Thursday, October 22, 2009

8 Weight Loss Secrets from Around the World

1. Stop eating before you're full. The Okinawans, whose average BMI is 21.5 for those who eat a traditional diet, call this hara hachi bu, or eating till you're 80 percent full. Of course, we're not suggesting that you leave the table hungry. But eating until the buttons pop stretches the stomach by about 20 percent each time you do it, so you inevitably need more food to feel satisfied, explains Bradley Willcox, MD, co-author of The Okinawa Diet Plan. He says that putting your fork down "when you feel that first twinge of fullness" gives your brain a chance to realize that you are full before you overdo it.

2. Drizzle on the healthy oils. Healthy fats like olive oil, a staple of the Mediterranean diet, and canola oil, a staple of Okinawans, make vegetables tastier, so you're likely to eat more of them. And, as we know, eating a diet rich in produce is key to maintaining a healthy weight.

3. When you're eating, just eat. No other culture multitasks meals the way Americans do with our TV dinners, fast-food drive-throughs and grab-'n-go food that's designed to fit into a car cup holder and be eaten with one hand. In Japan, it's considered rude to eat while walking. And you'll never catch the French gulping coffee in the car. "In France, there are no car cup holders because you don't drink coffee while driving," explains Will Clower, PhD, author of The Fat Fallacy: The French Diet Secrets to Permanent Weight Loss. "Eating and drinking aren't errands. It's not what you do on the way to something else." Good advice. When you're distracted by work, traffic or the TV, you're apt to overeat without even realizing it, notes Dean Ornish, MD, author of Eat More, Weigh Less. "If you really pay attention to what you're eating, you enjoy it more fully and don't need as much food."

4. Get moving. People in Asian countries, France and the Mediterranean tend to be slim because they're more active. Not that they spend hours at the gym; they simply walk a lot.

5. Enjoy regular meals. One reason French women don't get fat is because French women eat three meals a day. You may think skipping meals cuts calories, but all it does is evoke a primal "fear of hunger response" that causes overeating later, explains Dr. David Katz, MD, author of The Way to Eat. "Throughout most of our history, we had too little to eat. So when you go for long periods without eating, you stir up all that native programming, which says eat like crazy when you can, because all too often you can't." Start with breakfast. Studies show that breakfast-eaters are slimmer than skippers.

6. Dine with others. Eating with family or friends vs. alone in your car, at your desk or on the couch is part and parcel of traditional cultures. Not only does camaraderie make the meal more enjoyable, it's slimming. "Eating with others restrains your own behavior," notes Dr. Katz. "You eat more slowly, which increases the likelihood that you'll register when you're full before you've eaten more than you should."

7. Chow down only when you're hungry. Americans eat for all sorts of reasons besides hunger, especially from boredom, loneliness, stress or fear, a foreign concept in other cultures. "You can't make food the solution to every issue in your life and expect to be thin," says Dr. Katz. "If you eat from boredom, find a hobby. If you eat to relieve stress, learn meditation or yoga."

8. Have a glass of wine. A staple of French and Mediterranean tables, wine adds joy to the meal, and because it contains potent antioxidants, is at least partly responsible for why these cultures traditionally have lower rates of cardiovascular disease and mortality despite their higher-fat diets. And while some studies show that we tend to eat more when we drink, a Finnish study actually found that male drinkers were leaner than abstainers

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