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This month we answer your questions about diet and weight (or what we emphasize even more, waist) control.
Q: I like to go without breakfast, have coffee and then a big lunch. As long as I don’t overdo the calories at lunch, is this strategy OK?
A: Eating right is about more than calories consumed and burned. For long-term weight loss, you need to get your metabolism at an optimal, calorie-burning set point—and your no-breakfast strategy flunks that test.
Coffee and caffeine are great (enjoy a few cups for brain and cancer prevention benefits; caffeinated tea works, too). If you skip breakfast, though, your body will expect real nutrients by lunchtime—and will hold onto calories and fat even if you don’t overindulge. But chances are that you will overdo it, chowing down on bigger portions or stuffing with more starches than if you’d eaten breakfast. A new study involving Cornell University students showed exactly that.
Don’t sabotage your health. With your coffee, eat fruit or a piece of 100 percent whole wheat toast with a little peanut butter or walnut butter.
Q: What are your best tips to help someone stay on a weight-loss diet?
A: Losing weight isn’t that tough if you have a smart approach. And again, you want to remember that your waist is more important than your weight. Because belly fat is close to vital organs, it is the most dangerous body fat and is a big warning that future health problems (heart disease, diabetes and cancers) are likely in your future.
So ditch the scale in favor of the tape measure. Women should shoot for waists of 32.5 inches or less; men, 35 or less. No matter what, get below 36 for women and 40 for men.
Here are the best waist and weight tips from our coaching success stories and research-based medicine. Our typical participants at EnforcerECoaching.com lose about two-thirds pound per week (women), or just under 1 pound per week (men), for the first 26 weeks; they keep that much or more off for as long as they’re in contact with us. Here are the keys:
- Walk 10,000 steps daily. Buy two pedometers so you’re never without one.
- Stock only healthy foods. Without temptations, you’ll automatically eat right. Check labels and purge products with any of these ingredients listed among the first five (we discussed these in our September column on blood pressure—read it at SUCCESS.com/Oz-Roizen; these food villains raise BP, too!):
1. Simple sugars (corn syrup, brown sugar, maltose, lactose, honey, raw sugar, sucrose, glucose, invert sugar, malt syrup and molasses), which make you crave high-calorie foods.
2. Saturated fats (four-legged animal fats, poultry skin, and tropical oils such as palm and coconut), which age organs, blood vessels… in other words, your entire body.
3. Trans fats (on labels as “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils). If you must have a buttery spread, use a less harmful product such as Promise or Benecol.
4. Any flour that is not 100 percent whole grain or 100 percent whole wheat.
Note: Don’t eat anything with more than 4 grams of saturated fat or 4 grams of any sugar per serving. To find fat and sugar content on unlabeled foods, check reputable online sources. LiveStrong.com, for instance, says a 3.5-ounce broiled choice-grade rib-eye steak with fat and lean portions contains 265 calories and 16.76 grams of saturated fat. And it also says which tasty red meats are OK to eat.
- Do muscle-building exercises for 30 minutes a week after you’ve completed 30 days of walking while avoiding the bad ingredients we listed previously.
- Reprogram your appetite for lifelong healthy choices by eating three main meals a day (plus snacks) so you’re never hungry. This keeps your metabolism burning the most calories per day instead of sending it into “I’m starving and will store everything that enters my body as fat” mode.
If you’re overwhelmed by food options, pick a few healthy meals and eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch almost every day. Those who minimize food choices lose more weight.
- Eat deliciously. Fill up on 100 percent whole-grain carbs, veggies, fruits, nuts, and lean proteins such as fish and skinless poultry. In a hunger emergency, munch a favorite from this list: apples, almonds, walnuts, edamame (soybeans), sugar-free gum, chopped veggies, nonfat yogurt or nonfat cottage cheese. And drink water, of course.
Eat a little healthy fat—a handful of walnuts, for instance—about 20 minutes before a meal to take the edge off your hunger.
- Watch portion sizes. A serving of meat should be the size of a deck of playing cards. Restaurant portions tend to be huge; either share with a fellow diner or immediately set aside extra food in a takeout container.
- Write down everything you eat. This can be a wake-up call on how much you actually eat as well as what times of day you give in to cravings. Then keep low-calorie, vitamin-rich fruits and veggies at hand for your munchie attacks.
- Add support. Enlist a friend, family member or online buddy as your partner or coach. Everyone needs encouragement and an occasional prod. After finishing your 30-minute daily walk, call a buddy or send us (EnforcerECoaching.com) your step counts and food log for a pat on the back or nudge—or a rare smackdown if you need it.
- Sleep seven to eight hours a night. Fatigue makes you crave sugary foods because they release the brain chemicals depleted by sleep deprivation. So get your zzzz’s!
Q: I love a lift from the caffeine in my afternoon soda sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. TV ads say corn syrup isn’t that bad. Is that true? Should I switch to diet sodas?
A: Don’t believe the ads! High-fructose corn syrup or corn sugar—and even regular sugar in excess—is bad for the proteins making up muscles and organs throughout your body. Yes, moderation can work if you stay below 2 ounces an hour; a 12-ounce soda needs to be spread evenly over six hours to protect your body’s proteins. Excess blood sugar increases hardening of the arteries, promotes hypertension, adds body fat and raises uric acid levels that wreck your arteries. Added fructose (not the natural fructose in fruit) in everything from ketchup to baked goods and soda to fruit “drinks” (as opposed to fruit “juices”) also messes with your appetite control system because it affects the level of the hormone leptin, which controls appetite.
As for diet soda, just ask Dr. Mike, who once drank up to 26 cans a day—he’ll set you straight. Zero calories don’t have zero impact on weight. In a recent study, people who drank diet sodas had a 70 percent greater increase in waist circumference over a few years than people who didn’t. Diet sodas set up a craving for something sweet and mutate your mindset: You’ll congratulate yourself on a great drink choice and justify an unhealthy choice afterward.
Swear off soda and drink tea or coffee without sugar or cream so you can harmlessly enjoy your afternoon kick.