I hate it when people tell me they’re “going on a diet.”
When you decide to “go on a diet,” you’re making the conscious decision that this is a temporary choice. You’re going to go on it, but that means that you’re going to one day—probably sooner than you expect—go off it. That’s the concept of weight cycling (also known as yo-yo dieting), and it’s extremely unhealthy. A 2014 study in the journal Diabetes Care found that a pattern of weight cycling—losing at least five pounds and then gaining it back within two years—resulted in as much as a 33 percent higher risk of diabetes and higher blood pressure.
That’s in part because when you restrict calories, you restrict nutrients. As a result, you lose weight on a crash diet, but much of it is lean, healthy muscle tissue. With less muscle, your body’s metabolism is set at a lower point. So when you go off the diet, even if you eat the exact same number of daily calories as you ate before, you’ll actually gain more fat than you originally carried.
So don’t do that. The Zero Belly Cleanse, from my book Zero Belly Diet, provides fast weight loss while avoiding the yo-yo pitfall. First, it reduces your calorie intake slightly, without radically altering the way you eat. There’s no sudden, dramatic food restriction, just a smart 7-day dining plan. Second, it incorporates short bouts of mild exercise to up your metabolic burn, without forcing you into intense, hard-to-stick-to workouts. And third, it keeps your body fueled with clean, powerful, high-nutrient foods that will boost your health while targeting unhealthy belly fat.
Even if you’re happy with your current weight, or finding success with your current diet plan, it can make sense to do a cleanse from time to time. Here’s why: Fast results help lead to long-term weight loss. Slow and steady is the best way to reach any personal goal, but sometimes the slow undermines the steady. A review of studies published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that those who realized rapid results were more likely to stick to their weight-loss program over time than those who saw results come more slowly. This 7-day cleanse can improve your chances of long-term adherence to a healthy weight-loss plan.
Sometimes, taking charge feels good. Reunions come along from time to time. So do beach getaways, job interviews, big dates, and other “holy cow, I’d better get it in gear” moments. Taking control of our fitness and health at important junctures in life gives us a sense of accomplishment. You’ll be able to revisit this cleanse whenever a big event looms. Turbocharged results are within your grasp. What I love about this cleanse is that it doesn’t require truly dramatic sacrifice. The only serious change you’ll need to make, besides giving up mindless snacking, is in your morning routine.
YOUR 7-DAY SCHEDULE
7 am Morning walk
10 am Zero Belly drink
12:30 pm Zero Belly drink
3 pm Snack
6:30 pm Dinner
HOW TO MAKE A CLEAN START
This plan is simple: Two Zero Belly Drinks, one snack, and a Zero Belly cleanse dinner. Following this schedule, some test panelists lost an inch from their waists within the first 72 hours.
Sorry, kitchen’s closed (for 12 to 15 hours since you last ate). Nighttime fasting—or reducing your “eating window”—may help to reset your metabolism and burn the extra glucose in your system after a period of overindulgence, according to researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. The scientists fed adult mice one of four diets—some high in sugar, some high in fat, some both. And each of the four diets contained the same number of calories. From there, mice in each diet group were then given set times to eat. Some could eat whenever they wanted, others were restricted to feeding times of 9, 12 or 15 hours a day. Regardless of what kind of diet they ate, and regardless of the fact that they ate the same number of calories, mice in the 9-hour and 12-hour groups remained healthy, while all of the mice in the 15-hour group became obese.
EXERCISE Take a morning walk outdoors.
If you do Zumba or CrossFit or power yoga or are in the midst of training for a marathon or the Miss Olympia contest, by all means continue. But whether you’re a couch surfer or an actual surfer, you’ll jump-start your weight loss if you add in a 10- minute walk outdoors. This easy a.m. ritual works on two levels. First, a recent study found that exposure to UV rays, even on a cloudy day, between the hours of 8 am and noon reduces your risk of weight gain. 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. According to some studies, exercising in a fasted state can burn almost 20 percent more fat compared to exercising with fuel in the tank.
DRINKS Two delicious smoothies a day.
Your morning snack and lunch will consist of a Zero Belly Drink. Each delivers the three core nutrients (protein, fiber, and fat), and is based on plant protein, which reduces both sugar and bloating that you often get from whey-based proteins. Vega Sport and Sun Warrior are two of my favorite brands. Since the drinks average about 230 calories each, this step alone will cut about 500 to 1,000 calories out of your daily intake, which may take several additional pounds off your body in just seven days. The drink recipes at right pack such a nutritional punch that you’ll know you’re getting the vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats you need. Before each meal or snack, ask these three questions: Where’s my protein? Where’s my fiber? Where’s my healthy fat? Check out our picks for the 4 Best Zero Belly Smoothies for Weight Loss.
P.M. SNACK Quick & easy afternoon nibbles.
Each afternoon, between your lunchtime drink and dinner, pair a piece of fruit or some raw vegetables with 2 tablespoons nuts, nut butter, or hummus.
DINNER Simple, quick, and healthy.
Okay, so you won’t be dining at Waffle House this week. To make the cleanse work for you, you’ll need to make your own dinners for the next seven days, or special order off the menu of your favorite restaurant. Cleanse Dinners consist of protein and vegetables, and healthy fats, but no grains or fruits. A little harsh, but again, it’s only temporary. Metabolism decreases up to 35% during sleep, so any extra carbs in your system at bedtime are more likely to get stored as fat. Grains and fruit are the main carb sources in our diets, so I’m stripping them out at dinnertime for the next seven days.
ALCOHOL None. Nada, nyet, nothing, no. Ixnay on the inksdray.
Alcohol is particularly bad for your weight because it’s a toxin. Your body mobilizes to burn off the calories in alcohol as quickly as possible—ignoring any other calories that might have come along with it. So whether it’s wine and cheese or beer and wings, the body metabolizes the drink while shoving more of the accompanying food calories into fat cells.
WATER Drink 8 8-ounce glasses a day.
On this cleanse, you’re going to be eating a little less food, which means you’re going to be getting a little less water—much of the water we ingest actually comes from our food. In addition, water helps to staunch cravings.
DESSERT Not this week.
In fact, stop eating at 7 pm, if possible. By ending your eating by 7 pm, you’ll set yourself up to begin burning fat first thing in the morning. Not just burning calories—burning fat. As you go through the Zero Belly Cleanse, you’ll experience a sense of control over your diet, your body and your health. One of the reasons so many cultures impose periods of cleansing on their people is that it helps to bring a sense of order to life.
HERE'S HOW TO BUILD A ZERO BELLY CLEANSE DINNER
Pick your protein (cooked any way you want, but with only 1 tsp of coconut or extra-virgin olive oil).
• 6 oz chicken breast (skinless)
• 6 oz lean ground turkey (at least 93%)
• 6 oz lean ground beef (grass-fed, at least 90%)
• 6 oz lean steak (grass-fed, sirloin, or anything labeled “round”)
• 6 oz fish (wild)
• 2 eggs + 1-2 egg whites
Steam, stir-fry, or build a salad with some combination of these vegetables. (Note that cruciferous vegetables like kale, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower are not on the list, as they can cause bloating. While they’re a part of the overall diet, I’m stripping them out here for accelerated results.)
• Romaine or other lettuce
• Grape tomatoes
• Bell peppers
• Zucchini or squash
• Herbs and spices
Top salads with this delicious Zero Belly Vinaigrette:
• ⅓ cup raw apple cider vinegar
• ⅔ cup olive oil
• 1½ tsp Dijon mustard
• 1½ tsp honey
• ¼ tsp each salt and pepper
Add a fat (but only if no fat exists in the recipe already):
• ¼ avocado
• 2 Tbs nuts/seeds
• Or have 1 decadent tablespoon of your favorite nut butter
HOW MUCH WEIGHT COULD YOU LOSE IN 7 DAYS? June Caron, 55, dropped 6 pounds in a week. “And the weight just keeps coming off!” In fact, she lost 15 pounds and 4 inches off her waist in 6 weeks. And Jennie Joshi, 38 (at right), lost 11 pounds and an inch off her waist. “Zero Belly is easy to follow regardless of life’s demands,” she says. Read more about the program and the remarkable results of our test panel in Zero Belly Diet.
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