If you're one of the 127 million overweight Americans looking for a new approach to drop those extra pounds, dermatologist and best-selling author Dr. Nicholas Perricone may offer hope. In his new book, "The Perricone Weight-Loss Diet," the renowned skincare specialist writes the key to a successful weight-loss plan is simple: "Follow an anti-inflammatory lifestyle." Perricone was invited to discuss the book and his plan on “Today.” Here’s an excerpt.
GETTING STARTEDThe best way to predict the future is to invent it.–Alan Kay, computer genius/visionary
In writing this book, I have discovered that the greatest gift I can give my readers is permission to eat healthy and delicious food. This might seem strange considering this book is about weight loss, because traditional concepts of weight loss are all about not eating —nevertheless, it is a fact.
Statistics regarding obesity and excess weight are alarming. The International Obesity Task Force, which is advising the European Union, had estimated in 2003 that about 200 million of the 350 million adults living in what is now the European Union may be overweight or obese. The U.S. Census Bureau’s Census 2000 stated that nearly two-thirds of adults in the United States were overweight, and 30.5 percent were obese.
However, a closer evaluation of the figures in the latest analysis indicated that may be an underestimate.
We Americans (children and adults) are more confused than ever about what constitutes a healthy diet. According to statistics from the National Institutes of Health, the prevalence of obesity in the United States has almost doubled since 1980.
And for good reason. For the past several decades, we have been bombarded with all kinds of misinformation about what we should and should not eat or drink. As soon as one scientific study hits the newswires, another one with equally convincing yet contradictory data springs up. From books to videos we are assailed with confusing and opposing points of view from all kinds of experts and pseudo experts. Consequently, figuring out what to eat and what to avoid has become increasingly difficult.
The Perricone Weight-Loss Diet cuts through the confusion and provides a simple, foolproof eating plan that will improve your health, help to fight the signs of aging, help you to lose weight, and prevent new weight gain. It all begins with learning which foods make this possible and which foods defeat our purpose.
BUT FIRST, SOME HISTORYBack in the 1960s, the then-young baby boomers began a dietary “back to the land” revolution in protest of the post-World War II introduction of processed foods. In typical backlash fashion, everything this generation embraced had to be “whole,” “natural,” “fresh,” “unprocessed,” and grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers. This was the beginning of the health food movement, which is stronger and more powerful than ever, and finally after more than four decades, is becoming increasingly mainstream.
That was the good news. The bad news is that this was the last positive dietary trend we have seen. Ever since then, we have had one dangerous and poorly-thoughtout plan after another. In addition, fast food has now become a ubiquitous part of our landscape. According to Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, on any given day one out of four Americans has a meal from a fast-food restaurant.
The 1970s saw the introduction of the Atkins low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet. At first glance, the concept made sense; however, there were a number of serious and dangerous flaws (some since amended), among them an overabundance of saturated fats. The ’90s reintroduced this craze, slightly modified.
Perhaps the worst dietary craze belongs to the 1980s, which heralded the age of the no-fat diet. Supermarket shelves were flooded with high-glycemic carbohydrate foods, offering little in the way of nutrients, but plenty in the way of empty calories. These foods became dietary mainstays for many people, especially women, who found themselves indulging in snack foods such as reduced-fat “baked” potato and corn chips, and fat-free rice and corn cakes, cookies, pretzels, and crackers. Suddenly millions of Americans were placing themselves in a chronic inflammatory condition. Why? Because eating these foods provokes a pro-inflammatory rapid rise in blood sugar, resulting in elevated insulin levels.
Insulin is an important hormone that helps the body utilize blood sugar for energy or store it as glycogen or fat. But if the insulin is released too quickly, it has a pro-inflammatory effect (explored further in Chapter 2). After a rapid rise, there will be a precipitous drop in blood sugar, resulting in feelings of hunger, which can lead to a vicious cycle of overeating. This is why a diet centered on breads, baked goods, snack foods, sweets, and other sugary, starchy foods results in unwanted weight gain and great difficulty in losing weight. Ironically, in this instance, it is not the caloric value of the foods causing the weight gain. In fact, a rice cake only has around 40 calories. However, because it is rapidly converted to sugar in the bloodstream, resulting in the insulin release, it will cause you to store body fat. An insulin release can result in the storage of body fat.
Our goal in the Perricone Weight-Loss Diet is to learn how to recognize and avoid sugary and starchy foods, so that we maintain even levels of blood sugar and insulin. Recognize? Yes, because many foods that look healthful can contain added sugars, dangerous trans fats (more about these later), and an ingredient called high fructose corn syrup, which will defeat weight-loss goals and have a negative impact on overall health. By following the Perricone Weight-Loss Diet, you will be able to control your appetite, prevent overeating, stop cravings, and burn excess fat for energy.
KEEPING IT SIMPLESome scientists and researchers believe that many of the health problems of today are caused by our departure from the hunter-gatherer diet, which consisted of nuts, seeds, berries, wild greens, roots, fruits, fish, fowl, and game. This is a fascinating theory and I do agree with the premise that natural, unprocessed foods are always the best choices. To be healthy and maintain normal weight we need all of the food groups — but not those that come from the laboratory. Our protein source needs to be pure, fresh (when possible) wild fish and other seafood, and free range chicken and turkey that are hormone and antibiotic free. Our carbohydrates need to be fresh fruits and vegetables, preferably organic. And we need good fats, such as those found in salmon, sardines and other cold-water fish, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, and açaí (a Brazilian berry whose fatty-acid ratio resembles that of olive oil). These “good” fats will help us absorb nutrients from our vegetables and fruits, keep our cells supple, our skin glowing and wrinkle-free, our brains sharp, and our mood upbeat. We also need dietary fat to burn fat.
By upsetting the delicate balance with extreme fad diets and ridiculous concepts, whether it is no-carb or no-fat or whatever, we create ongoing physical and mental health problems, including obesity, accelerated aging, and wrinkling, sagging skin. It is no coincidence that the rise of antidepressants such as Prozac occurred during the nonfat food craze of the 1980s — after all, our brains are comprised mainly of fat, and when we starve our brains of valuable nutrients, we become depressed. Salmon, with its rich complement of essential fatty acids, has been shown to be an excellent treatment for depression. Some studies have shown that it is more effective than powerful drugs in treating depression — without the side effects (moderate regular exercise is also great for depression — especially when combined with the salmon-rich anti-inflammatory diet.)
Our goal is to strive for balance, and to use common sense when planning a meal. But how does it all really work? The next several chapters will explain the science behind my revolutionary concepts, and how you can make them work for you.
Excerpted from, "The Perricone Weight-Loss Diet." Copyright 2005 by Dr. Nicholas Perricone. Reprinted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. For more information you can visit: