January 13, 2011
Control Hormonal Chaos to Shed Pounds, Gain Energy and Improve Your Mood
Diets come and go, many of the most popular weight-loss plans these days being a variation on the popular low-fat or low-carb approaches. However few people succeed on any of these eating plans, for reasons we’ve written about extensively -- so I was interested to hear from our medical editor, Andrew L. Rubman, ND, that there is a science-based diet approach that he finds particularly effective.
It’s called The Perfect 10 Diet Plan, named for the way it helps the body balance 10 hormones that are important to weight loss. Internist Michael Aziz, MD, founder and director of Midtown Integrative Medicine and attending physician at Lenox Hill Hospital, both in New York City, developed the program, which guides people in losing weight rapidly and comfortably while also optimizing long-term health. A year after its introduction, thousands of people have successfully lost weight and noticed an improvement in their health.
How the Diets Stack Up
When I called Dr. Aziz, he told me that we are a nation in "hormonal chaos" and that flawed research was behind the initial popularity of low-fat diets. Few doctors understood the difference between good fats and bad, Dr. Aziz told me, so dieters were urged to shun all fats and eat lots of carbohydrates instead. However, eating like this triggers excessive insulin, a hormone that stores fat... makes people hungry... and can start people down a path toward diabetes.
Other disadvantages: Dr. Aziz says that eating so many carbs also negatively impacts other hormones, including human growth hormone (HGH), which helps people stay youthful... leptin (an appetite-regulating hormone)... and the sex hormones (testosterone, estrogen and progesterone). All this leads to a sluggish metabolism that makes weight loss harder.
On the other hand, low-carb diets (including the popular Atkins diet) urge people to minimize carbohydrates and load up on fats in order to keep insulin in check. This helps you shed pounds, but doesn’t address the problems related to other hormones. Plus, it also overloads people with unhealthy amounts of protein -- slowing thyroid function, which is crucial for weight control. Furthermore, Atkins and these other low-carb eating plans allow lots of nitrite-rich processed meats, including bacon and cold cuts, which are linked to several types of cancer.
In contrast, The Perfect 10 Diet Plan considers all 10 hormones that are key to weight loss and control, which are...
- Human growth hormone (HGH)
- Thyroid hormones
- Cortisol (the "stress hormone")
- Glucagon (which controls blood sugar)
- Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA, which combats depression and fatigue)
Perfect 10 Foods
In his book, The Perfect 10 Diet, Dr. Aziz explains that calorie restriction is not the key to successful and lasting weight loss -- rather the point is to avoid "diet" foods (he calls them "fake foods") that have chemical ingredients added. Instead choose whole foods that contribute to a healthy metabolism, helping with weight loss while also satisfying your hunger.
To follow the Perfect 10 Diet, you should base your daily caloric intake on a 40/40/20 formula -- get 40% of your calories from carbohydrates, 40% from fats, and 20% from protein. You can select from the following foods...
- Vegetables -- you may have unlimited amounts of greens (including peas and beans) and other nonstarchy veggies, while starchy ones (such as potatoes and corn) are allowed only occasionally, in very small amounts.
- Fruits -- especially berries and citrus fruits packed with vitamin C. Limit yourself to two servings a day since fruit is high in fructose, which is used only by the liver, leaving the excess stored as fat.
- Proteins -- mostly seafood, poultry (including zinc-rich dark meat, important for the productions of sex hormones)... whole eggs... and if you like it, a serving of red meat once in a while.
- Saturated fats -- you may have one serving per day of butter (one pat) and use coconut oil (one serving is one tablespoon) as needed both for cooking or to spread on vegetables. Dr. Aziz explains that many studies over the years have confirmed that saturated fats can be helpful because they boost production of sex hormones, thus contributing to more rapid weight loss. Other allowable fats: Olives and olive oil... avocados and avocado oil... and nuts, all of which are rich in nutrients.
The Perfect 10 Diet strictly forbids foods that act against good hormone balance. In addition to those fake fats, you should avoid...
- Artificially "fat-free" and "low-fat foods" (including dairy). Foods in this group are manipulated to have less fat than their unprocessed forms, and as a result, they usually have higher amounts of sugar that spike insulin release.
- Soy protein isolates. This food ingredient may sound healthful, but it is in fact highly processed and may disrupt hormonal balance due to increased concentrations and potential imbalances in isoflavones (antioxidants found in plants). Be on the alert for this ingredient in weight-loss shakes, protein bars, low-carb products and many other processed foods that are labeled "healthy."
Off to a Quick Start
To help you take off and then keep off excess pounds, the Perfect 10 Diet includes three stages...
- Stage One gets you off to a rapid start. Each day, you may have three meals plus one or two snacks from the accepted food list, but no grains of any sort or alcohol. Follow this for about three weeks.
- Stage Two supports continuous weight loss but provides additional choices (whole grains and a bit of alcohol). Once weight loss has begun in earnest and you have grown accustomed to following the diet regimen and exercising regularly, you may add one to three servings of whole grains per day, including whole-grain pasta, and an occasional glass of organic wine.
- Stage Three is a weight-maintenance plan that also is an excellent choice for general good health, says Dr. Aziz. Now you may add yet another whole-grain serving each day and even have an occasional sweet treat such as a piece of dark chocolate.
In summary, eating whole foods that nourish rather than challenge your body will result in naturally balanced hormones, which will help you lose weight and feel great. Since it is smart to continue to keep a close eye on your hormone balance, in his book Dr. Aziz also provides advice on what lab tests you should ask your doctor to perform at the start of your diet and periodically thereafter. He also includes recipes and other suggestions for making this way of eating satisfying and one that can be healthfully maintained as time goes on... the true measure of a successful diet for health!
Michael Aziz, MD, attending physician, St. Vincent’s Hospital, and founder and director, Midtown Integrative Medicine, both in New York City. He is author of The Perfect 10 Diet (Cumberland House).