Food was always an important part of Tanya Zuckerbrot’s life growing up, but she never planned on being a dietician, let alone the creator of a wildly successful and scientifically proven weight loss program. She always thought she’d be a cook.
Fast forward and today Zuckerbrot, 46, directs an empire built on fiber as the creator of the renowned F-Factor Diet — the only dietitian-created program for weight-loss and optimal health based on fiber-rich nutrition. She has written two bestsellers, The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet, and has an A-list celebrity clientele. Some college program confusion and an “aha!’ discovery as a clinical dietician changed everything, and she hasn’t looked back.
Intrigued, we wanted to find out how Zuckerbrot became the fiber queen and why eating more fiber can help you lose weight.
What sparked your passion for food?
Food was always an important part of my life. My earliest childhood memories are in the kitchen making matzo ball soup and empanadas with my Jewish and Colombian grandmothers. I recognized then that food made people happy.
What changed from potentially becoming a chef?
After gaining the freshman 15, I decided I wanted to learn about the connection between food and health. I joined the graduate nutrition program at New York University believing it was food focused only to find out the program was science based with prerequisites of anatomy, physiology, and chemistry. I was surprised to learn that I loved the science and stuck with the program.
Was there an epiphany that led you to develop The F-Factor Diet?
When I began my private practice, I was treating clinical patients through dietary intervention, specifically those with diabetes and cardiovascular disease. I created high-fiber-diet meal plans because of fiber’s ability to lower cholesterol and manage blood sugar levels, and saw that as well as getting healthier, across the board they were also losing weight — even though they were living their normal lives, eating out and drinking alcohol. It was unexpected. But they were simply feeling fuller throughout the day on fewer calories, which led to weight loss without hunger or deprivation. It was the birth of The F-Factor Diet and my mantra: fiber and protein at every meal makes losing weight no big deal.
In simple terms, how does it work?
Clinical evidence shows that fiber and protein have a high satiety benefit. They keep you feeling full for the longest period of time on the fewest calories. The fuller you feel, the less likely you’ll be to overeat and therefore more likely to lose weight, which is liberating and sustainable. Most diets are based on deprivation and cutting out certain foods. F-Factor is about adding foods, for weight loss without hunger. And you can dine out from day one — no menu is off limits. So while the F in F-Factor stands for fiber, it also stands for freedom.
How much fiber do we need to eat to make this happen?
The average American eats less than 15 grams of fiber per day. Women need 35 grams daily, and I recommend aiming for 40 grams for optimal weight loss results. An avocado and a serving of raspberries is half your daily quota.
Are all fibers created equally?
There are two kinds of dietary fibers: insoluble and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is the roughage, the woody or structural parts of plants and works like nature’s broom, helping speed the passage of material through the digestive tract, burning calories in the process. Soluble fiber swells like a sponge in the stomach giving food a jellylike bulk that makes you feel full. It binds with calories and fat in the stomach and intestines and pulls them out of the body before they can enter the bloodstream. We need a mix of both — especially people on low-carb and paleo diets.
Sluggish metabolism is such a big issue when we hit our 40s. Can F-Factor help?
Absolutely! Fiber helps increase metabolism as the body expends energy trying to digest fiber, which is an indigestible carbohydrate — so you’re burning calories constantly on a calorie-free food. This keeps metabolism roaring! And while most diets deny you food and ways of life like dining out or drinking, leaving you feeling hungry, deprived, and dissatisfied — the F-Factor program adds fiber, so you don’t feel deprived.
What’s your personal approach to aging outside of diet and nutrition?
Deny it. You’re only as old as you feel! I take care of myself to feel healthy and young. I eat right, work out, get adequate sleep, and take care of my skin. I always wear SPF, and I meditate. I’m typically with clients all day, so when I get a second to myself I aim to make the time as introspective as possible. I use Headspace app’s guided meditation sessions and mindfulness training. It calms me down and helps me refocus.
What’s your fitness regimen?
I work out with a trainer two to three times a week, and we focus on strength-training exercises. But I let F-Factor be my cardio. People do cardio to create a caloric deficit, but cardio can stimulate appetite and impede weight loss efforts. Instead, create a caloric deficit by eating a diet high in fiber, like F-Factor.
And your dietary indulgence?
Chips! Some people are sweet tooths. I like salty and savory foods. I do love a bag of chips.