To many Harlem residents, Lyn-Genet Recitas is best known as the woman who runs Neighborhood Holistic, a nonprofit center that offers yoga, massage and alternative-health services on a sliding scale, making them accessible to people of all income levels. She is also the author of the new book, The Plan (buy it here).To her private nutrition clients, however—a list that includes a disproportionate number of high-profile chefs, restaurateurs and media executives (among them More’s editor-in-chief, Lesley Jane Seymour)—Recitas is a guru whose radical rethinking of healthy eating can produce life-changing results. “I lost 20 pounds in a few weeks and no longer have acid reflux. I sleep better and am more energetic. And people say I look 10 years younger!” raves Scott Conant, a New York City–based restaurant owner and guest judge on Bravo’s Top Chef.
His enthusiasm is typical of followers of The Plan, an eating protocol that Recitas cobbled together from diverse sources, such as yoga, Chinese food theory, herbology, homeopathy and naturopathic nutrition (she has a master’s degree in the latter from Clayton College of Natural Health), as well as 25 years in the restaurant business. The result is a quirky eating program that conflicts with standard dietary guidelines—but may actually be effective.
Recitas, a 46-year-old with 11 percent body fat, reveals to More the thinking behind the buzz.
JJ: How did you become so interested in nutrition?
LGR: I was a very sickly child and a chronic migraine sufferer. Doctors put me on all sorts of medications. Then, when I was 14, I had a migraine that basically lasted all summer, and I said, This is ridiculous. That’s when I started studying nutrition seriously, just to make myself better.
JJ: Your views are unorthodox. What made you think outside the box?
LGR: After I got my undergraduate degree in holistic nutrition, people would come to me with their weight issues, and I would suggest healthy foods for them. But they were also bringing me their health concerns. I began to notice that whenever there was a bump up in a client’s weight, there was a corresponding increase in the symptoms of whatever her malady was. I started to collect data, do research and create a list of the foods that have caused the biggest reactions in my patients. What’s new about The Plan is the realization that certain perfectly ordinary foods are not only making you fat; they’re causing you to age prematurely and are probably triggering health problems you’re predisposed to, such as constipation, acid reflux, migraines, joint pain or eczema.
JJ: In your view, what causes these negative reactions to foods?
LGR: It’s a kind of allergic response, and it’s related to the idea that chronic low-grade inflammation contributes to many conditions, like heart disease and diabetes. This concept has been on the medical front burner for maybe 10 years. I believe that when an allergen is introduced into your system, your body tries to keep the bad guy away from the heart, liver and brain by flooding the tissues with water. This reactive response can last up to 72 hours and not only will cause weight to stay on but may also kick-start some ailments that are latent in your system. [Editor’s note: According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, there is no evidence that food allergies contribute to chronic low-grade inflammation in your body.]
JJ: What are some foods you believe can cause problems for many people?
LGR: Some examples are shellfish (with the exception of scallops), turkey, pork, eggs, Greek yogurt, roasted nuts, asparagus, green beans, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans, oatmeal, salmon . . . the list goes on. This does not mean these foods are bad for you. It just means that, based on my research, there’s a possibility that these foods won’t work with your chemistry.
JJ: Your list consists of foods that most nutritionists would say people should eat. How do you explain the fact that your results often conflict with studies done by scientists who’ve invested millions of dollars and years of laboratory research?
LGR: Much of their testing isn’t done on an individual basis. Each person is chemically unique. Foods may be healthy in a vacuum, but when combined with your individual chemistry, they can be quite toxic.
JJ: So research reflects averages, not individual experience?
JJ: How does reactivity change as we age?
LGR: I’ve noticed that changes in your reactions to foods come in spurts. There’s generally a leap around age 25, then a big one between 33 and 35, another big one around 42 or 43 and another one around 50. For some women, there’s a leap with the birth of their first child—and a second child throws all women for a loop. Because of the increase in chronic inflammation over the years, the food you’re eating now will have a different effect on you than it did when you were a teenager.
JJ: What are you basing your numbers and conclusions on?
LGR: On my own research. On my clients. All I’m using is data that I’ve compiled.
JJ: Let’s look at a specific example from your list. What is the problem with oatmeal?
LGR: I’d estimate that 95 percent of the people I work with can’t eat oatmeal without gaining a substantial amount of weight. It can cause two days’ worth of constipation and particularly affects my migraine sufferers.
JJ: You know, oatmeal gives me indigestion, but I’ve always thought I must be crazy because it’s supposed to be so good for you.
LGR: Exactly! That’s just it. Everybody’s saying, “I thought I was crazy” and “I thought I was the only one.” People are making themselves eat these foods that are supposed to be good for them and cutting out the cookies. But the cookies aren’t the problem! The problem is letting other people tell you what is healthy for you.
JJ: Can you explain the theory behind The Plan?
LGR: The Plan is basically an elimination/rotation diet in which we’re looking for responses to specific foods. Tests should be done on everything you eat on a regular basis. If you eat fish, you should be tested on fish; if you eat pork, you should be tested on pork; and so forth. Most people eat 30 to 40 of the same foods regularly, so I would run through all of those to make sure they’re working for you.
The Plan starts out with a three-day cleanse. It rotates from season to season and is tailored to each individual. I recommend lots of fresh vegetables that are lower on the reactive-food list, as well as brown or basmati rice. The first day after the cleanse, I start to program in foods that, based on my research, are the least reactive. I have structured it so that you should be losing half a pound a day. If you’re not and your weight stabilizes, it means that the food you ate is mildly reactive for you; if you gain half a pound, it means the food is reactive. If you gain one or two pounds, we know that food is really toxic for you and you just shouldn’t eat it.
JJ: I like the way that shifts the attitude from “Oh, I gained two pounds; I must have done something wrong” to “I gained two pounds; something I ate isn’t right for my body.”
LGR: Yes. Once you know your friendly foods, you can create your own list of foods that you love. I have a lot of clients who’ll say they’re going away for the weekend, and they know they’re going to gain five pounds. Who cares? You put your friendly foods back in for a day, and the weight will fly off. That takes so much stress and anxiety out of eating.
JJ: Can you describe the general format of The Plan after you’ve established which foods work best for you?
LGR: Yes. It consists of three meals and a snack every day. Basically, you have lower-gluten carbohydrates and one animal protein a day, a protein and a fat at every meal, some fruits and unlimited vegetables. You can also have some nuts and cheese. And a glass of wine is encouraged, as is dessert. You’re having about 1,800 calories daily, and you’re still losing half a pound a day.
JJ: Are there any across-the-board exclusions?
LGR: During the cleanse, yes. An important element of The Plan is having no salt for the first three days, which sensitizes the palate. That, plus programming in the least reactive foods, makes people more aware of how their bodies respond to food.
JJ: So you’re not judging reactivity solely by whether you’ve gained or lost weight.
LGR: We can use the scale as a gauge, but people will know how they react to a food by how they feel. I think that’s what makes The Plan so revolutionary. It’s about teaching you to listen to your body. You should never feel gassy, bloated or tired after a meal. Those are all signs that your body can’t process that food.
JJ: It’s interesting to realize just how unconscious we can be about our interactions with food. Whenever I experience those problems after meals, I assume I must have eaten too much—even when I know I haven’t.
LGR: We live in a society that takes you away from your body. I’m doing the exact opposite. And it’s super fun because it’s like a huge puzzle, and your body is giving you the clues. I’m not making up all this stuff. I’m just putting together a lot of pieces that nobody has put together before.
For a sample detox program that can help you drop five pounds in three days, visit more.com/recitas.
Buy her new book, The Plan, here
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