Two of the biggest concerns most people have when it comes to their bodies is losing excess belly fat and getting flat abs. Most of us consider abs to be the markers of fitness, whether that’s true or not, and getting great abs is usually one of the top priorities of anyone that I speak with about fitness.
There are hundreds of diets, programs and books out there that claim to be the way to lose belly fat and get flat abs. They’re making a lot of money, but I have to tell you that I’m not a huge believer in diets. As a rule, I don’t believe that diets (as opposed to a healthy nutritional lifestyle) actually work.
Most diets are based on calorie counting and the principle of calories in/calories out. That has some merit, though it’s not the entire solution to weight loss. However, counting calories is time-consuming, frustrating and largely inaccurate. Most people under-report their calorie consumption by an average of 30%. Even those that do track calories accurately get so fed up with the tedium of the math that they end up going off the diet.
For instance, last night I had a salad with lots of cranberries, walnuts, pears, goat cheese, arugula and a bunch of other healthy and delicious ingredients. I would hate to have to first measure or weigh all that and then keep track of the calories. I’ve never really counted calories and although I think programs like Weight Watchers do make calorie tracking easier, I just don’t think that focusing on calories is the most effective way to lose belly fat.
What I promote as a diet to lose fat and lose weight for the long term is focusing on eating whole foods that are nutrient dense rather than calorie dense. I get frustrated when people are completely focused on the protein grams or carb grams of a healthy food. I think that most people spend way too much time and mental energy on breaking down nutrients. We shouldn’t be fractionating food. We should be looking at an apple as an apple, not as grams of carbs, fat or protein, because that food is perfect as it is. The goal is to look at foods in their whole perspective and what they bring to the body. When you do that, you cannot go wrong.
One of the concepts that I talk about in my book, Eating for Energy, is pH balance and alkalinity. Often your body is too acidic because you’re eating too much animal protein, too much dairy, too many refined sugars and carbohydrates and processed foods. All of those are acid-forming foods in the body. If your body is too acidic, it’s designed to remove that acid from the blood and store it your fat cells. What this means is that your body will want to hold onto those fat cells to use for this purpose. If you try one of the trendy high-protein diets (which I think are an absolute devastation to your health), you’ll just make the problem worse.
Yes, you will lose weight on these high-protein diets, but it’s predominantly water. The problems with these high-protein diets is they are very acidic, which means your body will hold on to the acid in your fat cells, which means the fat cells need to be there, and therefore means that you can’t lose weight very easily on a high-acidic diet.
The most sensible goal is to alkalize your body. What I mean by alkalize is eating more foods that are alkaline-forming in your body. That’s predominantly green vegetables followed by fruit. Anything that’s green, whether it’s broccoli, Swiss chard, kale, lettuce, or anything else, is going to bring tremendous amounts of alkalinity into your body. Alkalinity means alkalizing minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and many others, which are extremely beneficial for your body.
Again, the key to fat loss is getting enough foods that alkalize your body and the best way is through a whole food, plant-based diet. If you want to continue eating meat, you can; just reduce the consumption to two or three times a week. I know a lot of these new diets are promoting eating meat two to three times a day, but that is absolutely insane. Unsaturated fats, saturated fats, difficulties digesting cooked meats and the acidity issue make the meat-centric diet incredibly unhealthy.
Another point I am just going to briefly allude to is about eating more raw foods. Raw foods are packed with food enzymes and enzymes are important for digestion. If you can’t digest your foods properly you’ll feel bloated and gassy, and because you’re not eliminating these foods properly many of them end up as stored fat.
With raw foods, you are getting a lot of food enzymes and those food enzymes are enzymes that help digest themselves. To use the example of an apple, if you have an apple in its raw state it has all the enzymes in it to digest itself. Once you cook that apple, those enzymes are basically destroyed and your body has to use its own enzymes now to digest that apple. This not only improves your digestion and nutrient absorption, it can also help you to lose more belly fat.
The best abs diet isn’t about counting every calorie or gorging on protein and skipping carbs. The best abs diet is about working with your body to help it operate the way it was designed to. You do that by enjoying a diet full of whole, largely plant-based foods. It’s a lot less stressful than a strict diet and it’s a lot more effective, too.