Do quick-fix diets work?
Latest in Healthy eating
Fiona Kirk, nutritionist and author of 2 Weeks In The Fast Lane, explains why quick-fix diets can work.
We live in a quick-fix world so we want to see results fast. When it comes to fat loss, if we don’t see the weight dropping off right from day one, we lose impetus, resolve takes a dive, the diet becomes an uphill struggle and we find ourselves drifting back into our fat-storing habits all too quickly.
But slow and steady is not the only way to win the fat loss race. Simply eating less and exercising more rarely results in long-term success, and quick-fix diets are not the recipe for disaster many experts would have us believe. Whether long-term or short-term, the vital elements of an effective fat loss diet are…
SWIFT – achieves rapid fat loss in the early stages
SUSTAINABLE – results in continued fat loss until you reach your fat loss goal
STRAIGHTFORWARD – is easy to shop for, easy to cook and easy to manage
STRESS-FREE – fits into your lifestyle
SATISFYING – prevents hunger and cravings
SAFE – is nutritious and health-enhancing
What’s in your lunchbox?
One crucial part of a fat loss diet that needs to tick all the above boxes is lunch. Busy people with busy lives need regular fuel and while breakfast is important, lunch is the meal we should concentrate on to meet our energy requirements, avoid mid-afternoon slumps and rev up the body’s fat-burning mechanisms. Here are some foods that do just that:
A growing body of evidence indicates that a diet rich in calcium allows us to burn more calories. There is also some evidence that when calcium levels in the body are low the brain detects this and stimulates feelings of hunger, causing us to eat more. Natural yoghurt has long been regarded as one of the best sources, providing 155mg of calcium per 85g serving, but the same amount of tinned salmon provides 200mg because it contains the calcium-rich bones that are softened during the canning process.
Beans and lentils
These are rich in a non-digestible starch which, while not adding much to your daily calorie intake, promotes bowel regularity, is associated with less fat storage after a meal and encourages a phenomenon known as ‘second meal effect’. This refers to its ability to keep blood sugar balanced for many hours, so you eat less at your next meal or snack.
Eating just 25g of walnuts provides more than two grams of omega 3 essential fats, which increase the activity of fat-burning genes and slow the activity of fat-producing genes. Recent research also suggests that omega 3s may activate a protein that allows more energy to be dissipated as heat – a process known as thermogenesis, which increases energy expenditure and decreases stored fat.
The natural plant chemical astaxanthin, which gives prawns their vibrant pink colour, has been shown to increase the body’s use of fat instead of carbohydrates for fuel and to accelerate fat burning, particularly during exercise. It also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Expanding fat cells encourage inflammation, which interferes with the balance of our weight-controlling hormones, resulting in us becoming less sensitive to signals telling us we have had enough to eat.
There is one substance that has proven itself scientifically as a metabolism-booster and that’s capsiate, which is found in chillies. You have to eat a lot of them to get a result though and since chillies are richer in capsaicin, the substance that makes them hot, this may present a few problems! But chillies are worth eating since they also have powerful anti-inflammatory properties (which reduces fat storage) and add flavour to food, which results in reduced salt consumption.
Cottage cheese is a rich source of the amino acid phenylalanine, which is required for the production of the ‘feelgood’ chemical dopamine. Several studies indicate that people who are overweight produce low levels of dopamine and hence are unconsciously driven to seek out ways to raise the level by eating more. Cottage cheese is one answer; another way to boost its production is exercise, which of course should be part of any fat loss programme.
Cabbage boosts the body’s production of testosterone, which has been shown to reduce the activity of the enzyme system that promotes fat storage. This hormone is also responsible for sexual health and sex drive in men so good levels are important.
The hormone leptin controls appetite and tells the brain when you have had enough to eat, but the signal can be easily disrupted when you’re sleep-deprived or stressed. Turkey is rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which encourages the production of the calming chemical serotonin, helping you avoid leptin disruption and curb your cravings.
Recent research reveals that those who are vitamin D-deficient carry between 40% and 80% more abdominal fat than their D-rich counterparts. Deficiency has also been shown to disrupt the delicate balance of insulin production and increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. Daily exposure of your skin to sunlight (preferably by exercising outdoors) and a diet packed with foods rich in vitamin D are crucial. Eggs are a great source, as are oily fish such as salmon and mackerel.
2 Weeks In The Fast Lane is now available in eBook format priced £4.99 and is available from fionakirkbooks.com
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