History and Benefits of Stillman Diets

About the history and benefits of Irwin Maxwell Stillman's diet.



The Head Man: Irwin Maxwell Stillman (1896-1975) was a family doctor in Brooklyn for 45 years before retiring to Florida in 1960. In the course of treating some 10,000 overweight patients, he found the most expeditious means of losing weight to be a high-protein diet based on Dr. Eugene Dubois's concept of specific dynamic action, or "the cost of digestion." In other words, it takes an extra effort--up to 30% of the calories consumed--to break down protein. By increasing the amount of protein consumed up to 90% of the diet, the "fires of metabolism" are raised and fat is "melted out" of bodily storage centers at a rapid rate. Stillman, who himself lost 50 lb. on his high-protein prescription, wrote The Doctor's Quick Weight Loss Diet (1967) in collaboration with author Samm Sinclair Baker, another successful dieter. Their book also contains descriptions of a number of gimmick diets, including a 350-calorie "pilot's diet" and a 40-calorie lettuce and tomato diet.

Stillman subsequently devised a low-protein, almost vegetarian diet--The Doctor's Inches Off Diet (1969)--which over a course of six weeks "pulls extra fat from between the muscles." In The Doctor's Quick Teen-Age Diet (1971), he offered a compromise between a high-protein and a high-carbohydrate diet specifically geared for adolescents; and he added exercise to his high-protein diet in 14-Day Shape-Up Program (1974). An estimated 20 million dieters have followed his advice.

Overview: The basic Stillman high-protein diet prescribes unlimited amounts of lean meat, poultry, and sea food, plus eggs and low-fat cheese, preferably consumed in small meals six times a day. No bread, vegetables, fruit, alcohol, or sugar are allowed. You must drink eight glasses of water a day, in order to wash away the ketones, or "ashes left in the furnace," and you can drink as much coffee, tea, and diet soda as you want. Vitamin supplements are required, and in the days before widespread amphetamine abuse Stillman was not averse to a little medication for assistance. He also advised that you consult a physician before embarking on the diet.

Stillman claims you will lose 7 to 15 lb. (or from 5% to 10% of body weight) the first week on the diet and 5 lb. a week thereafter. When you are within 3 lb. of your goal, Stillman advises that you stabilize with his calorie-counting "stay-slim" program before going the last mile. The diet works for 95 out of 100 people, he claims, with no harmful effects, and it can be used again and again.

Pro: The Stillman high-protein diet is clearly defined and easy to follow without calorie counting or menu juggling. You may eat whenever you choose, provided you restrict yourself to the prescribed foods. Weight loss is rapid and dramatic.

Con: A diet composed of 90% protein is necessarily short of other vital substances; should you fail to take a vitamin supplement, you run serious risk of vitamin deficiency. Because this diet is low in roughage, you will probably be constipated, although the daily eight glasses of water will certainly send you to the bathroom frequently. Protein is high in calories, some critics contend, and in principle it is impossible to lose weight on a high-calorie diet. Some of the weight loss is undoubtedly due to water loss, which will be regained as soon as you cease dieting.

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