April 22, 2013 at 9:42 AM ET
Bob Harper, author of "The Skinny Rules," shares his formula for a skinnier you in "Jumpstart to Skinny." Here's an excerpt.
Take Control with Proper Proportions—40/40/20
It’s one thing to hand someone a tough battle plan and tell her to “just get going.”
It’s another to give her the tools to execute said plan and win the battle.
I want you to win.
That’s what this rule is about.
The 40/40/20 plan is the nutritional architecture of your Jumpstart eating regimen. And it is easy, especially since I’ve done all the work for you in my menus and recipes!
The 40/40/20 plan is my way of making sure you get the right amount of the three essential macronutrients in your diet: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Without them, you’d be in trouble. Without them in the right amounts, you’ll stay fat, and you’ll never get into that dress, tux, Speedo, or bikini. (Of course, you also need fiber, which is why I give you license to eat unlimited quantities of Jumpstart veggies.)
I’ve tinkered with this formula to get it right: I’ve tried different percentages, added, subtracted, split things up one week and then tried something new the next. In other words, I have been your guinea pig, and I know this is the formula that will work. Don’t make my effort for nothing—use what I’ve learned!
But I’ll back up a step and give you a macronutrient primer:
Protein is a dieter’s best friend. Not only does it help maintain muscle while you are losing fat, it can also prevent you from feeling hungry. Why? Because protein helps control blood sugar and insulin—two elements that, out of balance, can make you feel famished and craving all the wrong things. During your Jumpstart program, 40 percent of your calories will come from protein.
Carbohydrates—nature’s sugars—are the body’s fuel. We need them to keep our energy levels up, to keep our thinking sharp, and to replenish starved muscles. But carbohydrates come in two different forms: simple and complex. I’m oversimplifying, but think of it this way: simple carbohydrates are found in fruits and vegetables (which, again, also give us needed fiber) and are, generally, “good.” Complex carbohydrates are what we find in processed starchy food—breads, baked goods, pastas, crackers, and potatoes. It’s not that complex carbohydrates are evil or that you can never have them again (you can!), but most people rely too heavily on carbohydrates of the complex variety, and don’t get enough simple ones! When we overload on the complex carbs, we wreak havoc on our systems.
If we can control our carb intake—if we use them rather than abuse them—we can push our body during exercise, and the carbs we have eaten will replenish our starved muscles. As with protein, you’re going to be eating 40 percent mostly simple carbohydrates (see Rule 3 about when you can have some complex ones) for the next three weeks.
In addition to simple carbs and complex carbs, there’s one more vocabulary word I need to explain here, folks: net carbs. Net carbs refers to the amount of carbohydrates in the food after you have considered the way in which the fiber in that food offsets the carb number. A food like, say, blueberries, has 21 grams of carbs per cup, but 4 grams of fiber. So, to calculate the net carbs for a cup of blueberries, you subtract the grams of fiber from the carbs: that’s 17 net carbs! You’ll see in Part IV that I list the nutritional value of each recipe. When I list the carbs per serving, I’m talking about net carbs.
We also need fats—whether in the form of oils or solids. Fats help maintain the essential barriers around our cells, help keep our skin and various other tissues flexible, and provide a dense source of fuel—120 calories for every tablespoon! Fats are not “bad”—we just need to use the right ones the right way. If we do, we can reduce feelings of hunger and stay on the path to successful weight loss and an awesome big reveal body. Your Jumpstart diet will allow 20 percent fats.
In the daily menus in Part II (“The Jumpstart Day-by-Day Regimen”), I’ve already calculated your macronutrient diet as close to 40 percent protein, 40 percent carbs, and 20 percent fat as possible for each meal. (Remember that because the fiber in fruits and veggies brings their net carb number down, you may sometimes be getting far fewer than 40 percent carbs from my recipes. But I’m assuming you’ll be snacking on fruits and veggies all day long, so you’ll get your needed carbs over the course of the day.) Meaning: these proportions are already basically figured into each meal. All you have to do is fix the meal and eat it. No excuses.
So, this is easy math, right? Made easier because I’ve done the menu planning for you. These proportions—40/40/20—are the same ones I use when I’m getting ready for a cover shoot. These are the proportions my celebrity clients use to get red-carpet ready. And they’re the proportions you’re going to use for your own cover shoot. You’ll have an amazing, for-the-ages wedding album, a jealousy-inducing reunion photo, a bathing-beauty shot that your spouse just can’t stop looking at!
Screw the Math
Last time I checked, 40 plus 40 plus 20 equals 100. And 100 percent of anything is all there is, right? But wait! There’s some good news here: I’m going to give you some free calories above and beyond your 40/40/20 allotment. See page 37 for a list of Bob-approved Jumpstart veggies. You’ll see in Part II that you’ll have many of these vegetables daily, but feel free to add as many you want—more than I have called for!—to your meals. In fact, you’d be crazy not to. These are freebie calories—no need to think about your 40/40/20 proportion when you are eating them.
In addition to possibly satisfying your urge to just munch on something, these veggies will ensure you are getting lots of fiber. And more of the right kind of fiber means greater—and healthier—weight loss.
Cut back on calories. Then cut back again.
Brace yourself for the truth: for this diet to work on time (three weeks!), you should eat 800 calories a day if you’re female and 1,200 calories a day if you’re male.
Why did I say brace yourself? Most diet experts and motivators prefer to keep people in the dark about calorie restriction, but they all know the truth. They dress it up in pretty prose but never tell you the truth about the number of calories it takes (or doesn’t take) to meet your goals. I think you deserve my honesty. You’re an adult: you can take the truth in plain terms.
Are you miffed at me for being so hard on you? That’s OK. I can take it. Remember: I spend most of my time convincing ravenously hungry obese people not to eat! And, believe me, they’ve said some choice things to me about that.
But here’s what they usually say about it later: thanks, Bob, I needed that!
They, like you, get it: special circumstances call for aggressive measures. Jumpstart to Skinny is not a permanent regimen. But it is safe, and it will get you into that dress, Speedo, or bikini.
And that, if I remember right, is what this is all about for you. Keep your eyes on the prize.
Now, where do those numbers—800 for women, 1,200 for men—come from? In short, they come from years of experience with clients in your shoes. They come from years of my trying to be accommodating, sensitive, and empathetic when folks said things like, “Can’t you just give me a little more food?” or “Bob, can’t you let me have a tablespoon of peanut butter or something before bed? After all, protein is good for weight loss. Right, Bob?”
Yes, I tried to be compassionate, I tried to be Mr. Sympathy—and my clients didn’t meet their weight-loss goals.
There is just no way around it. You’ve got to ratchet your intake way down if you want a skinnier you.
All that said, it’s not just calories in, calories out that makes for weight loss. It’s also what’s in those calories that counts. That’s why—as you’ll see—I’m so specific about what you should eat and when you should eat it. The 800/1,200 model works. Trust my process, OK?
Or you could trust the science:
What you’ll be embarking on for the next three weeks is known as a very low-calorie diet, or VLCD in nutritionist terms. One conventional whack against very low-calorie diets concerns weight regain—what happens when you go off the aggressive regimen. A nation of diet relapsers tells us there’s no doubt that regain happens. We are not entirely sure why. But we do now know that regain is not an inevitable outcome of VLCDs.
As early as 1995, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine concluded that “just 7 days of caloric restriction can produce dramatic improvements in glycemic control; moreover, VLCDs produce greater improvements in glycemic control than more moderate diets, even if weight losses are the same.” With my added emphasis in italics, that means that better glycemic control means better weight control.
More recently, a giant and ongoing study in the European Union has been trying to connect the dots between success in losing weight and success in maintaining that loss. One of its interim findings, just published as I was writing this, concludes that “LCD (low calorie diet)-induced changes in BMI [and] fasting insulin . . . are inversely associated with weight regain in the 6-month period following weight loss.” In other words: the positive metabolic changes that the low-calorie diet induced made weight regain much less likely.
And another study, from Maastricht University in the Netherlands: “VLCD with active follow-up treatment seems to be one of the better treatment modalities related to long-term weight-maintenance success” (italics mine).
In other words, short-term very low-calorie dieting can produce a whole bunch of positive changes that will keep you from getting fat again. The trial is not over, and the jury is certainly not out. It’s still hearing evidence. But, again, the more I observe my own clients and the more I study, the more convinced I’ve become: in the short run, it’s the way to go. And right this moment, you’re in the short run. Eight hundred calories for women. Twelve hundred for men. Got it?
All of which means: at nine o’clock at night, when you’re dreaming about food and ruminating over this Jumpstart Rule, you’ll hate my guts!
But trust me: when you’re walking down the aisle, you’ll want to kiss me.
Oh yes, brothers and sisters, you will!
From the Book, JUMPSTART TO SKINNY by Bob Harper with Greg Critser. Copyright © 2013 by Bob Harper Enterprises. Reprinted by arrangement with Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.