Chapter 1THE CREATION OF THE 3-APPLE-A-DAY PLAN
It all started when the American Cancer Society’s daily recommendation of five to nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables (in general, a serving is one cup raw or one-half cup cooked) was proving difficult for one of my personal training clients. She was adamant about getting in her daily requirements but was struggling because she was extremely busy and traveled often. I asked her what her favorite fruit was, and she said apples.
Perfect, I thought. Apples are full of important nutrients, have lots of fiber, taste delicious, and, most important for her, travel well. I suggested she eat an apple before each major meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) to see if that would solve her problem.Amazing results in just seven days
Just one week later, she came back to have her body composition retested saying that since she’d been eating three apples a day, she felt her body had actually changed. She was excited because she hadn’t noted any changes for several months.
So we measured, and sure enough, she had lost 1 percent body fat in one week! Now, a 1-percent body fat loss (1.5 pounds of fat) in one week is difficult to accomplish in a fit person–and she was already lean at 16 percent body fat.
“Wow,” I said. “Have you been running more?”
She said the only thing she had done differently was to add apples to her meal plan (which actually increased her caloric intake!).
At this point, I was cautiously optimistic. I decided to try this idea on others to see if the results could be duplicated. When Gold’s Gym of Wenatchee held its twelve-week Get-in-Shape Contest in January 2001, I added apples to the diet (which was then called the “Get Lean” Diet).The Get-in-Shape Contest
The annual twelve-week contest, which I created in 1997, was (and is) a body transformation contest designed to lower body fat while retaining muscle tissue. Although judging is based primarily on visual change from before and after pictures, body composition changes are also recorded. As part of the contest, we provided the diet; exercise recommendations; tips on calculating calories, protein, carbohydrates, fat, and water; and other information pertaining to the program.Apples and the “Get Lean” Diet
The original “Get Lean” Diet was always a balance of low-GI (see Chapter 7 on glycemic response) carbohydrates, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, and essential fats–with a calorie distribution of 40 percent carbohydrates, 40 percent protein, and 20 percent fat. On this balanced twelve-week fitness contest diet, women averaged a body fat loss of 5 to 7 percent, and men averaged 7 to 10 percent loss.
In 2001, when apples were added to the “Get Lean” Diet, Gold’s twelve-week Get-in-Shape Contest participants experienced record fat losses! Women averaged body fat losses 7 to 10 percent, and men averaged losses of 10 to 12 percent. Not only that, two women broke the “most fat loss” record with 21 percent body fat loss each! One of those women, who later became a Gold’s Gym National winner, lost a whopping 53 pounds of body fat and gained 10 pounds of muscle!
The following year, one male contestant lost 84 pounds of fat and acquired 19 pounds of lean muscle. Another man lost 85 pounds of fat and gained 26 pounds of lean, calorie-burning muscle (see the success stories in Part V).
Remember, these changes were made in just twelve weeks!What a bunch of (happy) losers!
We were on a roll and truly excited about what we had accomplished. In the 2002 contest, 346 people lost 6,126 pounds of fat. In 2003, 351 people lost 6,453 pounds of fat! In both of those years five of the ten Gold’s National contest winners hailed from Gold’s Gym of little old Wenatchee, Washington!
What’s the one thing Wenatchee winners all had in common? You guessed it . . . apples!But was it really the apples?
After the first year of adding apples, even with all our contest successes, I still had reservations about whether apples were actually what helped these contestants lose more body fat than in years past. But adding apples was the only change we had made in the program.
Actually, I had eaten apples for many years when I was dieting for bodybuilding contests, but I never connected eating apples with losing body fat. In fact, I kind of felt like I was cheating when I ate them during my contest dieting phase–because they tasted so good!
It wasn’t until I had read some of the contestants’ amazing and inspiring personal stories–writing a personal story was a requirement for completion of the contest–that I was finally convinced. There just were too many testimonials naming apples as a major contributor to contestants’ success to be a mere coincidence.The $500,000 Gold’s Gym Challenge
I became a true believer, and I was not alone. The entire staff at Gold’s Gym in Wenatchee was so strongly convinced that apples were a key to people’s weight loss efforts that we approached the Washington Apple Commission and Gold’s Gym Corporate about sponsoring a national contest.
Of course, the folks at corporate headquarters were skeptical at first. But with real numbers, testimonials, and real contestants, they signed on to the idea, and the $500,000 Gold’s Gym Challenge was born. At the same time, Gold’s Gym Corporate adopted the Washington apple as “the Official Diet Pill of Gold’s Gym.”How and why do apples work in fat loss?
I was never hungry. In fact, I had to retrain myself to eat enough. Never tiring of the three apples per day, I had no cravings for sweets. I believe the sweet Fuji apples helped in this area. I looked forward to having my apple as a snack every night! I had more energy and was amazed at how steadily I lost weight. I plan to continue using the 3-Apple-a-Day Plan to maintain my weight.
–Sandi Anderson, age fifty-three, lost 31 pounds of fat and gained 2 pounds of muscle in twelve weeks
When the Gold’s Gym Challenge began, I started getting a lot of questions about apples, mostly about how they work in fat loss and what research I had to back up the claims of significant fat loss from our contestants.
At first, I was unaware of any research studies that linked apples with weight loss–let alone fat loss! I chose apples originally because of their convenience, their sweet, crunchy texture, and their high fiber content (4 to 5 grams per apple). I had found a few studies linking increased fiber intake to weight loss, because increased fiber intake was associated with decreasing hunger and food intake, but none naming apples as the fiber source.
Recently, a Brazilian study of overweight women compared diets that contained three apples per day, three pears per day, or oat cookies, to determine their respective effects on body weight. The results showed that the women who ate either three apples or three pears per day lost significantly more weight than did the oat cookie group. This study is similar to what we found in our Gold’s Gym contest.
Apples are one of the only fruits that have high amounts of both soluble and insoluble fiber. The soluble fiber, pectin, helps steady your blood sugar. Researcher Kay-Tee Khaw at Cambridge University says, “Pectin turns into a sticky gel as you digest it, keeping your stomach from absorbing the sugar too quickly.” According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, pectin eliminates the urge to eat for up to four hours.
Apples, too, are low on the Glycemic Index (see Chapter 7), at a rating of 38 (compared with sugar at 70 or maltose at 105). Low-GI foods don’t spike your blood sugar level, making them an ideal appetizer prior to a main meal or a perfect snack between meals.
In a more general sense, a twelve-year Harvard study of 74,000 women, funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, concluded that those who consumed more fruits and vegetables were 26 percent less likely to become obese than women who ate fewer fruits and vegetables over the same time period.
Also, many studies have shown that apples can help in other aspects of health, such as preventing heart disease, stroke, and cancer and improving lung function and dental health.
The phenomenal increase in fat loss that thousands of Gold’s Gym clients experienced when they added apples to their diet plans, along with their personal testimonials naming apples as a key component to their success, is a more compelling reason for controlled studies to be done at the scientific level.
Right now, we’ll settle for what works!Good news for Type II Diabetics
The 3-Apple-a-Day Plan is also used by Gold’s Gym of We-natchee in other challenges. One of those, the Type 2 Diabetes Challenge, is a six-month program based on a point system. As with the Get-in-Shape Contest, using the same diet and measuring body fat only, the contestants were required to keep food, beverage, medicine, and exercise journals; to test their blood sugar twice a day and blood pressure once a week; and to have pre- and post-challenge lipid (blood fats) profiles, including cholesterol and triglycerides (see Chapter 10), and an A1C test (a measure used to determine long-term blood sugar control). The participants did not have any kidney dysfunction before starting or after finishing the challenge.
The results from the Type 2 Diabetes Challenge showed that the group that ate at least three apples per day lost an average of 19 pounds of body fat. The group that ate only one to two apples per day lost 11 pounds of body fat. The other group, which ate one or no apple per day, lost only 3 pounds of body fat. Overall, the average A1C reading was reduced from 7.5 at the starting point to under 5 (normal range) at the finish.
Similar results were obtained with our six-month Wellness Challenge. The parameters were similar as far as keeping food, beverage, medicine, and exercise journals plus pre- and post-challenge lipid and glucose panels. Again, we saw a correlation between eating three apples a day and the greatest fat loss and a lowering of total cholesterol (mainly LDLs).Worried about cholesterol? More good news
Most people who had high blood lipids before following the 3-Apple-a-Day Plan experienced dramatic changes in their blood work afterward. Exercise and eating the foods on the plan not only lowered their total cholesterol, LDLs, triglycerides, and blood pressure, but increased their HDLs (good cholesterol).
Here’s a great example. Byron, a forty-year-old male, started with an unhealthy cholesterol level of 211 and triglycerides level of 637. In week 11 of the program, his cholesterol fell to an amazing 97 (the low end of the range) and triglycerides to 51 (normal range)! On top of that, his HDLs improved from a low of 25 to a normal level of 35. With astonishment, his physician asked if he felt okay and suggested they double-check to make sure the readings were accurate. Byron said he hadn’t felt this good since high school. And yes, the reading was accurate!
Others around the country also noted improvements in their blood work. Richard from Utah lost 36 pounds and lowered his cholesterol from 218 to 152. More important, his LDLs went from 128 to 86 and his triglycerides from 270 to 61. His HDLs increased from 36 to 49.
Scott from Maine lost 83 pounds and lowered his cholesterol from 243 to 125. His LDLs dropped from 133 to 58, and his triglycerides fell from 220 to 55.
Pete from Florida lost 53 pounds, lowered his cholesterol from 278 to 176, decreased his LDLs from 180 to 116, and his triglycerides from 309 to 58. His HDLs improved from 36 to 48. Pete’s doctor told him he was a heartbeat away from a heart attack before he started the 3-Apple-a-Day Plan. When his final blood work was done, the doctor couldn’t believe the improvements Pete had made in just twelve weeks!Who can use this plan?
The 3-Apple-a-Day Plan is useful for most people. My clients consist of women and men of all ages–ranging from eighteen to eighty–many of whom have adopted the plan for their entire family. Others, who have heart disease, high blood pressure, thyroid dysfunction, and type 2 diabetes, are interested in improving their health and reducing their medications.
As mentioned earlier, people with type 2 diabetes have been very successful using this plan. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 17 million Americans with type 2 diabetes, currently termed the “obese disease.” This number has tripled since 1960 and is anticipated to triple again by 2050. By that time, one in three children born in 2000 will have diabetes if people don’t start adopting a healthier lifestyle–meaning healthier eating and more exercise. What’s even more frightening is that the CDC estimates 70 million Americans are currently overweight, including one out of four children!
What exactly do we mean by “overweight”? That’s a tricky question. I’ll discuss it in the next chapter. The answer may surprise you.Always check with a physician before starting a food program, especially if you have had previous health risks.