As a doctor, I'm often asked for medical advice or to diagnose a strange cough or weird spot. But the worst question is...
"Doc, what's the best diet for me to lose weight?"
Several folks have asked me this over the last week in light of the new article about how the "Biggest Loser" reality TV show participants gained all their weight back.
Here's the thing – there's no easy answer.
Diets work differently for everyone. The science behind metabolism is fascinating, but also complex. Not everyone is going to succeed on the same diet. It just won't happen.
Most diets are useless. Many are even harmful.
However, I have learned a few tips over the years that I use myself for watching my food intake and staying at a healthy weight...
In the late '70s, I picked up a book at a garage sale on a theory called macrobiotics.
Macrobiotics focuses on the relationship between food and well-being. What we eat and how we eat directly influence how our bodies function and how they heal themselves.
One important topic covered in macrobiotics is how you eat your food, which leads me to the first tip...
1) Chew your food. Did you know there's a right way to chew your food?
I'm not talking about a few chews and then swallowing, as many of us do. I'm talking about chewing each bite 20, 30, even 40 times before swallowing.
Dutch researchers found that chewing small bites of food for nine seconds sends a signal to your brain to feel full sooner. People who take large bites of food and only chew for three seconds consume 52% more food than people who take smaller bites and chew longer.
Further studies demonstrated that chewing more, as many as 40 times per bite, also triggered a feeling of fullness sooner and helped with appetite control.
Part of the reason this works is that the extra chewing stimulates the production of two hormones in your intestines that signal fullness. These hormones also help control your blood sugar and body weight.
Start out slow – try counting to 10 for each bite you chew. Then gradually work your way up to 20 or 30 chews and see how you feel. You'll find yourself eating less and feeling full sooner.
2) Eat until you're 80% full. Natives of the Japanese island Okinawa seem to have discovered a "Fountain of Youth"... and it's captured in the phrase "hara hachi bu."
Many Okinawans famously live into their 100s, while still maintaining good health.
And many of them embrace the Confucian-inspired philosophy of hara hachi bu, which translates to "eat until you're 80% full."
What people who practice this philosophy do is limit their caloric intake.
Our bodies need calories for energy. But eating too many calories (more than your body burns) leads to weight gain. Excess body weight limits your mobility and puts unnecessary strain on your joints and organs. Becoming overweight isn't the only danger... Consuming too many calories can also lead to an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.
And taking your time to eat allows you to produce the hormones needed to trigger the feeling of fullness before you overeat.
It takes about 20 minutes for all the chemicals in your stomach to tell your brain you are at full satiety. So eating until you feel 80% full can lead to feeling 100% full about 20 minutes later.
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3) Try fasting. Researchers found fasting just one day a month can cut your risk of heart disease by 58%. The belief is that fasting shrinks fat cells and prevents insulin resistance. This helps lower your risk of heart disease and even diabetes.
I've also written in my book, The Living Cure, about the benefits of fasting while on chemotherapy. Fasting deprives your cells, including the cancerous ones, of energy. Healthy cells slow down to preserve themselves, but cancer cells can't do that. If you are a Retirement Millionaire subscriber, click here to read it now. If not, you can buy a copy right here.
A few of my friends have tried the "five-two" fasting diet. That's where you eat a regular diet five days a week and then on two non-consecutive days, you cut your calorie intake to about 25% of what you normally consume.
Personally, I fast a few times a month. I like to sip water and hot herbal teas on these days. I also make sure to cut back on vigorous activity those days and instead read, walk, and meditate.
If you're looking to better control your weight, don't jump on the latest fad diets. Try these proven tips to manage how fast and how much you eat. I guarantee you'll start to feel better and see results.
What We're Reading...
- More background on the idea of "hara hachi bu."
- A few ways to control your hunger hormones from Reader's Digest.
- How the Mediterranean diet slows aging.
- Something different: A carrot scientist explains how our favorite crunchy veggie wasn't always orange...