By December 1, 2011

The Flat Belly Diet

Belly fat is some of the hardest extra weight to get rid of, and the” Flat Belly Diet” promises to eliminate 15 of those stubborn pounds in just 32 days. Authors of this practical, fact-filled book have impressive credentials: Liz Vaccariello is the editor-in-chief of “Prevention” magazine; and Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD is the magazine’s former nutrition director. Some reasons people look specifically for diets that work on belly fat is that this type of fat becomes more common with age and has been associated with increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic illnesses.

At its heart, the Flat Belly Diet is a 1,600 calories-a-day, heart-healthy Mediterranean eating plan, stressing consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, lean protein, and a very minimal amount of red meat. However, this diet gets its extra weight loss whammy through stressing the addition of a monounsaturated fat (MUFA) to each meal. Sources of MUFAs include nuts, olives, avocados, seeds, soybean flax, dark chocolate, and sunflower and olive oils. Though MUFAs are generally high in calories, they are also very filling, leading to a long-lasting feeling of satiety.

Prior to launching into the nuts and bolts of the diet, Vaccariello and Sass outline the differences between subcutaneous and visceral body fat. Subcutaneous fat is that located underneath the skin, while visceral is the more dangerous interior fat surrounding the body’s organs. Consumption of MUFAs is one important part of shedding this type of fat. Other helpful lifestyle changes include increased exercise, decrease in consumption of refined carbohydrates like sugar, and limited alcohol intake.

Dieters start the program with four days of eating 1,200 to 1,400 calories daily, a way to jump start the body into eating less and more healthfully, as well as getting rid of some bloat quickly. The quick few pounds lost are also encouraging to dieters, getting the program off to a positive start. During this detoxifying period, two liters of a spice, herb and citrus cocktail called “sassy water” is consumed daily.

Once the four anti-bloat days are successfully completed, the Flat Belly Diet starts in earnest, requiring the dieter to eat four 400-calorie meals a day spaced four hours apart, each including a MUFA. By eating four meals a day rather than the usual three, the metabolism stays revved and there is less likelihood of blood sugar dipping. Not only does the scheduling and low calorie count of meals help dieters reach their target weight loss, but also helps develop such good nutritional habits as eating breakfast and not skipping meals.

The meals themselves are high-fiber, resulting in a full feeling between meals due to slow digestion. Another important component of the Flat Belly Diet is the stress on eating all natural foods and whole grains, as studies have shown that processed foods and artificial ingredients can cause a greater weight gain than natural foods even if both have the same calorie count. Rather than stringently counting calories, the plan calls for adherence to a list of 28 breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks tailored to the nutritional and caloric requirements of the diet. Dieters are also asked to keep a food and hunger journal for the first 30 days, a practice that has been shown to assist weight loss by increasing awareness of what is going into the body. The book contains eighty recipes and complete nutritional information on each.

It is commonly known that exercise is an important component of weight loss, and the Flat Belly Diet includes a comprehensive chapter detailing exercises and walking plans. Though the diet is structured to last 32 days, the good habits of healthy eating, weight control and regular exercise will promote a healthier lifestyle that can last far beyond the brief scope of the diet.