Whether it was one too many chocolates from Valentine’s Day, a few too many beers at the ball games, or just how well those sweaters hide your winter gut, you are not ready to put on that cute bikini you just bought for spring break. Here are some simple rules, gleaned from some of the most popular diet books just in time for the beach. The svelte wedding photos of Catherine Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, have made the Dukan diet popular, but before that there were Atkin’s, Sugar Busters, and The Schwarzbein Principle. All these diets stress eating low-fat proteins and limiting carbohydrates to lose weight. While low-fat, low-carbohydrate diets help you lose weight; if you don’t understand the science, you will quickly put the pounds back on and then some.
The Schwarzbein Principle does a great job of explaining how your body metabolizes protein, fat and sugars or carbohydrates, so that you can get thin, and stay thin. First, you need all three types of calories. If you completely remove carbs from your diet, you will become irritable and depressed. Your body uses carbohydrates not only for quick energy, but it is also a key to releasing serotonin, the happiness hormone. If you don’t eat enough high quality fats, your body won’t have the ingredients necessary to make the hormones that keep you happy and young. Protein is full of amino acids, the building blocks used to build your body. So while you can remove one type of calorie for a short time, it is bad for both your mind and body to completely remove one type of calorie for a long time.
How should you start? Dukan recommends starting with 3 or 4 days of protein only. This helps your body break its addiction to sugar; you will likely actually feel a little jittery—if you feel a lot jittery see a doctor. This means eating lean meats, eggs and low-fat dairy products exclusively for a few day. Fried or scrambled eggs—use a light spray of cooking oil, or hard boiled eggs for breakfast, low-fat cottage cheese— add hot sauce, a little Worcestershire sauce and chopped celery for flavor. Try unprocessed deli-meat, turkey or ham, a package of low-fat string cheese or smoked salmon for a lunch. For dinner eat a lean hamburger—no bun or flank steak, a grilled or baked skinless breast of chicken or fish. Do not let yourself get hungry. This is not a starvation diet; it is fine to eat 5 or 6 times a day. Try to walk, run or dance every day. It is not only good for you; it is great for your diet.
Drink lots of water or un-sweet tea try to limit artificial sweeteners. For a low fat dessert, try low-fat ricotta cheese with a little artificial sweetener, vanilla, unsweetened cocoa powder or cinnamon and nutmeg and a dash of salt. You can pretend you are eating ice cream. Add spices to your food; good tasting food is more satisfying. Also, raw celery chopped into cottage cheese adds texture and fiber, but few digestible calories; you can use a piece of lettuce like a wrap for the deli sliced turkey or ham, but don’t add mayonnaise, a little mustard is fine.
You will likely lose water weight very quickly, some of the bloat will leave your stomach, drinking plenty of water will actually accelerate this process. A quick note, when you go to your friend’s birthday party and totally blow this diet for an evening, then get on the scale and realize you gained 5 pounds over night; that is water weight too, not fat. A day or two of all protein will put you back on track; just don’t go carb crazy too often. Also, wine, beer and liquor are just fermented sugar; you must significantly limit or avoid them if you are going to lose weight. Avoid chips, white bread, processed rice and potatoes like the plague. The closer what you eat is to nature the better–eat fewer packaged or processed foods. Many people think that organic milks and cheese naturally taste sweeter. Chewing sugar free gum can help.
Once you are through the intense sugar craving phase of the diet, usually 3 or 4 days, you are ready to slowly add back other foods. If you can stick with the protein only until the cravings are gone, you will be able to walk by your favorite dessert without major anxiety and regret. A diet buddy can really help you stick with it. Please, don’t even think of telling fr-enemies you are dieting. They will take great pleasure slowly eating a brownie in front of you while are trying so hard to be good. A true friend will help and support you. And don’t worry about how fast you are losing weight, after the initial water weight is lost, it is normal to lose about 2 pounds a week. Two pounds of fat is a whole lot. If you are losing much more than that, you are losing bone and muscle. That isn’t healthy and will not help you get and stay slim.
Now here is the forever part of the diet. Eat more lean protein than fat or carbohydrate calories. Olive oil, small amounts of real butter and nuts are a good source of these fats, eat these in moderation. Eat plenty of raw and steamed brightly colored vegetables add a little salt or lemon juice to these for taste. Try steel-cut oats or old-fashioned oats—not quick-oats—simmered in skim milk with cinnamon and sweetener for breakfast, if you don’t want an egg or other lean meat. Multi-grain bread can be eaten in very limited quantities and some hummus as a vegetable dip. Limit salad dressings to 2 tbsp. If you toss your salad, a little dressing will cover a lot of lettuce. Balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil make a great low-fat dressing. Eat a limited amount of fruits and desserts, and drink a limited amount of alcohol; these are both full of the sugars that make you fat—the less of these you have the more quickly you will lose weight. It sounds strange, but your body takes excess sugar and adds insulin to it to make fat. If there are fat and sugar calories present that much more fat will be between you and your great bikini body.
One last thought, when we look at the really thin models in some ads, it is easy to feel fat. When you ask boys, they don’t think those girls look all that great. They like a few curves. A healthy diet and exercise will help you get and maintain a great, bikini body. You can follow this plan and not only be healthy, but happy—isn’t that what it’s all about?
(Quick warning: this is not suitable for anyone who has a medical condition or needs to lose a significant amount of weight, there is a good reason why doctors go to school for years, if you have any doubts or ever feel ill while dieting consult a professional.)