The 411 on Fiber & WHY You Need it In Your Life

Happy 2018, friends! I can’t believe this is my first blog post of the new year… and a very exciting one at that. I am eager to share about a topic I've become even more interested in over the past 6 months: nutrition. Over the summer, I read a book called The F-Factor Diet (thanks to my aunt G for the recommendation!) and my life was forever changed. I never understood the breakdown of food and how it goes into your body. I didn't know specifics about macronutrients and or what stores where... but the book's author and founder of the F-Factor Program, Tanya Zuckerbrot, has opened my eyes to so much science that has seriously changed the way I view food and how it nourishes my body.

To give you guys a little background, the F-Factor program is a high fiber carbohydrate diet paired with lean protein. It’s extremely different than other "diets" out there because you don’t need to cut anything out – you can eat carbohydrates, fats, and even alcohol, if you'd like.

Naturally, the “F” stands for fiber, which is a non-digestible part of a carbohydrate that adds bulk to your food and helps you feel fuller for longer. So many have asked about the GG Scandinavian Crispbreads that I have been eating over the past few months so I hope this post can answer some of your questions as to why I choose to eat them. They are a bran cracker that only has 2 net carbs per slice (you can even make pancakes with them, we'll get to that later...) and keeps you full in between meals and revs up your metabolism since your body can't break down the fiber. 

I could go on for hours about fiber and its benefits, but since I am not a dietitian, I am going to let the experts do the talking. I had the opportunity to interview Tanya herself and we talked about her journey to developing the program, the science behind F-Factor and how it debunks then notion that all carbohydrates make you fat. I learned so much reading the book (and this Q&A!) so I can't wait to share the knowledge on fiber with you all and show how it can really be a game-changer if you are trying to manage or lose weight. It's never been a sexy topic, but we are here to be real. 

In addition to reading this Q&A, I encourage you all to go follow @F_Factor and @TanyaZuckerbrot on Instagram because I am constantly picking up tips + tricks from their pages and stories on a daily basis. Tanya also responds to a lot of questions herself, and it’s extremely moving and motivating to see all the success stories. 

Here we go! 

What inspired you to become a registered dietitian?

I never planned to be a dietitian. Food had always been an important part of my life though, as some of my earliest childhood memories involve food – especially cooking in kitchen with my grandmothers. With my Jewish grandmother it was making Matzo ball soup, and with my Colombian grandmother making empanadas. From an early age I recognized and learned that food was an important way to make people happy.

Because I grew up in a family full of cooks I felt I was destined to work with food one way or another. After gaining the “freshman 15” in college, I decided I wanted to learn about the connection between food and health. After undergrad I applied to the nutrition program at NYU, which I believed to be food focused. Only when I arrived did I find that the program was science based, with prerequisites including anatomy, physiology and organic chemistry. I was surprised to learn that I loved the science, and not only did I stick with the program, I went on to pursue my Master’s degree in Food and Nutrition studies. 

How did you create the F-Factor program? How does it allow you to lead a healthy yet normal lifestyle, without deprivation?

While I’m more recognized for my success in the weight loss space, I never set out to be a diet guru. When I began my private practice, my focus was on treating clinical patients through dietary intervention, specifically patients with diabetes and cardiovascular disease. My job was to create meal plans that would lower their cholesterol or, in the case of the diabetics, help to manage their sugars.  Both patient populations received versions of a high fiber diets because of fiber’s ability to lower cholesterol and manage blood sugar levels.  Patients were getting healthier: cholesterol improved, sugars were better managed, and an unexpected also, across the board, all of these patients were losing weight. The clients also were living their lives normally, enjoying at their favorite restaurants, drinking alcohol, and were getting healthier. What I had not anticipated was that by prescribing so much fiber for the clinical benefits, these patients were simply feeling fuller throughout the day on fewer calories, which led to weight loss without hunger. Friends and colleagues of theirs noticed too and began to call in, requesting diets for themselves, but for the weight loss benefits, not to manage their sugars or cholesterol. This was the birth of the F-Factor Diet and the practice and program continued to grow from there.

The F-Factor program allows you to lead a healthy, yet normal lifestyle, without deprivation, which makes it rather different than most diets. Most diets are based on deprivation. They tell you to cut out certain foods, like carbohydrates or fats, leaving dieters feeling hungry and dissatisfied. The F-Factor Program, on the other hand, is a liberating approach to weight loss and management, because it’s about what foods to add into your diet.

The F in F-Factor stands for fiber, which is added to the diet to make for weight loss without hunger, but stands for something else too: freedom. On F-Factor, you have the freedom to dine out for breakfast, lunch or dinner, anywhere and everywhere. You have the freedom to drink alcohol from day one and you’ll have more free time, too since life with F-Factor doesn’t require you to spend hours at the gym. F-Factor isn’t just about adding years to your life (which it does, as fiber has been linked to longevity!), but about adding life to your years.

I used to be afraid of carbohydrates and avoided them like the plague because of their negative reputation. After reading your book, I understand how important carbohydrates truly play in our day-to-day diet. Can you debunk the myth that carbohydrates make you gain weight, and explain how they play a major role in F-Factor? Why is fiber so important and how do “net carbs” work? 

Carbs don’t make you fat, carbohydrates in excess of what your body needs for energy can lead to weight gain.

So often dieters cut out carbohydrates in an attempt to lose weight. This is a mistake, because our bodies need carbs—carbs fuel our bodies and cutting them out leads to feeling tired, cranky and lethargic. This can trigger excess snacking and feeling deprived which is not consistent with weight loss.

While eating carbohydrates is essential to functioning, eating carbohydrates in excess does lead to weight gain. Therefore, the goal is to eat just the right amount of carbs, and fiber is the secret to doing that.

Fiber is the zero-calorie, non-digestible part of a carbohydrate that adds bulk to food. When eaten, fiber swells in the stomach. Therefore, when you follow a diet rich in fiber (like F-Factor) you feel full after eating and you’ll generally eat less throughout the day, leading to weight loss. Fiber absorbs and removes fat and calories and toxins, and boosts metabolism, and decreases your risk for heart disease, diabetes and diet related cancers.

The F-Factor Diet is a high-fiber program, that focuses on net carbs, allowing you to eat the carbohydrates necessary for energy without gaining weight. Net carbs are total carbohydrates minus fiber, because fiber is indigestible. The goal is to keep net carbohydrates low. By doing this you avoid eating carbohydrates in excess of what the body needs to function, while still adding fiber to the diet.  Therefore, eating fiber-rich carbohydrates is essential to success on the program.

I could talk about this all day since I find the information fascinating, but, everyone else will just have to read the book to learn more. We are also all eagerly awaiting the release of the new version of the book and phone app! Can you share a sneak peek into what we can expect and when? 

Of course, it’s a very exciting time here at F-Factor! In the wake of the 10-year anniversary of the original publication of the F-Factor Diet book, we are publishing a special edition of the book, slated to hit shelves this April. This “refreshed” F-Factor Diet book will have over 25 brand new recipes, updated product recommendations, and more—and the diet itself will be even easier and more enjoyable to follow, as we have two other exciting projects launching in conjunction: the app, and a food line.

The F-Factor App is set to launch this month and is the only app which uses F-Factor’s proprietary conversion model for tracking net carbs and fiber intake. In addition to the journaling functionality, the app will allow users to track progress and get #FFACTORAPROVED restaurant menu recommendations.

Also launching this year is F-Factor’s food line, which will allow followers to get even more fiber into their diets, conveniently, deliciously, and in all-natural way. The first of these products are bars and shakes, I cannot wait for you to try them!

It’s amazing how strong of an F-Factor community you have built in New York and around the world, but what’s even more incredible is that you are connecting with your F-Factor members daily through Instagram and other social media platforms. Personally, I love seeing all the new creative recipes that are coming out from dedicated F-Factor fans! What is your favorite part of connecting with your community?

Because of technology and social media, my message that weight loss and living a healthy life doesn’t have to equate to deprivation, denial or hunger can be spread even further. My Instagram account specifically gives clients and followers alike a real glimpse into what it means to live on the F-Factor Diet. My hope is that this inspires people to recognize that they too can work hard and play hard and still have the health and physical appearance they want—with F-Factor.

With that being said, my favorite part of connecting with the community is learning the positive effect F-Factor has had on peoples’ lives. I’m fortunate that I have a career and platform that allows me to touch so many people’s lives, and change them for the better. Witnessing the transformation people go through as they begin to achieve their goals is special to me. And receiving the messages I have from the community has been inspiring and motivating. When people lose weight, their self-esteem increases, they feel better about themselves and report feeling sexier, more productive and confident. Figuratively and literally, they lighten up.

I’ve always felt being able to witness how successful people are on the diet I created was not only a constant professional highlight, but kept me passionate about the work we do at F-Factor. Now with social media, I’m able to witness this outside the walls of my private practice, all over the world, more often, and with even more people—it’s truly awe-inspiring.

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD   , is a Registered Dietitian in private practice in New York City and the Founder of the popular F-Factor Diet.    Photo Courtesy of F-Factor

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in private practice in New York City and the Founder of the popular F-Factor Diet.

Photo Courtesy of F-Factor