The Hidden Cause of Weight Gain
Leslie was at the end of her rope. She'd been to every doctor in the Los Angeles area, and nobody could help her. As it happens, her stepmother is Suzanne Somers, an expert in health, beauty and fitness. Suzanne knows all the gurus, besides being one herself. But none of them could fix Leslie's problem. Leslie was 40 pounds overweight. It didn't seem to matter whether she ate or not. She had this chronic bloating thing going on—in fact, she got more and more bloated as the day continued, no matter how little she ate.
I loved Leslie on the spot. She's adorable. And I was struck by how much she was already doing the right things—and how little any of them were helping her.
"What's going on, JJ?" Leslie asked me. At this point, she was beyond frustrated. "You've got to help me out, because nobody else has ever been able to."
I felt a lot of sympathy for Leslie, who was working so hard to lose weight—and with so little result. She exercised and was very careful about counting calories and controlling portions. But as I tell all of my clients, your body isn't a savings bank or a calorimeter. It's a chemistry lab. Counting calories and measuring portions just isn't enough. You have to know how your body is responding to the foods you eat. And Leslie's body was telling her that she wasn't eating right.
I suspected that Leslie's problems stemmed from food intolerance. She had been eating a high-FI diet for years, including all the supposedly healthy choices: eggs, tofu, whole-grain bread, whey protein shakes. She lived on diet sodas and cafe lattes with skim milk. Sometimes she'd treat herself to some corn chips and salsa. That made at least 6 of the 7 high-FI foods right there: eggs, soy, gluten, dairy, artificial sweeteners and corn. All she was missing was sugar and peanuts, and when she occasionally ate desserts or processed foods (which are often made with peanut oil), she was consuming those, too.
"Look," I told Leslie, as gently as I could, "you can be doing all the right things—exercise, careful eating, the works—but if you've built up a food intolerance or messed up your digestive tract, even the right things can't help you. Right now, your immune system is on high alert, and it's overreacting to many of the foods you eat. Until we get your immune system to chill out, you won't be able to lose weight."
Food intolerance is one of the most frustrating conditions I know. All of a sudden, you can't lose those extra pounds, even when you are eating and exercising exactly as you always have. Sometimes you might even be eating less and exercising more—and you still gain weight! How unfair is that?
The best way to get Leslie's immune system back on track was to cut out all 7 high-FI foods and increase her intake of low-FI foods. Once her immune system wasn't jumping into hyperalert and flooding her system with inflammatory chemicals, her digestive system would have a chance to heal. I also suggested my special Virgin Diet Shakes as a source of protein. Along with the healing foods and healing supplements I recommend, the Virgin Diet Shakes would help reverse inflammation, reducing all those "protective" chemicals that were causing Leslie's body to gain weight, aging her skin and hair and sapping her energy. In 7 days, I promised Leslie she would lose the bloat and look years younger. The Virgin Diet was the key.
In fact, that's exactly what happened. When I saw Leslie a few weeks later, she was so excited that her words kept tumbling over each other. "I've lost more than 10 pounds already, and I feel so hopeful about the other 30! Look at my skin. It hasn't looked this good in years! My friends keep asking if I was away on vacation. At work, they know I wasn't, so they've started a rumor about me having a new boyfriend. I can't believe how good I feel!"
I was so happy for my client because she had finally stopped accepting the weight gain, exhaustion and premature aging that she had come to believe was her lot in life. Instead, she was losing weight, feeling great and looking 10 years younger. Terrific was now her new normal. It can also be yours.
STOP COUNTING CALORIES
So, what's the first thing I'd like you to do on the Virgin Diet? I hope you're sitting down because my first piece of advice might shock you: stop counting calories.
That's right, I'm suggesting that you stop counting calories because your body is not a savings bank or a calorimeter. It's a chemistry lab. Although the total number of calories counts, it is only part of the story. The source of the calories matters far more. If your calories come from foods that are causing your body trouble, then it almost doesn't matter how much or how little you eat. Even moderate intake of problem foods sets up your body for weight gain. And as we've seen, those problem foods are not just cookies, cake and full-sugar soda. They include artificial sweeteners and diet sodas, low-fat yogurt, eggs, soy and whole grains.
NO MORE MODERATION
Now here's the key to the Virgin Diet: when it comes to weight loss and healthy eating, moderation doesn't work.
Why? Because weight gain among the nonobese is generally gradual, averaging almost a pound a year as the result of only moderate changes in diet and activity. Yes, if you binge for months on potato chips and ice cream, you're going to put on weight quickly. But that's not how most people gain weight. They continue eating their normal diet, with maybe just a tablespoon of butter here or a few extra cookies there. Before they know it, they've gained a pound a year, which adds up to 10 pounds in 10 years and 20 pounds in 20 years. It looks like age itself is the problem, but it's not. It's that pound a year that caused all the trouble.
In other words, the average 30-year-old who consumes a moderate caloric diet while eating the wrong foods will be 10 pounds heavier by age 40 for what may seem like no reason at all. And if at any point along the way that person tries to lose weight—usually by restricting calories—she's going to find it very difficult to lose weight, keep it off or both.
Why? Because, you guessed it, your body is not a bank account or a calorimeter. It is a chemistry lab. Eating the wrong foods affects your body's chemistry. Gaining weight affects your body's chemistry. Stress and lifestyle changes affect your body's chemistry. So, if you want to get that extra weight off, you have to heal your body's chemistry.
FOOD IS INFORMATION
Okay, so here's how I like to think of it: food isn't just calories or fat grams or even a source of energy, food is information. Each bite of food that you put into your mouth sends your body a message—maybe even several messages.
Some of these messages relate to your blood sugar and insulin production. Some of them govern your feelings of hunger and fullness. Others concern your fat burning and metabolism, and still others involve your hair, skin, mood and mental functioning.
This is why I say that not all calories are created equal. You might portion out a cookie, a hamburger and a serving of cauliflower so they all have the same number of calories, but each of those three foods is going to send your body very different messages. And it's the messages we care about, not just the calories.
Actually, it's not just what you eat that gives your body information. It's also how much you eat at one time, how fast you eat, what combinations you eat, how you feel while you are eating and even what you drink with what you eat. Every one of those things is important because each sends your body a message: burn fat or store it; build muscle or lose it; slow the aging process down or speed it up; create steady, sustained energy or crash and burn within the next couple hours. Don't worry if this sounds complicated: I have laid it all out for you. All you have to do is live by the Virgin Diet Plate and follow my rules of meal timing, and you will be golden. The Virgin Diet is designed to send only the right messages to your body—24/7 for 21 days. I'm betting that you'll like the feeling so much that you'll keep sending all the right messages for a long, long time after that.
FOOD ALLERGIES: RARE BUT DANGEROUS
Food allergies are actually rather rare, but they get all the bad press because they are responsible for the really dramatic food problems that we hear about, such as the child who takes one bite of a peanut and then has to be rushed to the hospital. Food allergies trigger special antibodies in the bloodstream known as immunoglobulin E, or IgE, the most aggressive defense system our bodies have. Among other chemicals, IgE antibodies release large amounts of histamine, a substance that causes swelling, mucus, congestion and all the other symptoms that you would normally modify with an antihistamine.
It's the swelling reaction that makes food allergies so dangerous. In severe cases, the throat and airways become so swollen that they cut off the air supply, making you unable to breathe.
Even without such deadly responses, however, aggressive IgE antibodies generally produce quick, dramatic reactions, appearing within minutes or even seconds after the offending food is consumed. Other allergic reactions include rashes, hives, itching, eczema, nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, shortness of breath and chest pain, as well as bloating, nausea, cramping and stomachache. Because much of our immune system is located in the gut, food allergies tend to wreak havoc with digestion.
Now, at this point, you might be thinking, But I don't have any of those symptoms, and I feel fine after I eat. If that's your response, terrific! You probably don't have any food allergies. Most people don't. But most people do have food intolerance, so let's take a closer look at that.
FOOD INTOLERANCE: COMMON AND PROBLEMATIC
Food intolerance is an umbrella term that covers three ways other than food allergies that things can go wrong: true intolerance, food sensitivities and food reactions.
Some people's bodies simply have trouble tolerating certain foods, such as gluten (found in many grains, pastas, baked goods and processed and prepared foods), lactose (found in dairy products) or MSG (monosodium glutamate, a form of salt used as a flavor enhancer in many processed and prepared foods). Usually, this is because the intolerant people are lacking a specific chemical or enzyme that they need to digest the food. This is simply a genetic problem, and there isn't much you can do about it except to avoid the foods. The good news is that on the Virgin Diet, you will avoid these difficult foods, which will make it easier for you to lose weight, look younger and feel healthier.
Like allergies, food sensitivities are a type of immune reaction, but they mobilize a different type of antibody than food allergies do—not IgE, but its cousin, immunoglobulin G, or IgG. These IgG antibodies produce symptoms, too, but they act more slowly than IgE antibodies. Whereas allergic reactions are swift, food sensitivity symptoms don't appear until several hours or even a few days after you've eaten, making it very difficult to link them to the problem food.
Here's another way in which allergic responses differ from sensitive ones: allergic responses are acute, whereas sensitivity responses are chronic. In other words, an allergy is a specific response: your immune system is activated, it flares up, it sends out its aggressive battery of IgE antibodies, and hopefully, it calms down. Food sensitivities, by contrast, can keep your immune system fired up on a chronic basis because you keep consuming the foods that set them off. If yogurt, eggs, soy milk and whole-wheat bread are a frequent part of your diet—and especially if you're eating them every day—your system is overwhelmed with problem foods, and your immune system never really calms down. This creates a number of problems, particularly inflammation, as I'll explain a bit later. But first, let's play food detective. Here are the typical symptoms of food sensitivity. Do any of them sound familiar to you?
* Digestive trouble, such as bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea
* Sleep issues, such as fatigue, insomnia or waking in the middle of the night
* Congestion, sneezing and coughing
* Muscle aches and joint pain
* Dark circles under your eyes
* Dull, lifeless hair
* Skin problems, including acne and rosacea
* Mood problems, such as lack of focus, brain fog, depression, anxiety or irritability
* Poor or unsteady energy
* Weight gain
* Premature aging
If you're struggling with any of these symptoms, you are almost certainly struggling with food sensitivities and perhaps with other types of food intolerance as well.
Food sensitivity is incredibly common. It affects at least 75 percent of us and is a major factor in weight gain and weight retention. Again, the good news is that the Virgin Diet will help you cope with your food sensitivities, first by pulling problem foods from your diet and then by healing your system so you might eventually be able to tolerate some of those foods.
When you load your body up with too many carbs or too much sugar, you're setting yourself up for blood sugar spikes and crashes. This in turn messes with your insulin response—your body's attempt to move sugar out of your blood and into your cells. Your insulin response works best when your blood sugar levels are nice and steady and in the ideal range. The Virgin Diet supports this process and helps you avoid food reactions by having you eat ideal amounts of clean, lean protein; healthy fats; nonstarchy veggies; and high- fiber, low-glycemic carbs every 4 to 6 hours. Yes, pulling the top 7 high-FI foods is important, but so is the timing of your meals and the combinations of foods you eat. Consuming something sweet or high-carb—a piece of cake, a handful of dried fruit or even a glass of orange juice—causes your blood sugar to spike and messes with your insulin response. As you'll see in Chapter 7, artificial sweeteners can also create adverse reactions. Anything that interferes with blood sugar and insulin response disrupts your stress hormones—all of which makes you more likely to gain and retain weight.
Excerpted from The Virgin Diet by JJ Virgin Copyright © 2000-2011 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited . Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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