By Tanya Zuckerbrot
YOU DID IT again, didn’t you? You pigged out over the holidays, eating and drinking like there was no tomorrow-and then tomorrow came, and you were left staring at a spare tire and a saggy pair of man boobs. So you made a resolution to lose X number of pounds this year-again-knowing you’ll just go through the same routine next holiday season. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. With the help of nutritionist and MF adviser Tanya Zuckerbrot, M.S., R.D., author of The F-Factor Diet, we’ll show you how to break the vicious cycle once and for all.
The Diet Rut
It’s been said a thousand times, but it bears repeating: Diets don’t work. “Diets are a temporary solution to a lifelong problem,” says Zuckerbrot. “When people reach their weight-loss goal, they go off their diet. And the first thing they end up eating is the foods they felt most deprived of.” So you return to your old habits and gain the weight back, and then you go on another diet, beginning the cycle again. The bottom line: Diets don’t teach you to change your eating habits permanently-until now.
A Plan for the Ages
Forget South Beach and The Zone and every other diet trend that has come and gone in the past 20 years. Whether you followed them religiously or just heard about them in passing, it doesn’t matter. They’re unrealistic and won’t provide you with the strategies for eating and weight loss you need to last a lifetime. But there is a weight-loss plan that will. In her new book, The F-Factor Diet, Zuckerbrot has come up with a method for planning your meals and losing weight that you can follow over the long term, without feeling deprived or sacrificing the foods you love. The secret to losing weight, she says, isn’t cutting calories but rather adding food to your diet: fiber-rich foods, the kinds of foods that will help you lose weight and achieve a healthy lifestyle without feeling like there’s a whole list of delicious treats you have to swear off for life.
The Power of Fiber
According to Zuckerbrot, the more fiber a food contains, the fewer calories it packs-so while you’re adding fiber to your diet and eating more food overall, you’re decreasing the total number of calories you take in. For the uninitiated, fiber refers to any part of a food you eat that your body is unable to digest. Think the seeds in berries, the husk of whole grains, or the thickest portion of the stem and leaf in spinach. Fiber itself actually takes two forms: soluble and insoluble. Although both are ultimately indigestible, they act very differently in the body. Insoluble fiber is harder and helps clean out your digestive tract. It can be found in foods such as apples, broccoli, and whole-grain cereal. Soluble fiber, on the other hand, is more like a sponge. It absorbs moisture, providing bulk in the stomach and helping you feel fuller after eating. Good sources include beans and legumes, citrus fruit, oatmeal, and barley.
Eat More, Weigh Less
As good as it is for you, most men don’t eat nearly enough of either type of fiber. Of the 25 to 30 total grams per day recommended by the American Dietetic Association, the average American eats just 11. And that’s where The F-Factor Diet and Zuckerbrot’s plan for helping guys everywhere discover their abs come into play. Her message? If you want to lose weight, forget diets and instead simply strive to eat more fiber every day, with the goal of getting as close to 30 to 35 grams as possible.
And that’s it. Make this one simple change, she says, and the pounds should start melting away in no time. And for good reason: If you make an effort to eat more of a certain high-fiber food, it’s inevitable that you’re going to have to give up some of the other foods that used to make up the bulk of your diet. In other words, eating more fiber helps you to naturally reduce the number of calories you’re taking in-without ever going on some sort of calorie-restrictive plan. Plus, since you’re eating bulky, high-fiber foods that take up a lot more space in your stomach, you’re going to fill up faster-again, naturally helping yourself cut calories and eat less, without ever having to make a conscious decision to do it. Finally, by eating more high-fiber foods, you’ll get a natural bump in your energy level. Since foods high in fiber digest slowly, they limit spikes and crashes in your blood-sugar level, keeping your body’s supply of fuel stable and consistent. With more energy available to your muscles, you’ll be more likely to exercise-and we don’t need to tell you how that will accelerate your weight loss.
The strategy for success
Although just saying you’re going to eat more fiber sounds easy, it can be a challenge-especially if it’s not something you’re used to doing. That’s why Zuckerbrot suggests you break down the process into three distinct phases, during which time you adjust the types and amounts of high-fiber foods you’re eating. Her recommendations:
If you’re just starting out modifying your diet to include more fiber, aim for a minimum of three servings of high-fiber foods per day, including at least one serving of high-fiber cereal or crackers plus one piece of fruit. “Making sure you eat three servings of fiber a day gets you thinking about the fiber content of foods, and it helps modify your eating patterns without being so overwhelming that you can’t do it,” says Zuckerbrot.
As working fiber-rich foods into your diet becomes more and more habitual, step it up and aim to eat an additional three servings of high-fiber foods each day. “This is where you’ll really start to notice a difference in your weight,” she says. “Eating three servings of high-fiber foods a day is pretty easy, but when you move up to six, those additional foods begin to displace other higher-calorie foods in your diet, helping you cut out a lot of the junk you’re probably used to eating.”
Once you’re close to your goal weight and you’ve mastered high-fiber eating, add another three servings of high-fiber carbs to your daily routine (for a total of nine servings each day). “This will help you maintain your weight loss and keep those unwanted pounds from coming back,” she says.
Throughout all three stages of the diet, feel free to eat as many vegetables as you want, and eat a serving of lean protein at every meal. “The combination of fiber and protein keeps you feeling full for the longest period of time on the fewest calories,” says Zuckerbrot.
Do all this, and we can confidently say you’ll not only lose those unwanted pounds but also learn a whole new way of eating-one you’ll be able to maintain indefinitely. And you’ll have done it without ever having to go on an actual diet. And that’s a resolution anybody can live with.
This article was originally published in Men’s Fitness.