{Health} The REAL Reason French Women Don’t Get Fat?

Read about this French “secret,” and then comment below to enter to win it! 6 FOFs will win.

Americans are obsessed with the way French women eat. They appear to subsist on butter, cheese, pastries, red meat–not to mention cigarettes and red wine–yet they manage to stay trim and youthful from their berets to their Louboutins. Plus, they have a lower incidence of heart disease and diabetes than American women.

Books such as French Women Don’t Get Fat credit France’s smaller portions, active lifestyle and emphasis on fresh, organic food. These certainly play a role.  But a recent study at Harvard suggests that one finicky little chemical compound–resveratrol–may also deserve credit.

“Resveratrol is found on the skin and vines of red-wine grapes,” says Dr. Heather Hausenblas, PhD., an exercise and diet expert at the University of Florida, and the science advisor to ResVitale, a company that makes resveratrol supplements. “It’s a potent antioxidant that protects the plants against extreme weather, bugs and other environmental stresses.”

In 2006, investigators at Harvard Medical School and the National Institute of Aging found that mice treated with resveratrol lived longer, more active, healthier lives–despite being fed a high-fat, high-calorie diet. They tested three groups of mice: One was fed a standard diet (SD), one was fed a high-calorie, high-fat diet (HC) and one was fed a high-calorie, high-fat diet with resveratrol (HCR). “After six months, resveratrol essentially prevented most of the negative side effects of the high calorie diet in mice,” said Rafael de Cabo, Ph.D., the study’s co-senior investigator. It protected the mice against heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses typically associated with a diet high in red meat, cheese and pastries.

But, don’t run for that bottle of merlot just yet. According to Dr. Hausenblas, the average bottle of red wine has 2-4 milligrams of resveratrol–but studies typically use doses of 250-1000mg. Also, not all wine is equally potent. “We source our resveratrol from organic grapes grown by traditional French methods,” Hausenblas explains. “If the grapes are chemically treated with pesticides and herbicides–as they are in most vineyards–they don’t produce as much resveratrol, because they don’t need to protect themselves.” Hausenblas recommends taking a supplement with 250-500mg of organic resveratrol a day, although studies have shown is that up to 1000 mg a day is “well tolerated in humans.”

In December, we sent a resveratrol supplement to a group of FOF beauty testers to try out for one month.  See their results for yourself, here.

Then, comment below to be one of 6 FOF women who will receive a month’s supply of ResVitale’s Resveratrol 250mg supplements to try for yourself.

(See all our past winners, here.) (See official rules, here.) Contest closes February 29, 2012 at midnight E.S.T.

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{Health} The Greatest Diet You’ve Never Heard Of

[Read this article and then comment below to be entered to win one of 3 copies of FOF Marla Heller’s best-selling book, The Dash Diet Action Plan (Grand Central Publishing, 2011)]

This fall, US News and World Report released its annual “Best Diets” issue, ranking the top 25 consumer diets for overall health and weight loss–as rated by an independent panel of health experts. It included the usual suspects: Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, The Zone…even Slim Fast made the cut. The number one ranked diet was The Dash Diet . . .

. . . Wait. What?!

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Yeah, we’d never heard of it either. What is this US-News-beloved formula, and why isn’t it advertised everywhere like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig?

For answers, we turned to FOF Marla Heller, 62, a registered dietitian and the author of The Dash Diet Action Plan, the New York Times best-seller about the diet.

Marla explained the diet originated from a government funded study in the 1990s: “The original study, titled Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), was intended to take the best components of a vegetarian diet–a diet known to lower blood pressure–and make it doable for most meat-eating Americans,” says Marla. To do this, researchers compared three diets: (1) the typical American diet, (2) the typical American diet with extra fruits and vegetables, and (3) the typical American diet with extra fruits and vegetables and extra low-fat dairy.

They found that the third option was the winner–it lowered blood pressure in as little as 14 days. Subsequent studies showed that the diet also supported weight loss as well as a reduced incidence of breast cancer, diabetes, colorectal cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

US News and World Report said it’s the best diet for a lot of reasons,” says Marla. “But I think the key is that the goal isn’t just weight loss; it’s health. When you get to your goal weight, you’re going to be healthier.” In fact, a look at the US News article confirms that the diet received average scores when it came to weight loss and long-term weight loss, but outstanding scores when it came to nutrition, safety and heart health.

What are the rules?
“The key to DASH is getting more fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy,” says Marla. Sounds simple enough, but consider that the average American gets just three servings of fruits and vegetables each day, while the DASH diet calls for 4-5 servings of fruit and 4-5 servings of vegetables daily. “The focus of my book is meal plans that show you how to work multiple fruits and vegetables into every meal,” says Marla. “They’re bulky; they fill you up. Once you pair those with the recommended portions of lean proteins (5-7oz. a day), low fat dairy (3-5 servings a day), beans, nuts and seeds, you really don’t have room for much else.”

Marla insists that the focus is on adding foods, not eliminating. “Have a turkey sandwich,” she says. “But load it with as many vegetables as possible–cucumbers, tomatoes, sprouts, peppers….” And in fact, a typical day’s DASH menu, at 2,000, calories looks like a decadent feast.

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A typical day on the Dash Diet:

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The tricky part is that this “typical day” is designed to lower your blood pressure and improve your overall health–not necessarily to help you lose weight. If your goal is weight loss, and you’re an FOF woman, you’ll likely need to opt for a more restricted calorie intake of 1200-1600 calories a day. Marla outlines DASH Diet meal plans at these calorie counts as well, and she insists that the premise remains the same: “We help you figure out what your calorie level should be and how many servings of the key foods you need to get into your day. By the time you’ve gotten all those servings in, you’ve used up your calories, and you’re full. You don’t have time or desire for the junk food.”

So, will I lose weight?
“Yes,” insists Christine Ambrose, 44, who has lost 90 pounds since starting the diet in 2010. At 5’4”, Christine was about 233 pounds when she started the diet at the suggestion of her physician. “My blood pressure was very high. He offered me two options–weight loss surgery or DASH.” Christine started out on a non-restrictive calorie plan and saw her blood pressure go down significantly, but it wasn’t until she cut down to 1500 calories/day that she began to see the weight drop off. She currently weighs 143. “It gave me structure,” Christine explains. “I knew how much I could eat–I focused on eating lots of fruits and vegetables and never going over my sodium limits.” [Note from Marla: “Sodium restriction is not a part of the standard DASH diet, but it is recommended by many doctors who are treating patients with high blood pressure.”] The best part, says Christine, is the improved health. “My skin and hair is better. I look younger. My resting heart rate is 45! That’s a good number for an athlete–a marathon runner!”

Why have so few people heard of it?
“It’s less sexy than a lot of diets out there,” Marla admits. There’s no clever marketing hook for DASH (No carbs! No wheat! Eat cookies and lose weight!) since it’s basically about eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats. In fact, there’s no real marketing at all. Once the DASH research was published in the late 90s, the NIH released some educational materials exclusively to physicians and dietitians, “but my patients couldn’t understand any of the information,” Marla explains. “My academic advisor was on the committee that studied the diet, so I understood how great it was. I thought, I have to find a way to explain this so people can actually use it.”

In 2000, Marla began work on her own book as a way to explain the diet to her private clients. She self-published in 2005, but it wasn’t until this past summer that she was approached by an agent and publisher interested in republishing the book. Since then, the diet appeared as number one in US News and Marla’s book hit the New York Times bestseller list.

Who would do best on this diet?

According to Marla, the DASH Diet “is  for everyone. It doesn’t restrict any one type of food, and we accommodate for sensitivities to dairy and gluten.” Still, when we searched for women over fifty who had tried and lost weight on the diet, we couldn’t find anyone–despite posting on the DASH Diet Facebook page.

So what do you think…Would you try this diet?  Have you tried it?  Tell us below and you’re automatically entered to win a copy of Marla’s best-selling book, The Dash Diet Action Plan. 3 women will win!

Three FOFs will win. (See all our past winners, here.) (See official rules, here.) Contest closes February 16, 2012 at midnight E.S.T.

{Health} The Queen Of All Diets?

The Dukan Diet helped one famous FOF shed the pounds, but is it right for the rest of us? FOF investigates.

When Kate Middleton and her FOF mother, Carole, arrived at the Royal wedding this past April, BBC newscasters couldn’t stop talking about two things: their clothes and their weight loss.

Carole–who had lost 2 dress sizes–publicly credited her svelte new physique to 69-year-old French diet doctor, Pierre Dukan. Kate has never revealed her own diet plan, although rumors swirl that she used Dukan as well.

Since the wedding, Dukan’s book, The Dukan Diet, has sold millions of copies and been translated into 14 languages. “I am a hopeless romantic, so of course I watched the royal wedding,” says FOF Patricia Hancock, a lifelong yo-yo dieter who bought the book in April and has since lost over 30 pounds following Dukan’s advice.

The diet has been touted by celebs including Salma Hayek and Jennifer Lopez.  But it’s also been controversial, with some medical experts alternately calling it everything from “unaffective” to “dangerous” in the press.

What’s the truth? Here, FOF presents the facts and talks to FOF Patricia about her experience.

For a chance to win your own copy of The Dukan Diet, read on, and then tell us in the comments below, would you try this diet? (3 FOFs will win!)

Dr. Pierre Dukan, MD, began his general medical practice over 35 years ago. According to his book, he became interested in nutrition after an overweight patient asked for a diet plan that didn’t restrict meat. Dukan advised the man to consume nothing but lean meat and water for five days. In that time, the patient lost 12 pounds. Encouraged, Dukan began studying nutrition in an attempt to create a diet that would help his overweight patients lose weight permanently–without feeling deprived. He spent the next 35 years perfecting his plan and gaining a reputation as a uniquely effective “diet doctor” in France. Today, his plan is consists of 4 phases:

Phase 1: Dukan calls this “The Attack” phase, during which you jump-start your weight loss by spending anywhere from 2 to 7 days (depending on your start weight) eating only from a group of 68 high-protein foods, including lean meats, fish, tofu, Greek yogurt and eggs. You’re also required to eat 1.5 tablespoons of oat bran a day to help you feel full. Unlike The Atkins Diet, with Dukan “you are not allowed fatty meats and cheese,” says Simone Gloger, a registered nutritionist who recommends the Dukan diet to her own patients. “Saturated fats found in these foods can cause cardiovascular disease. Atkins is high protein and high fat. Dukan is high protein, low fat and low carb.”

During this first phase, you also calculate your “true” weight–a number based on your age, height and dieting history. “This differs for everyone,” says Simone Gloger, “It’s a realistic number that is actually maintainable for life.” (You can calculate your “True Weight,” here.)

FOF Trisha, 57, was about 25 pounds overweight when she started the diet earlier this year. Heavy since she was a young girl, (“I grew up being called ‘Patty Fatty’”) she had tried everything from Weight Watchers to Atkins to aerobics, but was never able to keep the weight off for good. At just 4’11”, Trisha’s top weight was 181. When she started the Dukan diet, she was about 145. Today, 7 months later, she weighs 107.

Trisha’s “phase 1” lasted 5 days, during which she mostly ate eggs, chicken and fish. “I love protein, so that was not a problem,” she says. “And it wasn’t very long–just Monday to Friday.”

Phase 2: During “The Cruise Phase,” you add on 32 different vegetables, including some high-carb options such as carrots, pumpkin and beets.  “You’re on this until you reach your true weight,” says Gloger.  “Typically, that’s about 3 days for every pound you want to lose.”  So if you wanted to lose 30 pounds, you’d be in this phase for about 3 months. According to Dukan, the diet makes up for lack of variety by allowing you to eat as much as you want in any combination you prefer.

This type of high-protein, low-carb eating is especially effective for FOFs, says Gloger. “As you age and enter menopause, your body loses muscle mass, your metabolism slows and you gain weight. Eating protein speeds your metabolism and helps you build muscle. It also helps reduce water retention and improves collagen production–which makes your skin look better.”

“The hardest part for me was not eating cheese,” says Trisha of her Cruise Phase. “But I liked that I could eat as much protein as I wanted. When I did Weight Watchers, I was only allowed 18 points. I was hungry and thinking about food constantly. On Dukan, my husband and I would cook out, and I would eat a humongous, juicy hamburger, and the next morning I would have lost weight.”

Phase 3, “Consolidation,” starts once you’ve reached your “true weight.” It is designed to reintroduce a variety of foods back into your diet without causing the rebound weight gain that typically occurs after losing a lot of weight. You can add 2 slices of bread and 1 portion of fruit and cheese into your daily diet as well as 2 servings of carbs and 2 “celebration” meals per week. You remain in this phase for 5 days for every one pounds you’ve lost. “This phase is about learning how to eat properly,” says Gloger. “You can go out to dinner, enjoy wine and bread and fruit—but all within reason.”

Both Gloger and Trisha point out that they exercised some personal discretion during this phase–not following the rules exactly, but staying within a “safe” zone. “If you’re wheat or gluten intolerant, you can substitute the wheat bread for other grains,” says Gloger.

“I didn’t always give up my wine,” says Trisha. “But I’d have half a glass in the evening instead of a full glass.” It was during this phase that Trisha developed her food routine, a daily menu that she says has worked great for her. “I’m not a very creative person–I don’t come up with fancy recipes. I get up every morning and have Greek yogurt with fruit, followed by an apple or some other snack around 10.  For lunch I’ll have tofu mixed with tuna and some little pita pockets or maybe a hard-boiled egg sandwich. In the evening I might have salmon with lots of salad, some bread and wine.”

Phase 4, the permanent stabilization phase, is designed to last for, well . . . the rest of your life.  And it’s surprisingly non-restrictive. You can eat whatever you want as long as you spend one day a week on a pure protein diet (as in phase 1), continue to eat your 3 tablespoons of oat bran every day, and take the stairs instead of escalators and elevators. So what’s to keep you from eating pizza and ice cream for every meal?  Both Trisha and Gloger insist that just isn’t a problem.

“By the time someone has finished the first three phases, they’ve really changed,” says Gloger. “They’ve learned how to eat so that they feel better and look better and they don’t want to give that up. Also, after they eat indulgent foods, they don’t feel good.”

“I don’t want to go back to not feeling good,” confirms Trisha. “I love being able to go into the store and pick out a size 2–my whole life I was looking at sizes from 13-18. And I find that when I indulge, I really feel it. If I have a cupcake for example, I feel sick afterwards. I don’t want to overeat.”

While both Trisha and Gloger insist the diet could work “for anyone,” Trisha does admit that it was particularly tailored to her: “I love meat. I’d rather have a big juicy steak than a slice of pizza. I’m also patient, and I like to do things slowly and carefully, so I was willing to read the entire book and learn the science behind it. It made sense to me. I would say to anyone who is considering this diet, read the book first. Really read it. If it makes sense to you, it will work for you.”

For a chance to win your own copy of The Dukan Diet, tell us in the comments below, would you try this diet? (3 FOFs will win!)

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