It’s January 2, the day of reckoning. You glance at a full-length mirror as you dress in the morning, and you don’t like what you see. Before Thanksgiving, you were on your way to becoming a thinner, healthier you. Now, every canapé, slice of cheesecake, and glass of wine you indulged in over the holidays seems to be laughing at you from its new-found perch in your belly, butt, and thighs. Of course, you tell yourself you’re imagining things. You couldn’t have gained all that much weight. Just to prove it, you tentatively, almost timidly, climb onto the bathroom scale, and allow yourself to peek down with one squinty eye.
Don’t scream and do NOT allow yourself to plunge into depression. That number is a minor setback on the road to having a slender, healthier body. You can get back on track and barely miss a step on your way to your weight loss goal. You can also learn a new way of eating, using principles from the Cheater’s Diet, that will allow you to enjoy the holidays next year to their fullest without gaining a single extra pound around your middle.
First, you’re going to shock your metabolism back into action with a month of the “Four F’s” plan. It won’t be easy, but you’ll love the results. After that, you’ll ease your way into the regular Cheater’s Diet plan, which allows you to eat all kinds of food that you thought, as a dieter, you would never be allowed to eat again.
The “Four F’s” are:
- Frequent meals
Fish- is an excellent source of protein and healthful Omega-3 fats, both of which will help you to feel sated and cut your appetite. Try to eat fish at least three times a week. Cold water varieties like salmon, tuna, sardines, and herring, contain the highest amounts of Omega-3’s.Fluids- are extremely important for weight loss. Not only does drinking water, tea, coffee, diet sodas, or even soup help to cleanse your body of toxins, but it also keeps the kidneys functioning properly. When the kidneys are out of whack, the liver takes over for them, which means it can’t continue doing one of its other major jobs–turning your fat into fuel. Drink at least 2 quarts (8 cups) of fluids a day, and if you’re overweight, drink even more.
Fiber- helps move food through your system more quickly, makes you feel full, and keeps your digestive tract healthy. For the purposes of the Four F’s, fruit is the best source. Apples, pears, plums, strawberries, and prunes are all good sources. In addition to the servings described below, have at least one additional fruit serving at every main meal.
Frequent meals- means eating three main meals a day with snacks in between. Never go more than two hours between meals Breakfast, lunch, and dinner should always consist of one serving of protein (eggs, fish, white poultry meat, or lean pork loin) and one of a complex carb, like a vegetable, legume, or whole grain. A serving size is about one quarter of dinner plate. Snacks can consist of a serving of fruits, vegetables, nonfat dairy products, nuts, legumes or any other no sugar/low fat food.
So to recap–lots of meals, lots of fiber, lots of fish, lots of fluids.
Don’t worry about the rate at which you’re losing. An average of two pounds a week is very respectable, and three pounds should be your maximum. Any more than that and you’ll be burning muscle instead of fat.
Speaking of muscle.
Eating is only half the picture. If you want to maintain the weight you lose, you need to perform some kind of physical activity. That doesn’t necessarily mean formal exercise. Just get up and move every chance you get. Studies show that doing vigorous, day-to-day activities is far more important for maintaining a healthful weight than is a membership to the local health club. Here are some that really burn the fat:
- Washing and waxing a car
- Washing windows or floors
- Playing volleyball
- Playing touch football
- Basketball (shooting baskets)
- Dancing fast (social)
- Pushing a lawnmower
- Raking leaves
Past the first hurdleAfter you’ve gone four weeks sticking strictly with the Four F’s, you can begin to relax a little. How? Cheat on the weekends. Now, I know that the word “cheat” generally makes dieters a little nervous. It represents failure to many of them. But it doesn’t have to. In fact, cheating can be your greatest tool in reaching success.
Here’s how. After being subjected to a strict regimen like the Four F’s throughout the first month, your body begins to outsmart you and slightly slows down the rate at which it burns fat. If you suddenly give it more work to do by feeding it more calories, it speeds up again. Then, after two days, you go back to your strict regimen.
The body is still going with all fires blazing. It will take awhile for it to realize the trick you’ve pulled. So because you’ve eaten more for a couple of days, you’re now burning fat even faster! Doing this every weekend keeps the body in a state of playing perpetual catch-up. So cheat! From Saturday morning to Sunday evening, eat anything you like, with the exception of foods you’re likely to binge on. You can have chocolate, hamburgers, whole grain bread, ice cream, cinnamon buns, wine, beer, strawberry shortcake–you name it. Or you can just have a whole lot more of the healthful foods you’ve been eating since the New Year.
Cheating has one other advantage that’s hugely important in maintaining a healthful weight–it keeps you from getting bored. The average person stays on a diet for about two months before giving up and going back to his or her old ways. Why? The tedium of restrictive diets. The Cheater’s Diet restricts you from nothing. It simply puts you on a schedule, just like going to work five days a week and taking off for two.
Cheating for life
By the end of the second month, you will probably have reached the end of your patience with eating six meals a day. So don’t. Go back to three meals a day, and allow yourself four servings per meal–one or two of protein, two of fruits or vegetables, and one of whole grains or legumes. You can still have snacks every two hours if you like.
By summertime, you’re going to look amazing. And when the holidays come next year, just stick with the Cheater’s Diet!
Paul Rivas, M.D., author of The Cheater’s Diet: The Medically Proven Way to Supercharge Weight Loss, has specialized in obesity for over a decade and has successfully treated over 15,000 patients. A sought-after expert, he has been interviewed on more than 50 radio and TV shows, including Good Morning America, and has appeared in articles in the Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan and the Los Angeles Times.