Countdown to a Lean Belly
By: Travis Stork, M.D.
How did they do it? That’s the first question anyone asks when they see a friend or colleague who’s lost a lot of weight, or remade their body into a healthier, leaner version. How did they do it?
Well, it’s no mystery. In fact, one of the most important and intriguing studies ever conducted was put together by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) back in 2006. This is our tax dollars at work, and I’d say we got our money’s worth.
The pages of the study—its catchy title is “Dietary and Physical Activity Behaviors Among Adults Successful at Weight Loss Maintenance”—take all the world’s weight-loss theories and compare them to what works for real people in the real world. It looked at people who won the fat war by losing at least 30 pounds and then keeping the weight off using strategies that will work for you, too.
Keep in mind: It wasn’t a 100 percent success story. The CDC studied 2,124 people, and only 587 of them actually lost the weight and kept it off. But those who succeeded used many of the same strategies, the strategies outlined here.
And for even more ways to revolutionize your diet and get lean for good, check out The Lean Belly Prescription by Dr. Travis Stork. It’s filled with simple strategies that will help you lose weight the same way you gained it: By making easy lifestyle choices that will transform your life—for the better.
Lean-Belly Strategy #1
Pay Attention to What You Eat
Mindless eating is excessive eating. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts discovered that people who watched TV while they ate consumed nearly 300 more calories than those who dined without an eye on the tube. You need to pay attention to the messages your stomach is sending to your brain; if the TV is blaring, you won’t see the “slow” and “stop” signs.
Lean-Belly Strategy #2
Fast eaters become fat people. If you consciously stop to take a breath between bites, you can cut your food (and calorie) intake by 10 percent, according to researchers at the University of Rhode Island. Special bonus: You can do this in social situations—Thanksgiving dinner at Aunt Marge’s—and nobody will even notice. That is, until you show up next year minus 20 pounds of flab.
Lean-Belly Strategy #3
I Said Slow Down!
It takes 20 minutes for the news that you’ve had enough to eat to travel from your gut to your brain. The reason: Hormones that trigger the “I’m full—stop!” sensation are at the end of your digestive tract, and it takes a while for digested food to reach there. If your mouth is filled with conversation, it won’t be so full of food. Talk more between bites, and weigh less when the conversation/meal is over.
Lean-Belly Strategy #4
Beware the “Healthy” Menu
If you order the stuff that’s supposed to be good for you, you’re likely to underestimate a meal’s calorie total by more than a third, according to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research. The restaurants know that; now you do, too. So be especially aware when ordering “healthy,” and make sure you have a “to go” box handy to carry leftovers home.
Lean-Belly Strategy #5
Beware the Community Chest
Always serve snacks in a bowl or dish, and put away the packages. Never eat from the bag or container. That way you won’t ever eat an entire bag of something in a single sitting.
Lean-Belly Strategy #6
Beat Hunger with Your Mind
Have a craving even though you ate just an hour ago? Before you indulge your mystery hunger, here’s how to test whether your appetite is real or not: Imagine sitting down to a large, sizzling steak. If you’re truly hungry, the steak will sound good, and you should eat. If the steak isn’t appetizing, it means your body isn’t actually hungry. You might be bored, or thirsty, or just tempted by something you don’t need. Try a change of scenery: Researchers at Flanders University in Australia found that visual distractions can help curb cravings.
Lean-Belly Strategy #7
Redecorate, Repack, Remember
If you don’t have a countertop fruit bowl, buy one so you can grab a peach, banana, pear, or other piece of fruit on your way out the door in the morning, to munch on during your commute. (Plus, it’s fun to throw the core out the window.) Plan a 10 a.m. apple-a-day break. Toss an orange in your briefcase to help you past the mid-afternoon lull (otherwise known as Temptation Time). Make fruit part of your entourage, and it will beat up lesser foods.
Lean-Belly Strategy #8
If You Can’t Bear to Eat Vegetables, Drink Them Instead
That’s right, you could have had a V8—as long as it was the low-sodium variety. It has pureed tomatoes, beets, carrots, celery, spinach, lettuce, parsley, and watercress, and 8 ounces supplies two of your five recommended daily servings of vegetables. It also heats up nicely as a base for soups.
Lean-Belly Strategy #9
If You Can’t Bear to Eat Vegetables, Hide Them in Your Pasta Sauce
And no, neither you nor the kids will notice. Using a fine grater on your food processor, grate 2 cups total of onions, garlic, carrots, beets, and zucchini (or any combo thereof), then sauté the microscopic vegetable bits in a tablespoon of olive oil. Add 4 cups of basic marinara sauce and simmer to an anonymous tomato flavor.
Lean-Belly Strategy #10
If You’re Not Yet Drinking Smoothies, Why Not?
Have you read the label of your fruit juice? Lots of sugar (however “natural” it is) and not much fiber, which means it’s a carb bomb when it hits your bloodstream. Not so with a blended smoothie, because ingredient number one is whole fruit, making the sugar content drop and the fiber climb.
Two tips: Use frozen fruit; buy it by the bag in your store’s freezer section. And buy a wand mixer and a small pitcher so you can mix your smoothie in the same container you drink it from; it’s much easier than washing out a blender. Almost any fruit-and-berry combo will do, but you can start with this recipe: 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, 1/2 banana (peeled ones freeze well), 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 2 tablespoons whey powder (it’s in the supplements aisle in the grocery store), 1 cup 2% milk, and 1 cup water.
Lean-Belly Strategy #11
Buy Smaller Dishes
According to the food scientists at Cornell University, people tend to eat as much food as will fit on their plates. That’s where “duh!” overlaps with dangerous. Over the past 100 years, our plates have grown, decade by decade. And we also know that the nation’s obesity rates have grown exponentially in that time as well. No, it’s not a coincidence. If you dine off of smaller plates, you’ll grow smaller, too. Shoot for 9 inches in diameter, and you’ll be on your way.
Lean-Belly Strategy #12
Drink out of Skinny Glasses
As have gone dinner plates, so have gone drinking glasses. And if you fill the newly cavernous ones with any kind of sweetened beverage, you’ll overindulge in calories. But here’s a smart tip: We tend to gauge our drink sizes by how tall, not how stout, our drinking glasses are. So if you buy tall, skinny ones, you’ll think you’re drinking more even though you’re drinking less.
Lean-Belly Strategy #13
Never Eat from the Box, Carton, or Bag
Those same clever food scientists at Cornell did an experiment in which they gave one set of moviegoers giant boxes of stale popcorn and another set smaller boxes of stale popcorn. The big-box people ate more than the small-box people. The theory: You gauge the amount that’s “reasonable” to eat by the size of the container it’s in. Put two cookies on a plate, put a scoop of ice cream in a bowl, or lay out a small handful of potato chips on your plate, then put the container away; you’ll eat far less of the treat.
Lean-Belly Strategy #14
Limit the Fried Stuff
Fun fact: Fast-food burgers and chicken from KFC and McDonald’s are the most frequently requested meals on death row. It kinda makes sense. The inmates won’t be around to suffer the aftermath. Fried foods are packed with calories and salt, and that crunchy, oily coating beats down any nutritional qualities that whatever is entombed inside might have.
That said, eating one piece of fried chicken won’t be, um, a death sentence, if it’s surrounded on the plate by generous helpings of vegetables and you follow with fruit—not more fat—for dessert. What’s more, the fat in the chicken will help you absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in the veggies.
Lean-Belly Strategy #15
Eat the Good Stuff
Make sure your diet is filled with healthy fats in the forms of fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines), fatty fruits (avocados), extra-virgin olive oil, eggs (among the healthiest foods known to humankind), and healthy-fat snacks (nuts are nutritional powerhouses and keep you feeling full). I even give bacon in moderation a green light; at only 70 calories per strip, it carries big flavor and belly-filling capabilities.
Lean-Belly Strategy #16
Wear Your Milk Mustache with Pride
Milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and cheeses all contain slow-to-digest protein and healthy fat, so they can be excellent belly fillers. And studies have suggested that the calcium in dairy products may aid weight loss. Make them part of your diet and you’ll find the cow elbowing aside lesser members of the food kingdom.
Lean-Belly Strategy #17
Eliminate Sweetened Beverages
If you’re going to follow only one piece of advice in this article, make it this one. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: Drinks with added sugar account for nearly 450 calories per day in the average American’s diet. That’s more than twice as much as we were drinking 30 years ago. If you’re looking for a way to cut unnecessary daily calories to help you lose a pound a week, wean yourself from the overload of sugar-sweetened carbonated beverages.
No, artificially sweetened sodas are not okay. Even if they have few calories or no calories, they maintain or increase your taste for highly sweetened foods, so you seek out the calorie payload elsewhere. Worse yet, they crowd out the healthy beverages. My prescription: Out with the bad, in with the great—in taste and nutrition.
Lean-Belly Strategy #18
Reduce Your Intake of High-Carbohydrate Foods
As I’ve mentioned, simple carbs enter your bloodstream as sugars and are likely to be stored as fat when you’re inactive. They also set off a binge/crash cycle that can give your appetite the upper hand and have you reaching for the doughnut tray and candy bars throughout your day. To rein in your appetite, limit your simple carbs found in sugary drinks, processed foods, and refined breads (i.e., whole-wheat bread carbs good, white bread carbs bad; strawberry carbs good, strawberry-flavored candy carbs bad).
Lean-Belly Strategy #19
Reduce Your Intake of Food Prepared Away From Home
When you let somebody else prepare your food—especially if it’s a teenager in a paper hat—you lose control over what you eat. And the fast-food companies, being what they are, encourage all of your worst eating habits by stuffing their products with crave-inducing ingredients like unhealthy fats, sugar, and salt. If you can stay out of the drive-thru, you can shrink your calorie intake every day.
Lean-Belly Strategy #20
Keep a Food Diary
Clearly, this weight-loss technique isn’t for everybody. It’s a hassle to write down every little thing you eat, day after day. But it’s strikingly effective for those who do it. My advice: Try it for a week so you can get a handle on how many sodas you drink and under what circumstances, when you’re most likely to veg out with a bowl of chips in front of the TV, and when your dessert cravings strike. That will help you identify your dietary danger zones and lead you to strategies that save pounds.
But it wasn’t just dietary changes that helped all those folks lose all that weight. Becoming active was another enormous factor in leading the successful losers into the promised land of the lean (but not hungry): exercising for 30 or more minutes per day, and adding physical activity to daily routines. Clearly, these are Lean Belly Prescription kind of people. And that provides a great segue to talking about the activities that these “successful losers” used to shed fat and keep it off .
Here’s why it’s so important to keep both healthy eating and exercise going as your one-two punch against belly fat. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology reported that when people chose healthier foods and combined that benefi t with exercise, they torched 98 percent of their weight directly from their fat stores. People who changed their diets alone were much more likely to break down muscle for fuel, and that’s a big problem. Muscle is one of your prime metabolism boosters, so it will help you burn fat for up to 24 hours after a workout. So let’s tackle the activity list, and give you strategies to make the most of it.
Lean-Belly Strategy #21
Walk for Exercise
I consider that great news. Is there a simpler exercise than walking? Is there a better way to incorporate talking with friends and loved ones into your fitness plan? Is there anything else that gets you out among your neighbors at a pace that lets you say hello? And is there anything that makes your dog happier than your saying the magic word walk?
A study from the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada (a lovely place for a walk, mind you) found that largely sedentary people who wore a pedometer for 12 weeks increased their total steps by 3,451 a day, to about 10,500. By walking more, they also lowered their resting heart rates, BMIs, and waist measurements. Once you start paying attention to footsteps, you’ll find ways to bank the extra strides. Thirty here, 300 there, 1,000 after dinner, and suddenly you’re walking away from your old weight. Why not start right now? The closer you pay attention, the more you’ll walk. And the more you walk, the greater the temptation will be to mix in an even bigger calorie burner: running.
Lean-Belly Strategy #22
I suspect that for 81 percent of you, the picture that just flashed in your mind was of a no-neck Bulgarian weight lifter straining as he hoisted a steel beam over his head in the last Olympics. I know that isn’t you.
But you should still be taking advantage of the weight lifter’s advantage: Muscle is the all-night convenience store of fat burning—it never shuts down. Not only do you burn a ton of calories while you’re actually exercising, but there’s also a big afterburn effect that kicks in. Your body has to expend energy to cool you down and repair the small tears in muscle fibers that happen when you lift. (Don’t freak out. If you lift reasonable-size weights, you won’t tear muscles, you’ll just push the muscle fibers hard enough to make them grow.)
Lean-Belly Strategy #23
Believe it or not, “none of the above” is a legitimate option when it comes to physical activity, because there’s nothing magical about running or weight lifting or even walking. They’re just the most common activities people choose in order to add more activity to their days. The only one that’s important to you is one that a) you enjoy, b) fits into your life well enough that you can do it most days, and c) allows you to up your energy expenditure.
You can do that by adding three 15-minute walks to your day or by scheduling 2-hour bike rides on weekends. Or simply by walking more, standing more, lifting more, and sitting less.
Just look at your whole day as an opportunity to make the smart choices that will help you lose weight and feel better. Achieve that, and where might you be next month? Or next year? Some place far better than where you are today!
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- Health and Wellness Video Clip from The Dr. Oz Show: Trim the Holiday Fat
This month’s video clip from The Dr. Oz Show, “Trim the Holiday Fat,” offers tips on how to stay healthy during the holiday season.
UnitedHealthcare posts video clips each month featuring Dr. Mehmet Oz, a renowned physician, bestselling author and host of The Dr. Oz Show, which airs daily on TV stations across the United States. The clips focus on achieving or maintaining a healthy weight, heart health, exercise and healthy eating, and can be easily shared by copying and pasting the Web link into an email or Web browser. Each clip will be available online on uhc.com and Source4Women.com for six months.
These video clips are part of UnitedHealthcare’s commitment to work with Dr. Oz to support health and wellness topics on his show. Access DoctorOz.com and click on “Local Listings” to find out when and on what station The Dr. Oz Show airs in your area.
The Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) has teamed up locally with UHC to bring this and other information to all of their member organizations, employees and families. Thank you to Sheri Gilbert of Valley Schools for this information.
Acupuncture Effective for Pain Reduction
About 3 million Americans visit acupuncturists each year, most of them for the relief of chronic pain. Now a new study shows the relief they get may be modest—but real. The study is a review of previous acupuncture studies that compared the ancient Chinese practice to standard pain care or to sham acupuncture. In the latter, patients are needled in a manner different from (or at spots on the body not tied to) traditional acupuncture. The researchers found that people who got acupuncture ended up having less pain than those who didn’t receive it. And the result was similar among different sources of pain, whether it was chronic back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, or headache. In the end, their results translate to about 30% less pain compared to people taking pain medications and other standard treatments for pain.
An editorial published alongside the study estimates that 60 such reviews on acupuncture had been done already. What sets this study apart from earlier efforts was the ex-Acupuncture Pain Relief Is Real, Researchers Say:
Researcher Andrew Vickers, PhD, says that the study took six to seven years to complete and involved about 40 people, including pain management specialists, acupuncturists, patient advocates, statisticians, and other experts from the U.S. and Europe.
“This was a very, very large collaboration,” says Vickers, a researcher with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. “And we did the most rigorous work we could do.”
Vickers and his colleagues reviewed nearly 1,000 studies. In the end, they selected 29, which he says were of the highest quality. Rather than simply tallying up the results of those studies, the researchers obtained the raw data from each of them and reanalyzed all of it. By the time they were done, they had examined data from nearly 18,000 participants from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, and Sweden.
Robert Duarte, MD, says that previous studies have shown similar results to this one. “This is not something new,” says Duarte, director of the Pain Center at the Cushing Neuroscience Institute in Great Neck, N.Y. “The significance of this study is in its size.” Duarte has practiced acupuncture for 19 years. He says that a good number of his patients benefit from it. Because there are limited options for pain management, even small amounts of relief are welcome. “It’s better than nothing, and that is something,” says Duarte. “Even a modest benefit from acupuncture may lessen the need for medication and decrease the risk of side effects from medications and other interventions.”
According to the study, acupuncture showed a small but noteworthy advantage over sham acupuncture. That led the authors to conclude that there is a benefit beyond the placebo effect. However, the modest differences between real and fake acupuncture—and the fact that sham acupuncture showed better results than standard care raise questions about what is actually at work when a patient is stuck with a needle.
“These effects may be real relief,” says Rick Hecht, MD, research Director at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “There may be active ingredients that are still there even though the needles are not going into specific points and specific depths. What is doing it, you can’t tell, though other research is being done to break down the issue.” Hecht was not involved in the study.
To Duarte, the fact that sham acupuncture shows benefits indicates that “sham” may be misleading. “The word ‘sham’ implies it is a sham, but it may be beneficial,” he says. “Maybe the traditional acupuncture points are not as important as once thought.”
Reprinted from the December 2012 Wellstyles Newsletter produced by the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT)
Poor sleep can lead to feeling unappreciated in your relationship: study
Lack of sleep can make us forget to say ‘thanks’ to our partner and other important things that keep a relationship afloat, new research finds.
MONDAY, JANUARY 21, 2013, 11:18 AM
Tossing and turning all night can make you less appreciative towards your partner in the morning, new research suggests.
A new study on how sleep affects relationships finds that when one partner comes up short on sleep, the other may feel unappreciated.
Researchers from University of California, Berkeley, say that sleep deprivation can leave couples “too tired to say thanks” and can make one or the other partner feel taken for granted.
“Poor sleep may make us more selfish as we prioritize our own needs over our partner’s,” says Amie Gordon, a UC Berkeley psychologist and lead investigator of the study. She presented the findings Saturday, January 19, at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychologists in New Orleans.
“You may have slept like a baby, but if your partner didn’t, you’ll probably both end up grouchy,” Gordon adds. She also noted that for many couples, nighttime can turn into a battleground due to snoring, sheet-tugging or one partner reading while the other tosses and turns.
To reach her findings, Gordon recruited more than 60 couples, ranging in age from 18 to 56. Subjects kept a diary of their sleep patterns and feelings toward their partner. In one experiment, couples were videotaped while performing a problem-solving task. Those who slept badly the night before showed less appreciation for their partner.
A solution to keep the peace? “Make sure to say to say ‘thanks’ when your partner does something nice,” suggests Gordon. “Let them know you appreciate them.”
‘Flu sorbet’ a tasty way to treat your illness
Published January 21, 2013
New York Post
Finally, a fun way to fight the flu.
A small-batch ice-cream company claims to have scooped up a cure for the worst epidemic in years — a bold new flavor called “Influenza Sorbet.”
The virus-soothing treat — made by Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams — blends Maker’s Mark bourbon, lemon and cayenne pepper to mimic an old family flu remedy.
The dessert, which sells for $12 a pint, includes ginger and honey.
Owner Jeni Britton Bauer, who operates Manhattan ice-cream trucks, says it eases sore throats and clears up nasal passages.
“I’ve had people tell me it’s the only thing that makes them feel better. It actually does have a physical effect,” she said.
That’s likely due to a secret ingredient: a small dose of pectin, which is found in cough drops, Bauer said. “It coats your throat. It’s just what some people need,” she said.
The new treat comes after the state last week declared a health emergency, noting that the number of flu cases had more than quadrupled — from 4,404 to 19,128 — in the past year.
“It’s cute but I’d like to see the science behind it,” said Doris Bucher, who helped develop this year’s flu vaccine with a team of scientists at New York Medical College. She added, “It might spice you up or knock you out — but it’s no vaccine,” she said.
Orders have spiked dramatically in the past two weeks, she said.
“It’s not a miracle. It’s an at-home remedy — like chicken soup,” she said.