By Dr. Mercola
In today’s world it’s more difficult than ever to keep your weight under control, as evidenced by the fact that over 2/3 of all American adults are now overweight or obesei, as are one in three children.
Part of the blame rests with the processed food corporations that spend billions of dollars marketing unhealthy foodsii as “healthy choices.”
So what do “naturally thin” people know that the rest don’t?
David Zinczenco, editor in chief of Men’s Health magazine, and Matt Goulding address this question in a recent article featured on Yahoo Healthiii, stating that most thin people tend to live by a series of “laws” that keep them from gaining excess weight.
These seven rules are simple enough that most can follow them:
- Avoid “Dieting”: By dieting, you’re setting yourself up to gain more weight than ever.
- Avoid “Fat-Free”: Fat doesn’t make you fat; you need fat in your diet to help you process certain nutrients.
- Sit Down to Eat: Eating more slowly and savoring your meal boosts levels of two hormones that make you feel fuller.
- Plan Your Meals and Snacks: Planning your responses to hunger helps you shed pounds faster.
- Eat Protein: Those who eat moderately high levels of protein (including organic animal protein) are twice as likely to lose weight and keep it off as those who don’t eat much protein.
- Move Around: “Fit people stay fit by having fun.”
- Watch Less TV: Nearly 30 percent of people who watch more than four hours of TV a day have a BMI of 30 or higher.
(To read more about these rules, please see the original article.) I do believe Americans in particular have traded convenience for health, and that is partly visible in the list above.
Staying lean includes skipping conveniences like fast food and driving everywhere you need to go… It’s important to understand that poor dietary and lifestyle choices are at the very root of skyrocketing obesity- and disease rates. But, while the seven “laws of thin people” compiled by Zinczenco and Goulding are good ones, from my experience these rules are still coming up a short. So, below I will review several more that I believe are CRUCIAL factors for successful long-term weight management and optimal health.
Rule #1: Severely Limit Fructose in Your Diet
It is important to understand that your diet is THREE times more important for controlling your weight than your exercise. It’s very easy to sabotage any benefit you’d receive from exercise by consuming fructose-laden foods and beverages, including sports drinks, sodas, and fruit juices. If you consume any processed foods or sweetened beverages at all, reading the labels is a necessity. You may be shocked to realize just how much sugar is in the products you consume on a regular basis.
Why is limiting fructose so important for weight management and optimal health?
The reasons are numerous, but if I could make you memorize just one thing that can truly help you improve your health, it would be that eating fat does not make you fat; eating excessive fructose does! If you were to view soda with the same disdain most people give to a chunk of lard, you’d be on the right track… Ironically though, the lard would actually be more healthful for you than the soda!
Fructose simultaneously prevents weight loss and promotes fat storage, by:
- Diminishing your satiety (feelings of fullness) as it does not stimulate a rise in leptin, one of the most powerful hunger and fat storage regulators in your body. And, of course, when you’re feeling hungry you tend to eat more.
Leptin resistance, just like insulin resistance, is also one of the most significant factors underlying a vast array of diseases. For example, it plays a significant if not primary role in the development of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, autoimmune diseases, reproductive disorders, and perhaps the rate of aging itself.
- Not suppressing ghrelin (also known as “the hunger hormone”). Glucose, on the other hand, does suppress ghrelin, making you feel satiated
- Slowly, if consumed chronically, causing insulin resistance, which hampers weight loss efforts
- Converting directly to fat more readily than any other sugar. It is also known to raise triglycerides significantly
- Robbing your body of micronutrients while assimilating itself for use (in the case of foods containing high fructose corn syrup. Whole fruits on the other hand does not have this particular problem as the fruit contains all these extra nutrients along with the fructose)
With all these simultaneous factors coming into play every time you consume fructose, it’s easy to see why a high-fructose diet can propel you into a vicious cycle of over-eating while also being malnourished.
My recommendation is to keep your total fructose intake below 25 grams of fructose per day, if you’re in good health. Most people will also benefit from limiting your fructose from fruit to 15 grams a day, and, if you need to lose weight, you likely will need to limit your total fructose consumption to 15 grams a day total, including that from fruit.
Rule # 2: Reduce Your Grain Carb Consumption
|Excess weight||Depression||Bloating||High blood pressure|
|Fatigue and frequent sleepiness||Brain fogginess||Low blood sugar||High triglycerides|
If you experience any of the following symptoms, chances are very good that the excess carbohydrates in your diet are, in part or whole, to blame: the primary reason for cutting out as many grain carbs as possible is because grains convert into sugar in your body, spiking your insulin levels. Eventually, your body becomes insulin resistant, and that’s when the majority of the problems really set in. Obesity is just the beginning. Insulin resistance is in fact one of the hallmarks of nearly every chronic disease known to man, from diabetes, to heart disease, to cancer.
If you want to be optimally healthy and normalize your weight, reducing your carb consumption is essential. This includes:
- Breads and baked goods (ALL grains, including organic ones)
We all need a certain amount of carbohydrates, of course, but, through our addiction to grains, corn, sweets and other starchy and sugary foods, we are consuming far too many. Your body’s storage capacity for carbohydrates is quite limited, so here’s what happens to all the excess: they are converted, via insulin, into fat and stored in the adipose (fatty) tissue.
Rule # 3: Increase Your Healthy Fat Consumption
Carbs (sugars) provide your body with energy, but it’s fast burning and doesn’t satisfy very long. Once you decrease carbs in the form of sugar/fructose and grains, you need to replace them with increased amounts of vegetable carbs and healthy saturated fats. Fats will not only make you feel satiated longer than carbs, but will also provide you with high quality fuel your body needs. And, while eating grains and sugars will raise your insulin levels and promote insulin resistance, eating fat does not. However, the quality of the fats is very important. Loading up on margarine and vegetable oils is asking for trouble as these types of trans fats have been linked to:
|Cancer: They interfere with enzymes your body uses to fight cancer||Decreased immune function: They reduce your immune response||Obesity|
|Diabetes: They interfere with the insulin receptors in your cell membranes||Problems with reproduction: They interfere with enzymes needed to produce sex hormones||Heart disease: Trans fats can cause major clogging of your arteries|
At the other end of the spectrum you have saturated fats, which are:
Preferred fuel for your heart
Useful antiviral agents (caprylic acid)
Useful for lowering cholesterol levels (palmitic and stearic acids)
Carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and required for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption, and for a host of other biological processes
Effective as an anticaries, antiplaque and anti fungal agents (lauric acid)
Modulators of genetic regulation and prevent cancer (butyric acid)
Sources of healthy fats that you’ll want to add to your diet include:
|Olives and Olive oil (for cold dishes)||Coconuts, and coconut oil (for all types of cooking and baking)||Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk|
|Raw Nuts, such as, almonds or pecans||Organic pastured egg yolks||Avocados|
|Grass fed meats||Palm oil||Unheated organic nut oils|
Another healthful fat you want to be mindful of is animal-based omega-3. Deficiency in this essential fat can cause or contribute to very serious health problems, both mental and physical, and may be a significant underlying factor of up to 96,000 premature deaths each year. For more information about omega-3’s and the best sources of this fat, please review this previous article.
Rule # 4: Avoid All “Diet” Foods, Especially Diet Sodas
Soda, in my opinion, is one of the primary health threats. A single can of Coke contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar. However, the alternative may be even worse. Diet sodas, which typically contain either aspartame or sucralose (Splenda), or a combination of both, can wreak havoc on your health in just as many ways as fructose, but since they are manmade chemicals, the toxic ramifications and side effects can be magnified.
Billions of dollars worth of advertising tells you that diet soda gives you all the pleasure of a sweet beverage or snack without any of the worries associated with excess calories. Too bad it really is too good to be true.
In fact, artificial sweeteners have actually been positively linked to weight gain—not weight loss! More recent research has demonstrated that your brain can tell the difference between real and artificial sugar, and not only are artificial sugars less satisfying to your brain at a cellular level, they also increase your craving for the real thing. So artificially sweetened foods and snacks, and diet soda in particular, must be avoided if you don’t want to fuel sugar cravings.
Rule # 5: Be Sure to Eat PLENTY of Organic Vegetables
One of the best ways to improve your health is to make sure you’re eating plenty of fresh, minimally processed high quality vegetables, ideally locally-grown and organic, with a majority of them consumed raw. One simple way to boost your vegetable intake is to juice them. I highly recommend it to anyone working to restore or improve their health. You can review my comprehensive approach to how to juice on my vegetable juicing page.
And for every vegetable you pack onto your plate or into your glass, you’ll have less room for all those other simple carbohydrates that can expand your waistline.
Rule # 6: Optimize Your Exercise Program
A healthy diet and exercise go hand in hand when it comes to creating and maintaining optimal health. If you are struggling with your weight, exercise is clearly one of the key factors that can synergize the effects of healthy food choices. But did you know that by making some minor changes in the types of exercises you engage in, you can speed up and dramatically improve the results?
The key to boosting weight loss and getting the most out of your exercise routine is to make sure to incorporate high-intensity, short-burst-type exercises, such as my Peak Fitness Program, two to three times per week. Several studies have confirmed that exercising in shorter bursts with rest periods in between burns more fat than exercising continuously for an entire session.
This has been shown to hold true even when the session is not done at an extremely high intensity.
This may be because these types of exercises are the closest to how the human body was designed to move—like that of a hunter-gatherer. A recent study highlights the benefits of this type of daily movement. The researchers noted that the ideal “exercise prescription” would include the following aspects of normal hunger-gatherer living:
|A variety of exercises performed regularly (weight training, cardio, stretching, etc.)||Alternate difficult days with easier days||Exercise outdoors, which helps maintain vitamin D levels and improve mood|
|Interval training sessions performed once or twice a week||Weight training at least twice a week||Walk and run on softer, uneven terrain, such as grass and dirt, possibly barefoot or using “simpler shoes that do not drastically restrict foot motion or alter natural foot strike dynamics”|
|Exercise with a friend to receive social stimulation as well||Ample time for rest after physical exertion||Recreational activities, including dancing and sex|
I completely agree that variety is yet another key to getting the most benefits from your exercise. A sound, well-rounded regimen would include:
- High intensity interval exercises
- Conventional aerobics
- Strength training
- Core exercises like Pilates
- Stretching like Yoga or active isolated stretching
If you’re like most Americans, you probably have between a few and several unnecessary pounds you’d prefer not to be carrying around every day. I’m here to tell you that not only is it possible to take off the extra weight with a little thoughtful planning, it is also possible to keep the weight off simply by following a few sensible guidelines above and my nutrition plan.
- i Overweight and Obesity Statistics, Weight-control Information Network, February 2010.
- ii Subliminal Stimuli, Wikipedia.
- iii The 7 Laws of Leanness, Yahoo! Health, September 27, 2011: David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding.