The Flat Belly Diet By Liz Vaccariello (Rodale International Ltd £12.99)
Reviewed by Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD
A fat tummy isn’t just unsightly – it’s also dangerous, increasing the risk of heart disease and diabetes. This diet aims to help you lose weight specifically from your belly by including heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA’s) such as avocado, nuts, olive oil, seeds and dark chocolate with each meal.
The idea is based on a Spanish study published in the journal Diabetes Care in Spring 2007, which found that a diet rich in MUFA’s helped prevent weight gain around the tummy.
You start with a four-day Anti-Bloat Jumpstart that avoids salt, processed foods, wheat-based carbs, fried and spicy foods, fizzy drinks and caffeine and comes with mind tricks to help you beat comfort eating.
This is followed by a four-week Eating Plan, which includes four 400-calorie meals each day, with each containing a MUFA. You’re also advised to eat every 4 hours and there are two plans – one that’s full of quick and easy meals for people who have little time to spend in the kitchen and the other for budding Nigella’s who prefer to prepare home-made dishes.
There’s also an optional exercise plan that consists of cardio, strength and ab toning exercises.
How Much Weight will I Lose?
Up to 15lb in 32 days.
Breakfast: Blueberry Nut Oatmeal – ½ cup dry oats mixed with 1 cup of blueberries and 2tbsp cashew nuts (383 calories).
Lunch: Mediterranean wrap – 1 wholewheat wrap spread with 2tbsp black olive tapenade and filled with 2oz turkey pastrami, ¼ cup sliced red onion, ½ plum tomato and 3 large romaine lettuce leaves. Plus 1½ cups red grapes. (410 calories)
Dinner: Turkey pasta made from ½ cup broccoli and 1 cup plum tomatoes fried in 1tbsp extra virgin olive oil and tossed with fresh basil, 3oz browned minced turkey and ¼ cup cooked wholewheat penne. (404 calories)
Snack: ¼ cup hummus sprinkled with 2tbsp pine nuts and 1 cup red pepper slices. (331 calories)
What Else Does the Book Include?
You’ll find detailed information on the different types of fat in the body and the health problems associated with them, together with information on how to measure the amount of body fat you actually have.
There’s also a good section on getting your mind in shape to help you lose those pounds, plus a four-week journal for you to complete. There’s a flat belly workout, which is based around three components: aerobic exercise to burn calories, strength training to build muscle and boost metabolism, and core-strength exercises to tone and tighten your mid section. There’s also an easy-to-follow 28 day workout plan. The book finishes with advice on what to do once you’ve complete the four-week diet and exercise plan.
It’s a bit gimmicky and the Anti-bloat jumpstart is simply a quick way to dramatically lower your calorie intake without you realising. But after this, the diet is based on healthy eating guidelines and a reduced-calorie intake of around 1,600 calories a day.
As a result, it will definitely help most people lose weight and will get them into healthier eating habits. It’s also good to see that exercise is included. However, the suggested weight loss of 32lb in just one month seems extreme for the modest calorie restriction that’s recommended. Most people are more likely to lose 10-12lb in total.
There’s only limited evidence that MUFA’s reduce belly fat – in fact, the theory for this book is based on a study of just 11 volunteers – so it really does need to be taken with a pinch of salt. In reality, any weight loss is more likely to be the result of the reduced-calorie intake. Foods rich in monounsaturates are also likely to be high in calories so you still need to limit the amount you eat if you want to lose weight.
Finally, most nutrition experts continue to agree it’s impossible to lose fat from just one part of your body. Specific tummy exercises will help to tone your midriff so that it perhaps looks leaner. But in practice, the reduced-calorie intake will help you lose weight from all over your body – and that’s no bad thing!
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