Clean Up Your Diet
“If you came up with a list of 10 things that affect weight loss, one through seven would involve diet and behaviour,” Scott says. “Then eight, nine, and 10 would cover exercise.”
Research shows just about any mainstream diet regimen can work, as long as you stick to it. My guess, based on experience, is that a diet won’t work for you unless it meets two seemingly contradictory standards: it has to be different from what you’re doing now, which is to say it restricts the stuff you currently eat too much of. And it has to be something you can live with for the foreseeable future, meaning it has to be based on foods you like and to which you have easy access.
That’s where behaviour becomes the key to success. “The amount of food you consume is not just the result of conscious processes,” Guyenet says. Exposing yourself to highly palatable, super-stimulating foods will derail any diet. Nobody has that much willpower.
Three key actions help you build self-control into your diet.
Prepare and eat most of your meals at home, with minimal added salt and minimal added sugar.
Prepare foods so they’re as close as possible to their natural state: grilled or baked meat, poultry and fish; eggs however you like them; raw or steamed vegetables; fruit; beans, nuts, or seeds. For simple recipes to make real food taste better,
Fill your lunch or dinner plate with lean protein (chicken breast, sirloin steak, scrambled eggs) and half with fibre-rich vegetables. Protein and fibre fill you up fastest and satisfy hunger longest. It’s possible to gain weight from a diet of mostly home-cooked food, especially if it includes a lot of high-kilojoule, low-fibre starches like bread, pasta and potatoes. But, like my father, you’d have to work at it.
Cut Carbs and Increase Protein
Since a big belly can be a sign of insulin resistance, and insulin resistance manifests functionally as metabolic inflexibility, you will respond best with a lower-carb diet. Even a small decrease in your insulin level will lead to a large increase in fat burning, says Dr Jeff Volek, who studies strength training and nutrition at the University of Connecticut. “Low-carb diets lead to a much greater decrease in fat.”
Low-carb doesn’t have to mean military low-carb. In a year-long weight loss study at Stanford, participants assigned to the Atkins-type diet were eating a third of their kilojoules from carbs by the end – more than twice as much as much as their Atkins-type diet recommended. And they still did better than people assigned to the other diets.
Carbohydrates are less problematic at two times of the day. First thing in the morning. Wholegrain carbs, like steel-cut oatmeal, provide an easy-to-access source of glucose for your body and brain. Immediately following a workout, when a baked potato helps you refuel and provides a high level of post-meal satiety.
Dont Eat on Thursday. Ever
There’s one surefire way to encourage your body to burn stored fat: stop feeding it. Intermittent fasting – going without a meal for eight, 12, or even 24 hours at a time – is an increasingly popular weight loss tool. “Even people who are metabolically inflexible use fat as fuel during a fast,” says Nelson. “It ramps up all the processes associated with burning fat.” Entry-level fasters should start with modest expectations.
Some find it easy to skip breakfast and extend an overnight fast to 12 or more hours. But it works only if you have the discipline to end the fast with real food rather than by hitting the drive-thru. For others, an early dinner works best, but this plan is easily derailed if you find yourself wide awake and starving at midnight. A better strategy: shoot for a daily six-hour break between two substantial meals. Work up to eight hours from time to time. If you feel better – and many fasters say they do – build up to a single 24-hour fast once a week. If you feel worse (I know I do), stick with a meal/snack schedule built around foods you prepare yourself.