The Lean Belly Prescription: Diet Review

From the WebMD Archives

Having belly fat and a "muffin top" around the waist is common -- and it can be unhealthy. Follow the advice in The Lean Belly Prescription, and according to the book cover, you canlose up to "15 pounds of dangerous belly fat in four weeks" and improve your health.

The Lean Belly Prescription is written by Travis Stork, MD, an emergency room doctor and a host of the daytime talk show The Doctors. His prescription promises you will lose weight and keep it off for good -- without ever dieting or counting calories.

And there is no way to fail on this diet because it isn't a diet.

The Lean Belly Prescription: What It Is

The Lean Belly Prescription is a collection of tips, food suggestions, and motivation to enlighten people about nutrient-rich foods, hidden calories, and how to make small changes that promote weight loss and become sustainable lifestyle habits.

"This is not a diet but an easy prescription to help people eat healthier by swapping out empty-nutrient foods like sugary beverages and processed foods and replacing it with foods that satisfy and are nutritious," Stork says.

Eating healthy foods four to five times a day will make you feel full, control cravings, and squeeze out the junk food in your diet, Stork says.

He uses a simple 'Pick 3 to Lean' system designed to modify eating behavior while still enjoying your favorite foods. Choose three at a time from a list of 12 options starting with Stork's basic "laws of leanness" to the more ramped up "lean-living turbochargers."

Once you master three changes, move on and tackle additional options.

Examples of simple changes are eating three servings of dairy, noshing all day on fruits and vegetables, and discovering healthy fats.

Stork says it's the small changes that can make the biggest difference and throughout the day you have 200 chances to make better choices, fight belly fat, and improve your health.

The payoff? "Reduce the dangerous visceral fat and you will have more energy, sleep better, improved health and live a longer, happier life," Stork says. And the good news, says Stork, is that belly fat responds better to diet and exercise than fat elsewhere on the body.

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Aim to reduce waistlines to less than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men to minimize risk for health problems.

A gym membership is not required, but Stork encourages regular activity and finding opportunities to add more movement into your day. Cardio sessions, muscle building, interval training, and pages of workout diagrams in the book illustrate proper techniques for the beginner, intermediate, and expert levels of exercise.

The book includes four weeks of meal plans, grocery lists, and a basic workout plan.

The Lean Belly Prescription: What You Can Eat

Anything you want. Nothing is off the menu, but Stork suggests replacing sugary beverages with unsweetened drinks and eliminating highly processed refined foods.

Five foods are called out as nature's perfect foods; nuts, milk, eggs, berries, and tomatoes. Lean protein (20-40 grams per meal), whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, water, and legumes are also encouraged.

The only calories mentioned in the book are the suggested 200-calorie snacks, including a source of protein and two other food groups. Snacks are recommended midmorning and mid-afternoon to control blood sugar and cravings and reduce the chance of overeating at lunch and dinner.

Alcohol is permitted in reasonable amounts: one drink for women and two drinks for men.

Here is a sample meal plan:

Breakfast : omelet with ham, onion, mushrooms, spinach, and slice of cantaloupe

Snack: orange, Greek yogurt, and trail mix

Lunch: whole wheat quesadilla with chicken, mozzarella cheese, roasted vegetables, and sundried tomato pesto

Snack: strawberries, cottage cheese, and mixed nuts

Dinner: shrimp, bell peppers, asparagus, and onions over brown rice

The Lean Belly Prescription: How It Works

The Lean Belly Prescription works by chipping away at your unhealthy behaviors and replacing them with positive eating habits that will lead to weight loss.

Eating on a schedule, every couple of hours, will help reduce cravings and encourage readers to get in touch with hunger and satiety.

At the core of the diet plan is the NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) principle of burning calories without exercise. NEAT is a strategy that's about active living: park further away, take the stairs, avoid escalators, and stand while talking on the phone, for instance.

Exercising 30 minutes per day is ideal, but regular walking and being more active in general is enough to be healthy, Stork says.

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The Lean Belly Prescription: Experts' Views

Elisa Zied, MS, RD, New York nutrition consultant and author of Feed Your Family Right, gives Stork's book a thumbs-up for its motivating and well-researched content.

"There are lots of positive aspects to this book, from the author's cheerleading for weight loss, illustrations of exercise, attention to moving more in the day to the solid nutrition and lifestyle advice," Zied says.

Simple, small, and practical tips, Zied says, can make a big difference and offer a new way of thinking about how to lose weight.

Since calories are nowhere to be found in the book and the plan has not been tested, Zied says it is hard to predict if the weight loss promise of up to 15 pounds is realistic. "Bottom line: how much weight you will lose depends on your genetics, current weight, calorie intake and physical activity," she says.

Zied takes issue with the title, choppy layout of information, and lack of recipe nutrient analysis. "Not everyone who loses weight will have flat abdominals and be free of belly fat," she says.

"It claims, on the book cover, to be a diet and weight loss plan, so the recipes should include the nutritional information so dieters know what is in the food they are eating," Zied says.

The Lean Belly Prescription: Food for Thought

For people who are fed up with diets but want easy-to-follow tips to incorporate into their lifestyle and still want to eat their favorite foods (in limited quantities), this nondiet may be for you.

Stork, the handsome former star of the ABC reality TV show The Bachelor, might be exactly what the doctor ordered to inspire women (and men) to make lifestyle changes that will promote weight loss.

Although there is very little new information, it is comprehensive, solid advice based on research that if used properly can help dieters lose weight, incorporate more fitness, and improve their health.

You might not lose 15 pounds in four weeks, but you will learn a wealth of very helpful information that can lead to slow, steady, and most important, sustainable weight loss.

WebMD Expert Review

Sources

SOURCES:

Travis Stork, MD, host, The Doctors; emergency department, Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Elisa Zied, MS, RD, nutrition consultant; author, Feed Your Family Right.

Stork, T. and Moore, P. The Lean Belly Prescription: The Fast and Foolproof Diet and Weight Loss Plan from America's Top Urgent Care Doctor, Rodale, 2010.

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