Flat Belly Diet — Book Review

Weight loss breakthrough

Some time ago in the “new book” rack at a mall bookstore I saw Flat Belly Diet. I couldn’t help but notice a phrase on the book cover, “A Breakthrough Plan from the editors of Prevention.” I picked up the book and thumbed through a few pages. It appeared to be well-written, easy-to-read, and graphically very appealing. But I wasn’t sold — yet. I put it back down and went on my way. But I kept wondering, what was the key to their “breakthrough plan.”

A few days later we received in the mail from Prevention an unsolicited 28-page full-color promotional booklet, screaming: “23 inches of Belly Fat Vanished!” The booklet’s headers included phrases like:–

  • Is belly fat smothering your internal organs?
  • fight belly fat with fat
  • are you an apple or a pear?
  • is out-of-control stress inflating your belly?
  • lose subcutaneous fat
  • dirty tricks your fat cells play on your waistline
  • the secret, belly-busting nutrient that makes the Flat Belly Diet so effective

I kept looking in the booklet to discover the “secret belly-busting nutrient” — It was referred to as “MUFA” — pronounced “moo-fah” — a friendly-sounding acronym known to nutritionists. But nowhere in the promotional booklet could I find EXACTLY what this “secret” MUFA was.

There were photos and testimonials from smiling women who had tried Flat Belly Diet and lost weight. There were promotions for the Flat Belly Journal and other related products.

In early March 2009 Flat Belly Diet was #4 on the New York Times bestseller list for “Hard Cover Advice.” So that men wouldn’t feel left out, author Liz Vaccariello teamed up with registered dietitian D. Milton Stokes who adapted this bestselling approach for men — targeting mens’ belly fat and promoting ab development: Flat Belly Diet for Men: Real Food. Real Men Real Flat Abs.

Now my curiosity was really piqued!  I got my hands on a copy of Flat Belly Diet and read it, and re-read it. It is an excellent reference book that everyone should have on their bookshelf and use to improve their health and well-being.

Monounsaturated fats target weight loss in your belly

Flat Belly Diet was written by Liz Vaccariello, Prevention Editor-in-Chief, and Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD. They begin by writing about how the Flat Belly Diet came about. Next they include a well-written chapter on belly fat — what it is, why it is bad for you.

The secret “belly-busting nutrient” was revealed in the next chapter. It’s “MUFA” the acronym for “monounsaturedfatty acids.” The authors talk a bit about what MUFAs are and why they are good for your cardiovascular system.

They point out that Prevention has long promoted monounsaturated fats as being a healthy addition to your diet. But it was a 1997 study published in Diabetes Care that convinced them that, not only were they good for you, they targeted the fat in your belly.

Flat Belly Diet lists five types of MUFAs:

  • Oils [canola, safflower, sesame, soybean, walnut, flaxseed, sunflower, olive, and peanut]
  • Olives
  • Nuts and seeds [e.g., sunflower, flaxseed, walnuts]
  • Avocados
  • Dark Chocolate

Flat Belly Diet and food

Since Flat Belly Diet relies on the long experience of Prevention and the results of the 1997 study showing that MUFAs cut belly fat, I wanted to know more. Here’s a brief summary of that study. Volunteers who qualified for the study were divided in three groups. Three different diets were used in the study. Each diet had the same number of calories, but with different macronutrient ratios — carbs | protein | fats. (SAT refers to saturated fats; MUFA means monounsaturated fats; PUFA is polyunsaturated fats.) Subjects were randomly divided into three groups and underwent three dietary periods of 28 days each. Their weight and exercise were controlled. The three diets were:

1– low-fat high-carbohydrates diet contained

  • 65% carb | 15% protein | 20% fat (06% SAT, 08% MUFA, 6% PUFA)

2–high-MUFA diet contained*

  • 47% carb | 15% protein | 38% fat (09% SAT, 23% MUFA, 6% PUFA)

3–high-saturated-fat diet contained

  • 47% carb | 15% protein | 38% fat (23% SAT, 09% MUFA, 6% PUFA)

Seventy-five percent of the fat in the high-MUFA diet (*) was provided as extra virgin olive oil. This was a Mediterranean-type diet.

What were the study’s findings?

Total body weight –According to the study authors: “As expected, at least in the short run, the macronutrient compositions of isocaloric diets did not have significant effects on body weight.”

Body composition – “body composition remained unchanged (as indicated by stable total body fat and lean body mass).”

Fat distribution – the study authors observed “increased accumulation of fat deposited in the trunk depot when experimental subjects were fed the carbohydrate enriched diet. This was associated with a decrease in the amount of fat mass deposited in the leg when they were fed the CHO-rich (carbohydrate) diet compared with MUFA and SAT rich diets.” (emphasis added)

My take-away from this study: Carbohydrate-rich diets tended to redistribute fat to the trunk or stomach/waist area, while the fat-heavy diets tended to redistribute away from that area. And since we know that MUFAs are good for you and saturated fats are bad, a diet rich in MUFAs  may help reduce “belly fat.”

And, you have to eat less and take in fewer calories to lose weight.

Flat Belly Diet Cookbook

The Flat Belly Diet recommends that you eat four meals a day with MUFAs at every meal.

To help you plan MUFA meals, the Flat Belly Diet Cookbook , a companion to the Flat Belly Diet book, offers 200 new MUFA recipes. It includes chapters on breakfasts, soups and sandwiches, salads and sides, vegetarian, seafood, poultry, meats, snacks and desserts.

Flat Belly Diet recommendations

  • Women should eat three meals and one snack each day totaling an average of 400 calories each, for a total daily intake of not more than 1600 calories.
  • Include MUFAs in each and every meal and snack.
  • Don’t skip meals.
  • Don’t go more than 4 hours without eating
  • Eat meals and snacks that are delicious! Many such recipes are provided in the book.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Keep a weight loss journal.

Dieters can now sit down to dinner with everyone without having to cook special foods separately for themselves. The Flat Belly Diet! Family Cookbook features family-friendly favorites — each with the all-important MUFAs found in nuts and seeds, vegetable oils, olives, avocados, and dark chocolate.

The Flat Belly Diet Pocket Guide is a handy reference at the grocery story or in the restaurant.This handy and user-friendly book provides at-a-glance information such as:

  • 28-day meal plan
  • corresponding shopping lists
  • lists of serving sizes and calorie counts for MUFA meals
  • best meal choices at the vending machine, the airport, popular restaurants
  • pantry staples and Flat Belly Diet–friendly brands

Flat Belly Diet and exercise

The Flat Belly Diet book jacket claims that “A flat belly is about food and attitude, period. (Not a single crunch needed!)” However, the book includes a comprehensive chapter called, “The Flat Belly Workout.”

Flat Belly exercise DVDs are also available to help you get it right.

The author says that the diet is designed to provide results without exercise, but you will lose MORE weight and MORE inches when you combine the diet with exercise.

Three types of exercise are recommended:

1–cardio exercises to burn calories and shed fat. Walking is the ideal cardio exercise. Speed and intensity are important.

2–strength training with weights to build muscles and tighten your midsection. If you’re just starting, get yourself two sets of dumbbells– one light (3 pounds) and one heavy (5 pounds). Four specific routines are suggested with photos and instructions.

3–core-focused exercises to tone and tighten your midsection. Five exercises are suggested, again with photos and instructions.

Flat Belly Diet and attitude

The importance of attitude is stressed throughout the Flat Belly Diet. “Mind tricks” and “confidence building techniques” are suggested that can help you stay on track and be positive about yourself.

The Flat Belly Journal asks you to focus on yourself each day and respond to a specific confidence-building question while you record the food you ate and the hunger you felt before and after each meal.

Other techniques include stress management, support from others, dining out tips, and how to estimate food portions.

In the end, say the authors, The Flat Belly Diet is about YOU — your health, your freedom.

What others are saying about Flat Belly Diet

Are MUFAs really a “belly-busting” breakthrough as claimed in Flat Belly Diet?
For other thoughts on this question I turned to WebMd. In article by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, a number of authorities are quoted who question whether there is sufficient research to say for sure that MUFAs can target belly fat. You will lose belly fat on fhe Flat Belly Diet, but not necessarily because of MUFAs.

In general though the article seems to support the Flat Belly Diet with a few caveats.

The Flat Belly Diet is an excellent resource to help you in your weight management goals. It is written by well-qualified women, for women– but the information and techniques described can be adapted by men as well. One of the most important contributions of the book is the recognition of the importance of adding MUFAs- monounsaturated fats-to your own diet plan.

The Flat Belly Diet and related products can be purchased through Amazon (CLICK HERE or any image link on this page) or direct from the publisher (CLICK HERE for Flat Belly Diet! Online). There is a 30-day free offer of their online service that comes with your initial purchase of the book. You can also get a 30-day free trial direct from Flat Belly Diet online site. Here is where you can read my review of Flat Belly Diet! Online

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