After giving birth to her second child in 2008, Sara Dickerman struggled to get back to her pre-baby weight. So the freelance journalist — who had worked with food, whether as a cook, a restaurant reviewer or a recipe developer, since 1997 — did the one thing she never wanted to do: go on a radical diet.

For nine weeks she followed a strict routine that limited her caloric intake to between 1,000 and 1,200 a day — and while she lost 20 pounds, it wasn’t without its difficulties.

“I did find the really strict calorie counting tough,” says Dickerman, now 44 and living in Seattle with her husband and two children. “It is effective, but it can make you feel almost too obsessed with what you consume.”

The diet, though extreme, taught Dickerman which foods made her feel sated enough to resist mindless snacking — an act she describes as “much more dangerous” than a one-off holiday meal. It also taught her that flavorful meals full of fiber and quality protein could make her feel comfortably full without consuming an abundance of calories.

Those lessons became the building blocks for an online-only nutrition program she launched for Bon Appétit in 2010. Now her recipes have been compiled for her first cookbook, “Bon Appétit: The Food Lover’s Cleanse” (William Morrow, $35).

“I thought that you could eat very well for yourself without having to resort to more ‘diet-y’ food,” reveals Dickerman, who promises you won’t find protein shakes, turkey sausage or egg-white omelets in this book.

The principles of the diet are simple. There is no calorie counting; instead, you eat three home-cooked meals a day, with an optional snack and dessert, according to the book’s meal plan.

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