You on a Diet: What You Need to Know

woman trying to button pants
To lose that muffin top, stop eating muffins and other white foods.

Beer belly. Spare tire. Muffin top. Whatever you call abdominal fat, abdominal obesity is not a joke. When we carry extra fat around our belly, as opposed to our hips or thighs, it increases our risk of developing heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, stroke and some kinds of cancer. Drs. Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen have a 14-day plan to redefine how you eat and to add daily exercise. Their diet and best-selling book, "YOU: On a Diet," explains how we can control our weight when we concentrate on trimming our waistlines. Following the program could mean losing two inches in two weeks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average American woman's waist size is 37 inches (94 centimeters), and for men the average is just shy of 40 inches (102 centimeters). On this diet, the goal is to measure your waist at 32.5 inches (83 centimeters) or less if you're a woman and 35 inches (89 centimeters) or less if you're a man. The number on the tape measure holds more weight than the number on your scale. The ultimate goal is to reduce your abdominal body fat.


So let's get straight to what matters: What's on the menu? And just how much physical activity is recommended?

The diet does not make a list of food do's and don'ts. Its intent is to reform the way you eat. It's a lifestyle change rather than weeks spent eating, say, grapefruit, or counting carbohydrates or calories in an effort to lose a few pounds. This is quite possibly one of the least restrictive diets you'll try. There are just five ingredients to drop from the menu: hydrogenated oil, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, enriched flour and white foods.

But weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight require more than just a change in how and what we eat; they also require getting up and moving. Oz and Roizen recommend four types of exercises: those that improve your stamina, increase your muscle, make you sweat and make you stretch.

Let's look at the benefits of eliminating those five ingredients of bad diet and adding the four ingredients of physical fitness.



Unhealthy fats, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, enriched flour and white foods: These are common in everybody's kitchen, so let's look at why they're bad and why ditching them from your diet will help improve your health.

First, bad fats like saturated and trans fats clog arteries and raise cholesterol levels. Choose foods that contain less than 4 grams of saturated fat and zero grams of trans fats per serving. Note that some fats are healthy fats, though. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may help to lower the risk of developing certain diseases including heart disease. Don't be afraid to keep them on the menu.


Now let's talk about that sweet tooth. The average American eats 31 five-pound bags of sugar every year [source: Casey]. It's not only the sugar in your morning coffee that adds up, but also, it's the hidden sugar in processed foods and beverages. For example, one can of soda contains about 39 grams of sugar per serving [source: Brain]. Aim to eat foods that contain less than 4 grams of sugar per serving.

But sugar is just the beginning. Most Americans eat too much white food, too. White foods are typically foods that have been highly processed. They include pasta, rice, cereal, bread, crackers and baked goods -- foods that contain ingredients such as enriched flour, bleached flour and white sugar that have been stripped of their nutrients. Highly refined foods spike our blood sugar levels and make us tired and overweight. Read labels, and trade white foods for those with whole grains to add fiber and good carbs to your diet.

Of course, exercise is vital to burning calories. But Oz and Roizen recommend daily physical activity to benefit overall fitness. A keystone of their program is walking.

Walking is one of the best ways to help increase your body's strength and stamina, and you should set 10,000 steps every day, or a minimum of 30 minutes, as a goal. Combine walking with strength training 30 minutes a week to help build muscle. In addition, be sure you sweat. Push your workouts to sweat as much as an hour a week (all at once or in intervals) to keep your heart muscle in good condition. And finally, don't forget to stretch. Stretching helps keep you limber and improves your balance, which means fewer aches and pains and a reduced risk of falling as you age.



In general, the lifestyle changes recommended by Drs. Oz and Roizen in "YOU: On a Diet" are a solid way to melt away fat and set yourself on a path of healthy eating and physical fitness. There are some drawbacks to be aware of, however, as with any diet.

While some may see this as a benefit, others may find a diet that encourages a bit of menu monotony to be a red flag. "YOU: On a Diet" recommends starting each day with a healthy breakfast to kick-start the metabolism, and suggests finding a couple of items for breakfast and lunch that you can make a habit. For some people, this limitation works because it eliminates the overwhelming number of choices available. But it's important to be aware that nutritional monotony might increase the risk of developing nutritional deficiencies, depending upon what you limit yourself to for breakfast and lunch.


Be smart about how you put your plate together. Choose healthy fats including monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids like those found in avocados and olive oil; whole grain breads and cereals; fruits and vegetables for antioxidants; essential vitamins and minerals; and low-fat dairy. If you're eating well-balanced meals for breakfast and lunch, it's OK to repeat those same menu items day in and day out, but be sure those meals are nutritionally well-rounded.

Menu monotony may lead some people to stray from a diet. If you're eating oatmeal for breakfast every morning and steamed salmon every day for lunch, you may not look forward to the same old meal and may give in to cravings. But the five things that aren't allowed in this new lifestyle aren't meant to deprive anyone of good, tasty foods. Consider pancakes, for example. While run-of-the-mill buttermilk pancakes can't be part of this new lifestyle, something like oatmeal blueberry or whole wheat apple cranberry variations can. Be open to a variety of foods, and you may find you really don't miss the foods you used to rely on.


Lots More Information

More Great Links

  • Brain, Marshall. "How much sugar in soda?" Science on the Brain. (July 22, 2011)
  • Casey, John. "The Hidden Ingredient That Can Sabotage Your Diet." 2005. (July 22, 2011)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Body Measurements." 2009. (July 22, 2011)
  • Hellmich, Nanci. "Belly full of danger." USA Today. 2003. (July 22, 2011)
  • Jampolis, Melina. "Expert Q&A. Is it OK to eat the same foods every day?" CNN. 2009. (July 22, 2011)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Trans fat is double trouble for your heart health." 2011. (July 22, 2011)
  • Oz, Mehmet. "YOU: On a Diet Basics." 2008. (July 22, 2011)
  • Oz, Mehmet C., and Michael F. Roizen. "Follow the New Rules of Weight Loss." RealAge. (July 22, 2011)
  • RealAge. "YOU: On a Diet." (July 22, 2011)
  • Skarnulis, Leanna. "Are You Stuck In an Eating Rut?" 2004. (July 22, 2011)
  • The Dr. Oz Show. "The YOU: On a Diet Shopping List." 2009. (July 22, 2011)
  • The Dr. Oz Show. "You: On a Diet Basics." 2009. (July 22, 2011).
  • Ward, Elizabeth M. "Fat Facts: Good Fats vs. Bad Fats." WebMD. (July 22, 2011)
  • Zelman, Kathleen M. "The Truth About White Foods." WebMD. 2010. (July 22, 2011)
  • Zelman, Kathleen M. "You: On a Diet: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management." WebMD. 2009. (July 22, 2011)