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Usually, my rule of thumb is the phrase, “Never say never.” By that, I mean that you don’t need to ban any particular food from your diet. You just need to eat some foods rarely, and then sparingly. As with the exercise plan, however, every rule has an exception. For the next two weeks, you will say “never” to many foods. When you are looking for extreme results, you must make extreme sacrifices. In order to get the results you seek, you must strictly adhere to the following A, B, C, D, E, and F of nutrition.
You may have read that alcohol is good for your heart and that it reduces blood cholesterol levels. That doesn’t make it good for your waistline. A standard mixed drink contains 100 to 250 calories. That’s only the half of it. Most people eat more when they drink. So while you may think that you can compensate for your glass of wine by eating less for dinner, it rarely works out that way. Often alcohol makes you crave the very foods you are trying to avoid. Why drink something that will erode your willpower? Your body also processes alcohol differently from the way it does other carbs. That’s right, alcohol is a carb. Made from fermented wheat, barley, grapes, or some other carbohydrate ingredient, alcohol contains more sugar than most people bargain for. Yet, your body treats alcohol differently from the way it treats sugar. First of all, alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, compared to 4 calories per gram in most carbs. Your body treats alcohol as a toxin, so your liver processes alcohol calories before all others in an attempt to clean the toxins from your bloodstream. As other calories wait on line, your body senses a rise in calories and shuttles many of them into your fat cells, which is exactly what you don’t want. Alcohol is the absolute worst drink you can have when you are putting your body in a carb-deprived state. It will make you crave carbs. Think about the foods you tend to eat not only while you are drinking, but also the day after drinking. Alcohol almost always starts off a carb binge. For all these reasons and more, alcohol is on the “do not eat or drink” list. Stay off it for two weeks. There are no exceptions. No wine, no beer, no coolers. No cheating. In the maintenance chapter, you’ll learn how to bring alcohol back onto your menu, but I’ll tell you right now, you’ll want to minimize your drinking for the rest of your life in order to maintain your results. You might as well get used to that idea right now.
If you generally need alcohol to unwind or blow off steam, find another outlet for your emotions—such as a hard cardio sculpting workout. Before you put the book down and start heading for the door, relax and sit tight. I realize that this all-or-nothing approach to alcohol may not be very realistic. Even my mother likes a little glass of champagne (rosé preferably) every now and again. I’ll make a deal with you. You give me two weeks of no alcohol, and I’ll give you some tips in the maintenance chapter on how to drink more healthfully.
The last time you ate at an Italian restaurant, were you able to hold yourself to just one piece of bread from the bread basket? Few people ever do. Bread is one of the biggest binge starters around. It’s filled with empty carbs that spike your blood sugar, sending your body into fat storage mode and increasing your sensations of hunger. In short, bread is empty, wasted calories. Most types of bread really pack on the calories. For example, most bagels contain more than 400 calories. Just one slice of white bread contains 100 calories. I am also throwing crackers (regular and fat free) in the forbidden Bs. They deceptively pack a mean punch of carbohydrates and often sodium and, usually, trans fats. On the maintenance plan in Chapter 7, you’ll learn how to bring certain types of bread back into your life.
Carrots, potatoes, rice, pasta, and corn all contain high amounts of carbohydrates and rank high or relatively high on the glycemic index. For the next two weeks, you’ll be cutting all starchy carbs out of your diet, including high-fiber, whole grain carbs such as brown rice and quinoa. In the maintenance program in Chapter 7, you’ll learn which starchy carbs are safe to reintroduce to your diet and which ones are not. Being of eastern European descent (that’s meat and potato country), this restriction is often the hardest for me to adhere to. Not a solitary meal that Grandma prepared was devoid of starchy carbohydrates in the form of kugel, pancakes, or mashed potatoes. I will tell you this with complete certainty: Eating a meal without the starches will leave you feeling sated but light, alert, and without the typical tummy bloating that those starches often bring. Of course, it took my entire freshman year of college for me to attribute the pains in my stomach to excessive carbohydrate consumption. Once realized, it was smooth sailing and a two-size reduction in my jeans.
Many people don’t realize that dairy products contain high amounts of a sugar called lactose. Not only that, but most people are sensitive to this sugar and can’t digest it well. It leads to bloating, which is the last thing you want when you want to look your best. On the other hand, dairy products are high in the mineral calcium, which is an important component of fat burning. To make sure you consume enough calcium in your diet over the next two weeks, you’ll take a calcium supplement and consume nondairy sources of calcium such as broccoli, almonds, and sardines. (I love fresh sardines. When you’re in New York City, you’ll have to try the fresh grilled sardines at Da Silvano. Silvano’s has the most artful touch with fresh sardines!)
Any sweet food can lead to carbohydrate cravings, including sugar substitutes. On the Ultimate New York Body Plan, you will avoid all sources of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and sugar substitutes. That means no fruit juice, no diet or regular soda, no artificial sweeteners, no honey, and no molasses. If you crave a sweet taste, then try an herbal tea such as one with peppermint or vanilla flavor.
WHY I DON’T BELIEVE IN SUGAR SUBSTITUTES
Some diets encourage you to use sugar substitutes and drink diet soda. I don’t. For one, I don’t believe in fake food. If the ingredient label contains a list of words I can’t pronounce or define, I don’t eat that food. This is especially true with sugar substitutes such as sorbitol, saccharin, and aspartame. Eating fake sugar will forever keep you dependent on the taste of sweetness. You’ll never be able to wean yourself off your carb cravings. Worse, some research indicates that sugar substitutes create the same surge in insulin, the fat storage hormone, as the real thing.
A recent client of mine couldn’t understand why she was putting on weight. It become abundantly clear to me as we spoke that she was consuming too much fruit. Remember, if some is good, more is not necessarily better. You might be thinking, “Fruit is good for me. It’s good for my heart. Why cut out fruit?” Fruit, my friend, contains high amounts of fructose, a sugar, and more calories than you need when you are trying to sculpt the best body of your life. In the maintenance chapter (Chapter 7), you will learn which fruits can be reintroduced into your diet. As for fat, you’ll be nearly eliminating the artery-clogging saturated and trans fats and focusing exclusively on certain types of unsaturated fats. You’ll eat no red meat, pork, bacon, or other types of fatty meats. Instead, all your protein will be lean: skinless chicken breast, egg whites, fresh roasted turkey breast, turkey bacon, wild salmon, fresh tuna, halibut, and striped bass, to name a few. You’ll eat no processed foods, including any of the plethora of low-carb products that are now stacked on your supermarket shelves. These foods are not regulated by the FDA, and many of them contain more carbs than you bargain for. Nuts are good and satisfying, and the Ultimate Body Plan prescribes 7 to 10 raw almonds a day. Not only will you be getting a great supply of fiber (which will help keep you regular), but almonds have a higher concentration of vitamin E than any other food. You can also use up to a teaspoon of olive oil a day, as a dressing for your salad. For these two weeks, you will stay away from additional unsaturated fats such as avocados, olives, peanut butter, and egg yolks. Although all these foods are healthy, they all contain high amounts of calories. In addition to staying away from the banned foods I have named, you also will be making your own meals for the next two weeks. That means brownbagging it to work, cooking dinner, and making breakfast. Cooking your own food is the surest way to guarantee that your food complies with your nutrition plan. That’s not to say that if you aren’t able to prepare your own meals, the program will not work for you. The best-case scenario is, of course, doing it yourself. If you must eat out, be mindful of how and why you are eating, and you will be able to eat out intelligently and safely. Finally, I recommend you give up any flavored beverage, including diet soda, and switch to water. Water has no calories and can be quite filling. Make sure to drink one or two glasses before each meal. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime for flavor. Or try an herbal tea. One final note—and I know you’re not going to be happy—with respect to coffee. As much as I know that you love that morning jolt, it may be doing some not so beneficial things to your body. The caffeine in coffee raises the cortisol levels in your blood, causing your insulin to rise and your blood sugar to spike. This is not a good thing and may actually cause you to store body fat. Switching to green tea may just be the answer. Green tea contains enough caffeine to wake you up, but not so much that it spikes cortisol levels. It also delivers a healthy dose of anticarcinogenic polyphenols, which, science shows, boost metabolism.