“I can’t do this. I can’t face another diet.”
My friend Kimberly was making yet another series of desperate New Year’s weight loss resolutions.
“Every year, I starve myself for months, I lose maybe five pounds, and by springtime it all comes back,” she complained. “What’s the point? I’m just destined to be overweight.”
I understood how she felt. Obesity shortened my own father’s life, and for most of my childhood I struggled with an extra 25 pounds as well. I figured it was my genetic destiny to be fat, too.
But then I got sick and tired of being sick and tired, and since then, I’ve made it my life’s work to learn everything there is to know about belly fat. But nothing in my 20 years of health journalism has prepared me for the groundbreaking research that has emerged in just the last year—new science that shows exactly how we can turn off our fat genes and lose weight almost automatically.
“What would you say if I told you that you didn’t need to go on a diet for months or even weeks?” I asked Kim. “What if you could lose much of that belly in just 14 days?”
The secret is the new science of nutritional genetics, the study of how our genes are turned on and off by the foods we eat. Simply making a handful of tweaks to your diet and lifestyle can help improve your gut health, dampen inflammation, turn off your fat genes and start your body shedding fat—in particular, the fat belly—almost automatically.
14 TAKE A BRISK WALK BEFORE BREAKFAST
“I saw changes immediately,” Martha reports. In less than six weeks, Martha dropped over 20 pounds and an astonishing 7 inches from her middle with a pre-breakfast walk.
This easy a.m. ritual works on two levels. First, a recent study found that exposure to sunlight in between the hours of 8 am and noon reduced your risk of weight gain regardless of activity level, caloric intake, or age. Researchers speculate that the morning light synchronizes your metabolism and undercuts your fat genes. And burning calories before you eat means you’re exercising in a fasted state—the energy you burn comes right from your fat stores, instead of the food you ate. But what really stunned Martha was the improvement in her heart health. Before starting, Martha’s heart rate would typically soar to 112 beats per minute (bpm) within moments of starting her exercise bike workout. “After the first week and a half I could not raise my heart rate over 96 bpm with the same workout. It was great to see change in the mirror, and even better to know good things were happening that I couldn’t even see.”
13 START WITH SOME OATMEAL
Naturally sweet oatmeal recipes in Zero Belly Diet were the key to a dramatic 13-pound weight loss. “I happen to have a big sugar addiction,” Isabel admits, “But the recipes have been surprisingly satisfying for my sweet tooth.” Isabel also made dramatic health strides: A checkup revealed she’d dropped her total cholesterol by 25 percent and her blood glucose level by 10 percent.
So cook up some oatmeal—try making overnight oats, if you’re short on time in the morning—and top it with some fruit. What’s so magical about this combination? Each provides insoluble fiber that helps reduce blood cholesterol and feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut. By doing so, you trigger your gut to produce butyrate, a fatty acid that reduces fat-causing inflammation throughout your body. In a Canadian study, researchers discovered that those whose diets were supplemented with insoluble fiber had higher levels of ghrelin—a hormone that controls hunger.
12 CHOOSE RED FRUIT OVER GREEN
It’s the best fruit for weight loss. That means watermelon over honeydew, red grapes over green ones. The higher levels of nutrients called flavonoids—particularly anthocyanins, compounds that give red fruits their color—calm the action of fat-storage genes. In fact, red-bellied stone fruits like plums boast phenolic compounds that have been shown to modulate the expression of fat genes.
11 MAKE SOME GUACAMOLE
For June Caron, incorporating fresh produce like avocados was a life-changing lesson. The 55 year-old lost 6 pounds in the first week. “Learning to eat real, chemical free, fresh foods has been the best thing that ever happened to me. I am never hungry. And the weight just keeps coming off!” Glowing skin, healthy nails and better sleep were bonuses, June said. “I’m well on my way to getting my sexy back. Everyone says I look much younger!”
Avocados are a double-whammy to belly fat. First, they’re packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that dim your hunger switches; a study in Nutrition Journal found that participants who ate half a fresh avocado with lunch reported a 40 percent decreased desire to eat for hours afterwards. Second, unsaturated fats like those found in avocados seem to prevent the storage of belly fat.
10 MIX UP A PLANT- PROTEIN SMOOTHIE
Bryan Wilson, a 29-year-old accountant, lost 19 pounds and an astounding 6 inches from his waist in just six weeks, and he attributes his success to protein shake recipes. “I love the shakes. I added them to my diet, and almost immediately I lost the bloat,” Bryan said. “I’m a sweet craver, and the shakes were an awesome alternative to bowls and bowls of ice cream I would have had.”
Protein drinks are great ways to get a monster dose of belly-busting nutrition into a delicious, simple snack. But most commercial protein shakes are filled with unpronounceable chemicals that can upset our gut health and cause inflammation and bloat. And the high doses of whey used to boost protein levels can amplify the belly-bloating effect. The solution: Try vegan protein, which will give you the same fat-burning, hunger-squelching, muscle-building benefits, without the bloat.
9 POWER UP WITH EGGS
You’ll find lean, satiating protein in every single bite you take. The muscle-building macronutrient is fundamental to the plan, and eggs happen to be one of the easiest and most versatile delivery systems in the universe. Not only that, they’re also the number-one dietary source of a nutrient called choline. Choline, which is found also in lean meats, seafood and collard greens, attacks the gene mechanism that triggers your body to store fat around your liver. My recipe—a breakfast hash with sweet potatoes and fresh farm eggs—became Morgan Minor’s go-to breakfast, and after just 3 weeks on the program, the female firefighter lost 11 pounds and 4 inches from her waist! The more eggs you eat, the less egg-shaped you get.
8 MIX UP A MAGIC ELIXIR
Start each day by making a large pitcher of “spa water”—that’s detox water filled with sliced whole lemons, oranges or grapefruits—and make a point of sipping your way through at least 8 glasses before bedtime. Citrus fruits are rich in the antioxidant delimonene, a powerful compound found in the peel that stimulates liver enzymes to help flush toxins from the body and gives sluggish bowels a kick, according to the World Health Organization.
7 MAKE YOUR OWN TRAIL MIX
The three major ingredients of a perfect meal or snack are protein, fiber and healthy fats, and all three can be found in abundance in a good trail mix. Sadly, most commercial mixes are made with extra oils, salt, and sugar. Mix up your own high-protein snacks from a selection of nuts, seeds, unsweetened dried fruit, and dark chocolate pieces. Make sure to include peanuts: they’re a top source of both genistein and resveratrol, two nutrients that help diminish the action of your fat-storage genes.
The biggest reason we can’t stick to our workouts? No time. Trying to squeeze a trip to the gym, with a shower and change of clothes, into a hectic schedule—especially around the holidays—can make even the most dedicated fitness buff into someone, well, less buff. But scientists in New Zealand recently found that men and women who engaged in three 10-minute exercise “hors d’oeuvres” before breakfast, lunch and dinner saw lowered blood glucose levels—a fat-busting benefit these folks showed all day long!
The short circuits offer a variety exercises that blast your core without relying on traditional sit-ups—easy enough to squeeze in before dinner in the comfort of your living room. Within six weeks of incorporating the mini circuits, Krista Powell lost 25 pounds—and she was finally able to dress in a way that reflected her true sense of style: “I’d avoided wearing high heels because the extra weight made my knees hurt so bad. I can actually wear my heels with confidence and without pain!”
5 RETHINK YOUR SUPPLEMENTS
If you’re taking lots of vitamins and probiotics each day, you may want to reevaluate your strategy. Increased levels of B vitamins have long been associated with a higher prevalence of obesity and diabetes, perhaps because megadosing triggers our fat genes. A daily multivitamin is probably fine, but don’t try to convince yourself that more is better. And a recent study by ConsumerLab.com found that most commercial probiotics have far less healthy bacteria than they claim. Your better bet is to focus on the healthy foods to ensure your belly is getting plenty of love—and your fat genes are being cut off at the pass.
4 HAVE DARK CHOCOLATE & BERRIES FOR DESSERT
Indulging in delicious food is a core principle. It was the balanced, “zero sacrifice” approach that helped Jennie Joshi finally lose her pregnancy weight. In just over a month, Jennie lost 11 pounds, “and the pregnancy pooch is leaving!” she said. “I couldn’t believe I was indulging in dark chocolate—and finally getting results! It’s a lifestyle, not a diet. It’s easy to stick with, and it makes sense.”
It makes scientific sense, also: A recent study found that antioxidants in cocoa prevented laboratory mice from gaining excess weight and actually lowered their blood sugar levels. And another study at Louisiana State University found that gut microbes in our stomach ferment chocolate into heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory compounds that shut down genes linked to insulin resistance and inflammation. Why the berries? The fruit speeds up the fermentation process, leading to an even greater reduction in inflammation and weight.
3 SWAP FARMED SALMON FOR WILD SALMON
Lean protein like fish is a great way to fight fat and boost your metabolism. But the farmed salmon you get at the local market might not be the best bet for your belly. The cold-water fish has a well-deserved reputation for packing plenty of heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids—1,253 mg of the good stuff, and just 114 mg of inflammatory, belly-busting omega 6s. But the farmed variety—and 90 percent of what we eat today is farmed—has a very different story to tell. It packs a whopping 1,900 mg of unhealthy omega-6s.
2 EAT A BETTER PEANUT BUTTER
Real peanut butter is made with two ingredients: peanuts, and maybe some salt. You already know that peanuts give you belly-slimming monounsaturated fats, tummy-filling fiber, and metabolism-boosting protein. But peanuts have a hidden weapon in their weight-loss utility belt: Genistein, a compound that acts directly on the genes for obesity, helping to turn them down and reduce your body’s ability to store fat. (Beans and lentils have the same magic ingredient, albeit in slightly less delicious form.) But be careful of the brand you buy: if you see ingredients like sugar, palm oil, or anything you can’t pronounce, put it back. They’ll undermine any good the peanuts might do.
1 PRE-GAME LUNCH AND DINNER WITH GREENS
High-volume, low-calorie greens will fill you up, without filling you out. Kyle Cambridge says regular salads turbocharged his success: “My wife Stacie and I decided to add salad to each meal, and the pounds started melting off.” Kyle lost 25 pounds and four inches in just six weeks on the program. “I even had to buy a new belt!” he said. “But the best was when Stacie came up to me in the kitchen, and gave me a hug. She laughed and smiled and said ‘I can wrap my hands around you again.'”
Leafy greens like collard greens, watercress, kale, and arugula may not be on your everyday list, but they all contain a compound called sulforaphane. This nutrient has been shown to act directly on the genes that determine “adipocyte differentiation”—basically, turning a stem cell into a fat cell. A healthier intake of the compound means a healthier body weight for you. And just a scant teaspoon of vinaigrette will help your body absorb the fat-soluble nutrients.
Author: Akwesi Osei
An avid reader and writer who has written articles for HypeNationGh, LoudsoundGh and akwesiosei.wordpress.com.
Currently the blogger and owner of The Health Bro