A New Plan For Weight Loss

January 10, 2014 at 8:00 am , by

We were skeptical at first when we heard that Rick Warren, D.Min., founder of the Saddleback Church in California and author of The Purpose Driven Life, was writing a diet book. Really? A weight-loss program based on religion? But when we got a copy of The Daniel Plan, he hooked us on page 1 with his candor and humor. In fact, the first three words of the book are: “Wow! Everybody’s FAT!”

You see, a few years ago, Warren had a eureka moment when he was baptizing members of his church and noticed that the majority of them were, well, obese—and so was he. That baptism was a wake-up call to the health issues in his own life and to those of his parishioners. So he teamed up with Daniel Amen, M.D., and Mark Hyman, M.D., two of the top doctors in the country, to create The Daniel Plan.

From left to right: Dr. Amen, Maggie, Julie, Pastor Warren and Dr. Hyman.

Warren got 12,000 of his church members involved, and in their first year of following the program, they lost more than 250,000 pounds! But when his son Matthew committed suicide last year, Warren stopped making healthy choices and gained back half of the 65 pounds he initially lost.

Yet relapse is part of recovery, he says. After grieving for Matthew, Warren got back on the plan—and re-lost 30 pounds. He knows what it’s like to be overweight and discouraged, so he made sure his plan is realistic, relatable and doable.

Our health director Julie and I met with Warren (second from right in the photo) and his co-authors to talk about The Daniel Plan. As the three told us (sometimes all talking at once, they were so excited), it’s not a diet but rather a prescription for living a healthy, happy life. The plan incorporates five factors: faith, food, fitness, focus and friends. Here, a few of the basics:

1. Faith
There’s nothing preachy here! For many people, faith is about religion. But it doesn’t have to be. The faith factor refers to your motivation for getting healthy, says Warren, and it’s essential for everyone, regardless of religious beliefs. Faith can simply mean wanting a better quality of life. Identify what motivates you—and use it to get healthy.

2. Food
Eat real, whole foods as much as you can. “It’s all about learning to love foods that love you back,” says Warren. The Daniel Plan plate is half non-starchy vegetables, 25 percent lean proteins and 25 percent whole grains or starchy vegetables. Add a side of low-glycemic fruit and drink water or herbal tea. Eat this way most of the time—but remember it’s a learning process and be gentle on yourself when you slip up.

3. Fitness
Make exercise fun! Don’t worry about what other people are doing—choose activities that you enjoy. Try to fit in 20 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise, three to five days a week.

4. Focus
Change the way you think about food and about yourself. Dr. Amen suggests writing down your automatic negative thoughts, such as “I’m weak” or “I’m fat.” The more you repeat these thoughts to yourself, the more you believe them. “Writing them down gets them out of your head and forces you to question your erroneous beliefs,” he says.

5. Friends
Find a buddy or start a group—with your family, friends, coworkers, church. “The secret to living healthy is people loving each other in a community, and helping and encouraging each other,” says Dr. Hyman.

In Defense of Decadent Holiday Foods

March 27, 2013 at 3:07 pm , by

We’ve seen quite a few stories this week offering tips for sticking with your diet during the spring holidays. But doesn’t that defeat the purpose? Easter and Passover are all about family time, fun and most importantly, food. Worrying about your waistline at Easter dinner or beating yourself up over indulging in a chocolate bunny can totally ruin it. “Food is intertwined in tradition and celebration, and that’s totally okay,” says Sally Kuzemchak, R.D., and frequent LHJ contributor. “It’s important to acknowledge these are special foods that mean something to us, and it’s good to enjoy them.”

Yes, exactly. We say forget the guilt and go for it (with some moderation, of course). Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your indulgences this week.

Savor your favorites. If you look forward to your sister-in-law’s famously rich macaroni and cheese on Easter every year, why change it? “I am not a fan of lightening up traditional foods or favorite family recipes,” Kuzemchak says. “Enjoy your favorites, but get back to your usual eating habits the next day.”

Save yourself for the right dessert. Eating too many Cadbury eggs or handfuls of jelly beans can make you feel gross and tired rather than satisfied. “Instead of pillaging the bowl of pastel M&M’s, save it for the homemade pie or allow yourself a good dark chocolate bar,” Kuzemchak says.

Drink to your health. ‘Tis the season for Manischewitz! If you indulged in the traditional four glasses at your family’s Seder, worry not. It’s just one day out of the year. “There are antioxidants in wine,” says Kuzemchak. “But moderate drinkers get the most benefits.”

Photo copyright Oksana2010,

3 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Eat Halloween Candy

October 31, 2012 at 11:49 am , by

How can you avoid over-treating yourself when sugary, chocolate-y temptation is everywhere? Before you reach for the candy bowl, try talking yourself out of the splurge. Ask yourself the questions below and you may find those treats are easier to resist than you think.

Do I absolutely have to have this? If the candy isn’t one your favorites it’s not really worth eating, is it? Take a minute to look at the big picture. You’re going to have so many more opportunities to eat treats during the upcoming holiday food fest: homemade stuffing, your mom’s pumpkin pie, and so on. Wouldn’t you rather eat healthy now and spend the extra calories and fat on special indulgences like those? You can buy candy all year round—there’s no “need” to eat it now.

Can I limit myself to just a few pieces? Some people can eat a mini candy bar or two and feel content. For others, one or two quickly becomes five or ten. If you fall into the latter category, don’t tempt fate—it’s simply too easy to binge on the fun-size stuff. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that people consume more high-calorie treats when they’re in small packages than larger ones. The reason? They seem like “innocent pleasures.”

How much will I enjoy eating this candy? That seems like a stupid question—hello, candy is delicious! But keep in mind that it’s delicious for a matter of moments. The first few bites of any food taste the best; after that, the pleasure quotient gradually decreases. More isn’t better—for your waist or your taste buds.

 Image via Shutterstock

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Challenge Yourself to Shape Up

August 8, 2012 at 2:30 pm , by

The past two weeks we’ve watched in awe as thousands of athletes competed in everything from track & field to judo in London. But why just sit back and watch? The Olympics can be a great motivator to help you get in shape, too.

You don’t have to be an elite athlete to push yourself to new heights of better health. You may be surprised at what you can accomplish. That’s what happened to Terri Gerrard, pictured above (yes, both of those are her). We met her while we were working on our August issue story on sensible weight-loss secrets from LHJ readers.

My jaw dropped when Terri sent us her before and after pictures. But what really impressed me was why she chose to compete (in a bikini, on stage) in a figure competition. It’s a lot like bodybuilding, she says, except the judges focus on muscle tone rather than muscle size. Read on for how she made changes and how you can get started.

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How NOT To Lose Weight This Summer

June 27, 2012 at 8:00 am , by

You’d think that summer would be the easiest time to drop a few pounds. You’ll be more active! You’ll eat more fruits and vegetables! Your winter carb cravings are a thing of the past! You’ll probably slim down a little without even trying, right? Not necessarily. After all, summer comes with its own set of weight-loss saboteurs. Parties are a big one—eating a lot of hot dogs, hamburgers and mayo-heavy pasta and potato salads never made anybody’s shorts looser. The other waistline-wreckers aren’t quite so obvious. If you’re trying to de-flab this season, here are three things you definitely shouldn’t do:

1. Drink without thinking. We consume too many liquid calories all year long, but it’s particularly easy to go overboard on sugary beverages in the summer. For starters, you’re just plain thirstier than usual. Then there’s the variety factor. As the temperature rises, the selection of creamy iced coffee drinks, smoothies, slushes, ultra-sweet lemonades and iced teas gets wider (and they’re especially hard to resist when you’re parched.) And that’s just the non-alcoholic stuff! Don’t forget about those margaritas, daiquiris and pina coladas. It’s all basically dessert—and you need to start thinking of it that way. Consider the fact that a 12-oz frozen margarita has 675 calories. Starbucks’ venti java chip Frappuccino packs 580 calories. Even a bottle of Snapple lemonade has 190 calories—30 more than you’ll find in three Oreo cookies.

You don’t have to swear off sweet drinks completely. They do, however, have to be (very) occasional treats. When you need to cool off, your go-to picks should be water, unsweetened iced teas and coffees and other low- and no-calorie drinks. Hosting or attending a BBQ? Make lighter versions of your favorite alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

2. Tell yourself that more sweat = more calories burned. I really wish this one was true. If it was, I’d only need to exercise for about 5 minutes a day in the summertime. Unfortunately, you don’t melt any more fat when you work out in shirt-soaking heat than you would on a crisp fall day, so don’t assume you can get away with exercising less this season. Everyone perspires at their own rate—which is determined by age, sex, genes, weight and shape—so you can’t gauge the toughness of your workout by how drenching it is. A brisk 10-minute walk is enough to make some people perspire, while others are barely even dewy after a 40-minute run. Three things determine how many calories you burn during exercise: frequency, duration and intensity.

If it’s too hot and humid to get a sufficiently challenging workout outside, you can always fry plenty of calories indoors. Check out our do-anywhere “Get Slim Without The Gym” routine, which is just 25 minutes long. Or try a new workout DVD; our friends at Fitness rounded up the best picks of the year here.

3. Do a detoxifying juice cleanse. You might be a little tempted to try one now that we’re in swimsuit season, but seriously: you do not want to jump on this bandwagon. Would a cleanse help you drop a few pounds in time for next weekend’s pool party? Maybe, but it’s usually just water weight; you’ll gain it back once you start eating normally again. Will a cleanse make you cranky, tired, diarrhea-prone and really, really hungry? Probably. (So much for enjoying the pool party.) And you don’t need to “detox”—your organs already have that job covered.

That’s a whole lot of misery just to look a teeny bit smaller in your bathing suit. It’s a waste of money, too—those cleanses can be really pricey (one popular brand costs $65 a day!) If you want to look slimmer for an event, cutting out junk food and high-calorie drinks is a much healthier, cheaper and saner way to go.

Get-Fit Clicks

May 8, 2012 at 2:08 pm , by

* Here’s a trend you definitely want no part of: The latest calculations show that 42% of us will be obese and 11% will be severely obese by 2030. (WebMD)

* Clair Lomas of Britain just became the first paralyzed person to finish a marathon in a bionic suit. It took her 16 days but she did it! (MSNBC)

* Healthy cake—it exists, and it’s delicious. EatingWell shows you how to bake lighter versions of your faves. (EatingWell)

* Feeling unmotivated to exercise? Get pumped by watching these awe-inspiring fitness ads. (Fitness)

* We’re definitely setting our DVRs to record ABC’s 20/20 this Friday. “Losing It: The Big Fat Money Pit” will examine the $200 billion (and growing) weight-loss industry. It looks fascinating! (ABC)

Photo via Shutterstock

Get-Fit Clicks

April 24, 2012 at 11:35 am , by

* Our friends at Fitness show you how to burn 160 calories in 15 minutes using only a jump rope. Fast and cheap—that’s our kind of workout! (Fitness)

* If you get a really persistent junk food craving today, you can annihilate it in seconds by watching this video of a Russian caviar-eating contest. (Eater)

* One of the secrets of great abs? Changing up your tummy-toning routine regularly. With these seven options, you’ll be set for months. (FitSugar)

* Is your workout wardrobe a little too thin? Stock up at Puma’s big up-to-50-percent-off spring sale. (Deal News)

* Burger King’s new menu items seem healthy(ish)—until you see how the nutrition facts stack up. In terms of fat and calories, the salads aren’t much better than the burgers and fried chicken sandwiches! (HuffPo)

Image via Shutterstock