By David Zinczenko
“I can’t do this. I can’t face another diet.”
“Every year, I starve myself for months, I lose maybe five pounds, and by springtime it all comes back, ” she complained. “What’s the point? I’m just destined to be overweight.”
I understood how she felt. Obesity shortened my own father’s life, and for most of my childhood I struggled with an extra 25 pounds as well. I figured it was my genetic destiny to be fat, too.
But then I got sick and tired of being sick and tired, and since then, I’ve made it my life’s work to learn everything there is to know about belly fat. But nothing in my 20 years of health journalism has prepared me for the groundbreaking research that has emerged in just the last year—new science that shows exactly how we can turn off our fat genes and lose weight almost automatically.
“What would you say if I told you that you didn’t need to go on a diet for months or even weeks?” I asked Kim. “What if you could lose much of that belly in just 14 days?”
That’s exactly what happened when last summer I shared Zero Belly Diet with a test panel of more than 500 people, some of whom lost as much as 16 pounds in just 14 days, and up to 3 inches off their waist.
The secret to Zero Belly Diet is the new science of nutritional genetics, the study of how our genes are turned on and off by the foods we eat. Simply making a handful of tweaks to your diet and lifestyle can help improve your gut health, dampen inflammation, turn off your fat genes and start your body shedding fat—in particular, the fat belly—almost automatically.
Zero Belly Diet panelist Martha Chesler did just this as part of her Zero Belly program, and the results were astonishing. “I saw changes immediately, ” she reports. In less than six weeks on the program, Martha dropped over 20 pounds and an astonishing 7 inches from her middle by combining the Zero Belly Foods with a pre-breakfast walk.
This easy a.m. ritual works on two levels. First, a recent study found that exposure to sunlight in between the hours of 8 am and noon reduced your risk of weight gain regardless of activity level, caloric intake, or age. Researchers speculate that the morning light synchronizes your metabolism and undercuts your fat genes. And burning calories before you eat means you’re exercising in a fasted state—the energy you burn comes right from your fat stores, instead of the food you ate. But what really stunned Martha was the improvement in her heart health. Before starting Zero Belly Diet, Martha’s heart rate would typically soar to 112 beats per minute (bpm) within moments of starting her exercise bike workout. “After the first week and a half I could not raise my heart rate over 96 bpm with the same workout. It was great to see change in the mirror, and even better to know good things were happening that I couldn’t even see.”
Naturally sweet oatmeal recipes in Zero Belly Diet were the key to test panelist Isabel Fiolek’s dramatic 13-pound weight loss. “I happen to have a big sugar addiction, ” Isabel admits, “But the recipes have been surprisingly satisfying for my sweet tooth.” Isabel also made dramatic health strides: A checkup after her six weeks on Zero Belly Diet revealed she’d dropped her total cholesterol by 25 percent and her blood glucose level by 10 percent.
So cook up some oatmeal—try making overnight oats, if you're short on time in the morning—and top it with some fruit. What’s so magical about this combination? Each provides insoluble fiber that helps reduce blood cholesterol and feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut. By doing so, you trigger your gut to produce butyrate, a fatty acid that reduces fat-causing inflammation throughout your body. In a Canadian study, researchers discovered that those whose diets were supplemented with insoluble fiber had higher levels of ghrelin—a hormone that controls hunger.
It's the best fruit for weight loss. That means Pink Lady over Granny Smith, watermelon over honeydew, red grapes over green ones. The higher levels of nutrients called flavonoids—particularly anthocyanins, compounds that give red fruits their color—calm the action of fat-storage genes. In fact, red-bellied stone fruits like plums boast phenolic compounds that have been shown to modulate the expression of fat genes.
For test panelist June Caron, incorporating fresh produce like avocados was a life-changing lesson from Zero Belly Diet. The 55 year-old lost 6 pounds in the first week on the program. “Learning to eat real, chemical free, fresh foods has been the best thing that ever happened to me. I am never hungry. And the weight just keeps coming off!” Glowing skin, healthy nails and better sleep were Zero Belly bonuses, June said. “I’m well on my way to getting my sexy back. Everyone says I look much younger!”
Avocados are a double-whammy to belly fat. First, they’re packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that dim your hunger switches; a study in Nutrition Journal found that participants who ate half a fresh avocado with lunch reported a 40 percent decreased desire to eat for hours afterwards. Second, unsaturated fats like those found in avocados seem to prevent the storage of belly fat.
Test panelist Bryan Wilson, a 29-year-old accountant, lost 19 pounds and an astounding 6 inches from his waist in just six weeks on the program, and he attributes his success to the Zero Belly shake recipes in the program. "I love the shakes. I added them to my diet, and almost immediately I lost the bloat, ” Bryan said. "I'm a sweet craver, and the shakes were an awesome alternative to bowls and bowls of ice cream I would have had."
Protein drinks are great ways to get a monster dose of belly-busting nutrition into a delicious, simple snack. But most commercial protein shakes are filled with unpronounceable chemicals that can upset our gut health and cause inflammation and bloat. And the high doses of whey used to boost protein levels can amplify the belly-bloating effect. The Zero Belly solution: Try vegan protein, which will give you the same fat-burning, hunger-squelching, muscle-building benefits, without the bloat.