Authors: Jillian Michaels
Buy and consume fruits and vegetables that are
in season. It saves you money: growing foods out of season is costly. It’s expensive to bend the laws of Mother Nature, and that cost is passed on to the consumer—you. Foods that are grown out of season are often sprayed with all sorts of chemicals (which make us fat) because they require artificial help to survive the strange weather in which they’re brought into the world.
Seasonal foods have more nutrients, which translates into better health and a stronger metabolism, giving you an added edge when it comes to weight management. Researchers in Japan found three-fold differences in the vitamin C content of spinach harvested in summer versus winter, and vitamin C is a key nutrient in combating stress and in inhibiting the fat-storage hormone cortisol.
In different parts of the world, and even in different regions of one country, seasonal options can vary. But here are some simple guidelines to help you put this tip into practice and ensure optimal nourishment:
SPRING—Focus on leafy, dark greens like Swiss chard, spinach, romaine lettuce, fresh parsley, and basil. Asparagus and artichokes are at their peak then, too, along with fruits such as apricots, strawberries, and citrus.
meals on vegetables like summer squashes, tomatoes, eggplant, and corn; use herbs like mint, basil, and cilantro. Stick with light, cooling fruits like blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries, as well as grapes, melons, sweet peaches, and plums.
• FALL—Turn toward the more warming harvest
foods, including carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, onions, and garlic. Emphasize the more warming spices and seasonings, including ginger, peppercorns, and mustard seeds. Enjoy apples and pears as they’re crisp and juicy now.
WINTER—Lean more toward root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, onions, and garlic as well as winter squashes. Citrus fruits such as mandarin oranges and clementines are plentiful, as are cranberries and pomegranates.
Whatever the season, be creative. Let the natural energy and aesthetic beauty of spring, summer, fall, and winter be your culinary inspiration.
Don’t skip any meals, especially
breakfast. When you skip meals, it throws off your blood sugar and triggers insulin instability, which then causes you to overeat when you finally do eat. Studies have shown that food tastes up to 25 percent better when we are overly hungry, which naturally leads to overeating. In addition, being superhungry
depletes your willpower. How many times have you grabbed a scoop of the M&M’s out of your coworker’s candy bowl because you skipped breakfast or lunch and were “starving” (as well as cranky and shaky—symptoms that your
blood sugar has dropped)?
Skipping meals may wreak havoc on your health as well. Researchers compared subjects who ate three meals per day versus those who had one large evening meal. They found that meal skippers showed elevated fasting glucose levels and a delayed
insulin response, both possible precursors to diabetes if the habit is maintained over the long term. Skipping meals affects your ability to focus, concentrate, make decisions, and even exercise effectively. Deprive your brain too long of nutrition, and it may undergo glucose deprivation. Some sure signs that you need to eat
: dizziness, confusion, sleepiness, weakness, or anxiety.
Skipping meals is a stupid mistake that there’s just no excuse for. Eat something substantive within an hour of waking. Don’t let more than four hours pass between meals (more on that in a moment). I don’t care how busy you are—it isn’t that hard to carry snacks with you, or have grab-and-go foods at the ready to avoid this diet snafu.
Let’s get some solid clarification on the timing of your meals. Not only do I not want you skipping meals, I also don’t want you “grazing” throughout the day. I don’t want you “eating
small meals”—you know, the six-small-meals-to-boost-metabolism theory. I think that’s utter crap. When you snack throughout the day or eat many small meals, you release insulin. This insulin release promotes fat storage, because your body is trying to burn off and utilize a constant flow of sugar to the bloodstream from
Also, we often don’t remember to count the small snacks we grab when considering our daily calorie allowance. Studies show that many people don’t feel satiated from a small meal, either, which can
then cause them to overeat throughout the day to make up for that lack of satisfaction.
I want you to eat every four hours. There’s only one time of day when I want you to snack, and that’s between lunch and dinner. Your snack should be something substantive. Eating every four hours stabilizes your
blood sugar, optimizes insulin production, and manages hunger—all of which are critical to weight loss and weight management.
Eating small, frequent meals boosts your metabolism.
This myth is based on the theory that if you keep adding small amounts of food to your fire (the fire being your metabolism), you’ll keep it going strong and burn more calories overall. The exact
is true. If you keep adding food to the fire, you’ll never dig into your fat stores. You’re constantly releasing insulin, which puts your body in a constant “
absorptive phase.” In this phase, insulin not only stimulates the enzymes that help store sugar and build up fat; it also
other enzymes that tend to release sugar from storage and break down fat. Being in a constant absorptive phase never allows your body the chance to experience the peaks and valleys of insulin and many other hormones that help balance our use of energy. (Remember, fat is stored energy.) The goal is to eat every four hours so you successfully move from the absorptive phase to the “postabsorptive phase” when your body goes into your energy stores for sustenance.
In addition, from a behavioral perspective, grazing can cause you to lose track of how much you’ve eaten and accidentally overeat. And psychologically it can leave you feeling unsatisfied because you never sit down and have a full meal. Follow the
four-by-four rule, and it will all work out to your slim satisfaction.
As I mentioned in discussing the four-by-four rule, I want you to think of your snack more as a fourth meal rather than as an all-day grazing marathon. Here’s how to do it right:
Make your snack roughly 20 percent of your calorie allowance. For example, if you’re eating 1,200 calories a day, then you have a 200-to-240-calorie snack.
• Make your snack a balance of
macronutrients, just as you do with your meals. Eat a mix of healthy proteins, fats, and carbs.
Here are some stellar and satisfying snack examples. (Calorie counts are approximate, and may vary with brand and size.)
• 1 small apple and 7 walnuts (236 calories)
• 1 tablespoon peanut butter on 5 to 7 (depending on size) whole-grain crackers (200–215 calories)
• 1 cup sliced veggies dipped in ¼ cup hummus (224 calories)
• ⅛ cup air-popped popcorn sprinkled with 1 teaspoon shredded Parmesan cheese (240 calories)
• 6 or 7 pita chips with 2 tablespoons of black bean dip and 2 tablespoons of sliced avocado (213 calories)
• ½ cup low-fat, 2 percent cottage cheese with ½ cup fresh fruit and 10 raw almonds (222 calories)
• a 12-ounce fruit smoothie made with low-fat yogurt or milk (200 calories)
• 1 hard-boiled egg with 1 large pear (211 calories)
• 4 long celery stalks with 2 tablespoons of almond butter (224 calories)
Sit down and eat a real meal. I don’t
want you to eat while
sitting in front of the TV or computer, standing over the sink, walking in between meetings, or riding on the subway. Even with your afternoon snack, sit down and “make a meal of it.” Here’s why:
multitasking while you eat can make you eat more. We get caught up in mindless munching because our mind is preoccupied with
something else. This can inhibit your body from sending and receiving the “I’m full!” signals that help regulate food intake. In addition, studies show that from a psychological perspective, when we don’t sit down to eat, we don’t fully recognize that we’ve eaten. As a result, we don’t feel satisfied.
Research has shown that most of the foods we eat standing up are low in nutritional value and high in empty calories. A study published in the
Journal of the American Dietetic Association
demonstrated that young adults who eat on the run consume more fast foods and soft drinks, and less healthy food, than their peers who make time to sit down to dinner.
Bottom line: sit your butt down and eat with no distractions, except for the company of friends and family who can add to the enjoyment of your meal.
This is a fairly common bit of advice that I live by: eat great food for 80 percent of your daily calorie allowance and make 20 percent of it treat foods. So for example, if I’m eating 1,800 calories a day (remember, I’m not trying to lose weight, just maintain my weight), around 1,450 of my entire daily calories will be superhealthy stuff like fish, greens, whole grains, and so on, while 350 calories will be a cookie or a scoop of ice cream.
EZ CALORIE CUT
For 1 cup of regular ice cream, substitute 1 cup of low-fat frozen yogurt.
CUT: 121 CALORIES
Every day, if I choose, I get to enjoy the things I really don’t want to go without. Another good way to implement this advice is to practice meal rotation. After you eat a “cheat meal” or treat, follow it with at least five healthy meals (including snacks). Although you won’t get a treat in every day, this method allows you more treat calories when you do indulge, and it still assures that you’ll be eating right at least 80 percent of the time.
This strategy works because it keeps you from feeling deprived. Willpower will take us only so far, and when we deprive ourselves of the things we really like to eat, the desire for what we can’t have can ultimately, in a “weak moment” (rough day at the office, kids driving you crazy, traffic jam—you name it), lead to a binge. Deprivation is miserable and isn’t sustainable. You’re not going to go the rest of your life without a bite of chocolate or a piece of pizza.
I still want you to choose the chemical-free versions of your favorite treats, though. For example, I choose Unreal brand peanut butter cups because they have no HFCS, trans fats, or other crap. Or I have Newman’s Own cookies, again because they have no chemicals or junk in them.
Other people might suggest a cheat day to you instead of the 80/20 rule. I strongly recommend against it. From a psychological perspective, it has you living all week in anticipation of a binge—not good. In addition, a cheat day often has no caloric parameters built into it. Many people overconsume on their cheat day and wipe out all the hard work they put in during the week. I’ve seen the cheat day freak many people out, too, because they feel guilty for “going crazy” with their food. The 80/20 rule for daily eating is the way to go for weight loss and weight management. It’s sustainable over the long run and effective on the scale.
Most caloric drinks—like sodas and juices—are loaded with sugar and send your insulin levels skyrocketing. Plus, they don’t have fiber to help you feel full, so you’ve just drunk 100-plus calories of liquid sugar, yet, adding insult to injury, you’re still going to feel hungry.
Juice too has a ton of
sugar and calories—almost as much as soda. You’re much better off eating the fruit.
If you think you’re going to consume the sugar-free version of these drinks to get around the calorie and sugar problem, remember my earlier tip about why we don’t consume chemicals. They make us fat.
Here are some simple beverage suggestions that will quench your thirst without sinking the scale:
Water, tea, and coffee (in moderation—2 strong cups a day, max) are good choices. If you find a drink that’s sweetened with a natural, low-calorie sweetener like stevia or xylitol, that’s okay—these sugar substitutes are not believed to cause an insulin spike. But water is always a better choice. Organic dairy or other forms of milk, like almond or coconut, are okay if you include them as part of a meal and account for them in your total daily calorie intake.
Soda, juice, sugary teas, sugary flavored waters, diet drinks with artificial sweeteners, and
alcohol. (For those who can’t imagine following this tip, see the “two-drink maximum” tip, next.)
Booze makes you fat. It’s very high in empty calories, and except for red wine and beer, it has little or no nutrient content. Alcohol also destroys willpower, often leading you to overeat. Worse, studies have shown that alcohol suppresses fat metabolism by as much as 70 percent. It contributes to unwanted fat storage, too, because when you drink alcohol, it’s broken down into something called
acetate, which your body will burn before anything else. All other extra calories will be stored as fat.
Now, I know you aren’t going to give up booze entirely, so let’s talk about how to do it intelligently and successfully. The first rule of thumb is to limit your intake to two drinks a week. Pick a night, make it your wild one, and have up to two drinks. If you’re thinking you won’t “catch a buzz,” you’re wrong. The less you drink, the lower your tolerance. When you don’t drink much or often, two drinks should do the job.
When you do drink, choose the following:
Red wine is moderate on the calorie scale and loaded with antioxidants and health benefits. For example, the resveratrol in red wine can help prevent damage to blood vessels, reduce “bad” cholesterol, and inhibit blood clots.
Moderate on the calorie scale and loaded with antioxidants and flavonoids, this beverage is also good for heart health.
These liquors must be consumed straight, on the rocks, or with calorie-free mixers, like tequila on the rocks with a splash of lime or vodka and soda water.