Foods That Cause You to Lose Weight: The Negative Calorie Effect - Neal D. Barnard (2016)

Part I. Basic Concepts

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BASIC CONCEPTS

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We need to think differently about the approach to losing weight. Forget old-fashioned diets. There are very good reasons why they do not work well. Your body was not designed recently. The human body took shape millions of years ago, long before diets were invented. At that time, the lack of food meant only one thing, starvation, and if the body could not cope with the lack of food, the result was life-threatening. So we have built-in mechanisms to preserve ourselves in the face of low food intake. These defenses are automatically put to work. When you go on a low-calorie diet, you know that you are doing so to lose weight. But your body does not know that. As far as your body is concerned you are starving, and it will trigger a number of biological mechanisms to try and stop you.

To see how to avoid this problem, let’s first look at how your body burns calories. The speed at which your body burns calories is called the metabolic rate. Some people have a “fast metabolism” and burn lots of calories in a short time. They are likely to stay slim. Other people have a slower metabolic rate and have a harder time staying slim. Your metabolism is like the rate at which an automobile uses up gas. An idling car uses up some fuel. When the car is moving it uses more, and when it accelerates up a hill it will use a lot more gas.

Our bodies work the same way. We burn some calories even when we are relaxing or asleep because it takes energy to maintain our normal body temperature and to keep our lungs, heart, brain, and other organs working. When we engage in activities, the more strenuous they are, the more calories we burn.

DIETING SLOWS YOUR METABOLISM

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The point to remember is that your metabolic rate can be changed. In a period of starvation or dieting, the body slows down the metabolism. The body does not understand the concept of dieting. Remember, as far as your body is concerned, a diet is starvation, and it does not know how long the starvation period will last. So it clings to its fat like a motorist running out of gas preserves fuel. Remember the last time you were driving along the highway and suddenly noticed that the gas gauge was below empty? You tried to remember how far below “E” your gauge will go. You went easy on the accelerator, driving very smoothly, and turned off the engine at stop lights to conserve gas until you got to a station.

Your body does the same sort of thing when food is in short supply. It turns down the metabolic flame to save as much of the fat on your body as possible until the starvation period is over, because fat is the body’s fuel reserve. This is very frustrating to dieters. They often find that, even though they are eating very little, their bodies do not easily shed the pounds. Even worse, the slowed metabolism can continue beyond the dieting period, sometimes for weeks, according to studies at the University of Pennsylvania and elsewhere.1 For that reason, fat is easily and rapidly accumulated again after the dieting period. This causes the familiar yo-yo phenomenon, in which dieters lose some weight, then rebound to a higher weight than they started with.

Here is the first step to keeping your metabolic rate up: Make sure that your diet contains at least 10 calories per pound of your ideal body weight. This means that if you are aiming for a weight of 150 pounds, your daily menu should contain at least 1500 calories. Weight loss will be gradual, but you will not slow your metabolism and, so, you will be able to retain your progress.

Minimum Calories per Day
Ideal Weight × 10 Calories = Calories

120 × 10 calories = 1200 calories

150 × 10 calories = 1500 calories

180 × 10 calories = 1800 calories

AVOIDING BINGES

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There is another problem with skimpy eating. Not only does the body lower its metabolic flame to conserve energy, but it also gets ready to take maximal advantage of any food source it finds. When food becomes available, there is a tremendous tendency to binge, in what is known as the restrained-eater phenomenon. You know the pattern. You have been dieting for several days, and suddenly someone brings home a carton of ice cream. A little bit won’t hurt, you decide, and before you know it you are scraping the bottom of the carton and digging around the cracks for every last bit. You then scold yourself for your “lack of willpower.” The truth is that the problem was not willpower at all, but the innate biological programming of the human body. The diet turned on the “anti-starvation” plan that is built into every human being. Your body assumed that any food in front of you might be the only calorie source you might have for a while, so it demanded a binge.

•The point to remember is binges come from diets.

It is not a question of weak will or gluttony. The human body has a built-in tendency to binge after periods of starvation.

For a similar reason, it is best not to skip meals. Skipping breakfast and lunch leads to overeating later in the day. So, eat regular meals and avoid very-low-calorie diets.

Bulimia—binge eating often followed by purging—almost always begins with a diet. And as the binging begins, shame and secrecy often follow. If this has happened to you, remember that binging is not a moral failing. It is a natural biological consequence of dieting.

Dieting is now a nearly universal pastime in America, and bulimia is an ever-growing epidemic. Unfortunately, children are raised on a menu that is almost certain to make many of them gain weight. The cultural trend in western countries in the past several decades has emphasized meat, dairy products, fried chicken, french fries, and other high-fat foods. Combined with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, the predictable result is that many people will become overweight. They mistakenly believe that the problem is the quantity of food they are eating, rather than the type of food. Rather than abandon the offending foods, they simply eat less. A restrictive diet begins. The natural result is lowered metabolic rates, cravings, and binging. Most binges would probably never occur if dieting were replaced with better food choices that would promote a slow, steady drop in weight, rather than an overly rapid weight loss.

Skipped meals and skimpy portions are not effective for permanent weight control and are not a part of this program.

AN OPTIMAL WEIGHT-LOSS MENU

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Now that you know what not to do, let’s build a program that takes pounds off and keeps them off. The basis of this program is a way of eating that promotes weight control naturally, without counting calories and without skimpy portions.

Let’s first look at carbohydrates. The starchy white inside of a potato is mostly complex carbohydrate, which is simply a chemist’s term for molecules made up of many natural sugars linked together. When you eat a potato, that carbohydrate is gradually broken apart into simple sugars, which are absorbed and used by the body. Rice, wheat, oats, and other grains are rich in complex carbohydrates, as are beans and nearly all vegetables.

In the past, many people believed that starchy foods were fattening. They would avoid carbohydrate-rich potatoes, rice, bread, and pasta. People would take a baked potato, which has only 95 calories, and top it with a pat or two of butter, and sometimes add sour cream, grated cheese, or bacon bits. As they gained weight, they blamed the potato. But we now know that what was fattening was not the potato, but the greasy toppings that were added to it.

•Carbohydrate-rich foods are actually low in calories.

•A gram of carbohydrate (about 1/30 ounce) = 4 calories.

That is why a slice of bread has only 79 calories and an ear of corn only 120. A chicken breast, which contains no carbohydrate, has fully 86 calories. In contrast, starchy foods are low-calorie foods.

Compare that to fatty foods. A gram of fat has 9 calories, more than twice the calorie content of carbohydrate. It is only when carbohydrate-rich foods are covered with fatty toppings that lots of calories are added.

Look at how this works with actual foods. You are planning a candlelight dinner for two. A nice spaghetti dinner with some fresh vegetables, perhaps a glass of wine. A one-cup serving of spaghetti topped with ½ cup of tomato sauce has about 200 calories. But if we decided to add ground beef to the sauce, look what happens: the spaghetti dinner suddenly has 365 calories. The fat in ground beef holds a lot of calories.

Let’s take another example: A half-cup serving of mashed potatoes has 70 calories. A tablespoon of butter on top adds fully 108 calories. In the process a low-calorie food becomes a high-calorie food. In other words, fatty toppings are high in calories, but the carbohydrate-rich potatoes, spaghetti, bread, etc., are not.

Food and Fatty Toppings

Potato (1 med.) = 95 calories

Potato (1 med.) + Butter (1 Tbs) = 203 calories

Potato (1 med.) + Butter (1 Tbs) + Cheese (1 oz) = 317 calories

There may be an advantage to whole unprocessed grains, such as rice, cereal, or corn, as opposed to grain that has been ground up into flour (e.g., bread or pasta). Some evidence shows that we tend to extract more calories from the ground-up varieties, perhaps because the process of “digestion” has been begun for us.

There are other important virtues of carbohydrates. They cannot add directly to your fat stores. We do not have any “carbohydrate storage areas” on our bellies or thighs. If the body is to store the energy of carbohydrates in fat, it has to chemically convert the carbohydrate molecules into fat. This process consumes a fair number of calories. As a result,

•Calories from carbohydrates are not as likely to increase body fat as are the same number of calories from fats.

In addition, carbohydrates boost your metabolism. Plant-based meals tend to increase the metabolic rate slightly. Here is how it works. Carbohydrate breaks down in the body to various sugars. Sugars cause insulin to be released which, in turn, leads to the production of two natural hormones, norepinephrine and thyroid hormone (T3). T3 and norepinephrine both increase the metabolic rate. The result is more effective calorie burning.25

So starchy foods are naturally low in calories, they cannot be automatically added to body fat, and they help boost your metabolic rate so that calories are burned off a bit faster.

•Carbohydrate-rich vegetables, beans, and grains are the best friends of anyone trying to shed some pounds.

Now here is a critical point.

•Complex carbohydrates are found only in plants.

Grains, such as bread, spaghetti, and rice are loaded with carbohydrates. Beans and vegetables are also high in carbohydrates. But there are virtually no complex carbohydrates in chicken, fish, beef, pork, eggs, or dairy products. The more animal products you eat, the more you are pushing carbohydrate-rich vegetable foods off your plate. That is one reason why the most effective weight-control programs use vegetarian menus.

Carbohydrates Increase Metabolism

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There is an added bonus to foods from plants: fiber. Grains, beans, and vegetables contain fiber, which adds texture and makes them filling and satisfying. Fiber is what people used to call roughage, the part of plants that resists digestion in the small intestine. The value of fiber was not appreciated until relatively recently, and so it was often removed by refining methods. The result was white bread instead of whole-grain breads, white rice instead of brown rice, and baked goods that were more densely packed with calories and less satisfying than they would have been had the fiber been left in. Fiber adds a hearty texture to foods but has virtually no calories.

Like complex carbohydrates, fiber is found only in plants. Grains, such as wheat, oats, rye, corn, rice, and the breads, cereals, and other foods that are made from them are loaded with fiber. Vegetables of all kinds and legumes, such as beans, peas, and lentils are also rich in fiber.

Animal products contain no fiber at all. To the extent that animal products are added to the diet, the fiber content is reduced. Americans now consume only 10–20 grams of fiber per day, on average, which is about half of what we should have. The reason, of course, is the penchant for animal products and refined plant foods, which unfortunately displace the fiber-rich foods. But do not feel that you must calculate your fiber intake. When you center your diet on high-carbohydrate foods, such as whole grains, beans, and vegetables, the fiber content of your diet will increase naturally. As you will see in Part II, the result will be meals that are satisfying and filling. When we discuss the value of carbohydrate-rich foods and fiber, you can simplify this by thinking in terms of foods from plants versus animal products. A plant-based diet is rich in carbohydrate and fiber.

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Charlene: Beating a Weight Problem

Charlene wanted to lose 30 pounds. In fact, she had wanted to lose these same 30 pounds for several years. She had tried several different diets, including some with formula drinks, and had also tried diet pills. None of these were effective over the long run, although all had seemed to help temporarily. When I met her, she was avoiding all carbohydrates. She skipped breakfast, had yogurt and turkey slices for lunch, and usually ate frozen dietetic meals for dinner. Her weight had been essentially the same for months.

I suggested that, instead of avoiding starchy foods, she make them the center of her diet. Breakfast was to be hot cereal and fruit. At work, she could make lunch from dried soups. For dinner, she was to make a pot of rice, as much as she could eat, or, if she preferred, she could have potatoes or other starchy foods instead. She was also to include vegetables and beans or lentils at dinner. Because this “diet” included a rather large quantity of food, she worried that she might actually gain weight on it. But some rather simple calculations showed that the calorie content of this menu was actually very modest. She lost weight very gradually, but about ten months later, the 30 extra pounds were gone.

Animal products are devoid of them. The result is that plant-based diets promote slimness, while animal products promote overweight.

THE NEGATIVE CALORIE EFFECT

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Many people still believe that the number of calories in any given food tells you just how fattening that food is likely to be. For example, a cup of rice has about 220 calories. Three slices of bologna also have 220 calories. So some people assume that these two foods have exactly the same effect on the waistline.

They don’t. The very same number of calories coming from bologna and from rice have very different effects. The bologna tends to be fattening, as a general rule, while the rice does not.

Rice does provide calories to run the body’s functions. And theoretically it is possible for unused calories from rice to be stored as fat. But it turns out that rice is much less fattening than the same number of calories from bologna, other meats, or other fatty foods. Rice—like other carbohydrate-rich foods—has a way of naturally reducing the calories that are available for fat storage.

You might think of this as a “negative calorie effect.” One of the most exciting concepts in the science of weight control in many years is the fact that certain foods can actually assist in the loss of fat.

By now, it will come as no surprise to you that carbohydrate-rich foods are power foods for weight control. But let’s see what the “negative calorie effect” really means. Then, we’ll look at twenty foods that encourage this effect and that you can eat freely. In reality there are far more than twenty and by the time you are done with this book, I hope you will have gone far beyond the old-fashioned notion of counting calories and limiting portion size. The key is not how much you eat, but, instead, the types of foods you eat.

When you think of carbohydrate, think, for example, of rice. A rice grain is a seed, designed by nature to start a new rice plant. The starchy white interior of a rice grain consists mainly of complex carbohydrates that nourish the seed as it sprouts and grows. The same is true of beans, potatoes, apples, and many other plants. The starchy carbohydrate interior provides nourishment for the tiny growing plant.

For millions of years, humans and other primates have plucked fruits from trees and roots from the ground and have taken advantage of carbohydrate’s capacity to nourish us. What is remarkable is that these foods provide energy with relatively little tendency to cause overweight. In many Asian countries, for example, where rice is still the center of the diet and huge amounts of rice are consumed, people tend to remain slim.

While carbohydrates provide calories for the body, they also have ways of counteracting the storage of some of these calories as fat, and also encourage the burning of stored calories:

First, as we saw earlier, a substantial number of the calories in carbohydrates are used up as carbohydrates are turned to fat. Let me give you some numbers: For every 100 calories of carbohydrate that your body tries to store as fat, 23 are lost in the process of breaking down carbohydrate molecules and building fat molecules from them. That means that, of the 220 calories in a cup of rice, about 50 calories are used up just in the chemical processing. Leaving grains whole, like rice, cereals, or corn, rather than grinding them into flour to make bread or pasta, also causes them to release fewer calories.

But that is just the beginning. In addition, because carbohydrate increases the body’s metabolism, more calories are burned off as the metabolism increases. The metabolism-boosting effect causes more of the calories in all the foods you eat to be burned. When that happens, they cannot be turned into fat.

It is similar to the effect of turning up a car’s idle. More gas is used up, there is less in the tank, less to spill on the ground, and less to use in the future, because it has been burned.

Another part of the “negative calorie effect” of carbohydrates is that they are the part of the diet that tells the body when it has had enough food. Your body does not just pay attention to how much you have eaten. It actually has a way to monitor how much carbohydrate is coming in. When it has had enough, it reduces the feeling of hunger. Carbohydrates are the cue the body needs. So, if there is a lot of carbohydrate on your plate, you will tend to eat to feel satisfied and to turn down the drive to fill your plate. The natural sugar in fruits, called fructose, also has an appetite-reducing effect.

What this means is that if you have included generous amounts of rice, potatoes, beans, fruits, and other carbohydrate-rich foods on your meals, the calories in pork chops, salad oil, and other fattening foods are less likely to find their way onto your fork.

How do you get these “negative calorie effects”? You will not get them from steak or fried chicken, because there is virtually no complex carbohydrate in fish, chicken, beef, milk, eggs, or any other animal product. Complex carbohydrates are found only in plants. Grains, vegetables, and beans are loaded with them. That is why vegetarian foods are such powerful foods for permanent weight control.

If you like, you can forget technical terms like carbohydrate. As long as your diet is made from grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits, rather than animal products, it will be naturally rich in carbohydrate.

20 FOODS YOU CAN EAT IN VIRTUALLY UNLIMITED PORTIONS

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Listed below are twenty foods that you should feel free to eat in very generous portions. Unless you are really stuffing yourself, you can eat as much of these as you want. In fact, there are many more than twenty, as you have learned. One caveat: Enjoy these with no butter, margarine, or oily toppings—fats are fattening!

Corn

Celery

Rice

Peas

Potatoes

Cauliflower

Lettuce (all varieties)

Pineapple

Broccoli

Cabbage

Carrots

Oranges

Black beans

Apples

Kidney beans

Grapefruit

Spinach

Bananas

Lentils

Oatmeal

CUTTING OUT FATS AND OILS

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Now for the most important part of the food prescription.

•Cut out the fats and oils.

•Fats and oils are packed with calories.

•Fat in foods is fat on you.

These are the most calorie-dense part of the foods we eat. As we noted previously, every single gram of fat or oil holds 9 calories. This is true for all fats and oils: beef fat, chicken fat, fish oil, vegetable oil, and any other kind of fat or oil.

There are various kinds of fat. The main categories discussed by dietitians are saturated fat, which is common in animal products and is solid at room temperature, and unsaturated fat, which is common in vegetable oils and is liquid at room temperature. Different kinds of fat have different effects on your cholesterol level. But

•For weight control, we need to be concerned about all forms of fat.

•All fats and oils have the same calorie content: 9 calories in every gram.

About 35 percent of the calories most Americans get every day come from fat. For a typical 2000-calorie menu, that is 700 calories each day just from fats and oils in our foods. By cutting out most of the fats in our diet, we can cut out hundreds of calories. To put it another way, if all the foods we eat are very low in fat, we can eat far more food than we could on a high-fat diet, without more calories.

We should cut our fat intake from 35 percent of the calories we eat down to about 15 percent. Eating 15 percent of our calories from fat is a substantial reduction. It is a powerful weight-reducing step and yields other tremendous benefits as well. We must go on a “search and destroy” mission for fat. Be on the lookout for fat in the two forms in which it comes: animal fat and vegetable oil.

Food

Percentage of calories from fat

Potato

less than 1%

Peas

3%

Black beans

4%

Macaroni noodles

4%

Vegetarian baked beans

4%

Rice

less than 5%

Cauliflower

6%

Spinach

7%

Broccoli

8%

Wheat bread

15%

Whole milk

49%

2% milk

35%

Extra lean ground beef

54%

Ground beef

60%

Animal fat was designed by nature to act as a calorie-storage area for animals. When you eat animal fat, you are eating all those stored calories. Animal fat is not only on the outside of a cut of meat. It is marbled through the lean part, too, almost like a sponge holding water. So, if you are eating meat you are eating someone else’s fat and someone else’s concentrated stored calories. It will put fat on you. Let’s take some examples:

Imagine that we are making tacos. Let’s compare two recipes for taco filling, one made with ground beef and the other with beans. Beef is high in fat; three ounces of ground beef hold about 225 calories. Beans are very low in fat, and three ounces hold only about 80 calories. So we can cut out nearly two-thirds of the calorie content by switching from the beef recipe to the bean recipe. A big part of the difference is the very high fat content of the ground beef and the very low fat content of beans. About 60 percent of the calories in ground beef come from fat. This is a huge load of calories that do nothing good for the body and do a lot of harm, from promoting heart disease to increasing cancer risk, and, of course, fattening you up.

Take a look at the fat content of various foods in the chart on the previous page. Remember, the fat contents listed here are percentages of calories, not percentages by weight. This is a critical difference. Whole milk, for example, is 3.3 percent fat by weight, because it is loaded with water. But 49 percent of its calories come from fat. Milk that is 2 percent fat by weight is actually about 35 percent fat as a percentage of calories. It is actually not a low-fat product at all.

“Extra lean” ground beef is really not so lean either: it derives 54 percent of its calories from fat. It is an abysmal food for people concerned about their waistlines.

By calorie content, here’s a listing of common meat cuts.

Common Meat Cuts

Cut

Percentage of calories from fat

Chuck roast

51%

Rib eye steak

63%

Short loin porterhouse

64%

Hot dogs

82%

Bologna

83%

Most beans, grains, vegetables

less than 10%

Even the beef industry in its “lean” advertisments of the “skinniest six” beef specimens could not find any cuts of meat that are anywhere near the fat content of beans, grains, or vegetables.

All of these have many times the fat content of typical vegetables, beans, grains, and fruits.

The problem with meats, including poultry and fish, is that they are muscles, and muscles are made up of protein and fat. They contain no fiber at all and virtually no carbohydrate.

“Skinniest Six” Meat Cuts

Cut

Percentage of calories from fat

Tenderloin

41%

Top loin

40%

Sirloin

38%

Round tip

36%

Eye of round

32%

Top round

29%

Most beans, grains, vegetables

less than 10%

Advertisers sometimes claim that chicken and fish are low-fat foods. Are they? Let’s look at the worst and the best of the poultry line.

The chicken also contributes about 85 mg. of cholesterol. In addition, chicken pushes carbohydrates and fiber off your plate. No matter how chicken is prepared, it cannot get its calorie level down to that of the truly healthful foods, because chicken, like all meats, is permeated by fat and contains no complex carbohydrates or fiber. Fat always has more calories than carbohydrate.

Poultry

Percentage of calories from fat

Chicken frank

68%

Roasted chicken

51%

White meat w/out skin

23%

Most beans, grains, vegetables

less than 10%

Some people eat fish in the hope that fish oil will reduce their cholesterol levels. Actually, fish oils reduce triglycerides but do not reduce cholesterol levels. And it should be remembered that fish oils are as fattening as any other oils or fats. Like all fats and oils, they contain 9 calories per gram.

Different types of fish differ greatly in their fat content.

Fish

Percentage of calories from fat

Chinook salmon

52%

Atlantic salmon

40%

Swordfish

30%

Halibut

19%

Snapper

12%

Sole

9%

Haddock

8%

Many of these are as bad as other animal products. Others are in the same ballpark as vegetables as far as their fat content goes, but this does not make them recommended foods. Remember fish contains no complex carbohydrates and no fiber, and tends to displace these foods from the meal. All fish products also contain cholesterol and far too much protein (see pages 38–42), in addition to contamination problems. So, fish is still not a health food, although certain types of fish are much lower in fat than are beef and poultry.

In summary, meats, poultry, and fish have two main problems for those concerned about their weight.

First, like all muscles, they have inherent fat, adding concentrated calories.

Second, because muscle tissues are mainly just protein and fat, they reduce the carbohydrate and fiber content of the diet. They displace the fiber and carbohydrates that are essential to a satisfying and metabolism-boosting menu.

•The first prescription for cutting the fat is the V-word: vegetarian foods are power foods for weight control.

•The second issue is vegetable oil.

Vegetable oils have received a good reputation because they contain no cholesterol and are low in saturated fats. But their calorie content is the same as any other kind of fat. That should be emphasized. All fats and all oils, regardless of type (lard, pork fat, chicken fat, olive oil, fish oil, etc.), are packed with calories: 9 calories per gram. They are all the enemies of those in search of a slimmer waistline.

Let’s take an example with vegetable oils. As you know, a potato is a low-fat food that is also modest in calories. Only about 1 percent of the calories in a potato come from fat. When the potato is baked or prepared as mashed potatoes, no extra oil is added. But if the potato is cut into french fries and dropped in cooking oil, its fat content soars up to 40 percent or more. As a result, its calorie content doubles or even triples.

Compare the fat content of a doughnut (50%), which is fried in oil, to a bagel (8%), which is not. The doughnut has more than six times the fat of the bagel.

Fat in foods adds easily to your fat stores.

Little or no conversion is needed in the body before the fat we eat passes through the digestive tract and the bloodstream to the fat tissues of the body. But the energy in carbohydrates cannot be stored easily as fat. The body has to do a considerable amount of work before those calories can be stored, and many calories are lost in the process.

1 Large Raw Potato

 

2 Regular Fries

70 calories

+ Frying =

440 calories

1 gram fat

 

23 grams fat

Fats Are Calorie-Dense

Carbohydrate

4 calories per gram

Protein

4 calories per gram

Fat

9 calories per gram

FAT AND OTHER HEALTH CONSIDERATIONS

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There are other serious problems with fats, too. Fat in foods contributes substantially to the risk of several forms of cancer (breast, colon, prostate, and others), heart disease, diabetes, gallstones, and numerous other problems as well. Although animal fats are the worst, vegetable oils also increase health problems.

A low-fat menu is a recipe for a slim, healthy body. It can take some getting used to because, unfortunately, people crave high-fat foods. Grease is like an addicting substance. We all have a tendency to return to fried chicken, greasy burgers, potato chips, and fried onion rings, so be on the lookout. It is easier to cut them out entirely than to continually tease oneself with occasional greasy foods.

GETTING FREE FROM THE FAT IN FOODS

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As you know from the above discussion, shifting away from fat and toward high-fiber foods means getting away from animal products. Cutting out animal products can greatly reduce your fat consumption. Avoiding added vegetable oils and fried foods is another very powerful step. Here are some suggestions on how to do it.

Salad Dressings. Salad dressings can be packed with fat. A salad made of one cup of romaine lettuce with half a tomato holds only 20 calories. But look what adding a tablespoon of dressing will do.

Salad dressing (1 Tbsp.)

Fat content

Catalina french dressing

5.5 grams of fat (65 calories)

vinegar and oil (50/50 mix)

8.0 grams of fat (72 calories)

Good Seasons Zesty Italian

9.2 grams of fat (85 calories)

So the salad with dressing has four to five times the calories of a salad without dressing.

Low-fat or no-fat dressings cut down substantially on the fat content. Or you might prefer a sprinkle of lemon or lime juice as a dressing for salad or vegetables. A tablespoon of lemon or lime juice has no fat and only 4 calories. You may also find that you enjoy the taste of fresh spinach, chickpeas, tomatoes, or other salad ingredients with no dressing at all.

Baked Goods. In recent years, nutritionists have made distinctions between saturated (animal fat, tropical, and hydrogenated oils) and unsaturated (most vegetable) oils, because the former contribute to heart problems. But if our goal is to slim down, the issue is much simpler: all kinds of fats and oils are problems. They are all packed with calories. Some baked goods, such as bagels, pretzels, and many breads, are usually quite low in fat. On the other hand, croissants, cakes, pies, and cookies tend to be very high in fat. Commercially packaged goods list their ingredients on the label. The ingredients are listed in decreasing order of their quantities, so if oil is one of the first ingredients, there is probably more of it than if it is one of the last listed ingredients. In addition, most labels provide enough information to allow you to calculate the actual fat content, using the simple formula.

We do need some fat in the diet. But we need only a fraction of what most of us typically get. A small amount of fat is inherent in grains, legumes, and vegetables. This is all the body needs. Children can (and perhaps should) have a bit more fat in their diet. Breast milk is naturally higher in fat for the needs of growing infants. The natural process of weaning eliminates this nutrient when it is no longer appropriate.

FOR MEAT-LOVERS ONLY

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To reduce the fat content of the diet, low-fat vegetarian foods are ideal. Vegetarian foods are obviously free of the animal fat that permeates meats, poultry, and fish. Steering clear of fried foods and added oils is the other half of the equation. Spaghetti with tomato sauce, bean burritos, vegetable curries, baked potatoes, and salads are a few examples of foods that can be very low in fat, yet delicious.

As you’ll discover in this book, the foods that power up your body’s ability to burn calories come from grains, vegetables, beans, and fruits, which is why we have included plenty of recipes that allow you to enjoy these foods as often as possible. My goal is to help you burn off weight as quickly as you can, without ever having a single hunger pang.

“But, wait a minute,” you might be saying. “What about the occasional steak or chicken breast? Are they out of bounds with this program?”

Well, it is true that our taste for these and other fatty foods has forced us to cut an extra notch in our belts (not to mention making our doctors worry about our cholesterol levels). However, as a doctor, I recognize that, while many people are ready to eat 100-percent healthful foods three times a day, 365 days a year, you may not be. Some people prefer a more gradual approach.

If this means you, let me encourage you to try this.

•Have as many of the foods as possible from this list, along with whatever else you may be eating. Have them every day, in as generous portions as possible. A halfway approach is not nearly as good as a complete commitment, but it is a beginning to a slimmer and healthier you.

•Try the recipes. They really are delicious, and when you find the ones you like, add them to your routine. The more of them you have on a regular basis, the more powerful the effect on your waistline.

•Even better, stick to the foods in this program very strictly, but only do so for three weeks. This puts the program to a good test and will soon show you why it is as powerful (and popular) as it is. If you like its slimming effect, you can stick with it.

HOW TO CHECK THE FAT CONTENT OF FOODS

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How much fat is in foods we eat?

What is important is the percentage of calories that come from fat. (The percentage of fat by weight is not important, because it can be easily thrown off by the water content of products.)

On the information panel on the package, notice the number of calories from fat in one serving. Then divide by the number of calories per serving. Then multiply by 100.

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Let’s try an example. Here is an information label from a supposedly low-calorie pizza.

Nutritional Facts

Serving size

1.0 oz

Servings per pkg

8

Calories

65

Calories from fat

23

This serving is incredibly small, so all the numbers will be artificially low. But even so, the key to look for is the percentage of calories that come from fat. If we divide the number of calories from fat (23) by the number of calories per serving (65), we come out with .35. Then multiplying by 100 gives us 35 percent. This means that 35 percent of the calories in this product are from fat. This is better than fried chicken or a hot dog, but still higher than we want. Not such a healthful entree after all.

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Reggie: Swearing Off Grease

Reggie called himself a “grease addict.” Potato chips, french fries, buttered popcorn, peanuts, peanut butter, and onion rings were all part of his routine. He had been fairly slim until he reached about twenty-five, when his waistline gradually began to expand. Now, at forty, he is about 20 pounds overweight. His daily intake of fatty foods had a predictable effect.

He did not plan to give up any foods forever. But as an experiment, he decided that for three weeks he would eat only low-fat vegetarian meals. From a set of recipes, he made bean entrees with lots of vegetables on the side. There was no limit on amounts, but he was very strict to omit all oils, margarine, salad dressings, and all meats and dairy products. After three weeks, he had lost about three pounds. That was not a big drop, but he found that he had lost all desire for greasy foods, and now associated them with his weight problems. So he decided to stick with his new way of eating for three more weeks. He lost five more pounds. A month later, he had lost another 5 pounds. He now weighs the same as he did in college.

His friend Morris adopted the same program. He weighed 275 pounds when he started. Without limiting calories, he lost 80 pounds. His girlfriend used the same method to drop from 150 to 120 pounds.

CHECK YOUR KNOWLEDGE

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Let’s review. For each pair below, see if you can pick which is lower in fat. You’ll find the answers below. Do not skip this part. It is easy, but important.

Which is lower in fat?

1.Fried chicken vs. broiled top round beef

2.Leanest beef vs. leanest chicken

3.Leanest chicken vs. vegetarian baked beans

4.Leanest beef vs. rice

5.Leanest chicken vs. potato

6.Spaghetti with tomato sauce vs. a Lean Cuisine spaghetti with meatballs dinner

7.Spaghetti with meat sauce vs. spaghetti with tomato sauce

8.Fast-food meat taco vs. fast-food bean burrito

9.Cheddar cheese vs. bread

10.Peanut butter vs. rice

11.Ice cream vs. jelly beans

12.Baked potato vs. french fries

13.Doughnut vs. bagel

Answers

(The numbers given are percentages of calories from fat.)

1.Broiled top round beef (38%) is lower in fat than fried chicken (50% fat), but both are high-fat foods.

2.The leanest chicken is about 20% fat, and lower than the leanest beef (29% fat), although both are high in fat compared to grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits.

3.Vegetarian baked beans (4% fat) are much lower in fat than even the very leanest chicken (20%).

4.Rice (0.8%) is much lower in fat than the leanest beef (29% fat).

5.A potato (1%) is much lower in fat than the leanest chicken (20% fat).

6.Spaghetti with tomato sauce (6%) is much lower in fat than a Lean Cuisine spaghetti with meatballs dinner (23% fat).

7.Spaghetti with tomato sauce (6%) is lower in fat than spaghetti with meat sauce (35%).

8.A fast-food bean burrito (31%) is lower in fat than a fast-food meat taco (50% fat). A homemade burrito can be much lower in fat.

9.Bread (16%) is much lower in fat than cheddar cheese (74% fat). Most cheeses are extremely high in fat.

10.Rice (0.8%) is much lower in fat than peanut butter (78% fat).

11.Jelly beans (0.8%) are much lower in fat than ice cream (48% fat), although both hold a very large amount of sugar.

12.A baked potato (1%) is much lower in fat than french fries (47% fat).

13.A bagel (8%) is much lower in fat than a doughnut (50% fat).

Carbohydrate-rich foods are vital for long-term weight control. Take the carbohydrate test below.

Which has more carbohydrate?

1.A fish fillet vs. broccoli

2.Bread vs. beef

3.Milk vs. potato

4.Cheese vs. rice

Answers

(The numbers given are percentages of calories from carbohydrate.)

1.Broccoli is 78% carbohydrate. A fish fillet has no carbohydrate at all.

2.Bread is 75% carbohydrate. Beef has no carbohydrate at all.

3.A potato is 93% carbohydrate. Milk is 30% carbohydrate, in the form of simple sugar.

4.Rice has much more carbohydrate (89%) than cheese (1%).

WHAT ABOUT PROTEIN?

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Protein is the subject of many myths. The bottom line on protein is this: High-protein diets are dangerous. Many formula diets emphasize high-protein foods and contain very little carbohydrate. This type of diet is not a formula for success. It can cause a rapid, and usually temporary, water loss. But usually the weight comes back on very quickly.

In addition, there are serious dangers to high-protein diets: osteoporosis and kidney disease. The bone-thinning disease of osteoporosis is an epidemic in the U.S., and protein has apparently been a big part of the cause. High-protein diets cause calcium to be lost in the urine. This has been shown repeatedly in scientific studies. When subjects consume foods that are overly high in protein, especially animal protein, they excrete calcium. For example, if volunteers were to eat meals with a substantial meat content and later have their urine tested, calcium would often be found in the urine. Since Americans tend to eat meat daily, it is likely that they are routinely excreting calcium. The calcium does not come from the meat. It comes from their bones.

There are several theories that scientists have used to explain this. The amino acids which make up protein and are released when protein is digested make the blood slightly acidic. In the process of buffering this acid, calcium is pulled from the bones. Ultimately it is discarded in the urine. In addition, meat protein is very high in what are called “sulfur-containing amino acids.” These are suspected of being particularly likely to leach calcium from the bones.

While many of us grew up being taught to make sure we got enough protein, the fact is we have gotten too much. Our bodies only need a fraction of what we generally get. When we eat two or three times the amount of protein the body can use, much of it is broken down and excreted. In the process, it not only interferes with the calcium balance of the body, it can also overwork the kidneys. The excess of amino acids acts as a diuretic, increasing the flow of urine. The amino acids eventually break down to urea, which acts as a diuretic, too. The overall effect is to force the kidneys to work much harder than they should. The nephrons, which are the kidneys’ filter units, gradually die off in the process.

We need protein in the diet, but we do not need a large overdose of protein. The problems of calcium loss and kidney damage occur, not just in those who consume high-protein formulas, but in people who consume meat, chicken, or fish on a regular basis.

The best advice about protein is to stick with plant sources. A varied menu of grains, beans, and vegetables contains more than enough protein for human needs. There is no need to carefully combine proteins. Any variety of plant foods provides sufficient protein. When meats are included, the protein content easily becomes more than the body can handle safely. For example, if you were to have a single 7 ounce serving of roast beef, you would get 62 grams of protein. This one serving contains more than the recommended daily allowance of protein for a whole day (a range of 44–56 gms., depending on your age and level of activity), unless you are pregnant or nursing.

Let’s take a look at two other high-protein products, egg whites and skim milk. Doctors learned long ago that egg yolks were loaded with cholesterol. A single egg yolk contains 213 mg. of cholesterol (and is 80% fat). That is even more cholesterol than in an 8-ounce steak. But while many doctors now recommend avoiding egg yolks, some still encourage the consumption of egg whites because they contain protein. Well, the fact is that egg whites contain too much protein. Of the calories in an egg white, fully 85% are from protein. That is a huge amount that no one needs. (In addition, salmonella bacteria are an increasing problem in eggs, even those with intact shells.)

Protein Myths

1.Milk for strong bones

2.Egg whites are good

3.Vegetarians do not get enough protein

Skim milk is a similar wrong turn. Because of the high saturated fat content of whole milk, many people have chosen skim dairy products. Getting rid of the dairy fat is certainly a good idea, because the fat in whole milk, butter, cheese, cream, and ice cream will tend to increase cholesterol levels and elevate cancer risk. But after the fat is removed, skim milk is hardly a health food. It contains no fiber, and no complex carbohydrates, but has a substantial amount of lactose sugar (55% of calories). Antibiotics are also frequently present in milk products, due to their routine use on farms.

If you thought you needed milk for strong bones, you have been the victim of an extremely aggressive advertising program by the dairy industry that was not based on good science. The fact is that people in countries that consume milk routinely tend to have weaker bones than those in countries that avoid milk. Osteoporosis is more likely due to excess protein in the diet and to sedentary living. It is not due to a “milk deficiency,” and milk consumption does not slow the osteoporosis that commonly occurs in older women.

There are also concerns about the type of protein in milk. Milk proteins often cause allergies and other health problems. There are indications that milk proteins contribute to juvenile-onset diabetes, and specialized cow proteins (antibodies) are now known to cause colic in infants. Like it or not, nature designed cow’s milk for baby cows, not for people.

LIMIT ALCOHOL

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In general, health recommendations have been mixed on alcohol. Modest alcohol consumption—one to two drinks per day—does not promote heart problems. On the other hand, even small amounts of alcohol increase the risk of breast and colon cancer and contribute to birth defects. And, of course, beyond modest use, alcohol contributes to many other very serious health problems, from accidents to heart disease, cancer, neurological disorders, and digestive problems.

What about its effect on your waistline? This is no mystery. Alcohol is fattening. People who consume beer, wine, or mixed drinks on a regular basis get a big load of extra calories, as this list shows.

These figures are not presented for you to remember, but rather to illustrate that the alcohol in these beverages packs a significant number of calories.

What is important about alcohol, however, is not just its calorie content. The important point is this: Alcohol adds to the calories you are already consuming, rather than displacing any. For example, if you were to eat four bread sticks before dinner, you would eat a bit less at dinner. The 150 calories in the bread would displace about the same amount from the food you would have later. But alcohol does not seem to have this same sort of compensatory mechanism.7 If you substitute a beer for the bread sticks, it also holds 150 calories, and the calories from alcohol are not compensated for by eating less later. The calories in alcohol add to what you eat.

Drink

Calories

Wine (4 oz.)

85

Light Beer (12 oz.)

100

Beer (12 oz.)

150

Liquor (1.5 oz.)

124

(100 proof gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey)

The presumption is that although soft drinks hold about the same number of calories as beer (a can of cola holds about 155 calories), they are much more likely to be compensated for later than are the calories in alcoholic beverages, since the calories in soft drinks come from sugar. For mixed drinks, the calories in the drink mix are not so likely to contribute to your girth as the calories in the alcohol that is added to it. This is not a recommendation for colas and drink mixes. The point is that alcohol can really widen your waistline. For alcoholics, the effects are different. Alcoholics often consume less food than do non-alcoholics and are deficient in a host of nutrients.

SWEETS AND SWEETENERS

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Concentrated sugars, such as hard candies, are just chunks of simple sugars and lack any fiber or water. As a result, they are as concentrated a form of calories as can be found in a carbohydrate food. If you consume large quantities of sugary foods, such as sweets and sodas, you will get more calories than the body needs.

But even so, sugars are not nearly as calorie-dense as fats. If you are not controlling the amount of fat you are eating, there is little point in worrying about sugar.

Often, sugar is not the main problem in sweets. In cookies, pies, and cakes, there may be a lot of sugar, but there is usually a huge amount of fat, too.

Sweets

Percentage of calories from fat

Haagen-Dazs ice cream

57%

Hershey dark chocolate bar

50%

Chips Ahoy cookies

42%

Pillsbury German chocolate cake

40%

When selecting sweet foods, pick those with the lowest amount of fat. How about fruit for dessert? And sodas should be replaced with spritzers or water.

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Check Your Knowledge

Try each question. Do not skip any. Answers are listed below.

1.How do alcoholic beverages affect weight problems?

2.What problems are caused by diets with too much protein?

3.Is there a lot of fat in pies and cookies?

4.True or false: As far as protein is concerned, the more the better.

5.True or false: Vegetarians get enough protein without carefully combining foods.

Answers

1.Alcohol contains calories, and we do not compensate for this by eating less later.

2.Osteoporosis and kidney problems.

3.Yes.

4.False. We need some protein, and the amount in plant foods is sufficient. Adding high-protein products is not healthful.

5.True.

Forget artificial sweeteners. They are no answer to weight problems. First of all, they do not seem to have much power to help in weight control. Using an artificial sweetener instead of a teaspoon of sugar saves you only 16 calories. But just two grams of fat hold more calories than the teaspoon of sugar. That is not to say that you should consume sugar, but it is to say that artificial sweeteners are a distraction from the real dietary issues, which for most people relate to the fat content of the diet.

More importantly, artificial sweeteners are poisonous. We have seen this over and over again. Cyclamates can cause cancer. The same may be true of saccharin, although it remains on the market with warning labels on each package. Aspartame, marketed under the name NutraSweet, has problems of its own. Substantial evidence links aspartame to a variety of effects on the brain. Headaches are common, and there is currently a scientific debate over whether aspartame can cause grand mal seizures and whether children, including babies developing in the womb, may suffer brain damage if exposed to aspartame. I see no value in chemical sweeteners.

WATCH OUT FOR STUFFING

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Most overweight people do not overeat. Most actually eat less than thin people do. But some people do overeat. For one of many reasons, they are “stuffers”; they keep eating long after others would have had enough. It is important to identify whether you are a member of that minority of overweight people who do tend to overeat so you can learn what to do about it. Let’s look at three principal reasons for overeating.

1. The Restrained-Eater Phenomenon. As we saw earlier, one big reason for an episode of overeating is the restrained-eater phenomenon, which kicks in after periods of very-low-calorie dieting. This can affect anyone, even people who have never had a tendency to binge or to overeat for any psychological reason. The key, of course, is to avoid the very-low-calorie regimens that tend to produce binges.

2. Eating in Response to Emotions. Ask yourself these questions.

•Is food your usual answer to stress?

•Do you eat when you are not at all hungry?

•Do you eat throughout the day?

If the answer to any of these is yes, then this section may be for you.

Some people eat when they are under stress. Depression, anxiety, hurt feelings, anger, or sadness are answered with a trip to the kitchen. This is easy to identify, and a bit harder to remedy. Do not expect to plumb the depths of your psyche and rearrange its contents in short order. For now, you need to make a plan to compensate for this tendency.

Anticipate that from time to time, like it or not, you will become angry or sad or frustrated with things, and plan to deal with these feelings in another way. Is there someone you can talk to, or someone you can call? If food is serving as a comfort, what other comforts can you take advantage of? For example, are there certain places, photographs, books, or clothes that serve as comforts, too?

Deal with emotions in ways that are inconsistent with eating. For example, if you plan to get together with a friend, be with someone who is not preoccupied with eating, and pick a place where eating will not occur—meet in a park or office instead of a restaurant. Then as mealtime approaches, fill up on healthful foods first.

Some people may use overweight as a defense. A heavy body may fend off intimacy or other anxiety-provoking encounters. The vast majority of overweight people are not in this category, but, if you are, it will be helpful to recognize it.

Are you eating out of boredom? We need many forms of nourishment: friends, intellectual challenges, physical activities, romance, challenges and successes in our lives, rest, and sleep. When these are absent, food may become a cheap substitute. Is food taking the place of something else?

If you are saying, “I overeat, but I do it because food tastes so good,” it may be worth examining what else occupies your time. If your life is filled with boredom, then food may well be the most exciting thing in it. It is important to see what prevents you from engaging more fully in other activities that make life what it is.

Overeaters Anonymous has helped many, many people. Their number is listed in your telephone book. If you really are overeating, OA can be a terrific help.

3. Carbohydrate Craving. There is a group of people who have a particular craving for carbohydrates. It is not because of their taste; the foods can be either sweet or starchy. It is apparently due to an effect carbohydrates have on brain chemistry. Carbohydrates boost a brain chemical called serotonin, which is important in brain functions, including sleep and mood regulation. Most antidepressants increase serotonin levels in the brain, among other actions. One theory is that carbohydrate cravers have naturally low levels of serotonin and, so, tend to be depressed. They eat large quantities of carbohydrates because they have noticed that it helps them to feel better.

That is the theory. Here is the chemistry behind it. Carbohydrates break down in the body to sugars, which, in turn, stimulate insulin secretion. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas. It helps get sugar out of the bloodstream and into the cells of the body. Now that is not all insulin does. It also helps amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, to get out of the bloodstream and into the cells. So, after a carbohydrate-rich meal, insulin drives the sugar and the amino acids out of the blood and into the cells.

Now here is the interesting part: As the insulin drives the amino acids out of the blood, it leaves behind one particular amino acid called tryptophan. Tryptophan stays behind because it is stuck to a large carrier molecule. Without all the other amino acids around, tryptophan has less competition for getting into the brain. So the tryptophan passes into the brain, where it is converted to serotonin, which can alter moods, and cause sleepiness. The bottom line is that carbohydrate-rich meals increase serotonin in the brain. Carbohydrate cravers tend to become depressed in the winter months when the days are short. Food may help normalize their brain chemistry.

There is nothing wrong with a high-carbohydrate menu. As we have seen, carbohydrates are very important. The key is to select foods rich in complex carbohydrates, such as rice and other grains, beans, and vegetables, rather than sugar candies or sugar-fat mixtures that really will add to one’s waistline.

THE ROLE OF PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

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Our lives have become all too sedentary. We have eliminated most of the physical activities that got our blood moving when we were younger and that kept our ancestors fit. It is terrific to bring physical activity back into our lives for four reasons.

Movement burns calories

Every movement you make, whether it is blinking your eyes or lifting a grand piano, burns some calories. The more we move, the more calories we burn.

Regular physical activity boosts your metabolism

Calories are burned more quickly, not only while you are exercising, but also afterward for a period of time.

Physical activity helps preserve your muscle mass

Muscle tissue has a rapid metabolism and is much better than fat tissue at burning off the calories we ingest. If your muscles waste away from inactivity, your body burns fewer calories per hour.

Physical activity helps control the appetite

Twenty minutes of exercise before dinner reduces the appetite slightly. This seems to be particularly true for activities that warm the body, such as tennis, running, or dancing. (Some people experience an increase in appetite after cooling exercises, such as swimming.) Unfortunately, it is likely that overweight people experience less (or even none) of the exercise-induced change in appetite than do normal-weight individuals, so this may be a mechanism that helps people stay thin rather than helping people to get thin.8

There are numerous other benefits of physical activity, from reduced risk of heart disease and cancer to more energy and a more relaxed outlook on life. You may find that you will sleep more soundly when your body is tired from exercise. In turn, better sleep makes you feel like taking care of yourself. Chronically tired people prop themselves up with all sorts of indulgences, including unhealthful foods, that do not seem so important when they are well rested.

HOW MUCH ACTIVITY?

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Let’s start with a half-hour walk every day, or, if you prefer, an hour three times per week. Pick a place to walk that is enjoyable for you. Enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells.

Feel free to substitute any equivalent activity in place of walking. Here are some examples of physical activities and the number of calories they burn.

Activity

Calories

A brisk half-hour walk

120

A leisurely half-hour bicycle ride

140

A half-hour ping-pong game

210

A half-hour swim

240

A half-hour jog

284

An hour of gardening

300

An hour of golf

356

An hour of tennis

456

The key is to have fun. Choose something you’ll enjoy.

If you like dancing, gardening, bike-riding, a run with your dog, or a vigorous walk in the woods, then off you go! Bring a friend along if you can. Making activity a social event decreases the possibility of drifting back into sedentary living. At work, use the stairs instead of the elevator.

If you have access to a health club, you will find all sorts of sports and physical activities that turn exercise into pleasure. The old gym has really been transformed into an environment that makes physical activity fun and tailors it to the individual.

Start slowly, particularly if you have been sedentary for some time. If you are over forty or have any history of illness or joint problems, talk over your plans with your doctor. And remember, stick with activities that you really enjoy.

If you have been on a low-calorie diet, you should switch to a low-fat, high-carbohydrate menu without calorie restriction before you begin any program of regular vigorous exercise. The reason is that the low-calorie diet probably slowed down your metabolism. Even though exercise will boost the metabolic rate of most people, it can actually have the opposite effect on people who have been starving themselves. So stop the calorie restriction first, then, after a couple of weeks, add physical activity.

WHAT ABOUT GENETICS?

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There is one factor we cannot control, and that is our genetic inheritance. Like it or not, if your parents were both thin, you and your siblings will tend to be thin. If your parents were heavy, you will have a similar tendency.

We also tend to inherit our parents’ shape. If your parents were apple-shaped, carrying their weight in their chests and abdomens, you are likely to be apple-shaped as well. If they were “pears,” carrying their weight in their hips and thighs, you are likely to be pear-shaped as well. There are all sorts of shape variations. Size is more easily changed than shape. If you carry your weight in your hips, as you lose weight you might become a skinny “pear,” but you will still be a “pear.”

Fat on the abdomen is easier to lose than hip fat. Although hip fat is more difficult to remove, it is also less likely to contribute to health problems. To determine whether you are at greater risk of health problems from being overweight, take a tape measure and measure around your waist and around your hips. For men, increased risk of health problems begins when your waist is bigger than your hips. For women, they begin when your waist is more than 80 percent of your hip measurement.

If you have passed that point, your weight problem is not a cosmetic issue anymore. It is a very real contributor to heart problems, cancer, diabetes, and a broad range of other problems that you do not want to have.

Some people believe that, because there is a strong genetic component to our size and shape, there is nothing they can do to lose weight. This is not true. Although the genetic factors that are passed from parents to children exert important effects, we do not just give our children DNA. We also give them recipes. We give them attitudes about food and preferences for various kinds of food. We also tend to pass along an interest or disinterest in physical activity, and attitudes about health and about how our bodies should look. These can all be modified, if we decide to do so. Whatever hand we have been dealt by our inheritance, there are still steps we can take to change our weight.

The key about genetics is to remember that it is only one of several factors that affect your weight. It shows your tendency. But within that tendency, there is a great deal that you can do to help reach the body size you want.

A WORD ABOUT B12

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Vitamin B12 is needed in small amounts for healthy blood and healthy nerves. It is not made by plants or animals; it is made by microorganisms, such as bacteria and algae. In traditional societies, B12 is produced by bacteria found in the soil and on vegetables. It also can occur naturally in the process of preparation of foods, such as Asian miso or tempeh, soy foods which are loaded with the vitamin. In the West, modern hygiene and pasteurization have eliminated these traditional sources. Meat-eaters get the vitamin B12 that bacteria produce in the digestive tracts of animals and that passes into the animals’ tissues, but people who adhere to a vegetarian diet (as I recommend) should pick up a supplement.

All common multivitamins (One-A-Day, Flintstones, StressTabs, etc.) contain B12. The RDA for B12 is only 2 micrograms per day. Health food stores carry vegetarian vitamin brands which are free of dairy and meat extracts. Your body has a very good supply of this vitamin already, but if you follow a vegetarian diet, you should begin taking at least 5 micrograms per day of any common supplement of vitamin B12.

SUMMARY OF BASIC CONCEPTS

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Let’s summarize the major points.

Diet: The overall dietary changes are simple.

•Eat foods from plant sources: grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits.

•Avoid animal products.

•Keep vegetable oil to a minimum as well.

What these simple steps do is to cut way down on fat, reduce protein content moderately, and give us the metabolic boost of carbohydrates, plus lots of fiber.

•Avoid calorie restrictions.

Unless you are really stuffing yourself, you can enjoy unlimited quantities of foods. If you really are overeating, you will need to address the psychological factors that prevent you from treating your body better.

•Refined sugars and alcohol should be avoided as well.

It is not necessary to resolve to change your eating habits for the rest of your life. All you can change is what you are doing today. And tomorrow, you can make the same decision again, if you like. But you do not need to plan what you will eat twenty years from now. I point this out because sometimes the idea of lifelong change can be frightening. Don’t worry about it. All you need to work on is what you are doing today. And if you like it, you can stick with it.

To get the results you want, do not water down these guidelines. Adding occasional servings of chicken or french fries will erode your progress. Give yourself the best.

Physical Activity:

•Walk for a half-hour per day or an hour three times a week.

Or substitute any equivalent activity. Have fun. The cumulative effect can be enormous.