The GM Diet – which is also known as the General Motors Diet or the Cabbage Soup Diet – is an eating plan outlining how to lose a nice bit of weight in just one week. As far as I can tell from my research, this plan first came on the scene sometime in the late 1980’s. What initially intrigued me the most about this diet plan (besides the promise of rapid weight loss) was that:
a) the diet really did seem to work, and
b) the lore surrounding the plan had reached near-legendary status by 2007.
And the deeper I delved into the diet plan the more fascinating the plan became. So, submitted for your approval (with details of the diet to follow) here is everything I could dig up pertaining to the GM Diet story.
Once upon a time in Detroit, Michigan in the mid-1980’s, when Michael Jackson was the king of pop and pink polo shirts with starched collars were manly, the gurus at the number one car maker in the world decided to do something about their big-bellied, slow-moving assembly line workers. Looking for a way to increase worker productivity, decrease company health care costs and instill a new sense of well-being, health and fitness into the General Motors family, GM leaders teamed up with the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture to craft a healthy diet program exclusively for the employees and families of General Motors.
Armed with a sizable grant from those two government agencies, medical researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Research Center then set about to clinically test and approve a diet program built around healthy meals and easy recipes that would foster rapid weight loss for the participants. The result of this research was the development of the General Motors Diet, and on August 15, 1985 the General Motors Board of Directors approved and endorsed the plan and mandated that copies of the diet plan be printed and distributed to all GM employees and families, and made freely available at all company food service facilities.
Okay, that’s the story. But is it true? To be honest, after thoroughly researching the GM diet plan I have come to the conclusion that the whole story is basically bogus. Unfortunately, like so many other neat stories and urban legends, embellishment has been layered on top of the truth, like in that old childhood game of ‘telephone’. The scores of weight loss success stories from those who have implemented the GM Diet do seem to be real, but the back story of the diet’s origins, sadly, does not hold water.
For one, start with the US Food and Drug Administration. The FDA, as far as I can tell, does not and has never given away any ‘grant money’ to fund any kind of clinical studies. The US Department of Agriculture does and has, but not the FDA. Secondly, a journalist once asked a GM spokesman if there were ever any GM-sanctioned diets for quick weight loss. The spokesman stated that he had never heard of the GM Diet, but that he was willing to research all the General Motors board meetings from the 1980s just to be sure. This GM spokesman’s conclusion? The GM Diet is an urban myth.
Oh, well. So where does this leave us? Well, it leaves us with a diet plan that, at its core, lays out a blueprint of how to lose 10 pounds or more in a week. A plan that includes high fiber foods and high protein foods that helps you lose weight fast. You will be able to eat as much as you want of the foods allowed on the plan and since it is only a seven day diet it’s a good way of firing up some healthy weight loss and a way to jump-start a new lifestyle plan that will incorporate more reasonable eating habits.
And this leads us to the big question: What are you going to do after you have gone through the GM Diet? Are you going to be successful in losing more weight or keeping the pounds off that you lost on the diet? The thing is, with quick and effective plans like the GM Diet, everything is all about ‘the diet’. There is no follow up maintenance plan or further weight loss plan outside the diet itself. So you drop a quick 10-15 pounds, but don’t lose belly fat or other unwanted bulges long term, because the fastest way to lose weight isn’t necessarily the best way to lose weight.
So, the way I like to think about plans like this is I first realize that they are not end-all, be-all solutions for attaining and maintaining long-term weight loss. Instead, they are a great way to lose some pounds quickly before an upcoming event like a wedding, or a class reunion or a beach party. Plans like the GM Diet will also help you get a great head start if you’ve decided to go on a longer-term weight loss plan.
After you give your body this great kick-start, you don’t want to slip back into your old ways of eating and give back everything you just accomplished! You want to at least maintain this weight loss, if not steadily lose more pounds altogether and this is the perfect time to permanently change the way you eat and to start an exercise program if you don’t already have one. I’ve found that it’s easier to be happy when you’re healthy, and being happy and healthy helps to promote longevity. So you’ll feel better because you are healthier and you’ll probably live longer which gives you more time on this earth to enjoy life.
The GM Diet – “It is a no-brainer,” says a California Registered Dietitian “It’s pretty easy to follow.”
Okay, so without further ado, here is…
The GM Diet
Here is the part that you’ve been waiting for me to get to – the nitty-gritty how-to’s of the General Motors Diet Plan. Now, one of the main things that makes this diet so effective is that you are embarking on a seven-day eating plan where, although you can basically eat as much as you want, you’ll be burning off more calories than you’ll be taking in. There are some ground rules though. First and foremost, you may only eat the specific foods allowed on each specific day. No cheating! Secondly, and this may be the toughest part for some, no alcohol is allowed – abstinence my friends, abstinence!
So what can you drink on this diet? Water (lots of it), Sparkling Water, Unsweetened Tea and Coffee (black). And that’s it until the last day of the diet when you get to drink fruit juices.
During your seven days behind the wheel of the General Motors Diet, you need to make sure that you eat whenever you’re hungry. You don’t have to stuff yourself, just eat enough to be satiated. I found this to be really important, as it helped me to avoid fatigue and crankiness. And one of the coolest things about this diet is that it includes a recipe for vegetable soup – GM Wonder Soup! – and you may have as much of this soup as you want, at any time, during your seven-day run on the plan. The soup is the reason why many people have begun to refer to this diet as the Cabbage Soup Diet. You can find the recipe for this soup further down the page.
One final note: I love fruits and veggies mainly because they taste good. And, of course, everyone knows that they’re good for you. But did you also know that, basically, you can eat them to your heart’s content and the calories don’t really add up? So, for big eaters like me, I can really chow down, but my total caloric intake will still be low. Also, during this week as you’re tracking your weight loss, keep in mind that at any given time your weight will fluctuate due to a variety of different factors such as water retention, body fat and what’s going on in your digestive system. Keep with it, there is a payoff at the end!
Today you are getting your body ready to roll for the duration of the diet, and you get to eat any and all fruits with the exception of bananas – no bananas are allowed. Fruits are high in water, high in complex carbohydrates and contain almost no fat. Fresh fruits are preferable, but canned fruits are fine as well as long as they do not have any added sugars or chemicals. And if you like melons, that’s extra good because melons should be your top fruit choice today and will give you the best initial weight loss. So eat as much fruit as you want, and if you love cantaloupe or watermelon, this is the day to indulge!
Vegetable day! Today you are infusing your body with another high dose of complex carbohydrates and small amounts of oils. Vegetables have a high water content, a low fat content, and scores of minerals and vitamins. Eat your veggies raw or cooked – I found that a combination of the two worked best for me.
You get to have one medium-sized potato today (only one!) baked, boiled or nuked in the microwave topped with one tablespoon of butter, and my suggestion would be to eat the potato for breakfast to get your day off to a good and satiated start. The rest of the day you should chow down on vegetables to your heart’s content; maybe eating a big salad with oil and vinegar dressing for lunch and a selection of raw veggies for snacks. Then whip up a big ol’ skillet of sauteed vegetables with some spices, herbs and two tablespoons or less of olive oil for dinner.
Today you get to eat any vegetables you want (except potatoes) and any kind of fruit you want (except bananas). A good plan for me would be to eat lots of luscious berries and melons for breakfast, a giant salad with oil and balsamic vinegar dressing for lunch, some carrot and celery sticks with a little salt for an afternoon snack, and a huge skillet of mushrooms, onions, butternut squash, peppers and herbs sauteed in olive oil for dinner.
Today is bananas and milk day. Yep, you read it correctly – you get eight bananas and three glasses of low-fat skim milk. Drink the milk that is fortified with vitamin D. Sounds weird, I know, but today your body is getting a major infusion of potassium, phosphorus, vitamin D, vitamin B-12 and calcium. Another cool thing is that you will most likely see your sweet-tooth cravings go away today. Making big milkshakes in a blender with bananas, crushed ice and milk works great, and most people are amazed at how easy this day is.
The benefits of calcium are well-known and Vitamin D helps to maintain your potassium and phosphorus levels. Your body needs potassium to control your fluids and electrolytes and regulate your blood pressure. Phosphorus gives your bones strength, and B-12 helps out in red blood cell production.
Lean meats (beef is the top choice here due to the iron content), fish and tomatoes are what make up the menu for today. Protein! Protein! Protein! Yes, you finally get to chow down on some meat – up to 20 ounces today – and six medium sized tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes are best, but canned are okay too as long as they don’t have any added sugars or sodium. Any type of lean meat and fish is allowed, but lean beef is recommended today for the higher iron content. You also want to try and take in about 25% more liquids today, to help rid your body of any excess uric acid it receives due to the purines in the meat and fish.
So, have a steak, eat a big salmon fillet or feast on half a rotisserie chicken! The only criterion is that the meat be lean, and your total portions for the day not exceed 20 ounces. Think of five quarter-pound beef patties, and you’ll see that you can eat a heck of a lot of meat today if you so desire! But don’t worry if you just aren’t hungry enough to chow down on all this protein though, you don’t have to; however, you do have to eat all your tomatoes.
Tomatoes have lots of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and will give you some fiber. The lean meats will load your body up with the protein it’s been craving, and lean beef will give you a nice iron infusion.
Today is all about eating lean meat, fish and vegetables, and this day seemed like a feast to me. It’s basically a combination of days two and five because you get to eat as much meat (beef is the best choice because of the iron content) and fish and as many vegetables as you desire (except potatoes). So today you are getting your fill of lean protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber, along with loads of vitamins and minerals. Don’t be surprised though, when you find that you can’t eat as much as you thought you could!
Last day! Today you get to stuff yourself with all the brown rice and vegetables you can eat and all the fruit juices you can drink. Just make sure the juices don’t have any added sugars in them. Brown rice is an awesome food; it tastes great and has protein, carbohydrates and fiber. Brown rice is an excellent source of manganese which is an essential trace element that activates enzymes in your body for a whole host of nutrients. Brown rice also contains good amounts of selenium and magnesium as well.
What if you’re a vegetarian? Is there a GM Vegetarian Diet?
The General Motors Diet Plan for vegetarian eaters is exactly the same as the regular diet plan, except on days five and six you need to substitute a protein source for the meat. The best choice is firm tofu because it is not calorically-dense and it provides essentially the same amount of iron per ounce as lean ground beef. Saute the tofu in a little olive oil with some Italian seasonings. Stir fry it with a big skillet of veggies, or season the tofu up and broil it so it has a crispy top. Be creative!
GM Diet – Indian Version
I have received several messages from readers in India and I was asked if I had any ideas about a GM diet plan for Indians. Well, there really wouldn’t be much to change!
On days five and six, if beef can not be eaten, go for lamb, chicken livers, turkey (dark meat) or mullosks (oysters, clams, scallops) – all are high in iron. If you favor a vegetarian diet, lower-fat paneer is a great substitute for the meat; it is high in protein and high in iron. Cut it into cubes and put it in a salad, or marinate thick slices of paneer in a masala and skewer them along with some vegetables like onions and peppers and grill or broil to perfection. Be creative!
The GM Wonder Soup
You can make the ‘GM Wonder Soup’ to have on hand as a supplement to your seven-day eating plan. You can eat it at any time, in any quantity, on any day of the General Motors Diet.
1 head of cabbage
3 medium yellow onions
3 medium Vidalia or other sweet onions
1 large green pepper
1 large red pepper
5 whole tomatoes
1 large bunch of celery
4 packets of Lipton low-sodium Onion Soup Mix***
2 tbs olive oil
28 oz water
Dice the onions, peppers and celery and saute over medium heat in a large pot with the olive oil until the onions are translucent. Chop the cabbage, dice the tomatoes and add to the pot. Pour in the water and onion soup mix and stir until the mix is fully incorporated. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Enjoy it piping hot.
***In place of Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix, you can just put the following ingredients together (equals one packet of dry onion soup mix):4 teaspoons beef bouillon granules, 8 teaspoons dried onion flakes, 1 teaspoon onion powder and 1/4 teaspoon seasoned pepper.
And there you have it! Your seven day GM Diet is finished and you should now be anywhere from 8 to 13 pounds lighter! So, let’s recap each day with a quick cheat-sheet:
- All fruits except bananas
- All vegetables and one baked potato
- All fruits and vegetables except bananas and potatoes
- Up to eight bananas and three glasses of low fat milk
- Lean meats, fish and six medium-sized tomatoes
- Lean meats, fish and any vegetables except potatoes
- Brown rice, any vegetables (no potatoes) and fruit juices (no added sugars)
ABC7 Eyewitness News Takes The GM Diet For A Test-Drive