How to Lose Body Fat

Many people want to know how to lose body fat. This is an important topic because losing body fat improves your longevity, health, vitality, and appearance.

There is no greater predictor of premature death than being over-fat. Worse, carrying around more than 10 extra pounds of fat can spell trouble for your thinking now, and later in life.

A study in the March 2009 issue of Archives of Neurology found that in men, worsening cognitive function correlated with the highest levels of all adiposity measures: The fatter you are, the more likely you will experience cognitive decline later in life.

What’s more, your weight affects every aspect of how your body functions. Obesity is such an enormous epidemic that we’ve created a new name for an old problem: Metabolic Syndrome. This occurs when excess weight affects your heart and increases your risk for diabetes and inflammatory diseases. However, Metabolic Syndrome is completely and totally preventable and reversible.

Weight loss, exercise, and correcting hormone deficiencies are the keys to preventing this disease as well as losing body fat—especially abdominal fat. Insulin resistance is the central problem of Metabolic Syndrome. Insulin not only regulates blood sugar, it also plays a very important role in fat metabolism by increasing the secretion of lipoprotein lipase, which increases the uptake of fat from your bloodstream into body cells.

The more resistant you are to your insulin, the more insulin your body needs to make in order to maintain your blood sugar levels. And more insulin equals more body fat. So, when insulin levels are kept low, you reduce your risk for all of the serious diseases most Americans die from, you burn your excess fat for energy, and you are much less likely to convert calories into body fat—a win-win-win situation.

The major cause of insulin resistance is poor nutrition and lack of exercise. It’s physiologically impossible for you to burn body fat for energy when your insulin levels are high. However, both aerobic and resistance training has been shown to reverse insulin resistance. And as your body fat disappears and your muscle mass increases, your insulin resistance diminishes. You also reduce your need and desire to consume extra calories because your body can now tap into stored body fat more efficiently.

This alone is a reason why you just can’t diet away body fat: You have to burn it off with exercise. Controlling insulin levels is the primary objective of my Life Plan. This can best be achieved by combining exercise with eating small meals and carefully controlling your intake of carbohydrates, limiting your choices to those with a low glycemic index (most vegetables and fruits, and a few of the non-wheat whole grains).

It is also important to always eat a high-quality, low-fat source of protein any time carbohydrates are consumed. The ratio of protein to carbohydrate needed to achieve ideal insulin control should be between 0.5 and 1.0: This means at least a half portion of protein with every full-size portion of carbs.

A study in the American Journal of Nutrition compared diets with the same number of calories but different protein-to-carb ratios. The diet with a protein-to-carbohydrate ratio of 0.6 (similar to my Life Plan Diets) keeps insulin levels low and maintains a positive nitrogen balance. The diet higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein, such as the American Heart Association Diet (with a protein-to-carbohydrate ratio of 0.25), increases insulin secretion and produces a negative nitrogen balance. A negative nitrogen balance means you are breaking down your muscle to provide energy for your body. A positive nitrogen balance, on the other hand, indicates that you are building muscle mass.

As you get more comfortable eating less food, you’ll also be reducing the number of free radicals (the unstable atoms that are produced when food is converted to energy) produced when these foods are digested and stored. Many scientists believe that if we can reduce free-radical production in our bodies, we will reduce the damage they do to our cells and dramatically slow the aging process and prevent age-related diseases.

Last, one of the goals of this program is to enable you to increase your own production of hormones, including human growth hormone (hGH). hGH is measured as IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor-1). As the name implies, Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 is structurally related to insulin. These two hormones share the same receptor sites on cells, creating a competition in which only one hormone will be predominantly effective.

A nutrition program that focuses on keeping insulin levels as low as possible will enable you to increase your own natural production of IGF-1. Because you need to optimize growth hormone levels to achieve great health and quality of life, my plan is designed to keep blood sugars low, allowing you to effectively manage your insulin, which will help you achieve healthy levels of growth hormone on your own.

Do You Have Difficulty Losing Body Weight?

Occasionally some of my patients reach a plateau on the program, and they just can’t drop any more body fat. This resistance to fat loss can be caused by several factors, including medications. Both over-the-counter (OTC) treatments and prescription medications can affect weight loss. If you are taking any of the following, talk to your doctor to see if there are other alternatives that won’t inhibit weight loss. Do not stop taking your medications without speaking with your physician first.

■ Antianxiety agents like Lexapro, Cymbalta, Xanax, Effexor, Prozac, Celexa, Valium, Ativan, and Klonopin

■ Antiseizure meds like Depakote, Depakene, and Divalproex

■ Anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) from OTCs like aspirin, Advil, and Aleve to prescription meds like Celebrex and Daypro

■ Antidepressants like Paxil, Zoloft, Clozaril, Seroquel, Zyprexa, and Risperdal

■ Blood pressure medications like Cardura, Inderal, Lotrel, and Caduet

■ Diabetic drugs like DiaBeta, Diabinese, and insulin

■ Cardiovascular medications like Heparin, Coumadin, and Lovenox

■ Antihistamines like Benadryl, Allegra, Zyrtec, and Claritin

■ Heartburn inhibitors like Nexium and Prevacid

■ Diuretics like Demadex, Aldactone, and Zaroxolyn

■ Corticosteroids like prednisone, prednisolone, and cortisone If medications aren’t the problem, make sure you don’t have an underactive thyroid gland.

The tests listed in Chapter 10 can help you determine if you need to take thyroid hormone replacement medication to correct your resistance to weight loss. If these aren’t the cause of your resistance, then modify your nutrition plan. Begin eating slightly fewer calories. If, after a week, you still haven’t broken through, then slowly begin changing your ratio by replacing some of the carbohydrate calories with more healthy fats and protein. It’s very likely that if you increase your intake of fat and protein and decrease carbohydrates you will begin seeing better results. And make sure you are doing enough cardio work, which we’ll get to later in the book.

Losing Body Fat Increases Your Energy

Metabolism is the energy we expend to maintain all physical and chemical changes in our body. Our metabolic rate reflects how rapidly we use our energy stores. This rate is influenced by many factors, including genetics, natural hormonal activity, body size, and body fat composition.

While we can’t change our genetics, we can control all the other factors that influence our metabolism. And contrary to popular belief, your age has a minimal effect on your metabolic rate. Instead, it’s your hormone levels and level of fitness that are the key components. You also need muscle to keep metabolism high. The more muscle or lean body mass you have, the greater the number of calories you can burn during exercise and subsequently throughout the day.

The foods on the Life Plan are chosen specifically for their ability to increase your metabolism, which naturally increases energy levels. Not only will increasing your metabolism make you feel more alive and awake every day, but you will also be training your body to burn food more efficiently, creating more energy to pump up your workouts and eliminate body fat. This is the good kind of vicious cycle: When you increase your energy, you’ll have more energy to exercise, which in turn increases your metabolism to burn more food, leaving you leaner and healthier.

Avoid Sugar at All Costs

I can’t say the following often enough: Sugar is toxic, wreaking havoc on your health, and it is a driving force for a myriad of diseases, including diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, and as the latest research indicates, some forms of cancer.

Lewis Cantley, a Harvard professor and the head of the Beth Israel Deaconess Cancer Center, says that when we eat or drink sugar, it causes a sudden spike in insulin, which can serve as a catalyst to fuel certain types of cancers. Nearly a third of some common cancers have insulin receptors on their surface.

Insulin binds to these receptors and signals the tumor to start consuming glucose. Many experts are now considering the campaign against sugar as important as the war on tobacco. By eliminating as much sugar from your diet as possible, you’ll be able to take more control of your health and stop cravings once and for all, which will help you moderate your appetite.

The American Heart Association report recommends that men should not consume more than 150 calories of added sugars a day. That’s less than the amount in just one can of soda. However, I know that this is easier said than done. Sugar has become a bigger part of our daily diet than most people realize, but it’s a crucial part of the process of how to lose body fat.

Beyond the obvious things such as table sugar, honey, syrup, jams and jellies, sugary drinks, and desserts, sugar can be found in just about every processed food you can imagine, from yogurts and sauces to bread and peanut butter. Unknowingly, Americans now consume 130 pounds of sugar per person a year—that’s a third of a pound every day. My advice: Read labels very carefully, and avoid packaged goods that contain sugar or corn syrup. Stop adding sugar to your coffee or sweetening fresh fruit. It’s a hard habit to break, but you’ll find that in just a week or so you won’t feel the urge to reach for the sugar bowl, and you’ll find weight loss becomes a whole lot easier.