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21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart Boost Metabolism, Lower Cholesterol, and Dramatically Improve Your Health
By Barnard, Neal
Grand Central Life & Style Copyright © 2011 Barnard, Neal
All right reserved.
A Note to the Reader
As you get started, let me mention two simple, but important points:
See Your Health Care Provider. If you are taking medication, are seriously overweight, or have any health concern, let me encourage you to work with a physician or other health care provider, and to follow his or her advice about all aspects of your medical care. This is not because changing your diet is dangerous. Just the opposite; a diet change can be very powerful for health. So powerful, in fact, that your doctor may need to change your medication regimen, or perhaps discontinue medications altogether. Do not do this on your own. Work with your health care provider to reduce or discontinue your medicines if and when the time is right.
Also, sometimes a new way of eating can make you feel so good and energetic that you might feel like really ramping up your exercise routine. But be careful. If you have been sedentary, have any serious health problem, have a great deal of weight to lose, or are over forty, have your health care provider check whether you are ready for exercise, and how rapidly to begin.
Get Complete Nutrition. Anytime you alter the way you eat, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need. The way of eating presented in this book greatly improves your overall nutrition—more so than other diets. But even so, please read the information on complete nutrition presented in chapter 5. And be sure to take a daily multiple vitamin or other reliable source of vitamin B12, such as fortified cereals or fortified soy milk. Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy nerves and healthy blood.
METABOLICALLY ACTIVE FOODS
Power on Your Plate
Welcome to the Kickstart! In just 21 days, you’re going to be thinner, healthier, and more energetic. As you’ll soon see, the program is quite easy and very effective. You may not yet realize how powerful the foods you eat are—and what a difference a few small changes can make in your life.
There are so many different approaches to nutrition, weight loss, and health. It is important for you to know that the dietary changes recommended in this book have been carefully tested, with the results published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Not only are they more enjoyable than other dietary methods; they are potentially more effective than any other approach ever devised.
Before jumping into the Kickstart, I thought you might like to hear how the simple changes in the program have worked for others—and will work for you, too.
Everyone knows GEICO, the car insurance company whose spokesperson-logo is a little green gecko with an English accent. GEICO’s headquarters happen to be near my office. A few years ago, the company became interested in seeing whether a plant-based diet might help its employees. Because the company provides medical insurance for its employees, every employee who starts a cholesterol-lowering drug or needs a heart bypass costs the firm money.
So my team did a research study with GEICO with just two simple steps: First, the company cafeteria included vegan options, along with the other foods it served. By the way, if this is a new word for you, a vegan is not a person from the planet Vegus. The word simply refers to a diverse diet that leaves out animal products. So in addition to the usual bacon-and-egg breakfast, GEICO provided an oatmeal bar and fruit. At lunch, the cafeteria served hamburgers and all the usual fare, but added veggie burgers, portobello mushroom sandwiches, red bean chili, and vegetable lasagna.
Second, employees who wanted to give a healthy diet a try were offered a one-hour group meeting once a week. The idea was to provide cooking instruction, health lectures, and time to talk together about how the diet change was going. At the GEICO site in the Washington, DC, area, sixty-eight people volunteered to try the program out for five months. They saw this as a chance to lose weight, gain more energy, and break some old habits. A separate GEICO facility in Fredericksburg, Virginia, agreed to serve as a comparison site, with no diet changes.
Hillary and Bruce worked at the Washington-area GEICO office and decided to join the study. They are real people, and those are their real names. They are upbeat and fun loving. But Bruce described their weight problems as serious and long standing, and he was not looking for excuses. “We definitely both loved our food,” he said. Fast food, doughnuts, and just about everything else called to them on a daily basis. “It was really pretty terrible, the way we ate.”
But solving the problem was another matter. They had tried various diets in earnest, but nothing seemed to last, and each diet failure was a demoralizing experience.
Exercise presented a different set of challenges. “You’re embarrassed to go to the gym,” Bruce said. “You’re embarrassed to go out jogging. You really don’t want to go out in public and be seen running around and jiggling everywhere.”
Hillary said, “It was really difficult to find clothes that would fit and that were appropriate for work. And also knowing that it was really my fault and that there was something I should be doing about it but that I wasn’t able to do—that was very frustrating.”
When the GEICO study started, Bruce weighed 283 pounds, and Hillary weighed 239. But they supported each other in the change, and they put healthy foods to work 100 percent.
Weight started to melt away almost immediately. “I think eight to ten weeks into the study, I had already lost thirty pounds and had been able to go shopping for new clothes,” Hillary said. “It was very, very exciting. It was also very exciting to start seeing the reactions of other people as I would attend a conference and see people I hadn’t seen for several months. People really noticed. They could see that there had been a big difference in my attitude and in how I looked physically. It was very inspiring.”
“The pounds were dropping like crazy,” Bruce said. “My cholesterol was plummeting. It was fantastic. This was something that was working better than anything we’d tried before. And I think that we knew we were on the right path.”
After five months, the study participants stood on the scale. At Fredericksburg, the average person got nowhere, of course. They had made no diet changes, and so their weight didn’t fall at all. But at the Washington site, participants lost weight easily. The largest weight loss was forty-six pounds over five months; a more typical weight loss was between ten and twenty pounds. Waistlines shrank by two inches, on average, and hips slimmed by nearly two inches, too. We published the results in three scientific journal reports.
But for Hillary and Bruce, something even more profound had happened. The short-term experience had eased them out of their routine. It had shown them a better way and had broken all their not-so-healthful habits. So when the study ended, they kept going.
Within a year, Hillary had lost eighty-five pounds, and Bruce had lost more than a hundred. They sent me a photograph showing the dramatic change. Not only were they trim, healthy, and beautiful, but I also noticed they were wearing athletic clothes—with no jiggling parts—and had numbers pinned to their T-shirts. Because their energy had come roaring back, they did something they had never done before—they signed up for a half-marathon! Changing what was on their plates allowed them to shed the weight and to gain so much energy that they wanted to exercise.
Today they look great, and they feel great. And eating has become a new adventure. At first, they started trying out new foods in order to participate in our program—just as you will during the next 21 days. Then as they discovered new tastes, new recipes, and new products, they gained a whole new way of thinking about food. They love their new, healthy relationship with food and their new healthy bodies, and the same is in store for you.
By the way, their tremendous weight loss started without exercise. They began the diet change first, and then, as their energy ramped up, they found that they wanted to get active. What this means is that, like Hillary and Bruce, you are about to embark on a simple but profound change, not just in weight, but in your energy level and in how you feel about yourself.
Hillary’s and Bruce’s story can be anyone’s story. If you are looking to lose a little weight—or a lot of weight—or conquer a serious health problem, a change in diet can be powerful. It can help you gain a level of health you had not thought possible.
Not Just Thinner. Healthier, Too
Weight loss is an issue for many people and will be a central focus of this book, but it’s just as important to look beyond the scale, at your overall health. And that’s the beauty of the approach you’re about to put to work. The menu changes that help you lose weight also have a decisive effect on health.
One of the most amazing studies ever conducted was led by Dr. Dean Ornish, a young Harvard-trained physician, who showed that a low-fat vegetarian diet, along with other healthy lifestyle changes, not only led to impressive weight loss and huge changes in cholesterol, but actually caused heart disease to reverse. In other words, arteries that had been narrowed slowly but surely over decades actually began to reopen—without drugs or surgery. As blood flow improved, chest pain disappeared, and people felt young again. The heart attacks that had threatened Dr. Ornish’s patients were suddenly much less likely to ever occur.
At the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, MD, went a step further. In patients with severe heart disease, he prescribed an Ornish-style diet. If a patient’s cholesterol level did not fall below 150 mg/dL, he added a cholesterol-lowering medication. The results were astounding. Although the patients had been very sick at the study outset, their health turned around completely. In twelve years of study, not a single person who followed Dr. Esselstyn’s approach had any heart complications at all.
Meanwhile, Dr. David Jenkins at the University of Toronto showed that foods alone could lower cholesterol levels nearly as well as cholesterol-lowering drugs. The trick was to start with a plant-based diet, and then emphasize specific foods that have a known cholesterol-lowering ability: oats, barley, soy products, and almonds, for example. His patients cut their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by nearly 30 percent in just four weeks. A similar diet effectively lowers high blood pressure.
Research teams have put similar diets to work for cancer patients. The idea is that vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) work in three ways: First, they provide powerful antioxidants and other cancer fighters. Second, they help trim away excess weight (weight loss improves survival for certain types of cancer). Third, these same diet changes reduce the blood levels of hormones that would otherwise promote cancer growth. As it turns out, diet changes help prevent cancer; and they can also improve survival after diagnosis, reducing the risk of recurrence.
If a look at your family tree shows heart problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, or other conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease that are starting to show links with specific nutritional factors (as you will see in chapter 4), you’ll want to take advantage of the health-boosting power of foods. If you already have a health problem, a diet change is often just what the doctor ordered. It not only adds years to life, but also allows you to spend those years really living, instead of spending your time at a doctor’s office or the pharmacy counter.
It took many years for all of this research to be done. But the benefits of simple adjustments in your daily menu come surprisingly quickly. In no time, you’ll be on your way to a slimmer, healthier body.
Where Did We Go Wrong?
What causes weight gain and the various health issues that go along with it? Why is it that so many people are overweight now, compared with decades past?
Researchers have been examining those questions, and we have come up with some surprising answers.
First of all, it’s not a question of a lack of physical activity, at least not for the most part. It is certainly true that many people are less active than in years past. But in 2009, a team of researchers carefully examined the relationships among food, exercise, and weight, and concluded that changes in exercise habits were simply not enough to account for the rise in obesity in recent years. And that makes sense. Our bodies are so efficient at holding on to fat, you could run flat-out for a mile and not burn off the calories in half an order of french fries. If we want to understand the causes of weight gain, we need to look at the input side of the equation—the foods we eat.
In 2010, I published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition a detailed analysis of how diets have changed over the past century. The results are sobering.
Between 1909 and 2007, meat intake rose from 124 pounds to more than 200 pounds per person per year. That’s more than seventy-five pounds of extra meat for every person every year.
What? Is it really possible that an average man or woman has found some way to eat seventy-five extra pounds of meat every year?
The answer is yes. I grew up in North Dakota, and my father’s side of the family has raised cattle in the Midwest for many generations. However, our meat portions back then were more modest than portions are today. And Americans are now putting away chicken like there is no tomorrow. Convinced that chicken is somehow health food, which it is not, Americans now eat more than one million chickens per hour. It would probably surprise most people to learn that chicken’s fat content isn’t much different from beef’s (about 29 percent for lean beef, 23 percent for skinless chicken breast, compared with less than 10 percent for typical vegetables, fruits, and beans).
But the rise in meat consumption is not the whole story. Back in 1909, Americans had not yet discovered cheese pizza or cheeseburgers, and an average American ate less than four pounds of cheese in a year’s time. Today an average American eats about thirty-three pounds of it every year, nearly thirty pounds more than a century ago.
We’re also tucking into greasy french fries and polishing it all off with ice cream. The average American eats twenty pounds more ice cream each year than a century ago.
And then there are beverages. When I was a child, we had sodas every few months, usually on someone’s birthday or at a picnic, and they came in six-ounce bottles that are now in museums. When the first twelve-ounce cans arrived on the market, my mother wanted to find a lid to reseal them—twelve ounces, she said, was too much for one serving. Well, twelve ounces soon became sixteen ounces, and today the smallest soda bottle sold at most stores holds twenty ounces. And it’s safe to say that no one saves half for the following day.
We are exporting our bad habits, too. China, Japan, India, and other countries have seen an influx of fast-food outlets unknown to them in the past. People living in those countries are tempted by burgers, battered chicken wings, pizza, and sodas, and are now suffering with epidemics of obesity and diabetes that were unknown to them before.
A meaty, cheesy, sugar-laden diet packs in calories, but it lacks the fiber that you need to satisfy your appetite. So weight gain is all but inevitable.
The good news is that you can change all this, and very easily. And you will over the next three weeks.
Go for It!
This Kickstart is based on what we’ve learned in our research studies. We have focused on the food choices that are most powerful for health, and how to make the switch to healthier foods easy and approachable. Our findings have been presented countless times at research conferences and have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals.
But we know that what really counts is what works for you. So although we document our results using statistical averages, standard deviations, regression analyses, and other scientific methods that could bore you to tears, we boil it all down to a simple, step-by-step program—the 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart—that takes you exactly where you want to go.
This program is an easy and fun way to try out a new way of eating. Just like Hillary and Bruce and the many people we have worked with over the years, you can put foods to work to bring you a slimmer and much healthier body. When you see the numbers dropping on the scale, when people remark about how great you look, and when you feel your health getting better and better day by day, you’ll really want to keep going.
And there is an extra benefit: a wonderful rebound of energy. Hollywood actor Alicia Silverstone set aside animal products in order to be kind to animals. But she soon realized that the diet change was kind to her body, too. “Within two weeks, people noticed the difference in how I looked,” she said. “I felt lighter, healthier, and more energetic. It just really felt right.”
That extra energy translates into feeling great, forgetting about old problems that have weighed you down, and really living again. As Alicia puts it, “This way of eating really frees you, not just from extra weight, but from having to obsess about how many calories you’re eating, how many diet points you’re earning, and so on. Who needs all that?”
In this Kickstart, we keep the focus on the short term—that is, three weeks—so there is never any pressure or long-term commitment. Once you’ve experienced the power of healthful foods, you’ll never want to let it go.
Excerpted from 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart by Barnard, Neal Copyright © 2011 by Barnard, Neal. Excerpted by permission.
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