Waist Management: Focus on Inches, Not Pounds

Your waist size is more important than the numbers on the scale.
Your waist size is more important than the numbers on the scale.
The latest from Drs. Rozien and Oz on your body and taking care of it. (www.amazon.com)
The latest from Drs. Rozien and Oz on your body and taking care of it. (www.amazon.com)

Most people cringe at the thought of going on a diet.

But doctors Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen say dieting doesn't have to be so hard.

In their new book, "You: On a Diet: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management," the trusted doctors and best-selling authors reveal the secrets to shaving inches off waistlines everywhere.

The book motivates readers with the most effective fat-burning tool: knowledge. By understanding how the body's fat-storing and fat-burning systems work, readers will learn how to crack the code on true and lifelong waist management.

Read an excerpt from "You: On a Diet" below:

Chapter 1

The Ideal Body
What Your Body Is Supposed to Look Like

Diet Myths

  • Your body doesn't need any fat.
  • Fast food is responsible for most of our fat problems.
  • Dieting has to be hard.

The most common question heard among overweight people isn't "Can I have more sour cream?" It's "Why can't I lose weight?" While you may think you know the answer (severe pancake addiction), the real reason is biological:

We're actually hardwired to store some fat.

Our bodies have more systems that allow us to gain weight than to lose it. Historically, as we'll see in a moment, that served us well. Today, though, we've poisoned the systems that help us lose weight and empowered the ones that allow us to gain it -- botching up our anatomy and turning our bodies into fat-storing machines. One of your goals will be to reprogram your body so that your internal systems can work the way they did when the greatest enemy we faced was a charging wildebeest, not a cheese-drowned pork roll.

Our ancestors survived by gaining and storing weight to survive periodic famines. That has left our bodies prone to storing fat and gaining weight, tendencies that willpower alone can rarely overcome. To see how our bodies have morphed from rock-hard to sponge-soft, let's look inside the bodies of early man and woman. They looked like stereotypical superheroes: strong, lean, muscular, able to jump snorting mammals in a single bound.

As we evolved, we created systems and behaviors to survive when droughts and poor eyesight made picking and hunting less than successful. We learned to thrive, and we learned to eat. In early times, our diets consisted of fruits, nuts, vegetables, tubers, and wild meat -- foods that were, for the most part, low in calories. That's not to say our ancestors didn't enjoy their foods. They consumed their sugars through fruit, and they even splurged when they came across the Paleolithic Cinnabon -- a honeycomb. The difference between their splurges and ours? They came across the sweet treats only rarely; it's not as if they popped in for a 900-calorie sugar bomb every time they went shopping for a new buffalo hide. Add that to the fact that their definition of "searching for food" included walking, stalking, and chasing, not sliding the milk carton out of the way to find the pudding pack. It was a lot of work to get food, so they naturally burned many of the calories they consumed through the physical activity of hunting and gathering.

Because salt and sugar were scarce, our ancestors mostly feasted on grains, vegetables, and meats -- for good reason. The meat provided the protein, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids that helped them grow taller and develop larger brains, while the other foods gave them nutrients such as glucose, a simple sugar found in fruit and the complex carbohydrates of plants, that they needed to grow and develop, and for energy to move. And, of course, food was always fresh, as there was no canning or refrigeration to store up food for Super Bowl parties, or to sneak in an 11 p.m. bowl of sugar-coated oats.

Another difference was that the meat our ancestors ate wasn't like the meat we know today. Theirs was low in fat and high in protein; ours often comes in the form of corn-fed cows pumped up to make fattier, tastier cuts. Even today's buffalo burger is corn-fed. Truly wild game has about 4 percent fat, while now most commercially available beef has nine times that amount. (The theory behind protein-heavy diets like Atkins is that protein reduces overall food intake and could reduce calories as well. The flaw is that eating proteins dripping in saturated fat, like bacon, isn't exactly the same as eating the leaner, healthier forms of protein like chicken and fish.)

The result: Your tribal forefathers and foremothers could eat anytime they could harvest or catch something, and still not put on excess weight.

The lesson: Our ancestors never thought about a diet in the way we do -- and their bodies had the approximate density of granite. Us? We obsess about diet more than red-carpet reporters obsess about designer dresses, and our bodies have the consistency of yogurt.

Still, we can't blame the advent of fast food and waffle cones for all of our weight issues. The downfall started in the pre-G.A. (pre-Golden Arches) era -- over 10,000 years or so ago, when agriculture first appeared. Agriculture allowed us to make more advances than a seventeen-year-old boy in a movie theater, but we paid a price for them. Besides sparing the lives of countless mammoths, the rise of agriculture ensured that we'd always have a steady supply of food -- an advantage during times of famine, a disadvantage at the $6.99 Mama's Kitchen Eat-Everything Buffet. With a constant source of food, people became less nomadic, and communities grew closer together. While the average life span increased (thanks to the elimination of the extreme sport of tiger chasing, with, perhaps, some help from sanitation and immunization), agriculture also brought its share of downsides: more bacterial infections, shorter stature, and rotting teeth that comes from eating refined sugar and less nutritious farm-raised food (overused soil depletes food of its nutrients). Our ancestors' diets shifted from vegetables and meat to grains from the farms, essentially hindering them from getting the diverse mix of protein and micronutrients needed for brain development.

The advent of agriculture essentially started the sociological shift that altered the way we lived -- and the way we eat -- up until this day. We could now produce food, so we could now produce what we wanted, not necessarily what we needed. Instead of making foods that could both complement our bodies and appeal to our taste buds, we started making ones that were kinder to our tongues and pocketbooks than they were to our waists.

We're not in the business of trying to make you live like cavemen, or help you score a blue-jeans billboard, or help you become thin enough to escape between two jail bars. What we should acknowledge is that we live in a world with free will, with temptations, and with more eating options than the Mall of America. Biologically, our bodies want us to eat right. But in today's society (cavemen didn't have bad bosses or deadlines for annual reports), our biological drive to be the right weight and to eat right can be overcome by stress or temptation. And that has shifted many dietary decisions from biological necessities to psychological reactions. What we're going to do is teach you how to reprogram your body to work the way it's supposed to work -- so that you eat to satisfy and to fuel rather than to console or excite. Controlling your fat isn't about being banished with a life sentence of broccoli florets. It's about teaching your body a little bit about the way our ancestors ate. Naturally and automatically.

YOU Test

Remember Your Ancestry

Some people say their family has big bones or big cells. Some say their family has big appetites. Some say their family just has big beer coolers. If you gained weight as an adult, you can get a relatively accurate picture of what your ideal size should be by thinking about what you looked like when you were eighteen (for women) or twenty-one (for men); a time when you were at your metabolically most efficient and when you weren't stapled to an office chair for sixty hours a week. Most people gain their weight between the ages of twenty-one and sixty, so by looking at your size at eighteen or twenty-one, you'll have a good, though not quite scientific, idea of your factory settings. It's not perfect, but it's a thumbnail sketch of where you want to be. You can record your waist size (or closest guess) from when you were eighteen, but, more important, think about your shape. Ask your parents about their body sizes-or find pictures of them-when they were eighteen, to help give you a good idea of what you're supposed to look like.

YOU Tips!

Automate Your Eating. If your waist management plan is going to work -- as in, really work, for your whole life -- then eating right has to become as automatic as it was for our ancestors. That's not as insurmountable as it seems. Just look at one study from the Journal of the American Medical Association. Two groups were assigned two different diets. One went on a diet rich with good-for-you foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and olive oil, foods found in the typical Mediterranean diet. The other group was not given any specific direction in terms of foods to eat but was instructed to consume specific percentages of fat, carbohydrates, and protein daily. In short, they had to think a lot about preparing foods and dividing amounts, while the first group only had general guidelines about foods to eat.

The groups weren't given guidelines about how much to eat; they let their hunger levels dictate their hunger patterns. And when they did that, what happened? Without trying, the first group ate fewer calories, lost inches, and dropped pounds.

YOU-reka! The point: The people in the good-foods group ate the foods that naturally kept them satiated so their bodies could seek their playing weights.

The "good-for-YOU-foods group" ate significantly more fiber than the control group (32 grams versus 17 grams).

The "good-for-YOU-foods group" ate higher amounts of good-for-you omega-3 fats in the form of olives, fish, and nuts (especially walnuts). Those fats help increase the level of chemicals that make you feel satiated.

The "good-for-YOU-foods group" more than doubled their consumption of fruits and vegetables.

The "good-for-YOU-foods-group" ate the foods we recommend in the YOU Diet, didn't obsess about calories, and enabled their bodies to do what they're supposed to do: regulate the chemicals that are responsible for hunger and for satiety (more on this in Chapter 2).

Don't Undereat. When our ancestors couldn't find food and went for long periods of time without it, their bodies acted like a life preserver, storing fat in anticipation of the inevitable periods of famine. The same system works today. YOU-reka! When you try to "diet" by going for long periods of time without eating or by eating way too few calories, your brain senses the starvation and sends an SOS signal through your body to store fat because famine is on its way. That's why people who go on extreme fasts and extremely low-calorie diets don't lose the expected weight. They store fat as a natural protective mechanism. To lose weight, you have to keep your body from switching into starvation mode. The only way to do it: Eat often, in the form of frequent, healthy meals, and snacks.

Plan Your Meals. Start every day knowing when and what you're going to eat. That way, you'll avert the 180-degree shift between starving and gorging that occurs when you skip meals. Our fourteen-day diet (in Chapter 12) will show you how to plan your meals so that you feed your body regularly to avoid extreme periods of overeating and undereating that can lead to a gain in weight and inches.

YOU Test

Stand in Front of the Mirror. Naked. Without Sucking in Your Belly.

For some of you, this assignment may feel natural, but for most, the exercise is as uncomfortable as a coach-class airline seat. We're having you do this not to benefit the neighborhood peepers, but for two other reasons. First, we want you to realize that we're emphasizing healthy weight. Not fashion-magazine weight, not featherweight, but healthy weight. And we think that means you have to start getting comfortable with the fact that every woman isn't as light as a kite, and every man won't have the body of Matthew McCanoughey. Where you want to be may not be exactly where your body wants you to be. We're not saying you need to accept a belly that looks like four gallons of melted ice cream, but we want you to get closer to your ideal health -- and that means physically and emotionally.

Second, we want you to look at your body. Now draw an outline of your body shape (both from the side and front views). Ask a partner or close friend to look at the shape you drew and tell you -- honestly -- if that's approximately what your body looks like. (Your clothes can be back on at this point.) This is just a quality-control check to make sure you have an accurate self body image. (Those with eating disorders have very distorted body images, making it an obstacle for getting back to a healthy weight.) This might be the first time you've ever had to articulate things about what your body looks like -- and that's good.

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