America's weight problems are now so well-known they're even fair game for jokes at the Oscars. "Americans really know how to fill up a seat," jibes Ellen DeGeneres, host of the 2007 Academy Awards.
The statistics are alarming. Sixty-five percent of Americans - 130 million in 2001 - are overweight. Fifteen percent of American children are overweight (up from four percent only 20 years ago). Healthcare costs related to overweight Americans has ballooned to $117 billion (that's billion) in 2003. And the numbers keep going up. The scales don't lie.
And yet, diet and weight-loss books fill our nation's bookstores. Low-carb diets. High-protein diets. The cabbage soup diet. The grapefruit diet. The raw foods diet. Most people we know have tried one or more of these. The new diet works for a while, then we can't take the deprivation any longer and break the diet. Then, horrifyingly, all the weight we lost comes right back, and we're right back where we started. Or possibly even a few pounds heavier.
The very good news is that a real, long-lasting solution exists. The basics of this healthy approach to long-term weight loss have been known for decades. This solution is not a diet. It doesn't have a catchy name. There are, though, a few "magic" secrets to this food plan that works.
- "Secret" Number 1 - eat six small meals throughout each day, separated by 2.5 to 3 hours
- "Secret" Number 2 - combine protein and carbohydrates in each meal
- "Secret" Number 3 - drink plenty of water (eight to ten glasses) throughout the day
- "Secret" Number 4 - eat two portions of vegetables each day
- "Secret" Number 5 - take one day off each week (a "free" day) and eat whatever you want, whenever you want
Why combine protein and carbohydrate at each meal? This critical combination feeds our muscles by providing the amino acids (from protein) necessary to build and maintain muscle tissue, and the carbohydrate needed to shuttle the amino acids into the cells. If the carbs aren't there the protein doesn't get used. There's also a human performance benefit - eating balanced meals enables better cognitive/mental function. So we're not only getting healthier on this food plan, we're getting smarter!1
Why eat six times a day? Studies have shown this approach results in a faster metabolic rate, a lower percentage of body fat, and reduced "bad" cholesterol levels, all while maintaining lean muscle mass.2,3 Each meal contains approximately 300 calories (proteins and carbohydrates in each meal are in "portion" sizes). That's it! This sensible, easy approach to food allows you to eat everything - there are no restrictions. And, on your free day you can indulge, or not, letting your natural instincts guide you.
1Fischer K, et al: "Carbohydrate to protein ratio in food and cognitive performance in the morning." Physiol Behav 75(3):411-423, 2002
2Jenkins JD, et al: "Nibbling vs. gorging: metabolic advantages of increased meal frequency." NEJM 321(14):929-934, 1989
3Verboeket WP, et al: "Influence of feeding frequency on nutrient utilization in man: consequences for energy metabolism." Eur J Clin Nutr 43(3):161-169, 1991