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A NEW diet lets you eat whatever you want: pasta, pizza, even chocolate cake - but only 85 bites a day. Instead of counting carbs, calories or fat grams, dieters on this unorthodox new plan count chomps.
And a bite has to be a bite: You can't stuff your face like an acorn-packing squirrel.
"We try to back into teaching people how to eat well without focusing on good food and bad food," says Joan Breibart, a Pilates expert who created the buzzed-about new regimen along with dietitian and fellow Manhattanite Meredith Luce.
Breibart - who's never had a weight problem - aims to copy the behavior of stars like Jessica Simpson, Susan Sarandon and Dolly Parton, who say they can eat whatever they want because they do so in moderation.
"It's not what you eat, but how you eat," says Breibart. "You want to retrain your body, so you won't feel comfortable eating more."
If you follow the diet, she promises, "going to an all-you-can-eat buffet will be a waste of money."
Saxon Eldridge, a 25-year-old Manhattanite, took off nearly 30 pounds by counting bites.
"I was wary about the idea of eating anything I wanted, but I tried it," he says.
"At first, I concentrated and counted bites, but then it became second nature. It's not even a diet anymore. It's just portion control."
Under Breibart and Luce's 21-day plan (dietdirectives.com) dieters have two bigger, 18-22 bite meals and two 12-16 bite meals per day.
But you can't just have ice cream or macaroni and cheese - nor are you allowed snacks.
Meals must be balanced and could include a mix of eight bites of protein, six of grains or starches, six of vegetables or fruit and four of dessert (once a day).
"It's not about constantly putting stuff in your mouth," says Breibart. "The less you eat, the less hungry you are."
This diet -flying in the face of just about every other slimming plan - doesn't push exercise, either. That's because working out is often used as an excuse to overeat, Breibart contends.
"Most Americans aren't out running marathons or playing for the NFL," she says. "People are sedentary and lazy."
You can even drink alcohol - just no more than three glasses a week.
Breibart recommends people drink a liquid other than water at mealtime - such as a sports drink, flavored water, diet soda or even wine - which she says help digest food and raise blood sugar levels.
Water, she insists, is a no-no: Limit it to 10 ounces at a time, and only if you're really thirsty.
"If you're drinking more than 10 ounces of water at any one time, especially not in the context of a meal, you actually stimulate digestion," she explains.
That's a premise that Julie Upton, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, threw cold water on.
"There's no proof of that," she says. "Generally, let thirst be your guideline. If you're still thirsty at 10 ounces, drink more water."
Breibart, 63, doesn't count bites. A natural size 6, she's followed a moderate eating plan her entire life.
"Ultimately, your body will count food for you," she says. "Your body won't take food in."
Erica Morrell, the director of Sunny Girlfriends, a healing and wellness center, doubts the bite-size program will work for those with emotional eating problems - which covers a wide range of food addicts.
"People overeat to fill emotional spaces in their lives - maybe they're single and lonely, or lost their jobs," says Morrell.
"Those people will have a little taste of food and then will have to eat the whole plate. If you could just eat two bites, you wouldn't be overweight."
Upton is also skeptical about the whole bite-counting scheme.
"There's no study that says bites are correlated to weight loss," she says. "If it sounds gimmicky, it probably is."
However, she added, "If it makes you think about what you're eating, it could be a good thing."
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