“Eat like a bear” is probably just about the last piece of advice you’re expecting if you want to lose weight, but it’s a revolutionary strategy that gaining more and more devotees — especially women over 50 — and helping them to drop an astonishing amount of weight in very short amount of time. If you’re tired of complicated diets, frustrated by diet math, sick of wasting money on gimmicks that don’t work — or all of the above — the “eat like a bear” diet may be perfect for you too.
The Eat Like a Bear diet was created by social scientist Amanda Rose, Ph.D., who got inspired by bears living near her California home. After years of failed weight-loss attempts, Rose copied some key elements of the way bears eat. She noticed that her energy surged, her knee pain disappeared — and she found that she lost 100 pounds in just 30 weeks (going on to lose 140 pounds in all). So powerful were the results that Rose scrapped plans to have bariatric surgery, started a blog and began teaching her tens of thousands of followers her plan.
“I discovered a very practical way to get rid of unwanted pounds and achieve radiant health — and I want to share it,” she told Woman’s World. “We’re seeing impressive results, even among type-2 diabetics, women over the age of 50 and many others struggling to lose an ounce using more traditional means.”
Indeed, after building a small empire of books and digital options, Rose passed a milestone of helping more than 200 women lose more than 100 pounds in April of 2021 — and the “century cases” keep rolling in. Can the Eat Like a Bear diet help you lose weight? Read on to find out.
What is the Eat Like a Bear diet?
Eat Like a Bear devotees feast on natural food like greens, berries, nuts and salmon during a short window each day, often just a single large meal enjoyed over the course of one hour. They then ‘hibernate’ between sittings, allowing their bodies to live off their own fat. This approach of limiting the hours of the day when you eat is called intermittent fasting, or time-restricted eating.
For Rose, it works like this: She basically stuffs herself at brunch each day, typically enjoying a ‘ridiculously big salad’ (like her popular Big Mac Salad) or large skillet meal featuring a huge amount of veggies along with protein and natural low-carb toppings. She then just sips water, coffee or tea until it is time for brunch the next day. “I expected intense hunger, but that didn’t happen,” recalls Rose. Changing her old habits did feel challenging at times. “But I was making better progress than on any other diet I’d ever tried.”
To follow Rose’s lead, choose a daily “eating window” (which can be as little a hour long each day; some opt for windows of four, six, even eight hours). During that time, you’ll eat your fill of natural, low-carb fare. Having just one big meal? Pack it with nutrients and at least 1,200 calories; you should feel ‘Thanksgiving stuffed.’ Eat more moderately if using a longer eating window.
Why does the Eat Like a Bear diet result in significant weight loss?
There is a famous USDA study during which people eating one large meal daily lost significant weight while a group eating the exact same food as three meals didn’t drop on ounce. But why? According to experts who spoke to Woman’s World, once we’ve gone about 12 hours without calories, our bodies have used up all the readily available blood sugar.
After that, “your body will be burning stored fat as its primary fuel,” according to Johns Hopkins intermittent fasting authority Mark Mattson, PhD, author of The Intermittent Fasting Revolution. So if you fast for 18 hours a day, six of those are pure fat burn. Go 20-23 hours between meals, “and your body will run on it own fat stores about half of each day,” he says. The process of using fat for fuel creates compounds called ketones that suppress hunger, too. So, as Rose discovered personally, it can feel easy.
The Eat Like a Bear plan not only has you eat less often, it recommends avoiding sugar, starch and processed food. Turns out, both frequent sittings and excess carbs spur the production of insulin, “the main hormone responsible for weight gain,” says fasting expert and Obesity Code author Jason Fung, MD. “When insulin is high, we store fat, we don’t burn it. Get insulin down, and weight goes down automatically.”
Why is Eat Like a Bear good for women over 50?
Eating in a short daily window, or intermittently fasting, “is like a workout for cells that helps them grow stronger,” notes Mattson. Stronger cells do everything better and even may help reverse age-related damage to our DNA. The result? According to Mattson, “you can slow aging, reduce anxiety, sharpen memory, lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease, stroke and more.”
Blood sugar control also tends to improve — and balanced blood sugar further helps to increase fat burn. “These are all factors that make it easier to lose weight,” notes Amy Shah, M.D., a double board-certified wellness expert with training from Cornell, Columbia and Harvard. Hunger hormones decrease, energy shoots up, mood lifts. “You get benefits on top of benefits!”
Rose has also created a fun community of like-minded mid-life women who are all “eating like a bear,” losing weight and loving life. To become a part of it, head over to her website and start here. You can also follow Rose on Instagram and join her Facebook group, where you can share the ups and downs of your weight loss journey with 121,000 other “eat like a bear” group members.
Is the Eat Like a Bear diet safe?
While there is research that suggests eating just one meal a day may increase blood pressure and cholesterol, experts also note there are no serious dangers involved in eating just once a day. And if it works for you, it’s certainly far safer than carrying, say, 50 or 100 pounds of excess weight. Eating one meal a day, or “OMAD,” is a little more extreme than a typical diet, so be sure to get your doctor’s okay before trying it.
Rose notes that eating one meal a day isn’t a requirement, just a general preference among her followers. Some Eat Like a Bear dieters allow themselves a longer eating window of, say, four hours a day and enjoy two meals during that time. For more information on other forms of intermittent fasting, click here.
It worked for Gail—she lost 73 pounds and got off 5 meds
Not long ago, Gail Thompson was in constant pain, her blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar all high. “I could barely walk up my driveway,” she recalls. Then one of Rose’s videos popped up on her computer. “She seemed like a sweetheart and she’d lost half her weight in a year, so I figured it was worth a shot.” So Gail began eating one giant salad a day. “There was some hunger, but overall my body loved it. It let go of all this water weight with a big whoosh, and I just started to feel great!”
She joined Facebook’s Eat Like a Bear group for motivation. That’s where she learned she can adapt the plan to suit her tastes and schedule, having two meals a day if she likes or shifting meal time to enjoy a holiday feast with her family. But mostly she finds one big salad a day works well for her. “If I’m ever hungry, I have 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar in water, and it takes the hunger away.” In six months, she was down 73 pounds and off five medications. “Everything is better. My aches and pains are gone. I feel better than I did 25 years ago!”
Eat Like a Bear’s ‘ridiculously big’ salad
You won’t believe how delicious and filling Rose’s signature salad is. Plus, it’s so easy — just toss and enjoy:
- Toss 6 cups torn lettuce with veggies like cucumber, tomato and green onion.
- Top with 8 oz. cooked protein (like eggs and chicken).
- For flavor, add avocado, cheese and/or bacon.
- Dress generously with no-sugar-added full-fat dressing.
Makes 1 large serving
Prefer a hot meal? Try this Eat Like A Bear skillet meal
Customize this recipe with any low-carb sauce or protein you like.
Giant Sesame Skillet
- 3–4 cups sliced cabbage and assorted veggies
- 4 tsp. sesame oil or any oil, divided
- ⅓ cup soy sauce
- 2 tsp. dry seasoning, such as onion powder, garlic powder or ground ginger
- 2 tsp. lime juice (optional)
- 6–8 oz. cooked chicken
- Sesame seeds, chopped peanuts and/or herbs to garnish
- Add vegetables and 2 tsp. oil to a hot skillet. Stir, season with salt and pepper and cover.
- Mix remaining oil, soy sauce, seasoning and lime juice; add to veggies.
- When veggies are tender, add chicken and heat through. Garnish and serve. Makes 1 large serving
Love soups? Check out our story on Eat Like a Bear soups!
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.