The Good Mood Diet

Feel Great While You Lose Weight


By Susan M Kleiner, PhD, RD

By Bob Condor

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Dr. Kleiner, a leading nutrition authority on eating for strength, has put together a diet that has already been tested in Seattle with a Seattle Good Mood Diet weight loss group program. Bob Condor highlighted the progress of the group in the Seattle Post Intelligencer from Nov. 1, 2004 through April 2005. The author has since received thousands of requests for more information.

The idea behind this book is that you can choose healthy foods that both make you feel great and, when eaten according to the plan, help you lose weight. Most diets cause chemical changes in the brain that make the dieter feel depressed. The typical plan is often too low in calories. In this diet, the participants eat feel-good foods with both ideal timing and ideal combinations. People’s energy levels soar and participants feel better in days.

The key is to combine the right foods-i.e. balance of protein and fats to go with carbs. The plan outlines a diet of about 40 percent carbs, 30 percent proteins, and 30 percent fats and fiber. Participants eat from a list of “feel good foods,” and eliminate excessive added sugar in processed foods. Sweets are not taboo, but the authors believes in “eat it only if you love it” when it comes to sweets. For instance, if you love pumpkin pie, have a slice, but maybe skip the crust unless it’s fabulous. A bit of chocolate and a glass of red wine a day is okay once you’re two weeks into the


Copyright © 2007 by Susan M. Kleiner, PhD, and Bob Condor

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First eBook Edition: January 2007

This book is intended as a reference volume only, not as a medical manual. The information provided is designed to help you make informed decisions about your health. It is not intended as a substitute for any treatment that may have been prescribed by your doctor. If you suspect that you have a medical problem, we urge you to seek competent medical help.

ISBN: 978-0-446-55662-0



Here is a switch in eating that you will no doubt savor. The Good Mood plan emphasizes what foods to eat each day, not what foods to avoid. Those foods you want to eat are what I call Feel-Great Foods. They will change your whole attitude from "can't have" to "can do."

Just ask Patrick D'Amelio, the forty-year-old chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Seattle and Tacoma. Patrick is an accomplished fund-raiser and highly visible community member. People by the hundreds look up to him as a leader.

But in his personal life, Patrick struggled. He was some 60 pounds overweight and just not feeling 100 percent physically, mentally, even spiritually. He feared his years of yo-yo dieting and crash workout programs were catching up with him.

Patrick discovered my list of Feel-Great Foods. He was thrilled to learn that my Good Mood plan emphasized what foods to eat each day — not what foods to avoid or, worse yet, feel guilty about splurging on or straying off the plan.

Within the first week, Patrick said his energy level shot upward. After one month, he'd lost 16 pounds, then 35 pounds in his first three Good Mood months. Best of all, he dropped the weight almost without thinking about it. All he did was select from the list of Feel-Great Foods (see below) for most of his meal and snack choices. He quickly memorized his favorites, including nuts of all kinds, part-skim mozzarella string cheese, and, wow, burgers.

The Good Mood Diet is all about choosing Feel-Great Foods — without guilt.

My eating plan is the kinder, gentler approach to taking care of you. No more self-abuse through deprivation. No more days with so little energy that you can't get out of bed. No more days where you feel so mean that you hurt the people you love or ignore the coworkers who are most critical to your job success. And best of all, the Good Mood Diet means no more guilt.

Feel-Great Foods give back your favorite meals and snacks. You can eat breakfast cereal (skip the sugar-coated) after years of carbohydrate-guilt. You can eat an egg a day, drink a strong cup of coffee in the morning, have a bowl of chili for lunch, eat nuts and string cheese at snack time, and order tacos or steak or a pork chop for dinner.

Every client that I work with gets a diet plan designed with goals of both feeling great and losing weight/body fat built into it. Not a week goes by that I don't hear from a client who says the nutrition program has changed his or her life. Even the most naturally exuberant of my clients claim that they feel better than ever, within days.

The list of Feel-Great Foods is your starter kit for wiping away the guilt. It works hand-in-hand with the menus in Chapter 3 to give you a food plan and lifetime philosophy. Simply, you eat to feel good.

The weight loss will take care of itself. Here's the list. It highlights the optimal foods that should be part of your daily diet as spelled out in Chapter 3. Of course, there are other Feel-Great Food categories, such as pretty much all fruits and vegetables. What this list does — different from many diets — is identify the fresh produce (or flash-frozen) most able to boost your mood.






Caffeine-containing beverages (1 to 2 each day)

Cocoa powder (or chocolate in small amounts)

Dairy, low-fat or fat-free

Edamame (green soybeans)

Egg yolks

Fish and seafood

Flaxseed, ground




Grape juice

Greens, dark and leafy

Green tea

Lean, organic meat



Olives and olive oil



Popcorn, air-popped

Pork, lean




Sunflower seeds

Turkey, light and dark meat

Vegetable oil, unrefined

Whole grains

I have developed this list of Feel-Great Foods from years of working with elite athletes, businesspeople, mothers with young kids, and all types of other clients. There is good science to prove its effectiveness, and even better real-life trial and error evidence.

Here's one example: Several years ago I worked with an all-star NBA player who had fallen into a depression. It didn't matter how fit he was, he couldn't perform on the court. It was my job not only to get him back into playing shape, but to give him back his mental focus. I designed his diet with both of these goals in mind, drawing liberally from the Feel-Great list.

The results were amazing. In five weeks he lowered his body fat by

10 percent. This required not only following the diet, but having the mental energy, focus, exuberance, and physical energy to return to his usual activities and training, with a drive to win.

There's no place for guilt on this diet. Even if you eat something that's not on the Feel-Great Foods list, you still need to eat all the rest of the foods planned for the day. Don't tweak the diet to make up for the calories. I don't care if you ate half of a chocolate cake five minutes ago; I still want you to eat all the foods that are on the plan that make you feel great. As long as you keep feeling great, you'll avoid eating the other half of the cake. The guilt will just drive you to eat more cake. Let it go.

This is the eating plan to end your diet misery.

Have you ever been on a diet? Of course you have. You've followed it diligently, only to fall off after a few months (or even a few weeks or days) with a loud thud.

Why did you stop? You felt lousy, had no energy, your cravings went out of control — and that was the end. You droop your shoulders and fret about another failure of your body and your willpower.

But wait. Upon closer examination, you now should realize the flaw was with the diet you were following, not with you. Rather than continuing to think that everything is wrong with you and your body, it could be that the diet doesn't hold together.

The fact is most diets are inherently depressing. The way these diets are put together and the foods they dictate you should eat cause chemical changes in your brain that actually make you feel depressed. The problem is obvious in some ways but commonly overlooked: Most diets are much too low in calories. Not only will you feel sluggish and, well, moody in all of the wrong ways, you are denying yourself foods that give you instant fuel and provide the pick-me-up we all crave, especially during the day.

Oh, and did I mention lousy?

You may initially have lost weight quickly on a fad diet and been happy, even elated, with the results. But over time, your desire to lose weight lessened and even disappeared. You could barely get through the day without feeling you would rather be somebody else, anybody who could order a bagel with a smear or tacos or a lamb chop without feeling like you were cheating. The only person you were cheating was yourself.

The Good Mood Diet lets you be yourself — and lets you pick your own favorite Feel-Great Foods to fuel your upbeat moods and chase away depressive symptoms.

One example for egg lovers: All of the negative press about eggs is messing with one of the best foods for your brain and your temperament.1 I recommend that you eat one whole egg per day (the yolk contains lecithin, which works wonders for brain cells) — especially in the morning, if possible.

If your cardiologist recommends against a daily egg and makes a reasonable case for why it compromises your cholesterol levels and heart disease risk, ask how many yolks per week is acceptable to boost brainpower without compromising your cardio health. On days when you don't eat a yolk, substitute a whole soy food like tofu or edamame (buy them frozen still in the pod, steam them and lightly salt for a satisfying snack or even a breakfast side dish). The benefits are found in the fat part of soy, so soy protein alone won't substitute for the egg.

And don't neglect egg whites. The protein in whites is superb for muscle building, and a four-egg-white omelet (with a side glass of fat-free milk) can substitute for the Good Mood Diet mid-morning smoothie that is a staple of the menus in Chapter 3.

Prepare your whole egg any way you like, even as part of a Good Mood pancake recipe. Eating foods with some fat, like egg yolk, helps us feel more satisfied after meals. Forget fat-phobia. The fear of fat can actually make you fatter and certainly grumpier. That's why the Good Mood snack lineup features fat-containing almonds and other nuts.

Try this on your next sandwich: Use your favorite condiments but add a teaspoon of olive oil. You will feel more satisfied the hour or two after the sandwich — and you'll get a burst of energy that seems to come out of nowhere but is directly from the healthy monounsaturated fats in the olive oil.

What may have gone wrong with your other diets is that you either got no fat, healthy or unhealthy, or that you feasted on fatty animal foods. I still find it hard to grasp how much bacon some people have consumed on high-protein, low-carb diets.

Here's why both the no-fat or high-fat diets may have crashed on you. Your body's natural defense mechanisms kicked in to prevent disaster. While you may assume that losing weight required a painful, uncomfortable process, your body knows better.

When such a process throws you off track — way off track in most cases — your body responds with a survival tactic established millennia ago. It makes it nearly impossible to lose any more weight.

Starving yourself doesn't drop pounds, but likely will do just the opposite.

In fact, deprivation diets do accomplish just the opposite. Your body braces itself to not lose weight.

One result is that you feel lethargic and, well, moody in all the wrong ways. You are impelled to eat high-fat, high-sugar foods to ward off the blues. You crave a different way of living, and reaching for cookies or chips is a natural response.

Remember this, especially if a friend or loved one or counselor urges you to reach down deep for your willpower. You're not broken, your diet is, and your body is working as it is meant to, protecting you from the damage that can come from an inadequate diet.

Forget that whole no-willpower guilt trip. Not to sound sappy, but we have one life here, guys. Nobody says you have to live it starving all the time to demonstrate to the world that you have a strong will. Fuel your body and mind with the Good Mood plan, and your will and your happiness will follow.

The Good Mood Diet is both a food plan and a lifetime philosophy. I want you to think like the athletes that I've worked with for twenty-five years do. They are tremendously optimistic. All they think about is doing what they need to do to be successful. They follow a plan for success. If they step off the path, most just get right back on again and keep following their plan. Food is their fuel, their friend; not their enemy. They don't waste time thinking about what doesn't work, or what they didn't do right. Their focus is on doing what it takes to be, and stay, in top form.

On a daily basis, I want you to think about what you need to eat, not what you can't eat. You must feed your brain to feel great. What's more, the care and feeding of your brain in the Good Mood Diet will recalibrate your ability to burn fat and build muscle after years or maybe decades of a yo-yo metabolism. You will be leaner but not meaner.

Your brain is the control center. The brain allows the release of neurotransmitters and hormones that change your body from a fat-making machine into a fat-burning machine. Until your brain is in nutritional balance, the switch will never happen.

That's why even when you think you're doing everything right, you don't lose weight. You have to feed your brain first. That's the initial step you need to feel great.

Imagine that. The first step to losing weight is to make sure you are feeling great. That is a happy difference in my plan. If you feel great, then you stick with it. And if you stick with the plan, you lose weight. It's that simple. Cause and effect is a powerful tool for self-enhancement.

Bottom line, weight loss should be exhilarating. But on most diets it's depressing. That's because the nature of the diet plan actually makes you depressed. Not so with the Good Mood Diet. Remember my credo: Feel great while you lose weight.

Thinking about what you need to eat starts at breakfast.

The Feel-Great list is nearly as long as it is comforting. For many Good Mood Dieters with whom I've worked, the wide choice of breakfast items is a big plus. People love the idea of toast, eggs, cold cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, English muffin egg sandwiches, sausages, and even French toast. My own a.m. favorites include bite-size shredded wheat (I know, boring, but it works for me). I eat it with fat-free milk when I first wake up, which is usually about an hour before our children are up. Then I eat an egg and some fruit with my children during their breakfast.

I save my morning coffee to drink while sitting with the kids, too, but lots of my clients prefer the caffeine first thing. That fits into the Good Mood plan, no problem. In fact, unlike many diets, my plan advocates that a cup or two of coffee (or one to two shots of espresso) is ideal for most people, especially devoted coffee drinkers. Research is clear that caffeine enhances physical and mental performance in moderate amounts.2

What's more, a morning latte is truly both a Feel-Great drink and a treat. I suggest espresso drinks because you can be sure of not overdoing it. Yet I trust you to figure out how much caffeine is just right and how much turns to jitters or nervousness or that jumpy-mind feeling any coffee drinker recognizes. For the record, if a client insists on an ounce count, I mark out a "tall cup" or 12 ounces of strongly brewed coffee as the day's ideal amount. That can reach to 16 ounces for some individuals or drop to 8 to 10 for the more coffee-sensitive.

In any case, my Good Mood plan strongly suggests drinking the coffee before lunch, then switching to green tea or water for afternoon break-time beverages. You can figure on up to three additional cups of green tea, or five total if you prefer it over coffee. I'm a big fan of green tea for its gentle mood pick-me-up and its abundance of antioxidants and other cancer and heart disease protectors.

Just to show you how much feel-great range the Good Mood plan offers, I am even OK with a diet cola or two in the mornings if that is your caffeine drink of choice. Just skip the "regular" versions (the typical 12-ounce can has 10 teaspoons of added sugar) and bust your afternoon and evening soft drink habits to boost mood and energy.

Try a week without soft drinks if you don't believe me. You will feel better simply by substituting water or green tea for post-noon sodas. If you are a carbonated drink fan, then try easing into the new pattern by pouring yourself a sparkling water over ice with a splash of your favorite fruit juice.

Increasing how much food you eat during the day means less weight gain and calmer nerves — even for young kids.

Sharon Lee Hamilton is a forty-nine-year-old mother with two young children. She loves the Good Mood diet for how it limits the effects of stress in her life.

"I felt more calm around the kids, and last year we went through some challenging times during a foreign adoption process," says Sharon. "Rather than gain weight during all that, which is what normally happens, I lost four pounds."

One of Sharon's successful strategies was making sure to eat a Good Mood breakfast every day. She experimented with the Good Mood Menus (Chapter 3) and recipes (Chapter 8) to find dishes that worked for her busy life. One of her favorites was an English-muffin egg sandwich with olive oil rather than cheese. Another was a hard-boiled egg and a yogurt fruit parfait that she would make the night before for a fast exit from the house.

"I just loved eating a meal in the morning, yet it only takes me minutes to get everything ready, even if I toast the muffin and cook the egg," says Sharon. "Grabbing a healthy breakfast, heck, just eating breakfast, has made a huge difference for me. Plus, I see the same benefits in getting breakfast into my young children."

Bingo on that one. How many parents do you know who believe in feeding their children a healthy, fortifying breakfast, but only drink coffee because they are "not morning eaters." That's what I call a Feel-Bad strategy. Picking some Feel-Great Foods, even if they are traditional breakfast foods, will pay dividends.

A number of my clients make a smoothie for breakfast to save on time and help make the mental adjustment to eating in the morning. I highly recommend my Eye-Opener Smoothie made with milk and chai tea (see next page).

Good Mood smoothie recipes (see Chapter 8) can also help you persuade your teenagers to follow a healthier morning food routine. With teens, I find it is more successful to discuss improving mood rather than body weight. I have worked with a good number of teens and youth programs. This age group responds to a focus on power and personal energy. Teens are bombarded with messages about body image; I want them thinking about feeling better and more hopeful. The Good Mood Diet fits the bill.

Plus, smoothies are a good breakfast or mid-morning option for teens who sleep until the last minute (sound familiar?). And you might know the research, but it is documented by sleep scientists that adolescents do indeed have a harder time falling asleep at night due to hormonal differences than either younger children or adults. The right type of smoothie can get them back in balance.

Eye-Opener Smoothie

1 cup fat-free milk

1 Chai tea bag

14 grams protein from vanilla isolated whey protein powder

1 teaspoon Splenda

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

4 ice cubes

Heat the milk in the microwave and pour over the tea bag; steep 5 to 8 minutes. Discard the tea bag. Cool the milk in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or even overnight. Pour the milk into a blender and add the protein powder, Splenda, nutmeg, and ice cubes. Blend 1 minute, until smooth.

Makes 1 serving.

Good Mood analysis:

Each serving contains 1 milk; 2 very lean proteins

A few words about the whey protein: I recommend isolated whey protein because it allows you to control your protein for peak brain and body benefits. Some protein powders and whey powders contain carbs and even fats that you don't want or need for the best mood lift. This shake is particularly valuable right after exercise but also works wonders for many of my clients as a mid-morning snack no matter when they exercise.

Eating fish is a strategic step to eliminating depression but doesn't have to break your budget.

For some of us — I'm raising my hand — eating salmon three to five times each week is a major plus in the Good Mood plan. While fresh salmon can get pricey in some regions — look for sales and freeze individual portions — you don't need more than 4 ounces for the mood boost.

In fact, I can make a strong argument that eating salmon and other oily, cold-water fish is a sure antidote to depression symptoms. It certainly worked that way for my own mother (see Good Mood Breakthrough, page 9). It is almost too simple for some people to accept that the omega-3 fats in fish curb depression, but I see it firsthand with dozens of clients every year.

An alternative to fresh fish is canned salmon. Try some different brands to figure out the tastier versions and what fits into your food budget. Keep a few cans in your pantry for quick-fix dinners that will serve your mood for hours and help you sleep better.

Though living in the Northwest, Patrick D'Amelio was not much of a fish eater. That challenged one of the Feel-Great food strategies, which promotes cold-water fish rich in omega-3 fats. Examples include salmon, tuna, sardines, and anchovies.

At our first meeting of the Seattle newspaper trial group, Patrick admitted he didn't really like salmon, which is sort of like a Chicagoan saying no thanks to deep-dish pizza. I countered that most people eat canned tuna, a budgetary bargain for its Good Mood quotient. Patrick agreed he could certainly fit tuna into his meals three to five times per week.

One problem: Commercial-brand canned tuna can be high in mercury content.3 I talked to Patrick about trying troll-caught tuna, such as the Fishing Vessel St. Jude brand (, because it tastes delicious, plus is much fresher and more appetizing than commercially caught tuna. Importantly, troll-caught tuna has no, or at most trace amounts of, mercury, primarily because troll fishing hooks smaller fish that haven't built up the mercury load big tuna get from eating other sizable fish and from simply living longer.

Another big plus is that troll-caught tuna keeps its omega-3 potency because the small-company fishermen and independent operators keep their fish intact. Large-scale commercial tuna fishing boats trim off most fat and oils at sea because Americans don't like the smell of fish. Problem is, deodorizing greatly reduces the healthy omega-3 fat content. The healthy amount is 7 grams of fat per serving, while some of the large-scale brands have as little as 1/2 to 1 gram. You pay less, but get way less.

"The low-mercury tuna costs more [roughly four dollars a can], but it is more than worth it," said Patrick after picking up some Fishing Vessel St. Jude. "It makes great sandwiches and burritos."

Yes, you're reading right. Burritos fit the Good Mood Diet. So do hamburgers, mashed potatoes, pork chops, pasta, and hot cocoa. This is a diet that doesn't make you die for something good to eat.

Not eating foods that make you feel great is not acceptable. It doesn't make sense. Food is to be enjoyed, life is to be lived — not spent lamenting all of the favorite meals you feel compelled to miss.

One more important point: Five fish meals a week is your goal, not an ultimatum or five-or-bust proposition. Every fish meal is a plus for the omega-3 fat content — and your brain.

One common goal for all of my clients is that nobody goes hungry.

Now I admit that we will be retraining your palate in this book, especially by adding some new staples to your meal plans (ground flaxseed, for instance). But this by no means has to be at the price of hunger pangs or the brightness of your psyche or both.

"I was never hungry, not once," says Patrick, looking back on his first twelve weeks, when he lost 35 pounds but notched even more meaningful changes. "It was almost like I was glowing. The weight loss was more like, 'oh, right, you lost weight too.' "

Another client who never felt hungry was Linda Behlke. She joined one of my Good Mood Diet Clubs that have formed since the diet was first publicized. For Linda, one of the best things about the Good Mood Diet is not feeling like she has to be perfect.

"It was clear from the start of our diet club, nobody is going to be perfect," says Linda. "Every other diet I have tried — and I have tried them all — you feel like either you do it perfectly or you are a failure."


On Sale
Feb 28, 2009
Page Count
240 pages

Susan M Kleiner, PhD, RD

About the Author

Dr. Kleiner has written Power Eating¬Æ (Human Kinetics, 2001), which is in its third edition and has sold 75,000 copies. She is also the author of Power Food (Rodale Press, 2006). She is the Nutrition Consultant to the Seattle Sonics and the Seattle Seahawks, the media spokesperson for Brita, and she’s worked with Quaker Oats, General Nutrition Corporation, Clif Bar, and other corporations.

Bob Condor is the Living Well Columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He is a former syndicated health columnist for the Chicago Tribune, and has been nominated twice for a Pulitzer Prize. He’s authored or co-authored six books. His articles appeared in Esquire, Self, Shape, and TV Guide.

Learn more about this author