Flat Belly Diet! Does It Fall Flat on Its Promises?
Flat Belly Diet!
What grabs your attention when looking for a diet to follow? Do phrases like no exercise required, fast weight loss, never feel hungry, easy to follow, guaranteed results, and no deprivation required come to mind? Most of the popular fad diets make these promises up front but end up reneging on them once you read the details of the diet. I have read the new diet book Flat Belly Diet! and will give you the pros and cons about this diet along with the facts about what the research says about successful weight loss.
The Flat Belly Diet! program promotes eating a reduced calorie diet that is high in monounsaturated fat (MUFA) in order to flatten your belly with no exercise required. The diet is 32 days long. It states that studies show that this is "just enough time to make any dietary change a lifestyle." I have not seen any studies stating this fact. Some people may find this to be the case, but the majority of the people whom I have worked with need much longer than 32 days to develop new eating habits. It's important to know that there is nothing wrong with needing more than 32 days to make changes to your diet.
The book begins with a detailed discussion about the two primary types of body fat: subcutaneous and visceral fat. The subcutaneous fat is the fat underneath your skin, and the visceral fat is the inner fat that surrounds your organs. There is no disputing the fact that visceral fat is the most dangerous one for our health. The error that this diet makes is stating that it's the most difficult fat to lose and that the only way to minimize it is to eat the right kind of fat. Visceral fat is actually easier to lose than subcutaneous fat and can be lost without any changes to your diet. In fact, studies have shown a reduction in visceral fat with moderate exercise and very little weight loss. Research shows that the ideal approach to decreasing visceral fat is to focus on increasing your activity level, decreasing your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates, consuming complex carbohydrates and lean meats in place of refined carbohydrates, limiting your intake of alcohol, and consuming polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in place of saturated and trans fats. Unfortunately, this diet only focuses on monounsaturated fats (MUFA).
Throughout the book there are stories about people who have been successful with this diet. Their weight loss and inches lost around their waist are mentioned, but their visceral fat changes are not discussed. The reason for this is that it takes very expensive tests to show changes in visceral fat levels. Therefore, there is no evidence about the kind of fat lost or how much muscle was lost with this diet.
Monounsaturated fats (MUFA) are the dietary foundation for this plan. The claim is that these fats will fill you up and reduce your belly fat. The first inaccuracy is the premise that dietary fat will fill you up. Numerous studies have shown that fat has no impact on satiety. The only nutrient that has been proven to increase satiety, and thus keep you full between meals, is protein. There is not one mention of this in this book. I can promise that without an adequate amount of protein in your meal, you will be hungry soon after eating. I have worked in the weight-loss field for over 10 years and find this to be one of the keys to my clients' staving off their hunger.
The emphasis on monounsaturated fats comes from one study that is cited in the book. It showed that a diet rich in monounsaturated fat can prevent weight gain in your belly. This study only had 11 people in it and compared the monounsaturated-fat diet to a high-carbohydrate and a high-fat diet for a period of only 28 days. A limitation to this study is that they did not differentiate among the kinds of carbohydrates consumed. As I previously mentioned, one of the goals for visceral-fat reduction is to consume a diet that is high in complex carbohydrates and low in sugar and refined carbohydrates.
The other limitation to this study is that they did not have anyone following a diet that was high in polyunsaturated fats. Research has shown that a diet high in the polyunsaturated omega-3 fats can decrease abdominal fat. Omega-3 fats have been receiving a lot of attention lately because of the positive impact they have on health. Omega-3 fats' health benefits include reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease and decreasing the symptoms of hypertension, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, joint pain and other rheumatoid problems, as well as certain skin ailments. The research has been so compelling that the American Heart Association now has recommendations for how much omega-3 fat we need to consume. For those who do not have any documented heart disease, the recommendation is to consume at least two servings of fatty fish each week. You can also use flaxseeds, canola oil, walnuts, laxseeds, and soybean oils as sources. For those who have heart disease, the recommendation is to consume 1 gram per day. Omega-3 fats are briefly mentioned in this book but are not emphasized as part of this diet. With the average American diet being too low in this essential fat, this is a grave limitation with this diet.