The General Motors Diet

By Matthew Yglesias

Roger Cohen takes time out of his normal job as a New York Times columnist to pen a, well, New York Times column—but it’s a bizarre one—about something called “The General Motors Diet” even though his reporting reveals it has nothing to do with GM. Apparently this is the secret to weight loss:

Downsizing is not that radical with the diet, but it is rapid. A first day of fruit, especially melon, is followed by a day of vegetables — quantity is immaterial. On the third day, it’s fruit and vegetables (but no potatoes).

Day Four brings you bananas (up to eight) and milk. On this day, you’re also encouraged to drink a vegetable soup (called “G.M.’s Wonder Soup”) that may be consumed any day if hunger pangs get severe. The fifth day is devoted to beef and tomatoes. Day Six: beef and vegetables. And you round things out with a day of brown rice, vegetables and fruit juice.

As with most gimmick diets, I take it that what’s going on here is really just that this pattern is weird and not very tasty. If a bunch of people try to force themselves onto this schedule, a majority of them will find themselves eating less food than they do under an “eat stuff that I feel like eating” diet and thus lose weight.


14 responses to “The General Motors Diet

  1. Actually, based on just reading “Catching Fire” I would guess that, if it works, it’s because such a large percentage of your calories would be raw and unprocessed fruit and vegetables. Human beings can’t extract much energy from raw foods. That’s why every dedicated Raw Foodist you’ll ever meet is built like a stick.

    He cites some pretty convincing evidence that the idea of “calories are calories” is pretty much bunk.

  2. Calorie is a calorie. What’s bunk is the assumption that calories swallowed=calories absorbed.

  3. I’m pretty sure this is just the cabbage soup diet….

  4. hammer

    human beings can extract a great deal of energy from a raw foods diet.
    re this general motors diet…..
    these kinds of cleansings do not work for most people…if you are not willing to make a permanent and healthy change in your eating habits, these austere diets cause people to compensate for their misery during that week….they are starved, eat everything in sight, confuse and overload their digestive system, and are right back where they started.
    diet and nutrition is not about “quick fixes.”
    it is about longterm, healthful eating, that is respectful of the complexities of the human body, and treats the body like a living thing,

    for those that dont mind eating animals that have been stuffed with antibiotics and hormones and raised in cruel and unholy circumstances, it is no wonder they dont respect their own bodies either.

    and hammer….
    you can derive a great deal of energy from raw foods. explore the information on natural hygiene and living nutrition, raw food sites more carefully.

  5. Pingback: Matthew Yglesias » Endgame

  6. Dang, Lindsay beat me to it.

  7. “you can derive a great deal of energy from raw foods”

    That’s not too convincing from someone who can’t muster the energy to press the shift key.

    Also, being self-righteous and condescending never helps. I say that as someone who was a strict vegetarian, for moral reasons, for 15 years.

    There’s evidence that individuals vary in their ability to get proper nutrition from raw foods.

  8. Yeah, this is an old starvation diet classic — very similar to “the Cabbage Soup Diet” and “the Sacred Heart Diet”. I’m kind of surprised you (and Cohen) haven’t heard of it long ago. One of my (college) students reports that her sorority does it every year to slim down before rush week; perhaps this is just a piece of cultural knowledge from which men are typically insulated.

  9. Lindsay Beyerstein/steve s:

    I only meant that the traditional concept of calorie restriction being the only way a diet could work is outdated… “a calorie is a calorie” is how most people dismiss any fad diet, and it appears it’s a lot more complicated than that.

    Obviously a calorie is still 4.184 joules of energy.


  10. to hum

    “self-righteousness and condescension” have nothing to do with finding cruelty to animals abhorrent.
    people are very enlightened to the manner of treatment these animals receive, and by now, should know better than to support the continuation of these inhumane practices.

    and it seems from the amount of money spent on vitamin and herbal supplements in this country, that there is not much faith in the ability to get proper nutrition from a SAD diet.
    however, there is adequate documentation to show that when followed properly, raw food diets can provide all of the nutrition that a person needs to meet their nutritional requirements.

    and my use of the shift key is in no way correlated to my energy levels.
    but i do know that not eating animals has definitely contributed to my good karmic energy!

  11. to jw hammer

    there are many ways to manage a raw foods diet, and just as with any manner of eating, it requires a fair amount of education to know how to do it properly….otherwise, it is possible to not get the nutrients that you require.
    eating a raw food diet, is not about crash dieting on celery and lettuce for the rest of your life…..not at all.

    for anyone interested in learning how to eat in a healthful manner with raw foods, i recommend this site, and following the links and information there.
    at the very least, it should be of interest to anyone looking for ways to improve their nutrition and increase their intake of raw fruits and vegetables.

  12. Roger Cohen’s misguided views on Israel are exceeded only by his former misguided views on the Iranian regime. That joker Ahmidinajahd, whodathunk he would brutally repress an uprising? Anyone with a modicum of understanding of the history of the region.

    Quick, name a *living* former Head of State of an Arab country (Iran, as a Persian, not an Arab state, gets a pass here). You can’t. There is no such thing.

    Golda Meir said it best. “If the Arabs put down their guns tomorrow, there would be peace. If the Jews put down their guns tomorrow, there would be no more Israel.”

    That said, the diet has been a fun experiment, resulting in 6.4 pounds lost in the first 3 days. I’m doing it as a jump start to return to clean living after a summer diet that incorporated a dramatic decrease in exercise and a lot of ice cream.


  13. Well said, Jeff.

    I’d like to hear from all the folks who tried the diet how they did it: Seems that unless you stay home and devote a fair amount of energy to obtaining and preparing the foods on the diet, you’re bound to starve, or will need to make exceptions.

    Happy new year to all.

  14. I must say, some weight loss technics are very straightforward and sometimes dangerous. Not everybody is build to drink smoothies and soup for a week without eating some bread or other normal food. A drinking diet combined with vegetables and fruit is the best choice in my opinion.

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