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Belly fat in women: Taking — and keeping — it off

What does your waistline say about your health? 

 Why belly fat is more common after menopause, what dangers it poses — and what to do about it.

By Mayo Clinic staff

An expanding waistline is sometimes considered the price of getting older. For women, this might be especially true after menopause, when body fat tends to shift from the arms, legs and hips to the abdomen. Yet an increase in belly fat can do more than make it hard to zip up your jeans. Research indicates that belly fat also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain cancers — even premature death. The good news? The threats posed by belly fat can be cut down to size.

What's behind belly fat

Your weight is largely determined by how you balance the calories you eat with the energy you burn. If you eat too much and exercise too little, you're likely to pack on excess pounds — including belly fat. However, aging also plays a role. Muscle mass gradually diminishes with age, and fat accounts for a greater percentage of your weight. Less muscle mass also decreases the rate at which your body uses calories, which can make it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight or lose excess pounds.

In addition, many women notice an increase in belly fat as they get older — even if they aren't gaining weight. This is likely due to a decreasing level of estrogen, which appears to influence where fat is distributed in the body. The tendency to gain or carry weight around the waist — have an "apple" rather than a "pear" shape — can have a genetic component as well.

Why belly fat is more than skin deep


Belly fat

The trouble with belly fat is that it's not limited to the extra layer of padding located just below the skin (subcutaneous fat). It also includes visceral fat — which lies deep inside your abdomen, surrounding your internal organs.

Although subcutaneous fat poses cosmetic concerns, visceral fat is associated with far more dangerous health consequences. That's because an excessive amount of visceral fat produces hormones and other substances that can raise blood pressure, negatively alter good and bad cholesterol levels and impair the body's ability to use insulin (insulin resistance). An excessive amount of any fat, including visceral fat, also boosts estrogen levels. All of this can increase the risk of serious health problems, including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer

Recent research also has associated belly fat with an increased risk of premature death — regardless of overall weight. In fact, some studies have found that even when women were considered a normal weight based on standard body mass index (BMI) measurements, a large waistline increased the risk of dying of cardiovascular disease, cancer and other causes.

The Truth About Belly Fat

What you need to know -- and do -- about belly fat.
By Sonya Collins
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Belly fat – we all want less of it. But did you know that it may even be a problem for thin people, though they don't know it? And that some of it hides deep inside, around your inner organs, where it may pose a silent health threat if there's too much of it -- no matter what size you wear?

It's true: There's more to belly fat than your size.

Where did it come from? What's it doing to you? And what can you do about it?

Before you go any further, this is not about fat phobia. Your body needs some fat. And it's not about judging yourself or anyone else.

Instead, it's about geography -- where your fat is located -- even if you can't see it.

Location, Location, Location

Not all fat is the same. “It behaves differently in different places,” says Carol Shively, PhD, a pathology professor at Wake Forest School of Medicine. And its behavior is the key to what your fat is doing to you.

People store most of their fat in two ways:

  • Just under the skin in the thighs, hips, buttocks, and abdomen. That's subcutaneous (under the skin) fat.
  • Deeper inside, around the vital organs (heart, lungs, digestive tract, liver, etc.) in the chest, abdomen, and pelvis. That's called "visceral" fat.

Subcutaneous fat is the fat we can see, and visceral fat is the fat we can’t.

Though many people are self-conscious about the fat they can see, research shows that hidden fat -- in people of any size -- may pose the bigger threat.

Like Another Organ

Fat doesn't just sit idle. It acts like an organ that secretes substances, says Kristen Hairston, MD, who is assistant professor of endocrinology and metabolism at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

While visceral fat provides necessary cushioning around organs, Hairston says, it secretes "lots of nasty substances” that can be absorbed by the neighboring organs.

For instance, visceral fat cells release inflammatory compounds that can lead to insulin resistance and some cancers. Excess visceral fat is linked to greater risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and cancers of the breast, colon, and endometrium.

 Fall Workouts to Get You in Shape

  There’s plenty you can do during the transition before those summer clothes go on to keep your cardiovascular system and metabolism on fire, and your muscles well-toned and strengthened. For example, try setting a timer for 10-15 minutes and do two of the following:



  • Jump rope alternating while marching in place with high knees
  • Stability ball squats against a wall, alternating with pushups or jogging in place
  • Briskly walking up and down your staircase two stairs at a time, or running them
  • Dumbbell upper-body workouts


Do not assume that you’ve met your daily exercise quota because you did some housework. The difference is that traditional exercise is structured and tends to be bilateral: equal on both sides of the body. And it’s scheduled as something extra; extra exertion that will make the difference in fitness and health.


If you belong to a gym or recreation center, make trips there several times a week, even if it’s just to pedal furiously on a stationary bike or try a new fitness class. Do something different to diminish wintertime blues: women can experiment with dumbbell routines and men can try a step aerobics or yoga class.


Suppose you’re not in the mood to try anything new, but are bored with your usual routines. Here are some guidelines to brighten up familiar routines.


Treadmill, stationary bike and elliptical machine. Rather than doing the same ‘ol steady-state pace of sustaining a fixed pace, alternate between fast-blast intervals and recovery paces. A fast-blast interval can last 30 seconds to several minutes and should be done at an intensity that leaves you barely able to hold out for even a few moments longer. The recovery interval should have the effort level of a casual-paced walk, and is done for one to two minutes to catch your breath.


Experiment with varying speeds, inclines, RPMs, and pedal resistance. Remember: when using the treadmill, do not hold on; this is cheating and can ruin posture. On the elliptical trainer, don’t slump forward. If you absolutely must hold onto the elliptical, do so only with your fingertips. The advantage of interval training is that it burns more calories in less time, expedites fitness gains, and makes time go faster.


Smith machine barbell squats. Many exercisers never do these. Just about every workout center has a Smith machine. Barbell squats recruit the quadriceps, buttocks, hamstrings and lower back muscles, making this a major workout and king calorie burner—when done at a challenging level. Consult with a personal trainer first to learn proper form.


Decline leg presses. This is another routine that many people don’t do. It requires very little conscious thought to form, yet is a powerhouse of a routine in that it isolates the legs and builds remarkable lower-body conditioning. The decline apparatus is more effective than the horizontal leg press, because it allows you to bring your legs down deeper.


Hamstring curls. Many people do these, but very few people do them effectively. For tighter hamstrings, hold the curl position for two seconds before releasing the weight, and release slowly.


Lat pull-downs. This is another popular routine that is often done wrong. Keep forearms vertical at all times and bring bar only down as far as your chin; keep head straight. Release weight slowly.


This routine is supposed to isolate the middle back muscles, which burn many calories due to their natural size, but women typically bend their forearms parallel to the floor as they bring the bar down too far, and use weight that is too light to incite fat-burning. Men usually let the weight fly back up in a jerky motion, which can damage their shoulder joints.


Stability ball dumbbell presses. This simultaneously works your chest (primarily), shoulders, a little triceps, and your lower back and is safer for the shoulder joints than standard flat-bench dumbbell presses. The ball replaces the flat bench. Start out with light weights to get a feel for this funky variation.


Smaller muscle groups. Don’t forget to work shoulders, triceps and biceps. You’re already doing that, right? But don’t just go through motions. Set the resistance so that you can barely perform 8-12 repetitions. Beginners can work 12-15 rep maximal efforts.


Tired of cardio equipment? Get on the track. Run or walk one lap at a rigorous speed, then walk moderately the next lap. Alternate for 20 minutes. Don’t feel like running but want something more challenging than walking? Sign up for martial arts lessons. Martial arts schools are everywhere.


Climb for fitness. These days, climbing gyms are easy to find, and wall-climbing offers a fabulous alternative to more traditional exercise. The entire body gets worked. For people who hate floor stretches, climbing stretches the body while providing excitement to the exerciser. Climbing gyms offer routes for all levels of participants.


Outdoor exercise. Walking, jogging and even inline skating are good choices for wintertime workouts, but have you ever considered snow-shoeing? If snow exercise doesn’t appeal to you, but you still want to exercise outdoors, then make sure you are plenty hydrated and wearing proper attire. Join a hiking club, or see if there are any wintertime walk-a-thons. And if you have only 15 minutes here and there, then just walk briskly and pump your arms. Take a jump rope with you and use it every few minutes. You’ll be huffing and puffing by the end of that 15 minutes.


All in all, you must make time for structured exercise at least 4-5 times a week. Your exercise time slot should never be filled by housework, yard chores, or that “exhausting” shopping trip with the kids. Exercise should be pre-meditated, deliberate and methodical, with limited distress.


Seven-Day Meal Plan
Day 1


  • 3/4 cup bran flakes, 1 banana, 1 cup fat-free milk

  • Sandwich: 1 mini whole wheat pita, 3 ounces turkey breast, 1/2 roasted pepper, 1 teaspoon light mayonnaise, mustard, lettuce
  • 1 stick part-skim mozzarella string cheese
  • 2 kiwifruits

  • 4 ounces broiled flounder or sole
  • 2 sliced plum tomatoes sprinkled with 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, broiled until just golden
  • 1 cup cooked couscous
  • 1 cup steamed broccoli
  • 1 fat-free pudding cup

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    Seven-Day Meal Plan: Day 1

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    Day 2

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    Day 3

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    Day 4

      PAGE 5:

    Day 5

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    Day 6

      PAGE 7:

    Day 7


    The Juice You Should Be Drinking

    Move over, O.J.: a new study says purple grape juice may be your best bet for preventing heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and a host of other chronic ailments.

    Eat Salmon, Be Happy

    Having salmon for dinner may put you in a better mood. Researchers say that the omega-3 fatty acids found in the fish have a positive effect on the areas of the brain associated with emotion.

    Another Natural Mood Booster

    Down in the dumps? Good news: not only is working out good for your physical health, it's also beneficial to your emotional and mental health as well.


    Lose the Stubborn Fat
    Tips for losing those last 5 lbs.
    LOG ONTO www.LIVELEANTODAY.COM   for more support!!

      It is always those last few pounds that are the hardest to lose.  Frequently called stubborn fat, it is the love handles, back of the arms, pooch belly, or back of the thighs for many people that as they get closer to their goal, simply refuse to go away. The bad news is that fat comes off when and where it chooses, you can’t spot reduce. The good news is that it can come off and will with a little extra knowledge and effort.  To figure out how to lose the stubborn fat, sit down and take a look at what you have been doing and make some adjustments. There are a couple things to remember. First, you will not lose this weight as rapidly as you had before. Those last 10 pounds might take twice as long as the first 10.  Second, the best results come from variety.

    Speaking in terms of resistance training , more muscle allows you to burn fat because your body needs more calories to feed your muscles.  If you find yourself using the same weight all the time for an exercise, it might be time to move up and stimulate those muscles again. If you are confident that you are working hard already, maybe increase your total volume by adding an exercise or two during a workout.  For example, move from 15 total sets to 18 sets per workout.  Speaking in terms of cardio, this is a little trickier to give a simple answer to.  More intensity may not be the best solution.  If you constantly work above your anaerobic threshold at a high heart rate level, oxygen will not be present enough to burn fat.  You must have a good mix of high intensity, low intensity and intervals to lose those last few fat pounds.  Your best results for cardiovascular training will come with the use of a heart rate monitor .

    A good program will allow you to continue using a plan until you respond and adapt to it, then you change it.  By mixing up your plan every couple of weeks or so, you increase you chances for success because you constantly provide a new stimulus to your body.  If you always cycle, even at a high level, your body will become efficient at cycling.  If you cycle and then move to running, you have provided a new stimulus, you’ll burn more calories and get better results.

    Nutrition and eating behavior
    This is the most crucial element.  The nutrition portion is what you eat.  Making sure you are getting enough nutrients and the correct portions of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats in your diet.  The behavior portion is how you eat.  This includes correct portion size and frequency.  The right combination of both will allow you to get the best results.  Eating your 5 small meals a day is only part of the solution.  When you are trying to lose those last few pounds, what you eat will determine your success. Really pay attention to the amount of sugar, white flour and salt in your diet.  When you sit down to analyze your efforts thus far, you might find some areas of improvement. 

    Those last 5-10 pounds will be the toughest. If you have already lost a significant amount of weight, then you know you are doing things right. Analyze theses categories to see if changes can be made for better results and then execute.  Have patience and do not give up, you will be rewarded in the end.


    Good news! Not only is working out good for your physical health, but it is beneficial to your emotional and mental health as well. Whether you're dealing with personal issues, family problems, break-ups or work related stress, the last thing you may feel like doing may just be one of the best things for you.

    Research shows that any aerobic activity - even just a single bout or an easy stroll - can help put the mind at ease. Exercise produces a surge in mood-elevating hormones called endorphins, explains Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer of the American Council on Exercise. These natural "drugs" produce the same feelings elicited from addictive drugs like morphine, caffeine and alcohol. And yet, most of us are more apt to start our day with a jolt of java than jump on the treadmill each morning.

    How much moving and grooving do you need to do before you experience a mood lift? Research indicates that 20 to 40 minutes of aerobic exercise can result in reductions in anxiety and mood benefits that last for hours. But if you want to experience a true high from exercise, you may need to hit the streets - hard.

    A study reported in Runner's World found that 80 percent of runners had a higher level of endorphins in their blood after a hard session compared to only 45 percent after an easy jog. And according to Bryant, levels of a mood-boosting brain chemical called norepinephrine, increase in direct proportion to the intensity and duration of exercise. What's more, getting a certain number of miles under your sneakers can create an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.


    A better question would be, “What cant you eat?”

    For years, diet plans for losing weight have been centered around restrictions and “taboo” foods. Yet, those of us who have studied the science behind feeding the human body know that there is no such thing as a taboo food, and that drastic calorie restriction will actually keep you from becoming as fit as you can be.

    You can't starve your way to better health .

    Nutrition and fitness go hand in hand. In order to help you reach your goals, we need to raise your metabolism through a combination of the two – you will exercise to make your body more efficient at burning calories, and at the same time, you have to feed your body enough food, in a way that allows it do that.

    5 Things You Should Know About Building Muscle
    Tips to help you program your workouts to build muscle

     Building muscle takes a lot of time and effort.  Here are 5 things should know about how to build muscle so you can program effectively to get better results .

    • Volume- The volume of your workout program will be an important factor in your ability to build muscle effectively.  Most of us who are just looking to build muscle to improve our physique and raise our metabolism will work between 12-15 sets generally.  Those who are looking to really pack it on and even consider body building programs, over time might progress their workouts to 20-30 sets or more while only working 1 or 2 body parts at a time.

    • Compound Movements-Building muscle takes big movements.  The legs, for instance, are very large muscles and need a lot of stimulation to grow.  It would be very difficult to increase the size of your upper thighs by only doing only hamstring curls, quad extensions and the inner and outer thigh machines.  Multijoint movements such as squats and deadlifts, will allow you to use enough weight to stimulate growth in these larger muscle groups and should be at the center of your workout program.

    • Nutrition- This includes not only what you eat, but when and how much.  Building muscle takes calories.  Lots of them.  This includes a proper mix of macronutrients such as carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats.  A common misconception is that more protein equals more muscle.  Too much protein can be harmful, and your body cannot process an abundant amount of protein at once.  By consuming the right percentage of macronutrients and increasing total calories, you will effectively build muscle tissue.  When you eat is an important factor as well.  I see people make the common mistake of working out and then skipping a meal.  If you don’t replenish the lost calories and provide your body with the proper nutrients, your workout may be very ineffective.  A good meal replacement shake is an easy way to replenish nutrients, vitamins and minerals for your recovery.

    • Rest and recovery-Proper recovery is crucial to a program because it allows your body time to adapt and the muscle tissue to repair itself and be able to handle additional overload during the next workout.  Take time off, cut volume in half every few months for a week, and rest when your body says to rest.  This will optimize your training and allow you to get better results.

    • Women and building muscle-There is a lot of confusion about women and building muscle , and it is common that they are fearful of becoming too big.  People say that women don’t have enough testosterone in their bodies to effectively build muscle.  This is only part of it.  How effectively we can build muscle is also determined by our genetics and the composition of our muscle fiber types.  Women can see an increase of up to 40% within a few months by engaging in a weight lifting program when done with the right intensity, volume and other variables. Understanding our body types and how we respond to weight lifting will help you to effectively program your workouts.

    Why Core Fitness is Important
    If you’ve listened to the buzz around the fitness world lately or perused the latest workout books, you’ve probably heard the experts referencing core fitness in some shape or form. Traditionally, strength training has been dominated by exercises focused on isolating the muscles of the arms and legs. In fact, if you look at many of the weight machines that have become popular in modern gyms, you’ll notice that they require you to sit or recline while you use them.

    While these machines will effectively help you build the muscles that they target, the problem is that, in real life, we don’t use our muscles that way. We lift a box from the floor to a shelf, swing a golf club, push o

    While those activities may make the use of core muscles seem very obvious, this area, made up of the muscles of our midsection, are actually responsible for quite a few of the more subtle functions as well, including posture, balance and stability.

    A weakened core will often result in poor posture and stability, yet we don’t necessarily feel the results of it in areas that show us a direct cause and effect correlation. For example, poor posture, due to a weakened core, might allow our hips to slip out of alignment resulting in knee pain. In fact, quite a few of the chronic muscle and joint pain issues that Americans are suffering with today stem from a weakened core.

    It is no wonder, then, that exercise science has taken a dramatic shift in recent years to include the core in strength training regimes. Now, rather than using a machine to first exercise your legs and then your arms, trainers are suggesting that their clients use free weights or bands to combine exercises such as a squat to overhead press. By linking the two, people are forced to transition the exercise movement through their core, and the core muscles in turn help to maintain good posture throughout the exercise. The end result is that we are exercising in a fashion that mimics the movements that we use in everyday life, while creating better posture and increasing our stability and balance.


    Diet Plans - The Real Deal

    A lot of times people who workout complain that they aren't getting the results they want to be getting. The #1 cause of not being able to get your body to do what you want it to do is usually NOT your workout. Most, if not all of the time, it is due to your diet. So, sit back and get comfortable. There is a lot of information in this 2 part article, but it will contain EVERY SINGLE THING you need to know about diets and nutrition so that an improper diet plan DOESN'T stop you from getting the results you want to get.


    Before we can start talking about diets and diet plans, you must first understand what a diet REALLY is and what it REALLY means. See, people tend to use the phrase "I'm on a diet" when they want to tell people that they are trying to lose weight. People who do this are... well... stupid. A diet IS NOT weight loss. Diets are just simply what you eat on a regular basis. You could eat McDonald's cheeseburgers covered in ice cream 4 times a day, and you'd still be "on a diet." While eating like this would certainly be the worst of all diet plans, you get my point.

    If someone said, "that monkey's diet consists of bananas," would that mean the monkey has a weight problem? No, it would just mean that the monkey eats bananas on a regular basis. Saying you're on a diet really just means you eat food. That's why I think it's funny when people state that they're "on a diet" and expect it to mean something it doesn't. "You're on a diet? Wow... congratulations... so is EVERY OTHER LIVING THING ON THE PLANET!!" These people should be saying that out of the many different diets and plans that exist, they're "on a weight loss diet." Hopefully these people are reading this right now, and hopefully they have learned their lesson. It's ok, we forgive you.

    Diet Plans For Different Goals

    Now, chances are you ended up here for one of the following reasons:

    A) Your goal is weight loss and losing fat.
    B) Your goal is
    weight gain and increasing muscle.
    C) Your goal is to lose fat AND increase muscle.

    Which ever it is makes little difference at this point, because it all starts with your diet. You see, with the exception of a few small details, all diet plans are exactly the same. They all break down the same way. All diets consist of the same things. It's how you adjust those things that makes the difference between A, B and C. So, let's find out what exactly these "things" are.

    Calories And Maintenance Levels

    Now that you fully understand what diets are, let's break down what all diet plans consist of. Above all things, there are calories. All diets are made up of calories. Everything you eat and drink (besides obvious things like water and celery, etc.) has calories in it. It's how many calories and exactly where those calories are coming from that effect your body and your weight. The way the human body works is pretty simple. There is a certain number of calories that your body requires every day in order for it to maintain its current weight. I like to call this your "Maintenance Level" because, well, that's what it's actually called. If your diet plan is made up of less calories than this maintenance level, you will lose weight. If it's made up of more calories, you will gain weight. It's all really simple, actually.

    If you just read that last paragraph you should feel good about yourself. Why? Because right now you already know more about diets and nutrition than at least 80% of the population. No, you're no genius yet. It's just that most people are clueless about the subject of "diet plans" and how to actually control their body and weight.

    So now that you know that diets are made up of calories, you should be wondering what exactly calories are made up of. Basically, calories are made up of 3 things. Protein, carbs, and fat. Yeah yeah, I know. High protein diet!! Low carb diet!! Low fat diet!! Healthy fat!! Fat free!! Good carbs!! Bad carbs!! Those are probably the assortment of confusing things that enter your mind as soon as you hear the words protein, carbs and fat. It's ok though, relax. In a few minutes none of it will be confusing ever again. Let's take them one at a time.


    Protein is an extremely important part of all diet plans. That's why you have most likely never heard of any low protein diets, and also why you probably HAVE heard of protein supplements. That's because your body needs protein, and lots of it. It is the building block of muscle. Protein is measured by the gram. 1 gram of protein is equal to 4 calories. So, if you are eating something that has 20 grams of protein in it, that means that whatever you are eating is at least 80 calories. In case you failed 2nd grade math, that was 20 grams of protein multiplied by 4 calories per gram... 20 x 4 = 80


    Carbs (or "carbohydrates" for the people who don't mind typing 8 extra letters) is another of the three main elements that make up calories. I have a feeling that of the three, carbs are the most confusing for people creating diet plans. I think the reason for that is because everything you enjoy eating has carbs in it. Hell, everything you don't enjoy eating has carbs in it. Carbs are in almost everything and therefore seem to be the hardest for people to manipulate within a diet plan. Just like protein, 1 gram of carbs is equal to 4 calories. So, if you were eating something that had 20 grams of protein and 10 grams of carbs, you just ate at least 120 calories (20x4=80, 10x4=40, 80+40=120calories).


    Unlike protein and carbs which are both 4 calories per gram, 1 gram of fat is equal to 9 calories. So if you eat something that has 10 grams of fat in it, you just ate at least 90 calories. This explains why high protein foods are usually low in calories, while foods high in fat are high in calories. This is also probably the reason why people on diets think fat makes them fat. Guess what... it doesn't. That is a myth.

    Fat does not make you fat. Eating too many calories makes you fat. It just so happens that a gram of fat has more calories in it than a gram of protein or carbs. However, the only thing that makes a person gain fat is when that person is eating more calories than their maintenance level, and then not burning them off through working out. Whether these excess calories in your diet plan are coming from protein, carbs or fat makes little difference.

    Sometimes people on specific weight loss diet plans just try to eat less fat and think that alone will work. What they don't realize is that they are probably replacing those fat calories with calories from protein or carbs. Yes their fat intake has become lower, but their calorie intake evens back out to what it was, if not more. And, since you now know that it is too much calories, NOT fat, that causes fat gain, the person's weight usually won't decrease.

    Different Diets And Plans

    So now that you know diets consist of calories, and calories consist of protein, carbs and fat, you should have just one final 4-part question. Exactly how much protein, how much fat, how many carbs and how many calories should you be eating each day in your own diet plan? It's hard to answer this because there are 100's of different diets out there whose "gimmicks" revolve around the answers to those questions.

    Especially when it comes to weight loss diets. There's the low carb diet, the low fat diet, the high protein diet, the atkins diet, the south beach diet, the zone diet, and too many others to even remember. While those diets have their place and some people like all of the gimmicky aspects of them, honestly... none are truly needed. If one seems ideal for you, then by all means, use it.

    But... the only diet that could be considered actually needed is the completely free one that my site recommends.

    To view all of the information about this diet and to learn how to adjust it to fit your goals, click below to move on to part 2 of this FREE article...

    PART 2

    The Diet Plan

    The diet plan BlackDoctor.Org recommends has no name. The reason for that is because well, it's not being sold to you. It's free. It's all based on fact, not gimmicks and generating sales. Right now we can just call it "The simple free diet that works every time." Catchy, isn't it? I can't take credit for inventing it though. If anyone can take credit for inventing this diet plan, it would be the human body itself. So, thank you human body... thank you for losing weight or gaining weight when simple diet adjustments are made to you. Ok, let's get down to business...

    Basically this diet simply revolves around calories and eating either above or below your calorie maintenance level depending on whether you are looking to lose or gain weight. And then, just making sure that those calories are coming from good sources of protein, carbs and fat, as well as good amounts of each. But, for the most part... it all comes down to calories. Here's how to figure it all out...

    How many calories?

    First, the most important of all the numbers you will need to figure out... your daily calorie intake. The number of calories you need to eat each day is different depending on whether you're looking to lose weight or gain weight. If you want to lose weight, you have to eat less calories than your maintenance level. If you want to gain weight, you have to eat more. So, the first thing you need to figure out is what your daily calorie maintenance level is. To figure this out, follow these steps:

    The first thing you should do is weigh yourself. Do it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.

    The second thing you need to do is eat exactly like you normally would for a few days. Whatever and however you normally ate and drank during the course of a usual day, keep doing it like you usually would. The only difference is you will be paying attention to what you are eating and drinking. More specifically, you will be keeping track of the number of calories in everything you consume. Unless you have a really good memory, I'd suggest keeping a list of it all.

    If you are eating something that has it's nutritional info on the package, be sure to take notice of how many calories are in it and write it down. If what you are eating/drinking doesn't give the nutritional info, you can buy a cheap pocket size calorie counter book (which is easy to carry around during the day). These books give a huge list of foods along with how many calories (and carbs, fat, etc.) are in them. This one even lists foods from fast food chains and restaurants. It can be extremely useful.

    Once you've done this every day for a few days, it will be time to figure out the average amount of calories you consume in a day. So, go and look at your totals for the few days you've been counting calories, and then take the average. For the sake of explaining the rest of this, we will pretend the average came out to be 2500 calories a day.

    Now that you figured out how many calories you are eating in a day (2500), you now need to decide what you want your weight to do. Do you want to lose weight or gain weight? If your goal is to lose weight, you should now start eating 500 LESS calories a day. So, sticking with this example, you would now start eating 2000 calories a day. If your goal is to gain weight, you would ADD 500 calories. In this example, you would now start eating 3000 calories a day.

    All you have to do after that is wait a week and then weigh yourself again (first thing in the morning on an empty stomach) and notice what your weight did. If you wanted to lose weight, did you? If so, continue to eat those same number of calories every day. If you wanted to gain weight, did you? If so, continue to eat those same number of calories every day.

    If your weight did NOT do what you wanted it to do, then make an adjustment. If you wanted to lose and you didn't, subtract an additional 250 calories from your daily total for another week. If you wanted to gain but didn't, add an additional 250 calories to your daily total for another week. Then weigh yourself at the end of the week and see what happened.

    Once you finally have your weight doing what you want it to do (it usually will after the first 500 calorie adjustment), continue to keep track of it all and keep weighing yourself once a week. Eventually (could be weeks, could be months, could be never) it is possible that you will reach a stopping point where your weight stops doing what you want it to do. This is perfectly normal and just means it's time to add/subtract another 250 calories. I would say that if your weight stays exactly the same for 2-3 weeks, it's likely time to make another calorie adjustment.

    The reason all of the calorie adjustments are always done is small increments is because removing or adding too many calories too fast will have a negative effect causing you to lose or gain too much too fast. This is unsafe and unhealthy. You should be losing or gaining typically 1 or 2 pounds a week at most. Even a half of a pound counts as a change. In the beginning it is normal (especially for weight loss) to lose a little more than these numbers a week. However, this shouldn't last longer than a few weeks before you reach the usual 1-2 pounds a week numbers.

    So now you know how many calories to eat each day. All that's left to figure out now is where those calories should come from...

    How much protein?

    It is usually recommended that a person looking to increase muscle should be eating at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. So if you weigh 180lbs, you should try to eat 180 grams of protein a day. That might sound impossible at first, but it is VERY doable and quite simple once you get used to it. This is also why they invented protein supplements. While the majority of my daily protein intake comes from actual foods that are high in protein, I use protein shakes and protein bars to supplement the rest. They are very helpful, and I recommend them.

    Some high protein foods include:

    Eggs (egg whites)

    How much fat?

    For fat, I can't give you an exact number of grams. Instead I can give you a percent. Approximately 25% of you daily calorie intake should come from fat. It doesn't have to be EXACTLY 25%, but something in that range seems to be the ideal amount. And by fat of course, I mean GOOD fat.

    Some foods containing "good" fat include:

    Nuts and seeds
    Olive oil
    Flax seed oil

    How many carbs?

    And that leaves carbs. You factored in that you need to eat 1 gram of protein per pound. So now do the math. Sticking with the 180lbs example, that means you are eating 180 grams of protein a day. 180x4 = 720 calories. So in this example, 720 calories of the daily calorie intake is accounted for from protein alone. You can now also factor in the 25% of your daily calorie total coming from fat. Once you factored in both the protein and fat, whatever number of calories you are left with... those will come from carbs. Got that? 1 gram per pound for protein, 25% of the total calorie intake is fat, and everything else should come from GOOD carbs.

    Some foods containing "good" carbs include:

    100% whole wheat bread
    Whole wheat pasta
    Brown rice
    Sweet potatoes
    Green leafy vegetables

    Organize It And Do It

    Now that you have all of the diet information figured out, try to spread the calories out evenly over 4-6 smaller meals rather than 3 really big meals. Then, spread the 4-6 smaller meals out by eating once every 3 hours or so. That pretty much sums it all up. Be sure to drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, and of course... workout correctly. Oh, and one final math equation for you:

    Everything you just read + dedication + consistency = results

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