London - Skip breakfast, eat three large meals a day and glug coffee. It sounds like a list of things you shouldn’t do if you want to shed the pounds.
But a new weight-loss plan - that’s so popular that it recently knocked the Dukan Diet off the top of the iTunes book chart - claims this is exactly what dieters should be doing... turning traditional weight-loss wisdom on its head.
Written by London-based personal trainer Venice A. Fulton, Six Weeks To OMG is based on a combination of scientific research and Fulton’s own experience of helping high-profile clients lose weight and shape up.
Unlike most other regimes, Fulton doesn’t offer structured meal-plans or recipes. But he says that if you adapt his advice to fit your lifestyle, you can lose 10lb (about 4.5kg) to 20lb in six weeks. We take a look at what he has to say...
STEP 1: Don’t Eat Breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? Wrong!
This is the scariest but most important part of my diet plan - but I want you to stop eating breakfast for six weeks.
When you go to bed there’s always a small amount of energy in your system - food in your stomach, some in your blood, and a bit stored away in your liver. But because your brain still works as you sleep, by the time you wake there’s nothing left. As a result, the brain sends out hunger signals for you to have breakfast.
But do you know what? If you have spare body fat to lose, you don’t need a bowl of cereal or a slice of toast because you are actually carrying your own breakfast buffet around with you.
Don’t eat, and move your body when it’s low on food energy (that is, when you’ve just woken up and before you’ve eaten) and your body will have to burn some of your body fat.
STEP 2: Take a Skinny Dip
Taking a cool bath every morning will encourage your body to burn off stored fat as it tries to keep warm, and it has been shown to significantly boost metabolism for 12 to 15 hours.
You need to bathe in water between 15 and 20c (use a plastic thermometer) for no longer than 15 minutes. The water needs to be deep enough to reach your belly button when you’re sitting up.
Jumping straight into a cold bath is always a bad idea. Once the bath is filled to the correct level and you are sure the temperature is correct, use a timer and start by standing in the water for two minutes before sitting down for five minutes.
If you’re very brave, you can then slowly lean back and lie in the water for three minutes (or just sit in it for up to five minutes). Carefully get out of the bath, put on some warm clothes and move around.
Do not be tempted to add hot water to the bath or take a warm shower - the shock could cause you to faint.
(Warning: Changes in body temperature can temporarily affect blood pressure. Do not take a skinny dip if you have a history of heart trouble, problems with your blood pressure or diabetes.)
STEP 3: Time for Coffee
After your bath, it’s time for a cup of coffee. Coffee is nature’s secret fat-burning potion - use it in the right way and it will help you lose weight.
The secret is caffeine. When you have it on an empty stomach, it tells your body to burn fat faster.
Caffeine makes fat cells open up and empty their fat into your bloodstream. From there, fat can be transported to your muscles. They then use this liquid fatty-fuel to power them. And you get slimmer!
But you must combine your morning caffeine shot with physical activity. If you don’t, the fat stays in the bloodstream, and can eventually fur up arteries.
The most reliable place to find caffeine is in a cup of coffee. Drink just one small cup (instant or ground) black, with no sugar, artificial sweetener or milk.
Anything with sweetener, sugar or milk will trigger the body to release insulin, which tells your body that food is on its way, and will stop you burning fat.
STEP 4: Get Moving
The combination of caffeine in your bloodstream and physical activity will encourage your body to burn off more stored fat. Scientists have observed that “naturally slim” people move around much more. The more muscles you use at any one time, the better.
Walking and gardening are good as they use your legs, arm, back and chest muscles.
Choose an activity you enjoy and do it for 30 minutes. If it’s outside, that’s even better. Natural daylight, especially between 8am and 9am, has been shown to reset our internal body clocks, boost vitamin D production and boost levels of feel-good hormones.
STEP 5: Start Eating
Many diets tell us that eating little and often boosts metabolism and aids weight loss, but in my experience this often leads to uncontrollable, all-day grazing.Three filling meals a day may sound old fashioned but it works if you’re trying to lose weight.
Body fat exists to give us energy when we’re not taking any in the form of food. So we can only burn body fat if we leave gaps between meals. The more frequently you eat, the smaller the gaps and the less chance you have of burning off stored fat.
Eating three times a day, with no snacks, will also help control your appetite better.
When we eat, our body releases a chemical called leptin, which tells the brain when it’s time to stop eating, and tells our metabolism to rev up.
It takes approximately 20 minutes for this connection to work. Snacking on the hoof means we’ve often eaten way too much by the time leptin has kicked in. Sitting down to a meal, however, has been shown to raise leptin more effectively and shut appetite off for longer.
The best time of day to start eating is around lunchtime.
The timing for your other two meals is up to you - and may vary according to your schedule: say 4pm and 8pm.
Ideally your last meal of the day should be no less than two hours before you go to sleep.
STEP 6: Count Those Carbs
Each meal should be made up of 50 percent protein. This may sound a lot, but as well as being essential to a healthy diet, protein foods reduce appetite and keep it under control for hours.
Good protein choices are chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, fish, eggs, plain full-fat yoghurt, nuts, seeds, lentils and chickpeas.
But if you want to be slim, you must control your carb intake. Until you get familiar with portion sizes, aim to eat no more than 120g of carbohydrates a day.
Choose unrefined carbohydrates to feel fuller for longer and to maintain steady blood sugars.
Eat as many vegetables as you like (with the exception of baked beans, beetroot, carrots, parsnips, potatoes and sweetcorn, which count as carbs) once your protein and carbs are served up.
However, eat no more than three pieces of fruit a day. Its high fructose (fruit sugar) content can play havoc with appetite, blocking the effect of leptin - the chemical that tells our brain when we’re full.
The best fruits are those low in fructose: avocado, blueberry, grapefruit, guava, pineapple, plum, strawberry and tomato.
Try to have oily fish like salmon, sardines or mackerel and/or flax seed twice a week.
Essential fats help keep your appetite on track and control carbohydrate cravings.
And drink water and green tea. Aside from your morning cup of coffee, avoid caffeinated, sugary and alcoholic drinks.