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Cut the fats to lose weight, nutrition researcher says

| Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Nutrition researcher Dr. Neal D. Barnard says the best way to kickstart weight loss is to skip meats and limit oils.

Barnard, a Washington, D.C., nutrition researcher maps out his path to shedding pounds quickly and safely in his latest book "21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart: Boost Metabolism, Lower Cholesterol, and Dramatically Improve Your Health" (Grand Central Life & Style, $25.99).

In it, he provides three weeks of recipes, nutrition information and cooking tips.

And, perhaps more importantly, he gives his suggestions on how weight watchers can boost their metabolism, lower their cholesterol levels and alleviate some nagging body pains by making adjustments to their diets.

"It's not just a weight-loss program," says Barnard, 57. "All of the program's side effects, if that's what you want to call them, are good for you."

He will host a seminar and book-signing Thursday at the Carnegie Library branch in Homewood.

Just last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture retooled its long-time food-group pyramid and presented a revised chart that decreased emphasis on meats and dairy products.

Barnard's approach mirrors some of the agency's new recommendations, calling for those who want to lose weight to eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans, while cutting out fatty meats and reducing their intake of oily foods.

The eating changes help the body's digestive process and boosts metabolism.

Barnard says individuals who want to lose weight need to understand the power of nutrition. The first step is to get out of a dietary rut and onto a better path for food.

Barnard says focusing on the short-term three-week goal allows individuals to build good food routines that will become good nutritional habits that will be continued.

The book teaches which foods trigger appetite and how to choose foods that ramp up metabolism. He also encourages including multivitamins in your diet.

"This combination of boosting your metabolism and capping your appetite makes weigh loss almost automatic," he says.

More than 37 percent of Pittsburgh-area residents are overweight, and an additional 28.2 percent are considered obese, according to the most recent data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also estimates that 9.5 percent of Pittsburgh residents are diabetic.

An adjunct associate professor of medicine at George Washington University School of Medicine, Barnard says individuals tested during the research of his book -- particularly those with diabetes -- experienced reduced cholesterol and blood pressure readings and less migraine pain when they "jump into a completely healthy diet for three weeks."

Barnard's regimen, he says, doesn't require calorie-counting or even exercise, though he doesn't discount the importance either.

"Exercise is a very good thing. But there are people who are unable to exercise because they're so overweight or they have heart problems," he says. "Exercise becomes more approachable when you change your diet."

Barnard offers the following tips:

A trial run : Assess what kinds of foods you already like that are made without animal products, then plan three weeks of meals around them once you feel ready. "To go all-vegan, all the time takes a commitment," Barnard says. "This way, people are allowed to give it a test drive."

Think globally : Italian, Asian and Latin restaurants all offer low-fat or no-cheese alternatives, such as lentil dishes and bean salads. Try them. "The choices in most other countries are very plentiful. You can have the flavor of Mexican food with rice and beans, without all the cheese and meat."

Steer clear of temptations: Encourage other people to eat with you, especially those who are aware you're changing your eating habits. "People who bring others in on their diet plans are less likely to cheat."

Change of scenery : Rearrange your refrigerator and food cabinets. Hiding unhealthier snacks and goodies or keeping them out of reach altogether, lessens the chances of falling off the wagon while you're dieting. "It's exactly the same philosophy we use for people who are trying to stop smoking. If you open the refrigerator door and don't see eggs or a block of cheese staring you in the face, you're not go to reach for them."

Additional Information:

Seminar and book signing

What: Dr. Neal Barnard details his three-week weight-loss immersion program and signs his new book, '21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart'

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Admission: Free

Where : Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, 7101 Hamilton Ave., Homewood

Details: 412-731-3080

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