Table of Contents


The aim of “ChangeOne: Lose Weight Simply, Safely, and Forever” is to provide a simple, straightforward plan for gradual, permanent weight loss. The book features a twelve-week eating plan that outlines portion sizes, recipes and meal suggestions designed to achieve weight loss. A major distinguishing feature of the ChangeOne plan is its emphasis on making lifestyle changes gradually over a three month interval, rather than advocating a complete, abrupt transformation of existing eating patterns. The diet is based on everyday foods, both home-prepared and available in restaurants and does not require purchase of special foods or supplements.


ChangeOne is published by the Reader’s Digest Association, a New York-based company which also owns and operates Reader’s Digest, the best-selling consumer magazine in the United States. ChangeOne has been dubbed “The Official Reader’s Digest Diet”.

The lead author is John Hastings, a senior staff editor for health at Reader’s Digest Co-authors are Peter Jaret, a health journalist, and Mindy Hermann, a Registered Dietitian.

The principles underlying this diet reflect the influence of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Food Guide Pyramid set by the United States Department of Agriculture. These guidelines emphasize moderation, portion control and the use of plant foods— grains, fruits and vegetables—as the basis for meals.


The cornerstone of this diet is the progressive, gradual nature in which it promotes behavior change. Readers are advised to approach weight loss one meal at a time, one day at a time, beginning with a week-long focus on breakfast. The reader starts out by completing a quiz assessing readiness for permanent lifestyle changes.

Meal plans are designed to meet the following daily intakes:

  • Calories: 1,300-1,600
  • Calories from fat: 30 to 35% of total calories
  • Saturated and hydrogenated (“trans”) fats: no more than 10% of calories
  • Fiber: at least 25 grams
  • Calcium: approximately 1,000 milligrams
  • Fruits and vegetables: at least five servings

The ChangeOne diet is flexible in letting readers set their own calorie target within the recommended range and adjust it throughout the program to suit their needs. Those who are physically inactive and weigh less then 190 pounds are advised to aim for the lower end of the calorie range. Readers who weigh more than 190 pounds or get more than thirty minutes of daily vigorous exercise are advised to aim for the higher calorie intake.

A key idea underlying the ChangeOne plan is that all foods can fit within a balanced plan for long term weight management. The authors recognize that food restrictions tend to intensify cravings; for this reason, no foods are forbidden on this plan. The crux of the diet lies in portion control. Household items such as tennis balls, golf balls and checkbooks are suggested for gauging portions. The reader is not required to count calories, but must adhere to the recommended food types and portion sizes. Presumably, if the portion sizes are followed correctly, the day’s total calories will fall within the targeted range.

The ChangeOne program advocates eating at a slow pace, both to enhance enjoyment of meals and to


Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR)— A range of intakes for a particular energy source that is associated with reduced risk of chronic disease while providing adequate intakes of essential nutrients. An AMDR is expressed as a percentage of total energy intake.

Dietitian/Registered Dietitian— A health professional who has a Bachelor’s degree specializing in foods and nutrition, as well as a period of practical training in a hospital or community setting. The title “Registered Dietitian” and “Dietitian” are protected by law so that only qualified practitioners who have met education qualifications can use that title.

Emotional Eating— Eating as a way to suppress or soothe negative emotions, such as stress, anger, anxiety, boredom, sadness and loneliness. Emotional eating is a cause of weight gain and can sabotage weight loss efforts.

Hydrogenated (Trans) Fats— Hydrogenation is a process of turning liquid oil into solid fat. During this process, a type of trans fat may be formed that raises cholesterol levels in the blood. This increases the risk of coronary heart disease.

National Academy of Sciences— A private, nonprofit society of scholars with a mandate to advise the United States government on scientific and technical matters.

National Weight Control Registry (NWCR)— The largest prospective study of long-term successful weight loss. The NWCR is tracking over 5,000 individuals who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least one year.

help the body properly assess hunger and satisfaction levels while eating. The authors recommend a high consumption of water and other non-calorie beverages for their satisfying effect. For the same reason, an unlimited intake of non-starchy vegetables such as those used in salads and stir-fries is allowed. Alcohol intake is allowed, but limited to one standard serving of beer or wine per day. Each chapter features recipes to complement the meal plan, as well as “Fast Track” suggestions for accelerating progress, such as increasing minutes spent on physical activity, or using a journal to keep track of foods eaten. Readers learn to use rewards to reinforce positive behavior changes until the weight loss provides the necessary reinforcement.

The Program at a Glance

WEEK ONE: BREAKFAST Eating a morning meal is cited as being crucial to weight management. The authors refer to data from the National Weight Control Registry that suggest that eating breakfast every day is associated with losing weight and keeping it off. The ChangeOne breakfast plan encourages a balance of starchy foods, fruit and a calcium-rich food. High-fiber foods are promoted for their satisfying quality and nutrient-density. Sample recipes include vegetable frittata and dried cranberry scones with orange glaze.

WEEK TWO: LUNCH The second week of the program has dieters planning ahead for both home-prepared and purchased lunches that are satisfying and portion-controlled. The mid-day meal is comprised of a small portion of lean meat, fish or a vegetarian alternative, along with a starchy food, one fruit and unlimited vegetables. Restaurant meals can fit the plan as long as recommended portion sizes are honored. Readers are encouraged to anticipate the difficulty of making healthy restaurant choices by creating a list of ChangeOne meals that can be ordered in restaurants. This chapter provides an overview of best options in fast food restaurants. Sample recipes include grilled turkey Caesar salad and roasted vegetable wraps with chive sauce.

WEEK THREE: SNACKS On the ChangeOne regime, dieters plan for two snacks each day. The authors point to scientific evidence that eating frequently throughout the day can assist with weight management by regulating blood sugar levels and warding off cravings and intense hunger. This chapter teaches readers to properly interpret hunger cues and encourages an awareness of emotional eating. It offers strategies to manage hunger and appetite. Sample recipes include chocolate snacking cake and multigrain soft pretzels.

WEEK FOUR: DINNER The fourth week of the program places as much emphasis on how to eat as it does on what and how much to eat. The author provides an overview of the principles of effective goal setting, advising that goals be time-bound, realistic, inspiring and measurable). This chapter provides plenty of practical suggestions for meal preparation, including tips for low-fat cooking, such as the use of marinades to tenderize lean cuts of meat and the use of seasonings and herbs to add flavor without calories. The dinner meal plan features a small serving of lean meat or another protein-rich food, paired with a starchy side dish and unlimited vegetables. Sample recipes include Thai noodle salad and red snapper with Spanish rice. By the end of the fourth week, dieters should have all three meals and two snacks under good control.

WEEK FIVE: DINING OUT The authors recommend eating in restaurants at least twice in the fifth week of the program in order to gain practice navigating menus and making healthy choices. This chapter opens with an eye-opening discussion of how restaurant meals distort our understanding of sensible portions. The keys to sticking with the ChangeOne plan when eating out, the authors contend, is being both prepared and discerning. When possible, reviewing the menu prior to arriving at the restaurant is recommended. Readers are advised to keep a list of restaurants on hand that are known to offer good tasting options that are lower in calories. Dieters are encouraged to be assertive when ordering by requesting ingredient substitutions and smaller portions. Discipline is required to stick to the portion sizes recommended in the meal plans, leaving excess food uneaten. The chapter outlines best menu options for such favorites as Italian, Mexican and Chinese restaurants, surf and turf, diners and coffee shops.

WEEK SIX: WEEKENDS AND HOLIDAYS ChangeOne is realistic in acknowledging that routines tend to change over the weekend. The authors advise against viewing weekends as vacations from the healthy eating patterns implemented during the workweek; to do so implies that the diet is merely a temporary effort to improve eating habits. This chapter encourages enlisting friends and family for support but warns against saboteurs and others who will apply pressure to abandon new healthy eating habits. Strategies are offered for staying on track during the holidays (for example, having low-calorie snacks on hand and directing activities that don’t involve food). The recipe section features calorie-wise alternatives to traditional holiday fare, including a revamped turkey dinner and Sunday brunch.

WEEKSEVEN: FIXING YOUR KITCHEN The challenge this chapter proposes is that of taking stock of the food supplies in the kitchen so that they support the reader’s new healthy eating habits. The first step advised to get the kitchen diet-ready is purging the shelves of anything that might sabotage healthy eating efforts. The authors offer strategies for smart grocery shopping such as not shopping on an empty stomach, sticking to planned purchases, and spending the most time shopping around the store’s perimeter, avoiding aisles laden with processed foods. The reader is advised to inspect foodstuffs and “read the small print”, but specifics on how to read and interpret nutrition labels are not offered. The chapter closes with a few recipes that feature basic ingredients found in most pantries.

WEEK NINE: STRESS RELIEF In week nine, dieters are encouraged to consider the relationship between weight management and stress management. The authors explain how high levels of stress affect the body’s hormonal balance, triggering food cravings and promoting fat deposition. Readers are advised to analyze the stressors in their lives and begin brainstorming solutions. The authors emphasize participation in physical activity and the support of friends as effective stress management tools. Readers are encouraged to try a step-by-step 20-minute daily relaxation routine to relieve tension and enhance coping. This week’s featured recipes are calorie-reduced versions of traditional comfort foods such as meatloaf, chicken pot pie and beef stew.

WEEK TEN: STAYING ACTIVE FOR SUCCESS In the program’s tenth week, healthy eating and active living are shown to be synergistic. The author presents research showing that dieters who exercise regularly enjoy greater success in their weight loss programs than those who are physically inactive. Rather than advocating intense gym workouts, the authors highlight the calories expended in activities of daily living and encourage being active in ways that are enjoyable. For optimal fat burning, however, readers are advised to check their pulse and aim for an intensity equivalent to 60% to 80% of maximum heart rate. The chapter is consistent with the book’s message of making changes gradually; it encourages starting out with 10 to 15 minute walks each day and slowly working up to 30 minutes of daily physical activity.

WEEK ELEVEN: KEEPING ON TRACK This week’s goal is developing strategies for monitoring progress and trouble-shooting areas of difficulty in order to avoid set-backs. Readers are advised to anticipate small weight fluctuations but to take action before a few pounds of weight gain become a full relapse. The authors provide a diagnostic checklist for identifying areas of difficulty. They advise weekly weigh-ins to gauge long term progress. Dieters are encouraged to monitor and make a written record of mood states in order to uncover their relationship to emotional eating.

WEEK TWELVE: AVOIDING BOREDOM AND MAINTAINING CHANGES IN THE LONG TERM ChangeOne acknowledges that boredom with a set routine is a big obstacle in maintaining changes over the long term. The authors encourage their readers to break their routine slightly every week to foster continued enjoyment of eating. Suggestions include trying a new food every week, creating a salad bar at home for dinner and concocting signature flavor combinations for standbys like homemade pasta and pizza. Again, dieters are reminded to keep the process from becoming tedious by setting rewards for small steps taken towards the achievement of the ultimate goal.

Part Two of the ChangeOne book is a collection of resources, including meal plans, recipes and an eight-week fitness program complete with color photographs of aerobic, strengthening and stretching exercises.

Readers are encouraged to visit for online support. For a fee, dieters have access to online journaling tools, recipe archives, meal plans and activity plans.


The ChangeOne diet promotes a gradual calorie deficit by remodeling eating habits one meal at a time. Ultimately, three low-calorie meals plus two small snacks provide a total of 1300 to 1600 calories per day, which represents a significant reduction in calorie consumption for the average North American adult.

Meal plans are presented in a style that allows the reader to mix and match set amounts of preferred foods. This flexibility allows the reader to create enjoyable meals that are calorie-controlled, thus promoting weight loss.

Part Two of the ChangeOne book includes recipes and daily menus to support readers who desire the structure of a set meal plan.


The ChangeOne diet promises “no fads, no risks, no craziness” It is based on nutrition principles that are scientifically sound, and it echoes the nutrient balance endorsed by the USDA Food Pyramid. Meals consist of lean protein, high-fiber starchy foods, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy. No foods are disallowed, and no special foods or supplements are necessary. Meals can be prepared at home or purchased in restaurants. Varied meal plans and tasty menus, combined with numerous recipes and cooking tips make the book practical and informative.


The ChangeOne program is a suitable weight loss plan for most adults. A health care provider, however, should be consulted before beginning any weight loss program. The upper limit of 1,600 calories per day may be insufficient for those with high physical activity demands. The use of artificial sweeteners is not appropriate for everyone. Readers should get clearance with their doctors regarding ideal exercise type, intensity and duration before beginning any exercise program.


Because this diet emphasizes sound patterns of healthy eating, there are no significant risks in following its principles. Dieters should note that the program is not designed for rapid weight loss.

Research and General Acceptance

The ChangeOne program echoes the principles of healthy eating promoted in the USDA Food Guidelines for Americans. In particular, the diet mirrors the National Academy of Sciences” Acceptable Macronu-trient Distribution Ranges (AMDR) for fat, carbohydrates, and protein, which are 20 to 35% of total calories, 45 to 65% of total calories, and 10 to 35% of total calories, respectively. The recommended intake of fat, as well as calories from unhealthy (saturated and hydrogenated) fats, fiber and calcium also complies with the recommendations set by the National Academy of Sciences.

Much of the advice and strategies recommended in ChangeOne have a strong scientific basis. The authors substantiate their recommendations by quoting research from reputable sources such as Harvard University, Penn State University, the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The authors also draw data from the National Weight Control Registry, the largest study of its kind investigating factors associated with successful weight loss and maintenance.

Lead author John Hastings notes that physicians served as advisors in the development of the eating plan. The diet was pilot-tested by volunteers, mostly from the Reader”s Digest workforce. Participants lost an average of 17 pounds over the 12 week program. There is no mention of the number of participants.


  • What would be a healthy weight for me?
  • What is a realistic time frame for losing this weight?
  • Is it safe for me to start doing physical activity?
  • What are the best types of physical activity for me?
  • The ChangeOne diet advises the use of artificial sweeteners instead of sugar in coffee and tea. Is this safe for me? Are there any artificial sweeteners that I should avoid?
  • How can I find a Registered Dietitian who can support me in my weight loss efforts?
  • What groups and prgrams are available in the community to help me with my nutrition goals?

involved in testing the diet, and whether these results bear any statistical significance.


Hastings, John. ChangeOne: Lose Weight Simply, Safely and Forever Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, 2003.

Katz, David, and Gonzalez, Maura. The Way to Eat: A Six Step Path to Lifelong Weight Control Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2004.

Larson Duyff, Roberta, and the American Dietetic Association. American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2006.

Napier, Kristine, and the American Dietetic Association. American Dietetic Association Cooking Healthy Across America Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2005.

Tribole, Evelyn, and Resch, Elyse. Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 2003.


Avenell, Alison, Sattar, Naveed, and Lean, Mike. “Management: Part I-Behavior Change, Diet, and Activity.” British Medical Journal 333.7571. (Oct 7, 2006): p740-743.

Kaplan, Lee. “Keeping the Weight Off.”Weigh Less, Live Longer (Harvard Special Health Report) (Sept 2006): p40.

Melanson, Kathleen. “Food Intake Regulation in Body Weight Management: A Primer.” Nutrition Today 39.5 (Sep-Oct 2004): p203-215.

Solo, Sally. “Ditch Your Diet”Real Simple 8.2 (Feb 2007): p162.


American Dietetic Association. 120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2000, Chicago, IL 60606-6995. (800) 877-1600. <>

American Medical Association. 515 N. State Street, Chicago, IL 60610. (800) 621-8335. <>

Center for Science in the Public Interest. 1875 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Suite 300, Washington, DC 20009. (202) 332-9110.<>

Dietitians of Canada. 480 University Avenue, Suite 604, Toronto, ON, Canada M5G 1V2. (416) 596.0857.<>


ChangeOne Diet Online. <>

Mayo Clinic. Weight-Loss Help: How to Stop Emotional Eating. <>

National Weight Control Registry <>

United States Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. <>

United States Department of Agriculture. Food Pyramid. <>

Marie Fortin, M.Ed., RD