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Stillman's Diet

author image Sandi Busch
Sandi Busch received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, then pursued training in nursing and nutrition. She taught families to plan and prepare special diets, worked as a therapeutic support specialist, and now writes about her favorite topics – nutrition, food, families and parenting – for hospitals and trade magazines.
Stillman's Diet
A chicken breast and salad. Photo Credit Raul Taborda/Hemera/Getty Images

The Stillman Diet is one of the earliest low-carbohydrate diets. As a physician who worked with overweight patients, Stillman discovered the quickest weight loss was experienced by those who followed a low-carbohydrate and low-fat diet. His diet is restricted to low-fat protein and promises quick weight loss.


Dr. Irwin Stillman practiced as a family physician in Brooklyn, New York, and developed the Stillman Diet in the 1960s. He subsequently wrote a book titled “The Doctor’s Quick Weight Loss Diet,” and the diet soon became known by the book's title rather than as the Stillman Diet. He later developed variations on the diet, including one that incorporated exercise and another for teenagers that added limited carbohydrates; but the original Stillman Diet is a straightforward high-protein, low-carbohydrate and low-fat diet.

Diet Plan

The Stillman Diet advocates eating six small meals a day and follows two key rules. First, you must drink eight glasses of water a day. Second, you can eat as much as you want but only lean meat, poultry (no skin), seafood, eggs and non-fat cottage cheese. Food should be broiled, boiled or baked, never fried or cooked in any type of oil. In addition to water, you can drink tea, coffee and diet soft drinks. Common spices such as salt, pepper, garlic and Tabasco are allowed, but no condiments containing oils.

Forbidden Foods

The diet strictly forbids carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits and fats, including butter and vegetable oils. Alcohol and sugar are also not allowed.


The Stillman Diet results in rapid weight loss because such severe restriction of carbohydrates means the body must break down fat for energy. In addition, the body uses more energy to break down protein than to break down easily digestible carbohydrates, so more calories are used during metabolism. The body's use of fat for energy is called ketosis. Ketosis results in the production of substances called ketone bodies, which are acidic. If ketone bodies build up in the blood, a potentially serious condition called ketoacidosis occurs. It’s extremely important to drink enough water to reduce the level of ketones in the blood. The signs and symptoms of ketoacidosis are fruity-smelling breath, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and fast, deep breathing.


Two advantages to this diet are that it is easy to follow and results are quick. Trivialibrary.com says Stillman claimed people on his diet would lose 7 to 15 lb. in the first week and about 5 lb. per week after that. Stillman also suggested changing over to a calorie-counting program once people were within 3 lb. pounds of their goal. However, the limited food choices do not provide a healthy, balanced diet. Stillman’s diet lacks fiber and since people on it won’t eat vegetables, fruits or carbohydrates, it's essential for them to take a supplement to ensure sufficient nutrition.

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