It’s not just women who struggle to keep their bellies flat. Men and women gain weight in different places, and men are actually more prone to packing on the pounds around the waist. In “Flat Belly Diet! For Men,” Prevention editor-in-chief Liz Vaccariello and D. Milton Stokes, MPH, RD, offer a diet and fitness plan specifically for men who want to shed weight around the midsection. Here is an excerpt from chapter one.
‘Flat Belly Diet! For Men:’ Chapter 1
It all starts with a few extra pounds around the waist. Next thing you know, you’re trading up for a larger pair of pants, then suddenly your paunch is hanging over your new, bigger pants.
While this scenario might ring true for both men and women, the bad news for you guys is that it’s more likely to happen to you. Yes, it’s true. Men and women tend to put on excess weight differently, with guys being more prone to packing on the pounds around the waist.
Around 70 percent of American men are overweight or obese, and a lot of this excess flab is found on or around the belly. Some scientists describe people with these love handles and belly fat as “apple shaped.” Women, on the other hand, are often more “pear shaped,” with a tendency to gain weight around their hips, thighs, and buttocks.
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Having a spare tire can not only be bad for self-esteem — even if many men deny that they care — it also comes with serious health risks. Before we delve into how to flatten those abs, though, we need to take a closer look at this thing we’re calling belly fat. All belly fat is not created equal; there are different kinds that can have different effects on your health.
Belly fat: The real deal
There are actually two types of “belly fat” that can accumulate around your waist: subcutaneous and visceral. Subcutaneous fat, most simply and unscientifically put, is the fat you can see, the stuff you can actually grab. Subcutaneous means “beneath” (sub) “the skin” (cutaneous), so this easy-to-see fat is found all over the body — from your belly to the tips of your fingers.
Your body does need a moderate amount of subcutaneous fat to provide things such as energy and insulation during colder months. But having too much of it can be a visible sign that a person is overweight or obese, both of which are known to raise the risk for many diseases including heart disease, stroke, metabolic syndrome, certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and sleep apnea.
The second type of fat is the more harmful kind. Visceral fat is found deep within the torso, and although some visceral fat is needed to protect the organs around the abdomen, too much can lead to big trouble. In fact, because of its proximity to your kidneys, heart, liver, and other organs, excess visceral fat can raise your risk of all sorts of diseases, from heart disease and diabetes to cancer and Alzheimer’s. It’s sometimes referred to as “hidden” belly fat because you can’t see it from the outside, but I prefer the term “deadly” fat.Video: Getting rid of belly fat
Here’s the catch though: Cutting calories and upping your gym workouts doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll lose a lot of visceral fat. And it’s also possible to be “skinny fat” — to be relatively thin and still have too much visceral fat to be considered “healthy.” It’s enough to drive any guy nuts. The reality is that there’s only one way to eat to minimize both visceral and subcutaneous fat simultaneously. To combat these fats you need to regularly eat, yes, fat ... the right kind of fat, that is.
MUFAs: The powerful nutrient
Chances are you’ve heard of this fat-busting nutrient, or at the very least, you’ve eaten it. Monounsaturated fatty acids are found in oils, olives, nuts, and avocados, and we’ve known for decades that they have myriad health benefits. In fact, they are so popular they even have a nickname — MUFAs (pronounced MOO-fahs).
But it wasn’t until the spring of 2007 that we realized just how amazing these fats are. That was when Spanish researchers published a study in the journal Diabetes Care that showed that eating a diet rich in MUFAs can actually help stop weight gain around the gut.
The researchers looked at the effects of three diets — one high in saturated fat, another high in carbohydrates, and a third rich in MUFAs — on a group of patients with abdominal fat distribution, or, more simply, those with belly fat. All three diets had the same number of calories, but only the high-MUFA one was found to reduce the accumulation of belly fat, and, more specifically, visceral belly fat. This research showed that MUFAs are one of a kind, because no other nutrient has been found to aid ab flattening!
We used this science as the basis of the Flat Belly Diet, and that eating plan has helped — and continues to help — millions shed their belly fat. Now we’ve applied the same sound research to the Flat Belly Diet for Men. This is the only eating plan that helps you lose fat specifically in the belly, thanks to these powerful MUFAs.
According to a new Yale University Prevention Research Center Study, the Flat Belly Diet reduces dangerous visceral belly fat by an astonishing 33 percent. David L. Katz, MD, adjunct professor of public health and director of the Yale Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine explains, “This diet study is exceptional because it shows the plan not only significantly reduces weight overall, but abdominal fat in particular, including dangerous visceral fat. We also saw impressive reductions in cholesterol, blood pressure, inflammation, and insulin resistance.” The study participants, who followed the original Flat Belly Diet plan for 4 weeks, lost an average of 8.5 pounds, lowered their total cholesterol levels by more than 20 points, and reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings (by 8 points and 5 points, respectively). While the exact impact of these changes varies according to the individual, on average the Flat Belly Diet helped slash the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and arthritis by more than 50 percent!Video: Flatten your belly fast
You’ll see that ab-flattening MUFAs are an essential part of the meals and snacks in this diet. Chapter 3 expands on the incredible power of MUFAs, but first let’s take a closer look at how this unique plan works.
The Flat Belly Diet for Men plan
The Flat Belly Diet for Men is made up of two parts — the Four-Day Flat Abs Kickstart, followed by the Four-Week MUFA Meal Plan. The whole thing takes just 32 days, which studies show is enough time to make any dietary change a part of your everyday lifestyle. And don’t worry about the spare tire returning after the 32 days. Once you’ve mastered this program and watched your potbelly start to disappear, I will share the tools needed to keep your belly flat for life.
The four-day flat abs kickstart isn’t just about getting your body ready for flatter abs, it’s also about getting your mind in the game. This part of the plan will get you into the habit of following the program and mentally prepare you for the next phase. The Four-Day Kickstart includes a prescribed list of foods and drinks that will help flush out fluid and relieve digestive issues like wind and constipation. You’ll drink our signature Fire Water, which will help boost your metabolism, and eat healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Our initial test results were astonishing: One panelist — Neil — lost a whopping 7 pounds and a total of 8 inches from his body in just 4 days! He never dreamed it would be so easy. On average, the panelists lost 3.75 pounds and 2.91 inches during the Kickstart.
The four-week MUFA meal plan, the real focus of this book, begins the morning after you finish the Flat Abs Kickstart. Every day for 28 days you’ll enjoy three filling 400-calorie meals and two 400-calorie Power Snacks. Each meal and snack has just the right amount of MUFAs to help you flatten your abs and is chock-full of fiber and protein so you won’t feel hungry, grouchy, or tired throughout the program. It really doesn’t get any easier than this. There is no calorie counting, elimination of your favorite foods, or complicated rules. We picked 2,000 calories per day because that’s how much an adult man of average height, frame, size, and activity level needs to get down to his ideal body weight while maintaining strong muscles and high energy levels. Upon completion of the 4-week segment, our panelists lost an average of 13.35 pounds and 8.86 inches total — 2.81 inches from the abdominal area.
Customize your plan
For guys who don’t have time to cook or just don’t like cooking all that much, you’ll find 90 MUFA-packed quick-fix meals, organized by breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, in Chapter 7. Just choose three meals and two snacks a day and you’re done. That’s it! Chapter 8 is for days when you’re feeling more ambitious with your meals. It includes more than 50 recipes for fast and delicious meals, each of which has the right number of calories and MUFAs per serving. There’s even a grilling section in the chapter, which comes in handy for barbecue days, as well as easy-to-follow MUFA-related shopping and cooking tips. Don’t like one of the meals? No problem. All of the meals are interchangeable so you never have to eat anything you don’t like. Regardless of what meals you choose, you’ll have flatter abs in a month, guaranteed.
To make life even easier, you’ll see boxes called Fast Facts throughout the book. These boxes provide useful tidbits on fat, bulking up, weight loss, and general health, as well as quick tips and strategies. You’ll also see some boxes labeled Message from Milton. Milton wrote these to share his advice and insight about how to achieve success on this incredible plan. To give you a little motivation if you’re feeling discouraged, you’ll even find amazing success stories from men who participated in our Flat Belly Diet for Men test panel and have a smaller paunch and tighter abs to prove it!
But what makes the Flat Belly Diet for Men truly special is that you don’t need to exercise to reap the benefits. If you do exercise, you will certainly see results faster, and you will gain secondary benefits like improved cardiovascular health and stronger, more toned muscles. But you can still expect to shrink your belly — and lose both subcutaneous and visceral fat — by simply following the eating plan. I have always been a big believer in the phrase “small changes, big results.” To me, it’s more important that you do something to reduce your belly fat than it is to do everything, only to find that too many changes are difficult to maintain. If you do not already have a workout routine, incorporating a new way of eating into your lifestyle may be change enough for the first 32 days.
By the time you’re done with this program, you’ll not only feel fit and cut, but you’ll have better health, more energy, and (of course!) those six-pack abs!
What about exercise?
If you want to lose your belly fat and sculpt six-pack abs, exercise is going to get you there faster. I asked fitness expert Myatt Murphy, the author of “The Body You Want in the Time You Have,” “The Men’s Health Gym Bible,” and “Men’s Health Ultimate Dumbbell Guide,” to develop the exercise program in Chapter 9. This plan is doable, functional, and customizable to any fitness level, so even if it’s been a while (or forever) since you’ve pumped iron or broken a sweat, Myatt’s plan will get you in shape quickly and safely.
Excerpted with permission from “Flat Belly Diet for Men,” written by Liz Vaccariello with D. Milton Stokes, MPH, RD, and published by Rodale Inc.
Copyright© 2012 Rodale Inc.All rights reserved. No reproduction, transmission or display is permitted without the written permissions of Rodale Inc.