WEIGHT LOSS, DEMYSTIFIED

HOW TO PICK A DIET PLAN THAT DOESN’T TURN YOUR LIFE UP­SIDE DOWN

Amazing Wellness - - CONTENTS - By Vera Tweed

How can you find the best plan in a sea of di­ets and con­flict­ing nu­tri­tional ad­vice? One weight-loss ex­pert cuts through the noise to re­veal three essen­tial steps to slimming down.

With dozens of di­ets out there, it’s easy to get con­fused. Should you go low-carb, cut calo­ries, try fasting, or omit en­tire cat­e­gories of food such as grains or dairy? And how can you tell which diet is best for you?

“They all work,” says David Fried­man, ND, au­thor of Food San­ity: How to Eat in

a World of Fads and Fic­tion. “If you fol­low the pro­gram, you’ll ex­pe­ri­ence the weight loss, but un­for­tu­nately, the re­sults are usu­ally tem­po­rary.” But there is hope for more per­ma­nent weight loss and bet­ter weight man­age­ment.

On the most ba­sic level, Fried­man points out, the true mean­ing of “diet” has been lost. While it’s now syn­ony­mous with food restric­tion, it comes from the Greek word di­aita, which means “way of life,” and food is only one part. A plan that em­bod­ies the full mean­ing can suc­ceed in the short term and de­liver per­ma­nent weight loss, and it doesn’t re­quire turn­ing your life up­side down.

WEIGHT-LOSS SAN­ITY

Fried­man iden­ti­fied three essen­tial parts to a true diet: Get­ting enough sleep, avoid­ing obe­so­gens, and eat­ing in a weight-friendly way that’s sus­tain­able. Th ere’s no sub­sti­tute for rest­ful sleep, be­cause a short­fall will pro­voke crav­ings, overeat­ing, and fat stor­age. Obe­so­gens are chem­i­cals that make us obese by dis­rupt­ing hor­mones that reg­u­late ap­petite and sati­ety, such as ghre­lin and lep­tin, trig­ger­ing false hunger sig­nals, block­ing our abil­ity to sense when we’ve eaten enough, and stim­u­lat­ing overeat­ing. In food, they in­clude pes­ti­cides, her­bi­cides, growth hor­mones and an­tibi­otics in meat, preser­va­tives, and any other ar­ti­fi­cial ad­di­tives.

With a steady stream of such chem­i­cals in your diet, says Fried­man, “I don’t care what you eat or what you don’t eat, you’re not go­ing to lose weight.” Eat­ing foods that are or­ganic or pro­duced with­out chem­i­cals is one essen­tial part of the so­lu­tion.

Th e third as­pect, eat­ing weight-friendly foods, re­volves around the hor­mone in­sulin. Starchy and sug­ary foods raise lev­els of in­sulin, and when eaten in ex­cess, lead to fat stor­age. Re­duc­ing such foods makes it eas­ier to lose weight, and many pop­u­lar di­ets, in­clud­ing the South Beach Diet and the Zone Diet, em­body the premise.

Fried­man has one ba­sic rule: Don’t eat the most com­mon white foods, in­clud­ing white

fl our, white rice, re­fined sugar, re­fined salt (chips are out), and dairy (but­ter and col­ored cheeses all come from white milk). “Dairy was de­signed by na­ture to have a tiny calf turn into a one-ton an­i­mal, and milk cre­ates in­flam­ma­tion in the body,” he says. Do eat nat­u­rally white fi sh, poul­try, and vegeta­bles, such as cau­li­flower, ji­cama, mush­rooms, onions, and gar­lic, but go easy on pota­toes. And, he says, nat­u­rally un-white whole grains, sweet­en­ers, and salts are fi ne.

Other ways of shift­ing to a more weight-friendly diet in­clude fasting, re­duc­ing carbs, re­duc­ing calo­ries and por­tions, or elim­i­nat­ing foods that trig­ger in­flam­ma­tion and health is­sues, in­clud­ing weight gain.

A NEW KIND OF FASTING

Al­though it may seem ex­treme, per­haps even dan­ger­ous, to­day’s mean­ing of fasting isn’t as dras­tic as it sounds. Gov­ern­ment nu­tri­tion sur­veys show that the norm in 1977 was just three meals a day, with­out snacks. But by 2004, we were eat­ing about six times daily: break­fast, snack, lunch, snack, din­ner, and snack. Be­cause we typ­i­cally eat so of­ten, a 1970s-era, 12-hour food in­ter­mis­sion be­tween din­ner and break­fast the next day is now viewed as a fast.

“If you eat all the time, you typ­i­cally eat more—that’s just log­i­cal, re­ally,” says Ja­son Fung, MD, au­thor of Th e Obe­sity Code: Un­lock­ing the Se­crets of Weight Loss and founder of the In­ten­sive Di­etary Man­age­ment pro­gram in Toronto, Canada, which treats type 2 di­a­betes and obe­sity with diet. But that’s not the only pit­fall.

By eat­ing all day, says Fung, “You stim­u­late in­sulin all the time; you’re giv­ing your body the hor­monal in­struc­tions to store en­ergy and gen­er­ally, it be­comes body fat.” When we eat more car­bo­hy­drates than we need for im­me­di­ate en­ergy, the ex­cess is stored in the liver as glyco­gen, and when that “tank” is fi lled, body fat be­comes the stor­age de­pot. Giv­ing your body a break from food uses up the en­ergy re­serve in the liver, and then body fat gets burned.

THE FASTING MYTH

Th ere’s a the­ory that go­ing with­out food for more than two or three hours will bring your me­tab­o­lism to a halt, but it’s a myth, says Fung. “Your body switches to burn­ing fat and it doesn’t shut down.”

Th at’s why our an­ces­tors were able to sur­vive when food was scarce. “We would have been dead long ago,” he adds, “if we had a re­quire­ment to eat six times a day.”

For weight loss, fasting for 24 hours (eat­ing din­ner to­day and noth­ing un­til din­ner to­mor­row, for ex­am­ple) can pro­duce a loss of about a half-pound of fat, plus loss of wa­ter weight, and can be done two or three times a week, an ap­proach that’s be­come known as in­ter­mit­tent fasting. A 36-hour or longer fast is also usu­ally safe and ef­fec­tive for healthy adults. How­ever, fasting isn’t rec­om­mended

for any­one who is un­der­weight, mal­nour­ished, preg­nant, or breast­feed­ing, and any­one tak­ing di­a­betes or blood pres­sure med­i­ca­tion should work with a knowl­edge­able physi­cian, as doses will need to be ad­justed.

Al­though a clas­sic fast in­cludes only wa­ter, Fung has found that herbal or black tea, bone broth, or cof­fee, even with a small amount of heavy cream or half-and half, doesn’t im­pede ben­e­fits.

LOW-CARB DI­ETS

Most peo­ple eat about 200 or more grams of carbs daily. Cut­ting back to 100 grams or less—or even bet­ter, to 20 grams daily—will have an ef­fect sim­i­lar to fasting by ex­haust­ing stored en­ergy from the liver and en­abling fat burn­ing. If you eat a low-carb diet be­tween fasts, rather than junk food or starchy dishes, says Fung, “you’ll get a bet­ter ef­fect.”

“Low-carb” in this sense means eat­ing foods nat­u­rally low in carbs, such as leafy greens and non­starchy vegeta­bles, healthy fats, and lean pro­tein. And avoid ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers. An ex­am­ple of a diet with 20 grams of carbs daily might in­clude two stfuls of leafy greens plus a cup of other, non­starchy vegeta­bles.

When a body burns fat rather than carbs for en­ergy, it gen­er­ates chem­i­cals called ke­tones. Hence the name for “ke­to­genic” or “keto” di­ets.

CALO­RIE & POR­TION CON­TROL

Calo­rie count­ing con­tin­ues to be a pop­u­lar ap­proach to weight loss, but there’s more recognition of the fact that qual­ity of calo­ries mat­ters. Weight Watch­ers, for ex­am­ple, uses a points sys­tem that takes into ac­count how nu­tri­tious a food is and how well it fi lls you up, in ad­di­tion to calo­ries. Based on age and weight, you get a daily bud­get of points to “spend” on dif­fer­ent foods. Fruits and most vegeta­bles use up zero points, and high-pro­tein foods have a low point value, whereas sug­ary and starchy foods, and those high in sat­u­rated fat, have a com­par­a­tively high point value.

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