Very few of us are ever entirely happy with our weight,
and I hate the feeling of putting on a few extra pounds.
But I’ve found some healthy and acceptable ways to get
down to a healthy weight– things that really work. If
you’re like I once was– tired of going on and off diets
and up and down in weight– I’m going to help you get
and stay naturally fit while eating anything you want,
not depriving yourself, and appreciating the wonderful
body you have.
How can I make such claims? I am a veteran of the diet
wars, a doctor, and a reporter. Between medical school,
my internship, and my residency, getting pregnant for the
first time in my thirties and the second time in my forties,
and doing live television, I’ve done it all: I’ve starved
myself, and I’ve pigged out; I’ve binged, dieted, skipped
meals, and lived to tell about it.
I subsisted on vanilla wafers and black coffee while
serving my residency in pediatrics. I relied on graham
crackers and peanut butter during my surgical training.
I’ve been on liquid diets and protein diets– one week
this diet, the next week that diet. I’ve exercised in sauna
suits, and I’ve dieted on carrot sticks. There are times
when I spent so much time poking my head in the fridge
that my nose got frostbite. Add what ever you’ve done to
this list, and I would understand. But finally, when diet
became a four- letter word to me, I said, Enough is enough.
I started making friends with food.
So now I have an easy rule. I regard food as fuel. I eat
foods I like– even some things that might not be so good
for me. As a result, I find it easier to lose weight– I just eat
a bit less and exercise a bit more and it falls off. I’m not
a member of a health club– it’s just not my thing. I prefer
walking, hiking, or biking outdoors to keep fit. I watch my
weight, but I’m not obsessive about it. And I wouldn’t
deny myself something I really wanted. Every week, I
try to enjoy something from each of my four favorite food
groups: the chocolate group, the ice- cream group, the
pizza group, and the chips group. But most of the time, I
choose healthy foods. Do I have a perfect body? Far from
it– but I know I’m healthy.
Making friends with food, with diets, and with your
body isn’t easy. And a big reason is that most of us have
been following certain “rules” for losing weight all our
lives. These rules come and go. We are fascinated by
them; we follow them. We throw out everything we’re
doing and embrace the latest rule. If it doesn’t work,
we blame ourselves for messing up. The truth is that
these rules are largely “myths,” misinformation that is
often considered to be true. Nutrition is a fairly new science
and it’s pretty boring stuff unless you are a dietitian.
But the most important thing we all need to
remember is it is always changing. That constant change
generates loads of myths, many of which I’ll explode in
this book– myths like calories don’t count, carbs are bad,
and you can’t keep pounds off.
How do such myths start, and why do they continue?
Some myths are holdovers from our mothers and grandmothers,
such as “Bread crusts will make your hair
curly,” or “Gum takes seven years to pass through the digestive
system.” Others come from fad- diet promoters
who use only part of accurate nutrition statements but
don’t tell you the whole story. Most are interested in
making a buck, not in helping you lose weight or keep it
off. Other times, the media report news based on incomplete
research or the half- truths these diet promoters
provide. Tips on how to eat and exercise, stemming from
the latest pronouncements by anyone wearing a lab coat
or looking good in Lycra, have often been made on very
weak data. In all fairness, they may have been the best
guess at the moment. But you hear them repeated so
many times that you forget they were rough guesses in
the first place and come to believe they represent hard
When I began my career as a medical correspondent
in the 1980s, I was frequently concerned that one day I
would run out of medical subjects, including nutrition,
to talk about. Back then, I had no way of foreseeing the
bewildering and conflicting flood of diet advice that
would continue to pour in week after week. Americans
have been bombarded with all kinds of conflicting nutrition
news: whether it’s about cholesterol and hearthealthy
diets or lack of fiber as a cause of cancer, whether
it’s the latest “miracle” supplement or the dangers of
sugar and food coloring, or even whether vegetables are
as healthy if they’re store bought as they are when purchased
at the farmers’ market. One day, the supplement
vitamin E is magic, an antioxidant hedge against heart
disease. Then, just as vitamin companies saturate the market
with capsules, research shows that vitamin E takers
could be more susceptible to heart attacks than those not
taking the supplements.
It can seem as if every food poses a risk for cancer– and
that every food contains cancer- fighting agents. Several
years ago, health experts promoted a low- fat diet for
everyone. Then came the high- protein diet in which promoters
said fat is fine, but you need to steer clear of carbohydrates.
Eggs used to be bad; now they are good. Butter
used to be bad; now we know it’s better than margarine.
There is so much misinformation and confusion about
what to eat. It gets to a point where there is nothing
“safe” left in the refrigerator but the ice maker.
As for the shape we’re in, we get fat over the course
of years, but we want it off by next Thursday. Hardly a
week goes by without some expert somewhere issuing
a new report declaring that a certain diet or pill or surgery
is the latest magic bullet for weight loss. After being a doctor
for more than thirty years, having reported on thousands
of diet and nutrition stories, and being a professional
dieter myself, I can tell you this: No magic bullet exists.
What we need is a new and smart strategy for successful
weight loss. Statistics show that forty- five million
Americans are dieting at any moment in time, and we’re
spending more than $30 billion a year on weight loss. Yet
obesity is rarely treated successfully. We have a serious
problem: We are the only animals on the planet that will
eat ourselves into an early grave. Two centuries ago,
people died of starvation. That trend is changing. Ours will
be the first generation to die from food excess. It’s insane!
Since the early 1980s, Americans increasingly have
grown larger. We are ten pounds heavier, on average,
than we were fifteen years ago and eat 15 percent more
calories today than in 1984. Adult obesity has doubled
since 1980, increasing in every region of the country, in
both males and females and across all age, race, and socioeconomic
groups. As we grow bigger, so have our risk
factors for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure,
type 2 diabetes, gallbladder disease, elevated cholesterol
levels, kidney failure, and certain cancers. We’re at a tipping
point in this country, where obesity has started to
cost us our longevity. Proper weight is not just a matter
of looking good; it is about health. Being healthy is knowing
you can count on your body. Being healthy is about
enjoying a well- rounded life: pursuing physical activities
you love, enjoying a balanced diet that makes room for
all foods in moderation, and tuning in to your emotional
and spiritual health.
One answer to our national paunch is to stop obsessing
about what we eat and start sorting out the sound
advice from the babble. In spite of all the conflicting information,
the tried- and- true still holds: Load up on real
foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; practice
portion control; and exercise regularly. It couldn’t be simpler.
And because it’s so simple, people find it really boring.
But these actions are the only safe and stable ways
to lose weight.
Try not to react to every new nutritional study that
comes down the pike, either, since much of this information
will be replaced by a new panacea next month. And
start savoring your food, whether it’s a steaming bowl of
oatmeal or a piece of double- fudge cake you share with
your friends at a great restaurant. Food is good for you,
and it’s good for your soul. Enjoy it!
I feel that beyond being a myth buster, this book
should also act as a pal. I can help you most effectively
if I give you enough truthful information to guide you
out of the confusing diet maze. Then you can say,
“Enough is enough. Tomorrow I’m starting on a new
course that is best for me.” So treat this book as a resource,
a constant companion, and a lifetime guide for
taking weight off and keeping it off. Many of us have
been fed (excuse the pun) bad information about diet,
nutrition, and weight loss. Bad information means bad
choices, and bad choices mean bad results– or no results.
You can’t get in shape and stay healthy unless you
know the truth.
This book will bring you face- to- face with the truth
about dieting and weight loss, and armed with that
truth, you’ll learn how to:
• Check out information before you act on it.
For example, if you were told that eating fifteen
grapefruits each day would help you burn fat,
would you go to the nearest supermarket and
stock up? Or would...