By Dr. Mercola
In today's world it's harder than ever to keep your weight under control, as evidenced by the fact that over 2/3 of all American adults are now overweight or obese.
In fact, an alarming bit of information came to my attention in 2009, when CDC statistics revealed that in the U.S. the number of obese people actually outnumber the amount of merely overweight people. And in 2011, one in three children is now overweight or obese; nearly triple the rate from 1963.
The plain, unvarnished truth is the US has predominantly become a nation of fat and obese citizens.
And any time someone voices an objection to the predominance of the high sugar and highly refined carbohydrate foods, the food manufacturers, politicians, and media shills who represent them, scream loudly and irrationally that any attempt to restrict nutritionally worthless junk food is an assault on American's freedom of choice.
What about the billions of dollars spent marketing these foods to Americans using subliminal triggers along with the use of secretly hidden chemicals in food that are actually designed to distort your brain's sensation of flavor (senomyx)?
Isn't this also an assault on American's freedom of choice through manipulation?
At any rate, I think we have become a nation that for the most part made the choice to trade convenience for its health. Indeed, the proverbial piper has been paid when we examine our expanding waistlines that we have willingly exchanged for the sake of "convenience." The following 10 guidelines can help you prevent packing on extra pounds.
#1: To Lose Weight You MUST Eliminate Fructose from Your Diet
You've gone to all the trouble of getting some exercise. But despite sticking to your new plan you discover the pounds are not coming off.
You ask yourself, "Why?"
It is important to understand and know that while exercise is important and crucial for weight loss and I am a major fan, the foods you choose to eat are THREE times more important for controlling your weight than your exercise. It's very easy to sabotage yourself with sugary foods and exercise beverages. Especially beverages containing HFCS.
These drinks include "vitamin water", energy drinks, and similar types of recovery drinks.You need to avoid these drinks and ignore the slick marketing messages that suggest you need them because you workout.
There is a myth in our culture that any exercise removes vital nutrients from your body that you must replenish before, during and after exercise. However, chances are you're not exercising long enough to deplete your body of very much of anything! And sugar consumed just before or during exercise will only lead to a spiking and crashing of your blood sugar and insulin levels, most likely resulting not in increased hydration, but in reduced athletic performance.
Not only that, but sugar or HFCS eaten after a workout will completely shut down your body's production of Human Growth Hormone!
The truth is, you don't need to chug a sports drink unless you are severely dehydrated and are losing more than a quart of water in sweat in 30-45 minutes. Most people don't work out this long with any sustained intensity, they also don't lose anywhere near a quart of sweat!
So when it comes to sports-related hydration and athletic performance, what do I recommend?
Clean, pure water. If you're doing a heavy workout you could supplement with a quart of pure clean water that has a quarter teaspoon of Himalayan salt and a teaspoon of baking soda in it. This will more than replenish any electrolytes you are likely to lose during moderate exercise.
The ticket to optimal athletic performance and recovery is in eating whole, biodynamic and organic foods. So next time you need a quick snack before or after a workout, forget about that energy bar or sports drink and go for these beneficial sources of carbs and protein:
✓ Any vegetable (with the exception of carrots and beets, which are high in sugar), particularly dark, green and leafy varieties like spinach, kale or Swiss chard
✓ Organic free range chicken and eggs
✓ Lean, grass-fed red meat
✓ Fruits that are low in fructose like apricots, cantaloupe, lemons, limes, passion fruit, plums and raspberries
✓ Whey protein
✓ Raw nuts and seeds
#2 You MUST Plan Your Meals
It's said that failing to plan means you're planning to fail. When it comes to meals designed to promote your health and eliminate unwanted calories, you're going to have to heed this advice.
The problem is, if you fail to plan your meals you are basically eating according to either your emotions or whatever whim may come over you around mealtime. Both of these can mean added calories, poor nutritional choices and a growing waistline.
I do advise some general principles to follow when planning your meals, but the takeaway message to this nutritional no-no is you need to think independently of your shifting moods about what you will be consuming for up to the next week in advance -- in order to keep your plate free of unnecessary calories.
This means shopping in advance with specific meals in mind and it means putting your intended meals down on paper and sticking to your meal schedule.
You've probably discovered that both of these things are much harder in practice than they are in theory. There's a reason for that. Processed food manufacturers are spending a lot of money, billions and billions of dollars each year, to convince you that their food will satisfy you emotionally.
Processed foods are not the answer.
Processed foods are part of your growing waistline problem. Remember this truth as you take on the billion dollar advertising industry while you take control of your health!
#3 Avoid All Sodas, and Especially Diet Soda
Soda, in my opinion, is the one of the primary health threats. Did you know that just one can of Coke contains 10 teaspoons of sugar?!
This is 100 percent of your recommended daily intake (which is more than double my recommended daily allowance to begin with). Within 20 minutes of drinking that soda, your blood sugar spikes, and your liver responds to the resulting insulin burst by turning massive amounts of sugar into fat.
It is a proven fact that sugar increases your insulin levels, which leads not only to weight gain, but also high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, premature aging and many more negative side effects. In fact, sugar is so bad for your health in so many ways, I've created an entire list outlining the ways sugar can damage your health.
But diet soda is even worse!
Billions of dollars worth of advertising tells you that diet soda gives you all the pleasure of a sweet beverage without any of the calories. But is the marketing too good to be true? Are the makers of diet sodas actually lying to you?
In a word, yes. In fact, just the opposite now appears to be true. Drinking diet soda actually is positively linked to weight gain. It turns out the latest research shows that your brain can tell the difference between real and artificial sugar, and not only are artificial sugars less satisfying to your brain at a cellular level, they also increase your craving for the real thing. So artificial sweeteners, and diet soda in particular, must be avoided if you don't want to crave sugar.
By the way, craving sugar is one of the surest ways to add extra calories to your diet. So avoid diet soda if you care about keeping your weight in check.
#4 Be Sure to Eat PLENTY of Organic Vegetables
One of the best ways to improve your health is to make sure you're eating plenty of fresh, minimally processed high quality vegetables, ideally locally-grown and organic, with a majority of them consumed raw. One simple way to boost your vegetable intake is to juice them. Juicing organic vegetables is something that I highly recommend to anyone working to restore or improve their health.
I am firmly convinced that juicing is one of the key factors to giving you a radiant, energetic life, and truly optimal health. I simply do not know of any other single nutritional intervention that has a more profound influence on health than eating and/or juicing fresh, organic vegetables. And for every vegetable you pack onto your plate, you'll have less room for all those other simple carbohydrates that can expand your waistline.
You can review my comprehensive approach to how to juice on my vegetable juicing page.
Whether you're munching them raw or juicing, some vegetables contain more health building nutrients than others. This list details some of the best and worst vegetables for your health.
Highly Recommended Vegetables
✓ Avocado (actually a fruit)
✓ Beet greens
✓ Green and red cabbage
✓ Bok Choy
✓ Brussel sprouts
✓ Lettuce: romaine, red leaf, green leaf
✓ Mustard greens
✓ Chinese cabbage
✓ Peppers: red, green, yellow and hot
✓ Collard greens
✓ Dandelion greens
Use sparingly due to high carbohydrate levels
✓ Winter Squashes
✓ Most fruits except for limes and lemons
Vegetables to Avoid
#5 Make Sure You Do Sprint 8 Exercises Once or Twice a Week
Your body has three types of muscle fiber: Slow twitch, fast twitch and super-fast twitch fibers. A major problem with conventional exercise is its inability to engage the fast and super-fast twitch muscle fibers. Conventional exercise merely engages your body's slow twitch muscle fibers, which is your preferred mode of muscle engagement. To produce dramatic results when it comes to exercise you simply have to engage your fast and super-fast muscle fibers.
The best way to do this is through something called Sprint 8 exercises.
Sprint 8-style exercise has many benefits, the biggest being it naturally increases your body's production of human growth hormone (HGH), which plays a significant role in the aging process.
I recently featured an interview with fitness expert Phil Campbell, in which he further expounds on this important topic. Phil is the author of the book Ready Set Go, which explains how exercises that engage your super-fast muscle fibers can increase your HGH levels. It is called Sprint 8 because if you graph your heart rate, you will see that it peaks eight times during the workout. This technique is exponentially superior to regular cardio workouts and you're doing yourself a great disservice if you ignore it. The nice thing about Sprint 8 exercises is that you can perform them with many types of exercise; with or without equipment. So, while having access to a gym or exercise equipment will provide you with a larger variety of options, you don't require either. You can just as easily perform Sprint 8 by walking or running outdoors.
Another benefit is in the time it will save you. Instead of doing an hour-long cardio workout, you'll be done in 20 minutes or so. The actual sprinting totals only 4 minutes!
Keep in mind however that you should only do Sprint 8 exercises once to twice a week, occasionally three times.
If you do it more frequently than that, you may actually do more harm than good. Phil Campbell agrees, and also warns against overdoing it. We've found that, more often than not, when people do it more than four times a week they're simply not pushing themselves hard enough. The key to performing Sprint 8 exercises properly is to raise your heart rate up to your anaerobic threshold.
Keep pushing at maximum effort for 20 to 30 seconds, and then rest for 90 seconds
Repeat this cycle for a total of eight repetitions. Here is a video showing a demonstration of Sprint 8-style exercise:
Remember, ideally you need to use a heart rate monitor and it is physiologically impossible to measure accurately with the precision you need to know if you are over your target heart rate.
#6 Avoid Drinking Fruit Juice
Fruit juice is probably the most requested drink by children of all ages, not because it quenches thirst, but because it tastes good. And fruit juice, it turns out, is not one of the best things you can put into your body, especially for children.
Yes I can hear all the fruitarians screaming that I am wrong and there are unusual situations in which this isn't true. For someone who is normal body weight with no insulin resistance it might not be a major problem, especially if you're drinking freshly squeezed organic juice in moderation.
However, that is clearly a very tiny minority of the population.
Drinking fruit juice is only slightly different from drinking soda. Both deliver a massive dose of sugar to your body unbound by any of the slow-releasing mechanisms provided by nature.
So when you think of fruit juice, you should think of soda.
You should certainly by now be aware of the dangers of high fructose corn syrup, but please understand that simple fruit sugar extracted from fruit has virtually identical side effects and negative effects on your biochemistry. This means fruit juice will cause a major spike in your insulin levels.
This is important because elevated insulin levels are one of the primary drivers for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and weight gain.
This may be why drinking fruit juice has been linked to an increased risk of diabetes, while fructose itself has been shown to increase your triglyceride levels. In one previous study, consuming fructose raised triglyceride levels by 32 percent in men. Forty years worth of research has confirmed that elevated blood levels of triglycerides, known as hypertriglyceridemia, puts you at an increased risk of heart disease. So when it comes to fruit juice, if you are overweight or obese, it's my recommendation for you to avoid it entirely and limit your fruit intake to berries .
#7 Eating Outside of Your Home
There's a reason your favorite restaurant food often tastes better than your home cooked meals: many times it's loaded with extra calories in the form of sugars, hydrogenated fats and artificial flavor enhancers like MSG.
And since most restaurants purchase the bulk of their food in advance, and frequently rely on frozen, pre-cut and pre-cooked foods, the chances are high that your restaurant meal is simply processed food, nutritionally far inferior to anything fresh and organic you can make at home. And unless your favorite restaurant is advertising its free-range meats and organic vegetables, chances are also high that you're consuming feedlot animals and conventionally grown vegetables that have been drenched in antibiotics and pesticides respectively. Neither is good for maintaining optimal health.
I'm not suggesting you never eat outside of your own home; I understand the pleasure and social importance of eating out occasionally. My suggestion is merely to keep eating out to a minimum, and try to frequent restaurants committed to buying organic and serving minimally processed meals.
The other very real hazard of eating out is the temptation to order an innocuous looking dessert that is anything but innocuous when it comes to the caloric punch it packs.
#8 Avoid Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol is converted by your body into simple sugar, and it turns out the metabolic pathway converting alcohol into its simple sugar components is the same pathway your body uses to convert high fructose corn syrup into its component parts.
If you watch Robert Lustig's video "Sugar:The Bitter Truth" in its entirety you will understand exactly what happens when you put both alcohol and HFCS into your body.
In a nutshell, you are basically ingesting fat. Both of these are converted by your liver into fat.
So any advances you may make by watching your diet will be more or less instantly wiped out by a night of binge drinking. I recommend no alcohol consumption at all, since it is a neurotoxin whose drawbacks far outweigh even the benefits found in a glass of red wine (one of the healthiest options when it comes to alcohol consumption).
But again, alcohol equals body fat (unless you are in the minority and have a super-production of alcohol dehydrogenases (ADH), the enzymes that break down alcohol in your body. Most likely you are not in this minority).
#9 Avoid Consuming Fast- or Processed Foods
This recent article by Time magazine has summed up the problem of fast food nicely, which I expanded on in this recent article. I encourage you to revisit both if you haven't been keeping up to date on all the health problems associated with consuming fast food.
To summarize both of these articles: Avoid fast food if you value your health. It is loaded with sodium, sugar and feedlot animals who have been subjected to the absolute minimums in the areas of feeding and care.
#10 Avoid Condiments and Idle Snacks
According to www.fitsugar.com these are examples of sources of hidden calories you probably never even considered:
✓ One pat of butter on your toast: 36 calories.
✓ One cubic inch of feta cheese on your salad: 45 calories.
✓ One tablespoon ketchup with your fries: 15 calories.
✓ One tablespoon of grated Parmesan on your pasta: 22 calories.
✓ One teaspoon or one cube of sugar in your coffee: 9 calories.
✓ One tablespoon of sour cream on your baked potato: 26 calories.
✓ One tablespoon mayonnaise on your sandwich: 100 calories.
✓ Handful of M&Ms (10 pieces) off your co-worker's desk: 34 calories.
✓ One teaspoon each of oil and vinegar on your sandwich: 39 calories.
Cutting all of these things out would save you about 330 calories a day. That translates to a loss of about 1 pound every 10 days, or about 36 pounds a year.
How much weight do you need to lose? How long would it take you to reach your goal by cutting out these unnecessary condiments?
Some Final Thoughts about how to Avoid Packing on Unnecessary Pounds
If you're like most Americans you probably have between a few and several unnecessary pounds you'd prefer not to be carrying around every day. I'm here to tell you that not only is it possible to take off the extra weight with a little thoughtful planning, it is also possible to keep the weight off simply by following a few sensible guidelines above and my more comprehensive ones.
Every purchase you make is a vote with your pocketbook about the kinds of food these manufacturers will continue to make.
The bottom line is very simple here, folks.
Think VERY carefully about what you're eating so you and your family can take control of your health before someone else takes control of it from you.