow additional combining rules just to lose a few pounds or deal with my indigestion would put me over the top most days.

So, I’m glad that healthy, well-balanced eating at the right calorie level and a balanced exercise plan allows me and others to control weight regardless of the combination our foods are eaten. Mariah most likely had her success from the application of these principles and someone to watch over her and make sure she followed them.

So what should you do if you have digestive issues? Review these basic Dietary Tips for Digestive Distress first and see if you can make some small changes that help. If not, then (as is always recommended), talk with your health care provider.

Do you have any tips for digestive issues that have helped you and may be helpful for others? Share them below

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Too funny. I just picked up the Diamond's book, old and yellowed from a free book table. I'm a committed low carber, but I read many other perspectives as I doubt that any one of them have the complete picture, and I always consider the individuality when speaking of what, how much and how to eat. Report
All of my "indigestion" problems went away when I started eating more veg's with my meals. And reducing the portion of one meal and turning it into 2 meals and thereby eating more often but much smaller fat intake. I also replaced the charcoal grill with a gas grill (which is my primary way of preparing meats) Report
I think that it is an interesting diet, but I am not sure that I would have the paitence to follow through. Report
I think I will stick with eating the foods I like in the amts. I need, etc. I read about food combining, and find it just too nuts. I don't want to worry myself silly over what I am eating, that is, is it the right combination, etc.

God gave us ALL food to eat, he did NOT say, "now eat this with that, etc."
No, but to enjoy it all....and I shall, thanks! Report
Although I tend to believe that people should do what works for them I also think that in order for weight loss to be successful people need to make changes that they can keep for a lifetime. To me food combining is just another fad that would take too much work to continue for any length of time. Report
I tried the Fit for Life diet 10 years ago. I did lose weight but it's very difficult to stay with. It like other diets are just that, diets....once you've lost all the weight you wanted to, you can't wait to begin eating normally again. Report
I think it sounds like really silly fad. The best way to give your meal "sticking power" is to combine foods- like whole grain toast and egg whites for breakfast. The combo of protein and fiber will easily keep you going until lunch but according to that diet, it would cause "digestive distress and became fat instead of being used by the body." You don't need to "combine" your food to lose weight, simple calories in, calories out will work. Report
The only time I ever lost a significant amount of weight, I practiced food combining. I ate until full, never counted a calorie, ate at least 5 meals a day, and went from 145lbs to 115lbs; down from a size 10 to a size 2. The best part? I completely stopped suffering from migraines and had energy coming out of my ears! Continuing to eat in that manner wasn't a problem for me and still isn't. Finding the time to eat is. Now, I make an effort to eat regularly. 3 meals and 2 to 3 snacks. If I don't eat regularly, I gain weight. I love working out, so I do enter my meals to ensure that I'm taking in enough calories for the amount of exercise I do. I've never needed a personal trainer to whip myself into shape-- just haven't always found the time to do so. Now, that's the priority.

So, yes, food combining can be beneficial. At least, it was and continues to be for me. No more headaches is a great bonus! Report
this seems like WAY too much work! Report
I know ppl who have lost weight with food combining. Report
Talk about ironic: I bought this very book just this morning at a thrift shop!! Report
Here's what I believe, do whatever works for you, but remember, it should be something that you can do for the rest of your life. Otherwise, it is simply another fad diet that will backfire in the end. You have to have a plan that becomes your lifestyle so you can beat this yo yo thing once and for all. However you choose to do it (as long as it's healthy of course), more power to you. Report
I'm not buying into the whole food-combining thing. I think it's all about everything in moderation, avoiding processed foods as much as possible, and breaking decades-long bad habits in favor of good habits. Report
Think of this meal. Boiled chicken with rice.
Rice cooked in the chicken juice FROM the skinless chicken.
Eat steamed spinach and rice together....wait 30 mins eat chicken & applesauce. This is an easy digestible low calorie meal.
Compared to:
Chicken floured, cooked in oil for browning, skimmed of fat, added celery, onion, shallots, carrots, peas, rice, corn, garlic, oilve oil, canned chicken broth,
herbs, spices, peppers. Served with steamed spinach, bread and stewed apples and a glass of milk for desert. This meal would put me in bed for several days. Too many combination of foods. Report
I tried this diet in the late 1980's and it worked and I felt good - problem - it is not really realistic for the long haul! I also found it difficult to eat all of the food that it suggested - it is a lot of chewing :-) Anyway, I think that there are good things to be learned and encouraged - lots of fruit and veggies, lean meat, whole grains. It helped me to see that I don't need 'heavy' meals to be satisfied! These days I don't do food combining persay, but I am trying to eat healthy whole foods instead of the processed 'diet' stuff. Report
i don't combine the way mariah does but i do practice more of a macrobiotic way of eating and there is something to be said for eating in combination.
our bodies use different enzymes to process different types of foods like meats, grains, fruits etc. and they don't digest at the same time. one digests then the other. so while one is digesting the other stuff sits there and ferments. that's why people get gas eating certain food combos. the fermentation creates a putrification in your gut and causes gas. there's a lot more to it than what i have here but macrobiotics is an interesting thing to check out even if you choose not to eat that way.
i feel WAAAAAAAAAY better when i eat appropriate combinations. Report
I think like anything else, different things work for different people. For me, some form of food combining (like not mixing grains with animal proteins) makes me feel better, and happier-- that's enough for me. Whenever I listened to "others" instead of my own body, and tried to eat a mixture of animal protein and grains, I would immediately bloat up and feel miserable for hours.

I think that we are all different. What works for you might not work for me (and hasn't in the form of balanced meals of protein, fat and carbs which is why I tried other alternatives). And some people (and we all know those people), can eat almost anything and never have a stomach pain or gain weight! That doesn't mean I can eat the same way and have the same results...

There are several comments to this blog with personal stories of how food combining caused the person to lose weight and feel better. For these people it worked, and that's cool. If you've found another way, and that's working for you, that's cool too.

I'm happy whenever anybody finds a method that works for them, which makes them feel healthier and gets them to the weight they want to be. As long as they're not doing anything dangerously extreme, and overall they are getting the amount of vitamins, minerals, fats, good carbs and proteins that their body needs... I think it's all good! Report
Both my parents do food combining and my mom has lost 30 pounds! My dad keeps his weight under wraps, but he's probably lost at LEAST 20.

They had already quit eating sugar (mom lost 40 pounds) and while they try to be active, they honestly didn't increase their activity by anything significant. They don't count calories, they eat until they're full.

*shrug* I saw it in action and was AMAZED. Which started me on my journey. However, as a college student, food combining is difficult. I do it from time to time and sometimes I feel like it helps, but then again, it could all be in my head. Report
I know someone who's been doing food combining.. and he's lost well over 60lbs. Then again, he's also started walking his dog, playing sports with his kids and doing other activities that were not a part of his day. So, who knows. Report
Ah, I remember well when Oprah also promo'd this diet, it has good points. Again, its all about what works for you. Report
We could all be successful with these diets if we too had someone over our shoulder every day and night making sure we stuck to it....Not worth it! I'll stick to the old fashioned way! Report
I have found that if I eat a protein source with a carb source this seems to help me not feel a carb "crash" later and to stay satisfied longer.

This is just the opposite of the advice in that old fad diet.

Find what works for you! Report
Although very interesting, the whole food combining concept is very confusing at the same time! Whatever happened to eating balanced meals and getting the recommended daily allowances of fruit and vegetables every day? Who actually sat down and determined Glycemic Indexes and Food Combining and their effects on weight loss? I agree it may work for some but not for all. JeriBeri, I'm with you (I've also visited your Spark page and have been inspired by your success!!), who needs a personal trainer, a personal dietician, etc.?? If we eat RIGHT and EXERCISE and not rely on some crazy 'diet' gimmicks, isn't that enough? WE have to choose our ATTITUDE when it comes to deciding that we want to change the way we eat and live! Just because a celebrity did it, doesn't mean it is going to work for me or you or anyone else. I really don't care what the celebrities do or what works for them. I care about my personal struggles and successes...what works for me...Does Mariah Carey give a darn that I lost 30lbs. two years ago and have managed to keep it off? NOPE!
So, FOCUS on yourselves and not some silly celebrities. Its all good that they are willing to 'work' at their physiques but their lifestyles and ours present a different set of challenges. Find what works for YOU! Report
For a long time, I had problems with flatulence and general discomfort. We've recently cut way back on simple carbs and the problem cleared up immediately. Not only that, it returns when I eat cake or Skittles (my weaknesses). Finding the source of this embarrassing problem has certainly made it easier for me to make healthy food choices. Report
When I worked out with a personal trainer before my wedding, she had me keep a food log and a huge part of her emphasis (and I believe my success- I dropped to 12-13% body fat and maintained it) was eating 6 small meals a day and always eating a carb with a protein- never one or the other by itself. During the day, it was complex carbs and protein and before bed it was a simple carb (fruit or veggie) with a protein. Report
Thanks for trying to debunk another fad diet. I don't really care what people in Hollywood are doing .... any more than they are interested in what I'm doing. Report
I was doing a detox program in a fasting retreat and the program included nutrition classes. In these classes food combining was one of the topics. From what I understood its not so much about combining one kind of food group with another or not combining but more about the type of foods that can or cannot be eaten together. Like meat for example (protein) shouldn't be combined with grain or potatoes-starch, which are carbohydrates. However it can be combined with a salad, although its still carbohydrates. Or cheese shouldn't be eating with bread, though its ok to put in salad. Butter can be eaten with meat or bread or anything else. I think it might have to do with where the foods take place on the glycemec index more than with what kind of food group it is. Beans for example and potatoes can be eaten with rice. However beans shouldnt be eaten with meat, nor meat should be with rice. And animal proteins should never be combined together. And drinks shouldn't be consumed together with food either, in exception of fermented drinks like beer or wine. Fruits should always be eaten alone (not with musli, yogurt or other fruits) in exception of banana which can be eaten with dry fruit and nuts, because it leads to fermentation.

The people that run these programs are very healthy. I don't know if its because they combine their food this way, avoid junk food or do a lot of yoga. But they must be doing something right.

I noticed that when I eat tapas, which is a combination of just about everything (meat, cheese, cream cheese, fish eggs, bread, grain, chicken, eggs, tuna...you get the picture) my stomach does not feel very good next day. However when I eat something like pasta with butter and cheese and shrimp, or sandwiches I dont feel any problems with digestion.

Personally I don't practice food combining but that's just because I like to eat food whichever way. The only thing I changed after the fasting was the way I eat fruits. Before I always ate them mixed with yogurt and musli and now I eat them alone.

It seems like the fasting itself took care of all of my digestive problems. After all these worms and candida and other stuff that I got out with the colonic irrigation I feel like my digestion is very good now and I dont feel like I have to do anything else to keep it this way. So I don't.

As for digestive tips, I heard drinking some apple cider vinger 15 to 20 minutes before meals improves digestion. Also taking digestive enzymes with meals. Report
I think that it is great that Mariah reached her goal. No matter who we are, she did accomplish her goal and that should be acknoweledged...

What I would like to see is the celeberties that have worked real hard on there own. The ones that cooked the majority of their own meals, and did not have a personal trainer.... Welcome to our world.

On another note of my humble ramblings there are celebrities that have to work extreme hard at keeping there shape and we as the general public don't here them complaining and whinning.... I have learned to have much respect for Gwenth Paltrow, I resently saw an interview that she has to work her tail off to stay in shape. I have respect for the work that it takes.. Yes, she does have a personal trainer, but she still has to do the work.... Report
I think what ever you choose to do that gets you healthy and happy is a good thing. We are all different and somethings work better for some people.
As soon as I stopped eating at "fat Food"place (Taco Bell) my digestive issues stopped. There is nothing like good wholesome foods cooked at home with love. Report
I think food combining and eating smaller portions sizes more often really helps people loose once they get the hang of it.
When I read about celebrity weight loss it always makes me feel good- how many of us have lost weight, too, only without all their resources? Go us! Report
Also, my comment has nothing to do with "celebrities" or personal chefs or whatever. Pretty much just her. In general. Report
This is GREAT!!!! IVE BEEN WANTING TO "TALK" ABOUT MARIAH! Anyone noticed she hasn't left the 80's?? Her "diet plan" (im sooo sure!), her clothing, and every other "DIVA" part of her? I think by saying she's in her best shape since high school goes to show, I think she's trying to relive it! (She did marry someone about 20 years younger) LOL!!!! :):):) i hope she goes away and enjoys her $ and we dont have to give her any attention anymore. Ahhh, I feel better now. Report
I am also in better shape than i was in high school.
i did it by eating what i want, just more of the healthy and less of the un-healthy!
its not rocket science Report
When I did Suzanne Somer's Somersize plan (which is also food combining) I did lose weight. But her emphasis is also on eating whole grains, veggies, etc, so I don't know that the loss was based on food combining. Report
oops wrong comment page. (blushing) Report
What a very cool thing to do. Thanks Spark. BTW, I do hope I'm the winner. I really would LOVE one of thes. If I don't win, I will buy myself one...been thinking about this for a few weeks, now.

Thanks again!! Report
It is impossible to try to match a celebrities health and fitness plan. As a working mom I don't have a chef or nutritionist preparing my meals for me, nor do I have a personal trainer at my beck and call, nor do I have unlimited amount of time to prepare food and work out. Report
I can kind of understand the stress on the body eating meat and starch at one sitting..like steak and potatos... Report
I don't want anything that has High Schoold in the same sentence with it :) I don't even know what I looked like in High School since I couldn't care less at that time. It's now that I see the results of me being undisciplined and careless - little stretchmarks on my hips, some love handles etc. And now I have to work in order to look and feel good and healthy. It's hard but rewarding. I actually enjoy it very much (who would've thought that in High School???).

I have a friend who not religiously but practices eating this way. And he says that when he sometimes eats everything together withouth separating different foods, he doesn't feel good. Well, it works for him and he can feel the difference. I've never tried it and I don't think ever will. Report
I suspect Mariah did what we are all doing. Making healthy food and exercise choices. Report
I solved my digestive problems by elimination. After keeping track of what I was eating it was easy to see what I ate when I was having trouble. I found 3 foods that I am very sensitive to digestive wise....Wheat, Corn and Chicken. By giving up these three main foods I have not had digestive issues in months. Also, by eating smaller portions and drinking lots of water I am able to keep myself from the bloated feeling. Report
It's funny how gimmicks from 20 or 50 years ago come full circle. People just take old ideas and repackage them to make them seem "new" to make money off of people who are looking for an easy fix and prey on their desperation. So sad. Report
I cured my AR with the healthy eating habits I am forming with SparkPeople. I am officially off medications for AR/GERD now. Thank you SP! Report
My comment is about digestive issues. I was diagnosed with a hiatus hernia and used to suffer from frequent indigestion. The doctor told me to raise the head of my bed 4-6 inches (along with a prescription and dietary advice). I raised my bed and rarely have indigestion. It has been several years since my diagnosis and I only take an antacid when needed which only seems to occur during times of stress. Report
Most celebs use their money for weight loss and trainers and surgery. They don't struggle with food costs, gas costs and getting old and wonder where or how you can live and buys medicine. I eat healthy to prevent any real medical problems that I cannot afford and also loose weight. Report
I got my high school body back without gimmicks, AND I did it at the age of 49!! After 2 kids, 3 grandchildren, working a bazillion hours a week, health issues out the wazoo, and all the other crap that goes along with aging, I decided to take care of myself. I didn't have a personal trainer, I didn't have a dietitian. I don't even belong to a gym. So when people say celebrities only look good because they have access to that stuff, that's just not necessarily true. People can look good without all that stuff. All it takes is a desire to take care of yourself. I lost 62 pounds by making healthy food choices and by exercising. I started by walking and by dancing with my grandson in the living room. I gradually increased my walking distance. I bought a set of 2.5 lb weights and started a SP-generated strength training program (I'm up to 8 lbs now), and I just do it... I don't waiver... I don't cheat... I'm taking care of me. Good for Mariah Carey for doing it however she feels she needs to. It doesn't matter how somebody reclaims their body, as long as it works for them and it's done in a healthy way. Yay for all the people who are successful! And yay for all the people who are on their way!! If I can do it (the queen of the non-motivated), than you can do it, too! Report
I try to eat what my body needs, not follow fad diets. Life style changes are better than diets. I suppose there are a lot of people that want their "high school" bodies back, but I for one know that is beyond realistic for me, as I have had 5 children and aged, that body is long gone. Report
I agreed with the article that the helpful part to the diet was the eating small meals every few hours. I need to get back to doing that. My husband lost 3 or 4 lbs in a week & kept it off by doing that. As far as all the hoopla about "celebrities" in the posts I think people are missing the entire point. Who cares what anybody thinks about celebrities? I'm here to lose weight & be healthy. Report
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