"The first 2,000 years I did on my own -- the last 38 I owe to Pritikin." --Mel Brooks
"Stop blaming yourself!" says Robert Pritikin in his new book, The Pritikin Weight Loss Breakthrough. Robert's father, bestselling nutrition pioneer Nathan Pritikin, started a health revolution in the early 1980s when he recommended that people eat less fat and consume more whole grains, vegetables, and fruit in order to lose weight and maintain good health (once revolutionary advice). Robert grew up trying to adhere to his father's strict regimen while mediating an acute desire for a slice of chocolate cake after dinner. Robert Pritikin recognizes that even dieters with the best intentions revert back to unhealthy eating habits -- and feel guilty about it. He proposes that it's not lack of willpower that causes dieters to crave high-fat foods, but a genetic link he calls the Fat Instinct. The Pritikin Weight Loss Breakthrough offers an easy-to-use program that teaches dieters to control the Fat Instinct and crave healthier foods.
Robert Pritikin's findings were supported by a recent study of obesity published in the New England Journal of Medicine, in which scientists noted that the genes that formerly bestowed a survival advantage to humans by maximizing their conservation of body fat (the Fat Instinct) have been rendered maladaptive by the increasing prevalence of inactive behavior. Second, the study confirms that exercise helps control weight gain because it increases the hunger for carbohydrates while decreasing the craving for fat.
Pritikin's dietary program takes on evolutionary biology and awakens your body's craving for healthy foods via a series of simple behavior modifications. Does it work? Ask Anne Bancroft, Ed McMahon, or the inimitable Mel Brooks -- all are adherents of the diet. Robert Pritikin expands on his father's ideas so we can live healthier, longer lives.
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On Thursday, February 5, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Robert Pritikin, author of THE PRITIKIN WEIGHT LOSS BREAKTHROUGH
5 EASY STEPS TO OUTSMART YOUR FAT INSTINCT , VOL. 8.
JainBN: Welcome, Robert Pritikin, and thanks so much for joining us tonight!
Robert Pritikin: It's a pleasure to be here.
JainBN: We have a ton of questions, so if you're all set, let's dive in.
Question: Is it true that eating carbohydrates automatically puts you on the weight-gain bandwagon?
Robert Pritikin: It depends on the type of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates, in their natural state, i.e., unprocessed and unrefined, their intake is associated with lean body weight. Case in point, the Pima Indians. Up until about 100 years ago, they were one tribe. But they split into two geographic areas. Some live in northern Mexico, where they have retained their traditional high-carbohydrate diet of foods such as rice, beans, corn, and a little bit of lean chicken. Their fat intake is at about 20%, protein, quite moderate, 15-20%, and the rest carboyhydrates. They are lean, and have a very low incidence of Type 2 diabetes. The Pima Indians that live in Arizona are, by contrast, on a low carbohydrate diet and a high fat diet. The diet is about 40% carbohydrates, 40% fat, 20% proteins. They are the most obese group of individuals in the United States, and have the highest incidence of Type 2 diabetes. Another example is the Chinese in China, who are on a very low fat, moderate protein, high carbohydrate diet, and who are very lean compared to the Chinese in America, that adopt a lower carbohydrate, higher fat, higher protein diet and experience increased body fat.
Question: I noticed in your book you only have two recipes with tofu in them. Do you not sing the song of soy?
Robert Pritikin: [laughs] I am an advocate of soy consumption. Soy intake has been associated with lower rates of cancers of the breast and prostate, and we serve it regularly in many recipes at the Pritikin Longevity Centers. Is that enough? I don't know how else to defend myself. [laughs]
Question: I'm curious What do you think of Andrew Weil's book, 8 WEEKS TO OPTIMUM HEALTH?
Robert Pritikin: I think Dr. Weil offers some excellent suggestions to encourage people to adopt a healthier diet. We differ in that our Pritikin Longevity Center has experienced 70,000 patients in our 25-year history, and that our clinical experience favors our methodology for lifestyle change. We also tend to take a more conservative "way to be scientifically tested" approach towards herbal and vitamin supplementation. The beta-carotene enthusiasm of the last decade, [after which] supplements of beta carotene [were] found to increase risk of lung cancer and do nothing for heart disease, is an example of why we don't have unbridled enthusiasm for untested supplements.
Question: I am a Type 2 diabetic. Don't carbs just turn into sugars?
Robert Pritikin: Ultimately, carbohydrates break down into sugars. However, it is the rate that sugars hit the blood, and the ability to handle the sugars, which can be influenced by exercise and muscle size, that become important. For example, carbohydrates, in their natural state or close to their natural state, tend to be lower in calorie concentration, and relatively slowly absorbed. You can lower the rate of absorption by meal frequency, which tends to meter the calories through the day, and you can handle any excess by exercising and burning up the stored sugar in the muscles, so that the muscles will soak up any excess sugars like a sponge. An example of how effective this can be was demonstrated in our November 1995 study, published in Diabetes Care, in which we had 652 Type 2 diabetics eat a low fat, moderate protein, high carbohydrate diet, where carbohydrates were mostly unprocessed, combined with a daily walking program, where 70% of the Type 2 diabetics that entered the program on oral medication, and 40% of the Type 2 diabetics on insulin, were able to get off medication and have better blood-sugar control than they did on medication. Again, let me refer you back to my Pima Indian statement. This book will be very effective for Type 2 diabetics. But make sure you work with your physician, because as you can see, your medication needs will most likely change.
Question: What is the best way to boost your metabolism?
Robert Pritikin: Metabolic rate is influenced by several controllable things. First of all, eating raises metabolic rate. All food has a thermic effect, fat having the least, and protein and carbohydrates having a higher thermic effect. So meal frequency, i.e. eating all the time, of low fat foods, will help. Exercise will raise metabolic rate, and putting some extra muscle on through weights will also help, because muscle has a high metabolic rate if it's used. Conversely, going hungry or fasting will lower metabolic rate. That's why you feel cold when you're hungry. That's your furnace turning down.One of the secrets of this book is to have you burn as many calories as possible while filling up and feeling satisfied on fewer calories.
Question: Does the Fat Instinct kick in intermittently, or is it a constant craving?
Robert Pritikin: The Fat Instinct is what I call our species' natural preference for calorie-concentrated food, and natural aversion to exercise. It's a series of behaviors that maximizes weight gain and weight maintenance, and gave our ancestors the edge in a world of fluctuating food supplies and unpredictable food availability. It is exacerbated by hunger, and by certain behaviors which I discuss in detail in the book. An example of how hunger can trigger the Fat Instinct has been universally experienced just go to a supermarket starving, and see how your food preferences change.
Question: I travel a lot for work, and find it difficult to eat healthy foods while on the road. How can I wrestle in my diet and eat satisfying, healthy meals?
Robert Pritikin: I have the same lifestyle, and can sympathize with you. I spend a lot of time in my book describing how you can go to any restaraunt or fast food place and make a better choice. I can't tell you how many times I've found myself in airports with the only food being a Burger King, and even there, you can make a better choice.
Question: Could you please give us some examples of unprocessed carbs?
Robert Pritikin: If you're trying to lose weight, look for carbohydrates that have maintained water content and their fiber. For example, bread, because it's had its water taken out, has about 1,250 calories in a pound. Pasta, because of its water content, has about 500 calories in a pound. If I added vegetables to the pasta, and made it a primavera, I would have added more low calorie, high fiber, high water-content food. As the water content and fiber goes up, generally, the satiety, i.e. the ability to fill up on fewer calories, gets better. In the book, I give a chart and an explanation so that you can judge the satiety value of many different foods, thus allowing you to make better choices, fill up on fewer calories, and lose weight without hunger. Another example would be comparing shredded wheat, which has 1,750 calories in a pound, to oatmeal at 500 calories to a pound. Both are healthy choices, but oatmeal would be better for weight loss.
Question: I read that your program "outsmarts" the Fat Instinct in us all. How can you possibly trick your body into having a tangerine instead of a Milano cookie?
Robert Pritikin: [laughs heartily] The taste for sweet is less modifiable than the taste for fat, in our experience. The reason is that your taste for sweet is a protective food preference. Fruit-bearing plants discourage you from eating fruit that is not sexually mature. Because a sexually immature seed will not grow a new plant. So to discourage you, it makes the fruit bitter and discolored. When the fruit is sexually mature, the bitterness goes away, the sweetness increases, "coincidentally," the nutritional value increases, and when you eat the fruit and throw away the seed, a new plant can result. That is why fruit eaters have a taste for sweet, and all fruit eaters have color vision. So they can identify ripe fruit without having to bite into it. In nature, the sweeter the better. The sweeter the fruit, the safer and more nutritious it is. We have subverted this protective preference by making foods supersweet. Good luck.
Question: What would you consider a "healthy" body fat percentage for a young adult?
Robert Pritikin: Obviously, we subscribe to the ideals of the Body Mass Index.But the reality is, unless you can lose and sustain the weight without hunger deprivation, ideal percentages don't mean much. It's my recommendation that you use the techniques we outline to lose weight without hunger, utilizing a diet and activity schedule that's enjoyable. And to be happy with that progress, and that weight. Typically, we have found that many of the improvements, in terms of cholesterol, blood pressure, and medication changes, occur on this program with very little weight loss. So you do not need to get rid of all the weight to improve your health dramatically. On the other hand, if you have the discipline and inclination, this book will outline a program that can maximize a safe and sustainable weight loss.
Question: How long would I need to be on the Pritikin Program before I would start to see results?
Robert Pritikin: We have published over 80 papers in peer-reviewed medical journals demonstrating a 23% drop in cholesterol, on average, in three weeks, 83% of hypertensives getting off medication in 21 days, and the 70% of Type 2 diabetics under oral agents, and 40% on insulin, off medication under better control in a 21-day period. Weight loss is slower, which is good. Fast weight loss has a poor correlation with long-term weight loss. If you lose 3-4 pounds a week for a man, or 2-3 pounds a week for a woman, it almost invariably means muscle loss, which results in compromised long-term metabolic rates. Let me remind you that if you ate only 200 calories a week more than your body burns, that's close to a 25-pound weight gain in 10 years. Small changes in diet and strategies that I recommend will allow you to drift your weight down without hunger and deprivation, and without a metabolic drop.
JainBN: This will be our last question for Robert Pritikin tonight....
Question: Would you recommend eating three squares a day, or the "grazing" approach of eating small snacks steadily throughout the day and then maybe one large meal?
Robert Pritikin: Our ancestors probably ate seven to eight small meals a day. However, this is impractical. What we have found doable is to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner and a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. The National Weight Registry Survey is the largest survey every taken that looked at people who had lost significant weight over 5 years. In fact, they'd found 800 people that had kept 65 pounds off for 5 years. These 800 people ate on average five times a day, their diet was low on fat -- less than 23% calories [from] fat -- and a third of them got below 20% fat. Their diet was moderate in protein --18% (not 30%) -- and high in carbohydrates. They walked an average of 2-3 miles a day. But most importantly, the majority reported that it was easier to keep the weight off than it was to lose it. Food preferences change by doing the five steps we talk about in the book, as these people discovered through trial and error.
JainBN: Mr. Pritikin, thanks so much for stopping by tonight. It was extremely informative and a real pleasure. Please join us again.
Robert Pritikin: Good night. Thank you very much for having me.