The multi-tasking and multi-talented Dr. Terry Shintani is a physician, nutritionist, attorney, author, lecturer, radio talk show host, community advocate and "Living Treasure of Hawaii". His "The Hawaii Diet" (and its companion cookbook) is a diet and nutrition program he originally created for former Hawaii Governor Benjamin Cayetano. Governor Cayetano's success with the plan - weight loss, lowered cholesterol, lowered blood pressure, lowered triglycerides - attracted attention statewide, and beyond.
Shintani says that he originally conceived of his Hawaii Diet in response to the ever-rising rates of chronic diseases - heart disease, hypertension, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, stroke - he was seeing among the Native Hawaiians. He deduced that the growing disease rate was directly tied to the systematic, progressive movement of the native people away from their traditional, culture-based diet, and towards the more typical (less healthy) western diet. Reverse the diet, he reasoned, and you can reverse the steady march towards disease.
(It should be noted that though the original program was designed around, and created for, the Native Hawaiian population, Shianti posits that his basic principles are applicable to all.
As such, he addresses cultural differences in heritage and ethnicities by offering menu substitutions - like Mediterranean diet - for the masses to tailor to their personal needs.)
So what is the diet? The nutritional component is advertised as an "all you can eat" program, but that's not quite accurate. While it is all you can eat in the context of no strict calorie counting and no strict portion control, what you can eat is determined and regulated by a mathematical table Shintani developed to measure the density of foods. By density we mean how "dense" is the food in terms of how filling it is in your stomach in relation to how many calories it has. His Shintani Mass Index (SMI) breaks out the number of pounds of food - and the corresponding number of calories - you need to lose and maintain weight. To give you an idea - if something has an SMI value of 14, that means it would take 14 pounds of that food to give you a day's worth of calories. On the other hand, if something has an SMI value of 1, it will only take 1 pound of that food to max out your day's calories. The higher the SMI value of a food, the more of it you're allowed to eat until you feel full, the lower the SMI value, the less you'll be able to have before maxing out your calories. This is noteworthy since research suggests that people generally eat 2 to 4 pounds of food before they feel full and satisfied.
So what does Shintani advise you to eat? Basically, foods similar in nutritional content to what the ancient Hawaiians ate. We're talking primarily fruits and vegetables, moderate amounts of protein (primarily fish and poultry) and very little fat. Shintani allows a (very liberal) max of 2500 calories per day, but since it is a primarily vegetarian eating plan, additional vitamin and mineral supplementation (iron, B12, etc.) will probably be necessary. Recipes and meal plans are included in the book.
Also included in the book is Shintani's belief that true, whole health is only achieved when all of the aspects of one's life are in harmony - in the big picture the spiritual and emotional are equally important to the physical. Here Shintani touches on traditional, ancient Hawaiian custom and wisdom - faith, prayer, meditation - as the basis for stress reduction and finding peace and happiness, from which positive changes and good things should come.
Will you lose weight on the Hawaii Diet? If you develop and commit to some kind of regular exercise program, yes. (Shintani recommends exercise as necessary and critical to weight loss and overall good health, but provides little guidance as the focus here is on the food.) Now the weight loss may not happen as rapidly as you may hope - 2500 calories per day is not starving yourself, by any means - but weight loss on this diet is sustainable for the long term because you're not starving yourself. You're eating well, and smart, every day - and this will pay off in the long term. This diet is healthy, can go a long way towards improving your cardiovascular health and is a realistic approach to making better eating habits permanent. While some of the foods Shintani recommends may be overly exotic and totally unavailable to you if you don't live in Hawaii - breadfruit, taro - just ignore those. The fundamentals of this eating plan are solid.