Most health-conscious Seventh-day Adventists have at least heard of Lifestyle Center of America (LCA). Nestled on 1,700 acres in Sulphur, Oklahoma, LCA had for more than a decade run an 18-day, therapeutic, intervention health program. It offered a controlled environment that incorporated a low-fat, low-sodium vegan menu, complete medical workups, fitness training that involved aerobic exercise and weight lifting, hydrotherapy, massage, and physician-presented health lectures based on the latest scientific evidence. The live-in health retreat came at a price—anywhere from $7,000 to $9,000 for the three weeks—but the outcomes were dramatic.
 
“People who signed up experienced great results—great results!” says Diana Fleming, who has served as the staff nutritionist for about nine years. “They lost weight. Blood work fell into line—the whole nine yards.”
 
The program today, however, has not only been modified but actually turned on its head. Instead of an 18-day revised-lifestyle regiment, the LCA program has been simplified and streamlined all the way down to a book titled The Full Plate Diet—which can be purchased for $19.95—and a single message: add more natural fiber-rich foods and water to your diet.
 
Why such a drastic change? Fleming states simply: “Long-term, most of the people most of the time were not succeeding.”
 

Program Manager: "The average American eats 10 grams of fiber a day. Most people should eat three to four times that much," says Ricky Seiler, The Full Plate Diet program coordinator.

A New Direction
Although Fleming describes the intervention program graduations as “very moving; very emotionally inspiring,” she says that in 2002 the LCA team began to incorporate client follow-up as part of their routine practice. What they found was disheartening.
 
“We checked on the graduates three months, six months, and one year out,” Fleming says. “After a year, the sad thing was that most of the people were no longer following the program. So that’s what made us ask ourselves questions, caused us to reflect. We discovered we were asking people to make too many changes too fast. We were making it too complicated and difficult for people to succeed once they returned home.”
 
LCA’s new simple approach consists of a colorfully illustrated 160-page hardcover book that’s packed full with healthful-eating guidelines, health tips, and nutritional information that can be purchased by individuals who want to try the fiber-rich program on their own. Also available are a participant workbook and a facilitator guide that can be used to conduct a group program in a local church or other facility.
 
“The participant workbook is divided into eight sections,” explains Ricky Seiler, The Full Plate Diet program coordinator. “To facilitate the program, the person only has to know how to read. You don’t even have to attend workshop training. Anyone can do this.”
 
A Personal Experience
Maryland Adventist Jean Kellner purchased The Full Plate Diet and also attended a lecture about the program by Fleming and Seiler. So far she has been impressed.
 
“Breaking down a way to lose weight to just fiber and water is fantastic,” Kellner says. “Fiber always made me visualize just whole-grain bread and pasta, but now I realize that vegetables and fruit have a lot of fiber too. It was like a light went on, and now I think of food in a whole different way.”
 
Larry Folsom of the Crescent City Seventh-day Adventist Church in northern California facilitated a Full Plate Diet workshop for about 30 people last March. Not only church members but others from the community comprised the group. The classes met once each week for eight weeks.
 
“This is a nonthreatening, nonconfrontational method to meet people where they are and help them to improve their health to a level they are comfortable with,” Folsom says. “The book is marketed as a weight-loss program, but when people follow it their risk for disease such as hypertension, diabetes, and coronary heart disease is greatly reduced. Weight loss is actually a side benefit.”
 
Folsom says that facilitating the program is easy. “A person can actually pick up the facilitator’s guide, read it through once ahead of time, and do it that evening,” he notes. “Plus the program itself is so simple. You don’t count calories or weigh or measure your food. No screen is needed; there are no Power-Point programs. This is something that I can easily follow myself and share with others.”
 
Geared for Non-Adventists
Some Adventists may be surprised when they note that the book doesn’t encourage people to discard meat.
 

Coathur: Diana Fleming, a coauthur of The Full Plate Diet, explains the mission of Lifestyle Center of America's new book.

“The Full Plate Diet was designed for a non-Adventist audience, for the common person out there,” explains Fleming, herself a strict vegan. “We’re delighted that so many Adventists are benefitting from the book as well, but Adventists were not our target audience.
 
“We don’t use the V words—vegan, vegetarian,” she says. “This program meets people where they are, and allows them to change when they’re ready. And there’s one simple idea: eat lots of natural fiber-rich foods. And if people eat more of those foods, guess what happens? Over time, all those things that we noticed at the lifestyle center start happening, because the power to lose weight and the power to be healthy is in the good foods God created. I thought we had a perfect lifestyle program at LCA, but a perfect program is something that is realistic, something that people can do. So we think this is the perfectly realistic approach.”
 
Seiler adds that the average American eats 10 grams of fiber a day, but that most people should eat three to four times that much. The idea, he says, is “that you can have a full plate and still lose weight. For people who don’t want to feel food-deprived and want to continue to eat nice-size portions and still be able to see the scale move in the right direction, this is the book for them.”

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To find out more about The Full Plate Diet program, go to www.fullplatediet.org. You can purchase the book from your local Adventist Book Center or other major book sellers. The weight-loss-program materials can be ordered from LCA by calling 1-800-596-5480 or via its Web site.
 
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Sandra Blackmer is features editor of Adventist Review. This article was published September 15, 2011.
 




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