The principle behind a low carb weight loss diet is to reduce the amount of carbohydrates you consume so your body isn’t able to get all the energy it needs from your food. It’s therefore forced to look elsewhere to find the glucose it needs, and turns to your fat stores.
Breaking down the fat you have stored around your body supplies the extra energy you need, and helps you to lose weight.
Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy, and are found in a variety of different food types, from sugar, sweets and soft drinks, to rice, pasta and bread. There are two main types of carbohydrates; simple and complex.
Simple carbs are those which the body can quickly and easily convert into glucose, and include foods like sugar, chocolate, and honey. Because these are converted quickly, they typically provide the body with a short term energy boost.
Complex carbs (starches) are generally a lot harder for the body to convert, and so release glucose a lot more slowly, making them perfect for delivering energy over a longer period of time. Eating complex carbohydrate foods like wholegrain pasta, bread and vegetables will also help you feel fuller for longer.
There are a number of diets that work on the basis of a reduced carbohydrate intake, although there are slight differences to each approach. Four examples are:
The fact that diets low in carbohydrates have been around for a number of years, and that there are plenty of them to choose from, demonstrates that limiting your carbohydrate intake can be a great way to lose weight, however it’s always worth getting some professional advice first, to make sure you choose the program that’s right for you.
A careful selection of exercises are needed and should target all muscles in the leg.
The following leg exercises are ideal and don’t require a lot of time to perform or expensive equipment to purchase. Plus, they can all be done in the comfort of your own home.
Squats target the thighs, hips, bottom, and hamstring muscles all at the same time.
Often called “king of the exercises” and for good reason, they are devastatingly effective. Squats hurt like hell but they do give excellent results.
Many women avoid them because they are hard to do but please don’t turn your back on this exercise, especially if you want to see benefits in the shortest time possible.
Squats can be performed using body weight only or using resistance such as weights like dumbbells or barbells. I recommend using two dumbbells for women.
How To Perform Squats:
1. Start in a standing position and position your legs shoulder width apart.
2. Hold two dumbbells in your hands and keep them on the side of your body, just next to your hips.
3. From this position perform the squat by lowering yourself down, while keeping your back straight. Stop the movement when your thighs are parallel to the floor. Pause for a second before slowly rising back up to the starting position.
This exercise works wonders at targeting the calf muscles.
Be warned, doing calf raises will likely result in you feeling as if your calves are burning.
This is a good thing and indicates that the exercise is being done properly and with enough intensity.
Calf raises can be done without dumbells and will tone your legs but using weights will build more muscle.
How To Perform Calf Raises:
1. Start in a standing position, with your legs roughly shoulder width apart.
2. Holding two dumbbells in your hands, keep a straight back as you push up from the balls of your feet.
3. Once you reach the top, press harder into the ground with your toes so that your heels are well off the ground and you can feel tension in your calves.
4. Hold this top position for a few seconds before slowly returning to the starting position.
Hip raises target both the butt muscles and the hamstrings simultaneously.
In addition, they will also help you to strengthen and stabilize your core muscles.
How To Perform Hip Raises:
1. Lie down on an exercise mat and bend your knees, while keeping your feet flat on the ground. This is the starting position.
2. Next, raise your hips up from the floor, so that your body is in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Your hands can be placed at the side to stabilize the movement but they should not be used to add power.
3. Hold this position for a few seconds at the top before slowly coming back down to the starting position.
Each one of these three exercises should be done together as part of a workout that should be performed three times per week. Do each exercise for 1 – 3 sets of 10 – 20 reps. If you’re not familiar with workout lingo this means doing an exercise, say the squat for example, 10 to 20 times (reps or repetitions) then resting…that is1 set.
If you havent exercised for a while start off by doing just 1 set of about 10 reps (repetitions) for each exercise. As you build up strength in your legs and fitness gradually increase the number of sets and repetitions.
These leg exercises may be tough but do yourself a favor, push through the pain and experience the benefits of what it’s like to have slim and sexy legs!]]>
You’ll probably never see any 30 minute infomercials on how to tone up your gastrocnemius muscles (calves to you and me) – no sir, abs is where it’s at! Whether you’re male or female and looking to lose overall body weight, a flat stomach, rock hard abs or a full on six pack is probably your ultimate goal.
For years fitness experts have been insisting that it’s necessary to endure various types of rigorous workouts that target the stomach area if we want to lose abdominal fat and get those abs to die for.
But, what if all those situps and crunches are never going to do anything to help? What if we’ve been doing it wrong all these years and there’s a better way?
Okay, so that’s not strictly true. There are countless fitness models and sports men and women with super-ripped abs that prove ab exercises do work…at developing your abs.
What ab exercises are not going to do, according to a recent study by Green Med Info, is get rid of belly fat. Two groups of individuals who were not normally very energetic were monitored. Half of the group were simply told to go about their normal daily routine, while the other half were made to perform a series of ab exercises, 5 days a week for 6 weeks.
In fact, if you’re expecting to get rid of all your unwanted fat by simply doing a few exercises every day, you’d better be prepared for disappointment. It’s what you eat not what you do that’s actually the largest factor in determining whether you gain or lose body fat.
That’s not to say that exercise isn’t important, but if you are genuinely wanting to get rid of abdominal fat you need to look at the right combination of diet and exercise.
Carry on eating a modern day diet of processed food that’s high in sugars, carbohydrates and saturated fats and it won’t matter how much exercise you do, you’re very unlikely to lose any body fat.
Take a look at what you’re eating and substitute the foods that are bad for you with healthier options. Reduce your intake of carbohydrates, or at least try to consume more of the good carbs, like the whole grains you get in whole wheat bread and pasta; and eat more fiber, which you’ll get from fresh fruit and vegetables like potatoes, bananas and berries.
Stay away from processed food and avoid take away meals. Cook more meals yourself. Also reduce the amount of sugar in your diet, particularly fructose. Fructose is used in soft drinks and processed foods. As well as encouraging fat to build up in your body, this and other sugars have been linked to an increased risk of diabetes.
Just making a few small changes to your diet can increase the positive affects of any exercise you’re doing and help improve your health, and your waistline.
Improving your diet is a great way to start getting rid of that unwanted belly fat, but you can speed up the process with the right kind of exercise. Too many people put all their focus on getting rid of the fat around their stomach. The reality is that you need to look at exercises that are great for burning fat in general – from all over your body.
Of course it’s your belly fat you want to get rid of, but keep in mind that when we put on weight it goes to our stomachs, buttocks and hips first; when we start to lose weight, these tend to be the areas where it comes off first.
As your muscles are capable of burning 3-5 times more energy than fat tissue, high-intensity interval training, designed to improve muscle size and quality, is a great way to help your body turn fat into energy.
Interval training, short bursts of effort with breaks in between, has actually been shown to burn more fat than simply exercising for the same length of time in one session. This means that not only is interval training more effective, you can do it less often and still get the same results.
Following an interval training program specifically designed to help you burn fat for just 20 minutes 2-3 times a week can help you lose belly fat that ab exercises can’t touch.
If you’re happy to build up your muscles a little, as opposed to simply making them more toned and efficient, you might also want to add strength training to your exercise regime. Some people, particularly women, want to reduce their body fat but don’t necessarily want to ‘bulk up’, and it’s not necessary to go that far. However, adding a bit of extra muscle will help increase the amount of fat your muscles burn when you exercise.
I know, I’ve spent this whole article telling you that ab exercises aren’t the answer – but there are a couple of very good reasons why you might not want to eliminate them completely.
There are health benefits associated with good strong abdominal muscles; they improve your posture and stability, reduce back strain and help you to hold your gut in. Plus, when you’ve got rid of all that tummy fat you want to make sure there’s a nice toned stomach underneath.
So, if you’re already quite lean and simply want to tighten up your stomach muscles to get that toned, flat stomach, ab exercises are the way to go. However, if you want to lose abdominal fat, take a look at what you’re eating and follow a good fat-burning workout program. That’s what really works!
Reviewer: Lynda Keating
The name of the program is the goal of just about every overweight person on the planet – Get Lean!
The sales page promises a flexible, easy and healthy way to lose weight fast, with pictures of it’s creator Belinda Benn showing just what’s possible if you follow her exercise and nutrition program.
But, who is Belinda Benn and why is her program any different to the dozens of others that make similar promises.
More importantly, is Get Lean the weight loss plan that is finally going to help you shift those unwanted pounds and get healthy?
They say a picture paints a thousand words and a quick look at the before and after images of Belinda Benn on the Get Lean sales page will tell you quite a bit about her, as well as what she’s been able to achieve thanks to the program she has developed.
From an overweight 37 year old executive that hadn’t done any exercise in her life, she transformed herself into an international fitness model, and achieved the kind of look and lifestyle that most of us would love to have.
Of course, while some of us might be in the same position Belinda was, we might look at this kind of transformation and think that it’s beyond our reach. Belinda is the first to admit that she experienced a ‘total life revolution’, but she’s also very quick to point out that the Get Lean program, which is designed for both men and women, has been put together in such a way that, with a bit of effort, pretty much anyone can achieve the same.
When you first sign up there seems to be a lot of information to download. However, Get Lean isn’t like numerous other diet programs which tend to give you information overload and expect you to be able to adopt a totally new exercise and eating regime overnight.
Get Lean appreciates that no matter how committed you might be to losing weight and getting fit, the kind of lifestyle change that you’re looking for requires a lot of advice and information, but everything is laid out in a sensible and easy to follow way, with the different guides working very well together.
There’s even a useful 6 step guide that directs you to the specific parts of the program that are most important, for those who want to get started right away.
You’ll find a beautifully presented PDF of the Get Lean program itself, which sets out Belinda’s philosophy and talks about the various aspects of your life that can have an impact on whether or not you’ll achieve your weight loss and fitness goals, as well as what you need to do to give yourself the best chance of success.
This PDF contains your Get Lean Nutrition Guide, which has recipes and menus for each of the 90 days in the program, all put together in a simple and easy to follow format that allows you to track your progress day by day.
The recipes are delicious, and very easy to follow. You don’t even have to worry about making shopping lists, Belinda does that for you. And, get ready to be just as impressed when you open up the Get Lean Celebration Cookbook. In this 143 page cookbook Belinda gives you menus, recipes, and the shopping lists for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter etc. Who says you have to starve yourself to lose weight? Not Belinda that’s for sure!
You also get her 6 week fat-burning workout program. This has been designed to stimulate your fat burning metabolism, as well as tone up specific muscles that will help to improve your overall body shape. Toning the right muscles and burning body fat is the most effective way to deliver the kind of improvements in your body shape that you’re looking for.
In addition to the fat-burning exercise plan there are further guides on how to get the one thing that most of us trying to lose weight crave – a flat stomach. With a guide on how to get a flat belly fast, and an exercise program that specifically targets your abs, these are a great addition to the exercise and nutrition program.
To complement all of the written guides in the program, there is also an inspirational audio file for you to listen to. In this, Belinda outlines why Get Lean is more than just a diet and exercise plan and how, if you follow the steps that she lays out, the mental exercises she gives you can be just as effective as the physical ones. I found Belinda’s voice and the background music very soothing and easy to listen to. It runs for about 17 minutes.
Perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of the Get Lean program is the approach it takes to the mental aspect of weight loss – in terms of how you feel about your body and your attitude towards a better diet and more exercise.
Belinda highlights the fact that your thoughts and mental attitude play a huge part in how successful you are going to be in achieving the body you want. For most people this path to success starts with reprogramming the way they think.
Get Lean seems to be one of the few weight loss programs that considers the mental side of healthier living, rather than just the physical side. Belinda explains the relationship between your thinking and whether you are happy with how you look, as well as what you need to do to improve this. There is a strong focus on developing a positive mental attitude, and believing in yourself so that your mind is working with you, not against you.
Developing a positive focus and overcoming negative thoughts and feelings about previous weight loss mistakes will dramatically increase your success on the program. The key message is that, it doesn’t matter how many times you might have tried to lose weight and failed in the past, don’t beat yourself up about it; following the Get Lean program with a renewed focus on the positive, and using recognized self-improvement techniques like positive thinking, goal-setting and visualization, will help you to succeed this time.
As well as mental support to help you achieve your goals, there is also a lot of physical support. When you sign up you are given a priority e-mail address to use if you have any questions, or want to get in touch with Belinda. You are also enrolled in her 12 week follow up support program – helping you through the first few weeks as you get used to your new way of life.
Get Lean is a flexible approach to losing weight and as well as the standard 90 day program for you to follow, if you’re new to losing weight, worried about your will power, or simply want a more balanced approach, there is a more flexible 6 week option that should still leave you looking leaner and feeling fitter.
On the downside, you’ll still need will power and be prepared to work. After all, if you could get the body you want by simply sitting back and taking it easy, we’d all look great and there’d be no need for programs like Get Lean. But, Belinda promises that the effort you put in will be worth it once you start seeing the results; and her weekly support via e-mail will help those who need a little more encouragement and motivation.
As I mentioned at the beginning there is a fair bit to download, but it doesn’t take long and I didn’t have any problems. If you do, don’t worry, Belinda will help you. There’s only two files to unzip, the Think Lean audio file and the other free gift you receive, the motivational wallpapers, which I have to say are absolutely stunning! *See below. The sales page says you get 6 wallpapers, but you actually get 12. This was the only mistake I found, and not a bad one considering you get more than what’s advertised!
Get Lean doesn’t take a one size fits all approach. Rather than simply telling you what to eat and how to exercise, Belinda appreciates that everyone is different and is going to have different goals when it comes to their weight loss.
The program gets you to focus on where you are now, and where you want to get to – providing the guidance and information you need to set realistic goals that are individual to you.
Whatever you want in life, setting short, medium and long term goals, and rewarding yourself when you achieve them, has been proven to dramatically increase your chances of success, and by harnessing this potential, the Get Lean program helps you to develop the right mental approach to losing weight and getting healthy.
The Get Lean program is promoted as an effective and healthy way to lose weight quickly, but it is in a completely different class to the large number of ‘quick fix’ crash diets that make similar promises.
Rather than simply presenting you with the diet you need to eat and the exercises you need to do to lose weight, the program’s approach is more a re-education about the kind of things you need to do to enjoy a healthier lifestyle.
Belinda treats this as a journey…an enjoyable journey.
She outlines what you can expect from the different stages of the 3 month program, and the kind of changes you should look at making to your lifestyle in order to achieve your new weight loss goals.
Overall, the program provides a thoroughly enjoyable and comprehensive approach to developing healthier habits, with excellent advice on a wide variety of topics, from the most effective types of exercise and how to avoid the most common diet pitfalls, to the right kind of natural supplements to take and the best ways to cook your food.
Belinda Benn’s Get Lean is one of a new generation of weight loss programs that takes a more holistic and positive approach to getting in shape and feeling great.
Rather than the ‘no pain, no gain’ approach of so many programs, that often leads to guilt and ultimately resentment when you fail, this program takes a sensible approach, one that is very positive and empowering.
You really feel that, no matter who you are or how you’ve failed to lose weight in the past, Belinda truly believes in you and that with the help of her Get Lean program you really can finally achieve the body and lifestyle you’ve been longing for. After all, she did.
Advise the typical woman trying to lose weight to add a day or two of strength training to her fitness plan and you’d think you had suggested she inject steroids by the way she looks at you.
“But I don’t want to look like one of those women bodybuilders!” she’ll often reply, alarm on her face. “I’m afraid I’ll just bulk up.”
Today it’s time to grab this myth by its meaty bicep and find out what really happens when women add strength training to their routine.
First, let’s look at what we really mean by strength training.
When we really pin down the strength training myth, we find it often starts with how many of us define “strength training exercises.” What typically comes to mind are vein-rippled monster men doing squats or bench presses with a Volkswagen-sized stack of plates on each end of the barbell.
But that’s not all there is to it – you need to realize strength training is not synonymous with weightlifting, power lifting, or bodybuilding.
Yes, these sports do depend on strength training exercise, but keep in mind that many other sports do as well. For instance, softball, volleyball, basketball, and rowing teams all depend on strength training to accomplish their goals, yet they all feature rather normal-looking athletes, male and female.
When it comes down to the meat and gristle, resistance training is no more than contracting your muscle against an opposing resistance, such as gravity – as is the case in weight lifting. The aim is to increase your anaerobic endurance, your strength, and/or the size (bear with me) of your skeletal muscles.
Resistance doesn’t have to come from gravity – it can also come from hydraulic forces (machines), elastic forces (resistance bands), or the force of your own opposing muscles (isometrics).
Some of the methods of strength training for women simply leverage body weight. Think your run of the mill calisthenics or the more trendy Pilates.
Don’t be afraid to stick with good old-fashioned weights though either; there’s no reason to shy away from them. Just use lighter weights with more repetitions. 10 – 12 reps per set is a good average for women, and you can increase the weight as you get stronger.
I could almost see your eyebrow twitch when you read that resistance exercises increase size – your face squinting into that “I told you so” look. But not so fast.
Some overweight women are deathly afraid of building strength because they look down at their arms and legs and what they see doesn’t seem entirely flabby. It feels solid to the touch, and they probably see themselves as naturally bulky.
So, if your arms are that beefy now, with little or no exercise, what’s going to happen when you work them out? They’ll get bigger, right?
When you have a higher percentage of fat on your frame, it’s not just stored where it can be seen and pinched. It’s also stored in your muscle. To imagine how this works, think of a well-marbled steak with tendrils of fat running through the meat.
So what this “marbling effect” does is make your muscle bulkier. But if you’re overweight and start replacing your fat with lean muscle, your muscles will actually look smaller! They’ll just get smaller and more toned looking, and that what you want, right?
The real good news about building muscle is the increase in metabolism. Did you know that a more toned, muscular body actually burns calories faster and more efficiently?
Most women think all they need is to create a calorie deficit and they’ll start dropping some pounds, but adding lean body mass speeds up progress, even if it’s buried below extra fat. That lean mass will burn calories all day no matter what you’re doing.
As a result, the food you do eat won’t have such a drastic effect on your weight and appearance – it will still be a factor, sure, but by giving your body the resources to manage your weight, you won’t have to work so hard to manage it yourself.
The benefits of adding resistance training to your workout plan don’t stop there.
In addition to helping control weight, it also reduces injury, increases stamina, improves balance, hones focus, and reduces symptoms of chronic diseases (like diabetes, back pain, or arthritis). To go on, one of the most important benefits is that strength training not only prevents bone density loss but actually can increase it, thus preventing and reversing the degenerative effects of osteoporosis.
Look, here’s what it comes down to. Even men who WANT to bulk up have to spend a ton of time in the gym and eat exactly the right diet to get hard gains. Otherwise, they just get more toned … and yeah, their muscles may get a little bulkier-looking because their bodies are just built that way.
But you’re not a man; you’re a woman. And losing weight while building strength is not going to make you look like a female bodybuilder. Do you realize how much work (and often drugs) it takes for them to get there? Your two or three days in the gym could never do that.
It’ll make you slimmer, sure – more toned. It’ll help you lose weight and improve your overall health – definitely.
And that’s exactly what you want. Work your muscles, and they’ll work for you in return. Strength training for women is vital too – believe it.
Everything we do is controlled by the brain. Whether consciously or subconsciously, it’s in charge of all our body’s functions.
So when we say that our stomach is telling us it’s time to eat, it’s actually our brain that’s giving us the message – and it is also responsible for telling us when to stop.
For those of us who are overweight, understanding how the brain works, and its relationship with our appetite and how much we eat, can actually provide us with a number of different ways to ‘trick’ our brains into helping us eat less.
So, here are 5 things you can try to curb your appetite and reduce the amount of food you eat. You can do all of them without much effort, and they could have a big impact on your weight loss.
When most of us are having a meal at home, we usually only have one course. When we eat out at a restaurant, we often feel a bit naughty if we order a starter as well as our main meal – especially if we’re watching our weight. But having a little starter before your main meal can actually be a great way to trick your brain into helping you to eat less.
You see, it can take a while for the stomach to send the message to your brain that you’re getting full; so if you’re only eating one course, those messages might not be received until after you’ve finished it – even though you probably didn’t need to eat all of it to feel full.
Eating a suitable starter 10-20 minutes before your main meal starts this communication process a little earlier; so the brain gets the message that you’ve eaten enough while you’re eating your main meal, and helps you to stop before you eat more than you need to. Starters that contain lots of air, water and/or fiber are best for this, and an apple or light salad before your meal is a great way to make you feel like eating less.
Whether you’re a big fan of them or not, if you’re trying to lose weight, adding more tomatoes to your diet could actually be a great way to help you eat less. A recent study showed that, of those who took part, the ones eating the food enriched with tomatoes reported feeling fuller and more satisfied.
This is probably because of the effect the compounds in tomatoes have on our appetite. Our stomachs stimulate hunger and increase our appetite by producing a hormone called Ghrelin.
It’s thought that the Lycopene in tomatoes, which is actually responsible for making them red, reduces the level of Ghrelin and therefore our appetite. This means we feel full when we have actually eaten less food than normal – and all we have to do is add more tomatoes to our diet.
Scientists have long been aware of the impact colors can have on our brain. Red colors can make us feel dynamic, yellows make us feel happy, and greens can have a calming effect. But if you want to try and eat less, you might want to start going blue at meal times, as scientists have found that of all the colors, blue is actually an appetite suppressant.
This is possibly because there are very few, naturally occurring blue foods, so our appetite isn’t automatically stimulated by this color; or perhaps because our ancestors evolved avoiding poisonous foods which were often blue in color.
Whatever the reason, the more blue you have around your food, the less likely you’re going to feel like eating it. That’s not to suggest that you should take it to the extreme and dye your food blue (although you could quite easily and it would still taste pretty much the same), but simple measures like eating off a blue plate, having a blue table-cloth, or even putting a blue light in your kitchen or fridge could help to reduce your appetite and the amount of food you eat.
Not many of us consciously choose our crockery with size in mind, and for those that do, bigger might seem better – but not if you’re trying to lose weight. We tend to judge the size of things by comparing them to other objects close by, and this also applies to the size of our plates and the servings of food on them. A small portion on a large plate will usually look out-of-place to us, and studies have shown that you are more likely to take a larger serving of food if you are using a larger plate.
Also consider that as kids, many of us were told that we weren’t allowed to leave the table until we’d ‘cleaned our plate’. So, with large portions on large plates, and a brain that’s been conditioned not to leave anything, is it any wonder so many of us are overweight? Using smaller plates for your meals is a great way to reduce portion size, and you could even try to re-condition your brain by leaving some of the food on the plate – so you start to eat until you’re full, rather than till it’s all gone.
When we think about how our body sends messages to and from the brain, we typically imagine that this is something it does very fast – your brain tells your hand to move or your mouth to smile and a split second later it happens. But when it comes to communication between the brain and the stomach, this is something that happens much more slowly – and understanding this could help you to lose weight.
Scientists estimate that it takes around 20 minutes for the stomach to let the brain know that it’s full and that we can stop eating, and for a lot of us, that is much longer than it takes for us to eat our meal. As a result, the brain doesn’t actually receive the message until after we’ve finished eating.
Eating much more slowly gives the brain more time to get the message that we’re full. Chew your food more, put your knife and fork down after each mouthful, maybe even take a short break halfway through your meal. It does need a conscious effort, but it can really help with your weight loss, and this is the same reason why the earlier tip of having a starter before your meal is such a good idea.
The secret to losing weight is eating fewer calories than you burn off during the course of the day, and one of the easiest ways to eat less calories is to eat less food. For anyone looking to lose a few pounds this is often easier said than done, and it can be difficult to still feel satisfied when we’re eating less than we’re used to.
Fortunately, our understanding of the relationship between the brain, our appetite, and how much we eat means that with these handy little tips just about anyone should be able to reduce their appetite and eat less. They’re not difficult to do and something you can start doing straight away.
What do Mike Tyson, Bill Ford (of THE automotive company), Steve Wynn of Wynn Resorts, Russell Simmons, and former president Bill Clinton all have in common? Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, right? Well, if you guessed they all eat and rally for the benefits of a plant-based diet, you’d be right.
(If you didn’t guess that, don’t worry, you don’t lose any points here…)
Surely you’ve noticed that diets like this are currently all the rave and how celebrities seem to be jumping on the bandwagon left and right. But what is all the buzz really about? Is there anything behind the hype, or is it just a fad diet restricted to the world’s elite?
More importantly, what can this type of diet do for our weight loss goals as well as our overall health and well-being?
Just like it sounds, the term “plant-based diet” refers to any kind of diet based largely on plant foods (typically of the fresh variety but sometimes processed plant foods are included as well) and includes cutting back hard on animal products.
But there are a broad range of “plant eaters” out there foraging our supermarkets, and all these herbivore characters eat according to different principles, depending on their health goals and/or eating philosophies.
For instance, veganism is a strict version of this type of diet in which zero animal products are allowed, including dairy. Vegetarians, on the other hand, cut out meat but often happily gobble up milk based products, like cheese, and possibly even feast on a regular helping of eggs.
Then you get the occasional “vegetarian” who makes allowances for small amounts of seafood here and there.
I know a woman who claims to be a vegetarian but eats fish and bacon (if that makes any sense). There’s even a term for her unique brand of vegetarianism: Wikipedia defines her as a “semi-vegetarian.”
The point, however, is that a plant-based diet is somewhat vague in actual definition and covers a wide range of different eating practices – there are no real hard fast rules besides the general inclusion of lots of plants and avoidance of meat.
Whatever camp of vegetarianism a person chooses to follow, no one can deny that it takes the typical person a certain level of self-discipline to take it up in any of its various forms. Not only because it means no more fat, juicy steaks but also because it requires is a hard charge against the grain in modern society, and it creates quite an inconvenience when shopping, dining out, or eating at the table of a friend.
So why do Mr. Clinton and all these other social superstars even bother? Is it worth the sacrifices, and are the health benefits remarkable enough to make up for the total life makeover it demands?
Let’s have a peek.
The plant-based dieting trend as it exists today stems from a growing pool of experts observing something inherently wrong with the Western diet. Study after study notes a plague-like epidemic of chronic diseases in the western world and points out how the rise of these diseases counter-intuitively corresponded with technological advancement (particularly in agriculture).
Others point out how regions of the world where the Western diet hasn’t yet caught on, a diet largely associated with economic development, don’t suffer the same alarming rates of these diseases. In fact, these diseases (which include obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and many forms of cancer) are often referred to in popular text as “Western diseases.”
T. Colin Campbell, co-author of the groundbreaking (and sometimes controversial) book on the subject, “The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health,” goes as far as to claim that “cancer is a geographically localized disease.” He maintains that if you look at a world map, the areas of the world with the highest cancer rates clearly correlate with the areas of the world where protein is a large part of the local diet.
Meat based diets, his camp proclaims, are the villain.
A 40 year veteran in nutrition research, Dr. Campbell maintains that a human diet composed of more than 10% meat leads to a huge rise in cancer risk … period. Not only that, he stresses, but a plant-based diet even has the power to heal a body long battered by degenerative disease and restore good health.
And while Campbell is certainly the most active, vocal, and influential of the plant-based diet crowd, he’s certainly not the only one.
Another study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association details how Canadian researchers fed subjects with high LDL cholesterol levels (that’s the really, really bad stuff) a diet characterized by plant-based sterols, soy protein, soy milk, soy-based meat substitutes, nuts, and oats.
In the span of 6 months, the subjects saw their LDL levels drop by an average of 13% – a decline that equates to an 11% drop in the risk of a stroke in the next decade.
Another proponent of the diet, Caldwell B. Esselstyn, MD, carried out a twenty year experiment on advanced heart disease patients who were able to not only stop their condition from worsening but completely reverse it in 70% of cases.
Another great benefit of the plant-centric diets is that they tend to lead to very significant, very consistent weight loss. One of the main reasons for this nice side effect is that red meats, and especially fried foods, are more calorically dense than are water-based foodstuffs like your run of the mill fruits and veggies.
Replace a larger portion of food on your plate with the plants, and the end result is you eat a lot less calories and you lose weight faster. Simple, really.
In fact, one study specifically related to weight loss monitored African American women, a demographic particularly prone to obesity, comparing subjects who ate a largely plant-based diet with those regularly consuming fried foods and red meat. They found the second group put on far more weight over the 14 year study.
The researchers were quick to point out how both groups tended to eat the same amount of food, but the calories were far higher for the second group. So, it was the high-caloric density of meat and fried food that caused the big weight gains.
Do you see where this is going?
If the plant-based diet makes sense to you but you’re not sure if you’re disciplined enough to go “cold turkey” on meat, one simple tip for switching over your diet without making it too hard on yourself is to start slowly, with incremental changes.
Try swapping out a few meals a week with vegetarian food choices. Or replace a couple problem products that you use a lot with healthier alternatives, one by one – there are actually some real tasty and convincing meat alternatives out there these days, for example. Another possibility is to pick one or two days a week to “try out” being a vegetarian.
As time goes on, these simple choices can become a regular part of your new, healthier diet, and you’ll gain the momentum for more radical changes.
Work some legumes, like beans, into your diet as well. They‘re high in fiber and protein, and they replace some of the calories you’re missing – some dieters find a lag in energy levels when switching to a plant-dominated diet without adding a heavy replacement.
Finally, don’t forget about the human tendency to eat the same portions no matter what sits on our plate. Trick yourself by taking up more room on your plate with fruits and veggies, leaving less room for the dangerous stuff.
For ultimate health, 80% of your diet should be composed of “water-based” foods – by that, I mean fruits and vegetables.
Try it and see how you feel.
As far as how strict your plant-based diet should be, it’s really a matter of which of the philosophies you follow and how hard core you are about personal food philosophy.
Is total veganism the only true plant-based diet? Are vegetarians who eat a little fish and perhaps the occasional red meat dish (gasp) going to vegetarian hell?
It’s a personal choice, but here’s my take – you won’t find many diets out there that don’t admit grubbing down on more of those good ole’ fresh fruits and veggies and cutting back on the red meat while lowering your calories won’t do wonders for your health, your looks, and your waistline.
Be aware of these benefits and take them very seriously.
But before you get too drastic with your new diet plan, acknowledge that a successful diet is a balance between personal priorities, quality of life, and health. And it’s completely possible to take up a predominantly plant-based diet without signing over your soul to the veggie garden and completely outlawing cheeseburgers for the rest of your life.
A good diet is maintained through basic guidelines, and an occasional cheat from time to time (once you’ve got it under control) doesn’t make you a bad person or mean you’re a traitor of some vague, esoteric clan. After you’ve established solid eating habits, cheating can even be a good thing sometimes.
Sure, there’s a lot of research out there raising some very interesting questions about meat and the potential damage it can do to our bodies (especially in high quantities), but more research is still needed before any absolutes are determined. Meanwhile, just use some common sense.
Michael Pollan probably puts it best in his book, “In Defense of Food,” when he sums up his own rules for plant-eating as such: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
It doesn’t’ get any simpler than that, and any person out there looking to reap the health and weight loss benefits of a sensible plant-based diet without putting themselves through raw broccoli boot camp would do well to follow his simple philosophy.
If we’re being honest, most of us could probably eat more healthily, especially those of us who are looking to lose some weight.
However, knowing this and doing something about it are two completely different things; and our quest to be healthier is made even harder by the number of conflicting opinions about exactly what types of foods we should be eating.
It seems there’s always a new ‘superfood’ we should be including in our meals, or yet another diet that will help the weight to simply fall off.
One diet that has received a lot of attention recently is the Paleo Diet, even though it was first introduced in the 70′s, and is based on foods we were supposed to have eaten many thousands of years ago.
But, can going back to the diet supposedly enjoyed by our caveman ancestors really be a healthier alternative? Will turning our back on thousands of years of development in the way we grow, prepare and eat food really help us to lose weight and lessen the risk of disease?
So what’s the difference between what we eat now and what our ancestors ate hundreds of thousands of years ago? Quite a lot apparently.
Also known as the Paleolithic, Caveman or Stone Age Diet, the Paleo Diet advocates the kind of foods that were eaten by our ancestors during the Paleolithic era, hence the name. This was a period of about 2.5 million years which ended around 10,000 years ago.
During that time, it’s suggested that our diet consisted primarily of fish, meat, vegetables, fruits and nuts.
Foods like these had been around for many years before this agricultural revolution, but without the ability to properly process and cook them, they would have been harmful to eat.
Fast forward a few thousand years and the modern diet refined and processed these ‘new’ foods we were eating, and also added things like salt and sugar for good measure too.
All in all a very different diet to that enjoyed by our caveman cousins and, as supporters of the Paleo and other diets argue, something that has had a significant impact on our health.
It is claimed to be a much healthier diet of foods that our bodies are used to eating. That is, over the hundreds of thousands of years our ancestors were ‘hunter-gatherers’, surviving on grass fed meat, fish, plants, vegetables and fruits, this is the kind of diet our bodies got used to.
Which means that when this changed to include grains, potatoes, and dairy products, our bodies were less able to process these foods, which contributed to a range of health issues. But what is it that makes these foods so bad?
One of the key components of the types of food Paleo Diet supporters say should be avoided is lectins. These are proteins which are found in most plants, but especially in foods like grains, nuts and potatoes.
They act as the plant’s natural defense against bacteria, insects, rodents, and pretty much anything else that might want to eat it – including us. These lectins can trigger an allergic reaction in the human body, and may even be contributing factors to diseases such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
Excluding these lectin-containing foods from our diet, and replacing them with the foods our bodies have evolved to process, is the basic idea behind the diet.
As well as being healthier, the fact that many of the foods you are meant to avoid are typically high in carbohydrates, also helps to explain why this particular diet has been favored by those who are looking to lose weight.
But, is eating more meat and simply avoiding all foods containing lectins really the secret to a healthier diet?
The Paleo Diet diet is based on the ‘hunter-gatherer’ model, but it would be a little simplistic to assume that all hunter-gatherers, whether living now or in Paleolithic times, had exactly the same diet.
While it’s assumed that the environment of humans back then provided them with a diet that was roughly 65% meat and 35% plants, some modern day tribes that are a perfect example of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, survive very well on the exact opposite – 35% meat and 65% plant foods.
Plus, meat today isn’t quite the same as the meat that the cavemen ate.
Our Stone Age ancestors wouldn’t have strolled down to the supermarket to pick up their mass-produced cuts of woolly mammoth, which had been pumped full of growth hormones, antibiotics and pesticides.
Even the more organically-raised meats recommended by many Paleo advocates are still going to be very different from the meats collected by the original hunter-gatherers.
And, assuming we are able to obtain the best quality grass-fed meat, eating meat produces acid which the body deals with by using various minerals to neutralize it and convert it into acid salts.
Unfortunately, a diet that is high in meat may mean the body doesn’t have enough readily-available minerals to neutralize the acid produced, so it needs to take minerals out of the skin and bones which potentially opens the door for a number of illnesses, including osteoporosis and cancer.
Too much meat can also reduce the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut and colon, and a subsequent increase in the amount of harmful bacteria; and men and women who eat diets high in red meat have been found to be more at risk of certain types of cancer.
With regards to the suggestion that lectins need to be excluded from our diet, this could prove quite difficult to achieve.
All foods contain lectins, and it does seem a little contradictory to suggest that you should avoid eating grains because they contain lectins, but you should eat plenty of meat – which typically comes from animals that might have been raised on the grains and other foods the diet suggests you avoid.
If the animals we eat are eating lectins, won’t the meat they give us contain lectins? After all, this is one of the reasons the Paleo diet tells us to avoid dairy products.
Just because our caveman ancestors ate the foods recommended by the Paleo Diet doesn’t necessarily mean they did so because they were healthy, it was more likely because that’s what was around at the time.
So, this may in fact mean that, just as cavemen in different regions evolved to eat different foods (because that’s what was available), we will adapt and evolve to eat the beans, grains and dairy products we’ve been eating for many thousands of years.
In fact, many modern civilizations survived very well on non-Paleo foods like vegetables and grains, and it wasn’t until the modern Western diet of refined and processed foods was introduced that they started to see an increase in the kind of health issues the Paleo Diet is supposed to avoid.
Also, as a very general comparison, if this diet was a much healthier option, those who eat a lot of meat should be healthier than those who eat a lot of vegetables, and it doesn’t take a degree in nutrition or a scientific study to realize that that’s generally not the case.
It does seem that, while eating Paleo does have some merit, it’s not a case of saying that the foods our ancestors ate were the healthiest, it’s more a case of saying that the heavily processed foods many of us eat today definitely aren’t.
While the hard core advice of this diet may raise a few more questions than it answers, there is still some very sound logic in it that could help those who are looking to lose weight, or those who are simply wanting to eat a healthier diet.
Many nutritionists suggest that eating less of the foods the Paleo Diet says to avoid, and a balance of those it recommends, would be a good way to improve your health and help you to lose weight.
So, while you’d expect there to be some sense in a diet that’s been thousands of years in the making, if you want to lose a few pounds and feel a little healthier, you probably don’t need to go back to the Stone Age to do so.
Everyone’s always looking for that magical pill that’ll switch on the right mechanism so they can start losing weight fast and get where they want to be faster.
And maybe you’re not looking for overnight results, but wouldn’t life be amazing if some daily supplement could accelerate your initial progress, so you could start looking great and feel better about yourself that much sooner?
Then, just by stabilizing your diet and making all the right moves, you could hold your weight there where you wanted it and start aging with a little more finesse. Hey, we can dream…
But while there might not be completely magical solutions out there, we do hear about a supplement every now and then that’s said to give dieters some pretty amazing leverage. One example getting a lot of attention lately is fiber supplements.
But what’s the real deal? Is there anything to the hype? Let’s have a look.
Alright, at the risk of boring you to tears, you need to know that there are two different kinds of fiber important to health and nutrition, both typically derived from plant material.
They’re known as soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber is viscous. It absorbs water and ferments in your digestive tract, turning into gases and active byproducts. This reaction produces compounds some people think are very beneficial to your health.
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, is best described as “roughage.” It’s basically plant material the body cannot digest (more on this later).
The indigestible insoluble fiber just absorbs water and passes right through your digestive system without fermenting and breaking down because there is nothing in a normal human body that it reacts with. It also changes the way you digest other foodstuffs by attracting and holding water molecules from certain materials.
Not to gross you out, the end result is a bigger, often coarser stool travelling through your body faster.
So where does weight loss factor in?
Some weight loss enthusiasts believe fiber supplements can trim your waistline because they make you feel full, thus stifling your appetite. Fiber is also difficult to break down into energy, and since your digestive system still attempts to convert it into energy, your metabolism speeds up and you burn more calories.
As well as helping you to lose or maintain weight, fiber has also been shown to yield a number of other health benefits. Because of the way it ‘wraps up’ cholesterol, allowing the body to get rid of it more easily, it can help to lower cholesterol levels. It also binds with fatty acids and slows down blood sugar absorption (a physical reaction of much interest to diabetics).
To go on, fiber is said to improve digestion and alleviate some of the symptoms associated with health problems, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
But here’s where things get interesting…
While most government organizations still promote adding huge amounts of dietary fiber to your diet – almost comically so – there is a lot of new research suggesting excessive fiber intake may be extremely dangerous.
Think about it and it makes perfect sense – weight loss and health enthusiasts basically rely on fiber because it’s an INDIGESTIBLE MATERIAL.
And it’s easy to see why digesting materials the body is not meant to digest could be a potentially bad idea, wreaking havoc on your digestive system and overall health over the long term.
Konstantin Monastyrsky writes in his alarming book, “Fiber Menace,” about a huge range of problems caused by excess fiber. He argues that we have not possessed the technology to process insoluble fiber into food products for very long and, as a result, our bodies have not yet learned to manage the stuff.
Again, it’s indigestible!
Effects he warns about include loss of control over the bowels (to the point of depending on laxatives), appendicitis, chronic constipation, rectal bleeding, diverticular disease, and increased risk of colon cancer.
This list, only the beginning of a longer one that reads like a nerve-wracking pharmaceutical commercial, is in exact opposition of everything our society has been told about fiber.
But the evidence is very compelling.
Now, don’t freak out because fiber is not going to necessarily kill you or turn your intestines into the Texas Chainsaw Massacre as long as you don’t overdo it…hint, hint. Stick to getting small quantities of it from natural foods that haven’t been processed – this natural stuff is typically soluble and doesn’t mess with your body the way insoluble fiber does.
As far as fiber affecting your appetite and thus aiding in weight loss, at the end of the day, if the growing concerns of fiber are true, losing a few pounds a little faster is never worth the damage it can do your body.
Maybe you’re not ready to give up on fiber and still aren’t convinced the stuff is even bad for you. Mainstream fiber buffs have got their claws in you and they’re not letting go…
You still might want to hold back a little bit on jumping on the supplement bandwagon and instead start educating yourself more about the benefits of a good diet, what “good diet” actually means, and how it can change your body and your life.
As indicated in the beginning of this article, supplements are a product of the magic pill phenomenon, and while some do have their benefits, there are dangers as well. For instance, did you know dietary supplements have no warning labels?
In fact, no purity standards are set in place at all, and since supplements are labeled as food, they are largely free of federal oversight.
A recent CBS News article by Sue Chan warns, “Some may inhibit blood clotting. St. John’s Wort may negate birth control pills, while Melatonin has been linked to seizures in children.”
And the real problem with these “mays” and “mights” is that someone has to prove a supplement (or food) to be dangerous before it can be yanked off the shelves – a far cry from the way we handle pharmaceuticals. Not to mention it’s hard to prove a supplement is hurting people when the companies who sell them are not even required to report complaints.
Look, this is my take:
Have you ever noticed how the “supplement crowd” is always so quick to remind us that we should make sure to get our fiber (or whatever nutrient they’re promoting) from natural food rich in that nutrient as well?
If supplements are so amazing, why the emphasis on getting your daily dose from natural foodstuffs? I dare suggest they’re covering their own rear ends, knowing that getting the nutrients you need from real food is really where it’s at.
Certainly food for thought.
And, knowing that all the healthy stuff your body needs to stay trim, healthy, and sexy can be found through the right natural food diet, that’s where you should focus your energy.
It really is the key to a long and happy life.
Diet tips for weight loss are a dime a dozen. Many are quite useful though and do work, but if you’ve run into problems with your dieting and/or you don’t want to waste time trying endless ‘tips’ that don’t work, read on.
This article is going to give you 6 of the tried and true, effective weight loss tips that most successful slimmers use to get into shape.
Many people think that if you want to lose weight you need to eat less, but getting rid of those unwanted pounds is more about what you eat, not how much you eat. Focusing on eating the right food is always the best approach, and healthier, than eating less food.
There are plenty of foods you can eat more of without worrying about putting on weight. In fact, by including the following nutrient dense, low calorie foods as part of a well balanced exercise and eating plan, you can fill up on them, never feel hungry, and still lose weight!
If you’re not keen on vegies try eating them raw with a small piece of low fat cheese, and I do mean small. If cooked vegetables are more appealing do resist adding a ton of butter or fatty sauces. Make vegetable soup or stir fry them using a little soy sauce for added flavor.
Kecap manis (pronounced: ketchup Mah nees) is my favorite sauce for stir frys. It’s sweet, garlicy flavor is just delightful, but use sparingly as there’s a lot of sugar in it.
All berry fruits, citrus fruits, apples, plums, cantelope, pears.
I love sweet and salty together! Apples are delicious with cheese (remember, low fat, and don’t go overboard). Also, try dipping strawberries in balsamic vinegar…go on, it really is yummy!
High protein foods like eggs, fish and white meats are full of protein and great as part of a weight loss diet, especially if you’re doing a lot of exercise.
Protein provides your muscles with the essential nutrients they need to recover after hard workouts, and healthy, stronger muscles use energy (and therefore calories) much more efficiently. High protein foods have also been shown to help you feel fuller for longer, so you won’t get hungry between meals.
Carbs come in all shapes and sizes, from the simple carbohydrates like sugar, to the more complex versions you find in foods like bread, pasta and rice. Complex carbohydrates are generally better as they are converted to the glucose your body needs to produce energy more slowly, while simple carbohydrates are very easy for the body to convert quickly.
If you want to keep carbs in your diet, whole grains are always the best. The body converts them to energy more efficiently, and there is less chance of the glucose they provide being deposited as fat, unlike refined grains and simple carbohydrates. Whole grains also tend to be high in fiber which, like high protein foods, are great for helping to keep your hunger satisfied.
Some wholegrain breads and pastas are better than others so a little experimentation might be needed before you find something that really excites your taste buds. For example, I really enjoy making, and eating, spaghetti bolognese, but havent found a a wholegrain spaghetti pasta I like. For some reason wholegrain penne pasta tastes better so I use that instead…eh, it works.
Most of us are used to having three meals a day, and that seems like the way it’s always been, doesnt it? However, many nutritionist recommend a much different approach, which is based on the way our ancestors used to eat. It does make a lot of sense.
Apart from ‘grazing’, (eating little and often) and putting less strain on our digestive systems, having shorter gaps between meals helps to make any reduced-calorie diets we might be on much easier to stick to.
One of the best times for you to eat is after you’ve exercised. This is because the increased level of activity tends to speed up your metabolism, so your body is able to more efficiently process the food you’ve eaten. It also means your body gets more of the essential nutrients it needs from your food, to replace everything your workout took out of you.
It’s long been thought that drinking water shortly before a meal can help those on a diet to lose more weight, and a recent study seems to back this up.
Middle aged slimmers who drank water before their meals were seen to lose more weight, and keep it off for longer…the water helped to ‘fill them up’.
Although, with younger slimmers the effects were less noticeable, drinking more water is likely to reduce the consumption of other drinks that do contain calories.
These diet tips for weight loss are very straightforward and can be easily integrated into your day to day routine. In fact, many diet programs are based on these simple recommendations, because they are so effective.
Whether you just want to lose a couple of pounds or have slightly more ambitious goals, these tips will not only help you to achieve your target weight, they can also help you maintain your weight, long-term.