Illustration: Sarah Wilkins

The CL Diet began as an experiment on ourselves.

By: Allison Lowery
November 07, 2014

When we published a report in January about the six-month weight-loss success achieved by a group of Cooking Light editors and their friends and spouses, we had already decided to translate our learnings into a digital product for fans of the CL approach.

Our original "social diet" strategy in 2013 focused on sharing progress among group members while providing encouragement through a social network. Because our work at CL is essentially constant immersion in right-sized recipes and healthy-eating concepts, the group decided we didn't need a diet plan, per se. But what we did need was daily calorie tracking: It's just too easy to miss a target if you don't see the target.

Although dieting was never the motivation behind the 15,000 recipes this magazine has developed over the years, we know that millions of Americans struggle with weight, even after changing their eating habits. It's not always enough to adopt a new eating philosophy around more plants, less meat, balanced portions, and increased exercise. Some people do need the structure of a plan. And, we realized, such a plan could be built from our 15,000 recipes.

The Cooking Light Diet, reflecting our own beliefs and success, would be rooted in the kitchen, in a love of cooking. This plan would not require the dieter to isolate herself or himself from the rest of the family's meals. The diet would also provide a blueprint for continued healthy eating after weight loss is achieved.

Much of this year has been spent developing the Cooking Light Diet and responding to the feedback of more than 2,000 early users who now access the paid plan on smartphones, tablets, or computers.

The basic idea is simple: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options are customized to a daily calorie goal (which can range from 1,200 to 2,000) that may facilitate one to two pounds of weight loss per week. As we've loaded more recipes into the system, users have been able to fine-tune the plan to their food preferences. The snacking ideas and advice for eating out come from the magazine's nutrition expertise, and the diet was built from the ground up under the supervision of nutrition scientists and registered dietitians.

To learn more and see a sample week from the Cooking Light Diet, go to CookingLightDiet.com.