Lean Body Secrets

Men's Health - Belly Off Guide - - CONTENTS - BY DR MICHAEL ROUS­SELL

If you’re fail­ing to drop kilo­grams, don’t blame your lack of self-con­trol; you might just need to change your ap­proach. Here are our top tips to help you lose se­ri­ous weight

HUNGER IS ONE OF OUR PRI­MAL HU­MAN URGES, but it’s a tough thing to grasp, a mar­i­onette with many masters. A va­ri­ety of neu­ro­trans­mit­ters and hor­mones ul­ti­mately pull the strings – ap­petite sup­pres­sors and boost­ers, plus oth­ers that affect sati­ety and stress – and they, in turn, are ma­nip­u­lated by your body’s clock. There are two kinds of hunger: phys­i­o­log­i­cal and re­wards-driven. One is ruled by your body’s in­stinct to find the en­ergy it needs to sur­vive, while the other is psy­cho­log­i­cal, in­flu­enced by smell, sight, stress, and so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal set­tings – the gauntlet of daily life.

The prob­lem is, your body, and your brain, of­ten strug­gles to dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween the two: do you re­ally need fuel or did a com­mer­cial just flash a juicy burger? Re­search re­veals ways you can con­trol your brain’s re­ward sys­tem to shrink your waist.

For in­stance, Heather Leidy, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of nutri­tion and ex­er­cise phys­i­ol­ogy at the Uni­ver­sity of Mis­souri, used func­tional MRI tech­nol­ogy to find out how peo­ple’s re­ward cen­tres re­sponded to ap­petis­ing im­ages of food af­ter they’d eaten or skipped break­fast. She found that eat­ing a pro­tein-rich break­fast can dampen hunger all day long. Use this strat­egy – and the six oth­ers that fol­low – to con­trol your crav­ings. Just re­mem­ber that hunger is like the All Blacks back­line: you can’t shut it down, but you can con­tain it.

Know Thy­self

Phys­i­o­log­i­cal hunger arises from an im­bal­ance in your kilo­joules-in ver­sus kilo­joules-out equa­tion. To deal with hunger ra­tio­nally, you have to do a bit of maths: tally your kilo­joule con­sump­tion and com­pare the re­sult with your to­tal kilo­joule burn. This helps you identify and ig­nore re­wards­driven cues.


Use the Men’s Health kilo­joule­tar­get cal­cu­la­tor to es­ti­mate the kilo­joules you need to main­tain your weight. Write down ev­ery­thing you eat and drink for a cou­ple of days. If you’re near your tar­get kilo­joule num­ber and your weight is stay­ing steady, then most of your hunger pangs are re­wards-driven. If you’re try­ing to lose weight, cut your in­take by up to 2 100 kilo­joules a day.

Eat More, Weigh Less

Stud­ies us­ing just a sim­ple salad have changed the way nu­tri­tion­ists think about hunger and food con­sump­tion. Barbara Rolls, a pro­fes­sor of nu­tri­tional sciences at Penn State Uni­ver­sity, re­cently ex­am­ined the im­pact of eat­ing a large-vol­ume, 420-kilo­joule salad – that’s 3 cups of chopped let­tuce, ½ medium car­rot, 1 sliced radish, ½ tomato, 2 ta­ble­spoons of re­duced­fat shred­ded ched­dar cheese, and ½ medium cucumber tossed with 2 ta­ble­spoons of re­duced-fat Ital­ian dress­ing – ei­ther be­fore or with din­ner. Peo­ple who ate the salad, re­gard­less of when it was dur­ing the meal, re­ported feel­ing more full and ate 11% less in to­tal kilo­joules over the course of the din­ner. An­other study by Rolls found that con­sum­ing a broth-based soup or an ap­ple be­fore a meal can also help curb calo­rie in­take. Why does it work? We tend to eat a fixed weight of food ev­ery day, re­gard­less of kilo­joule or nu­tri­ent con­tent.


Eat as much as you can of foods with very low kilo­joule den­si­ties – such as non-starchy veg­eta­bles, broth-based soups, and fruit, says Rolls. Con­sume rea­son­able amounts of low-den­sity stuff, like whole grains, legumes, lean pro­tein, starchy veg­eta­bles, and low-fat dairy. Eat only small por­tions of medium-den­sity foods, like bread, cheese, nuts and higher-fat meat and dairy. And ob­vi­ously, limit those high kilo­joule-den­sity food bombs, like fried snacks, candy and cook­ies.

Don’t Swal­low Stress

When you’re stressed, your body re­leases the hor­mone cor­ti­sol, which can in­ter­fere with in­sulin and boost your blood glu­cose; it’s your body’s in­stant fuel for out­run­ning a preda­tor on the sa­van­nah. But un­less you’re ac­tu­ally run­ning away from your su­per­vi­sor, that fuel tends to be­come belly fat, even as stress strength­ens hunger. Worse, a study in the jour­nal Ap­petite found that stressed out eaters were more likely to con­sume fatty, salty, and sug­ary foods, like french fries, chips and candy.


For long-term so­lu­tions, “dis­si­pate stress and you’ll dis­si­pate stress eat­ing,” says psy­chol­o­gist Lisa Groesz, au­thor of the study in Ap­petite. “Think about how you in­ter­pret stress­ful events. Then let go of what is not in your con­trol,” she says. And try to ex­er­cise ev­ery day; ex­er­cise is a proven stress re­ducer, but not be­cause of the flood of en­dor­phins, says Robert Thayer, a pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy at Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­sity at Long Beach. More likely it’s through the in­ter­ac­tion of nor­ep­i­neph­rine and sero­tonin, neu­ro­trans­mit­ters that help your brain deal with stress.

Pound Pro­tein

Leidy’s re­search sug­gests that con­sum­ing high-pro­tein meals can re­duce re­wards-driven hunger. “Our study looked at the im­pact of pro­tein at break­fast, but I would sus­pect that eat­ing a high-pro­tein snack in the af­ter­noon would also re­duce re­wards-driven hunger later in the evening.” Leidy also de­ter­mined that the sati­ety hor­mone pep­tide YY, or PYY, re­mained el­e­vated for sev­eral hours af­ter a high-pro­tein meal.


Make sure to eat 20 to 30 grams of pro­tein at ev­ery meal and al­ways for your af­ter­noon snack.



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