The weight can creep up on you. One day you realize your waistline is not as trim as it once was. You’ve got a little belly going where you once were flat and firm. Or maybe it’s not so little.
If you’re ready to do something about it, you may be tempted by a new book that promises to help you shed those excess abdominal inches and pounds. “The 6-Week Cure for the Middle-Aged Middle” targets people about age 50 and older who have seen their waistlines expand and may be finding it harder to whittle their middles than they once did.
Authors and obesity specialists Dr. Mary Dan Eades and Dr. Michael R. Eades say they designed the diet for themselves when they needed to tighten up their midsections fast to appear more svelte for a TV cooking show. They went on to devise a plan that could be used by others struggling to shed those accumulating abdominal pounds.
This is not unfamiliar ground for the authors, who staked out similar territory in an earlier book, “Protein Power,” which sold more than 4 million copies. But much of the nutritional advice in their latest book is based on new studies and their interpretation of evolving research.
For instance? The Eadeses say saturated fats from red meat, butter, eggs and cream are good, even essential, for abdominal weight loss, as are coconut and palm oils, and they encourage their consumption. Omega-6 vegetable oils such as corn, safflower and sunflower, on the other hand, help pack on the abdominal pounds and should be avoided, they say.
Many nutritional experts advise the opposite, counseling people to strictly limit their intake of saturated fat because of the health risks and to substitute a moderate amount of vegetable oils instead. (But nutritional science does waver: A new analysis, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, questions the link between saturated fat and heart disease.) This is what the National Institutes of Health says about fats.
Also on the Eadeses’ hit list are carbohydrates, such as those found in breads, rice, pasta, oats and desserts -- whole grain or not. These are allowed only in tiny amounts (an occasional slice of “light” bread) during the six-week diet and in small amounts after that.
They recommend cutting out sugar, particularly fructose, almost entirely. (Low-sugar fruits and low-starch vegetables are allowed in minimal amounts during the diet and can be eaten freely later.) Also severely restricted during the six-week diet are dairy, caffeine and alcohol, as well as any medications not absolutely necessary.
What does one eat on the diet besides saturated fat? Protein, and lots of it.
During the first two weeks of the six-week plan, dieters are instructed to eat one protein-heavy meal of real food a day. That meal might include a chicken Caesar salad lettuce wrap and some grapes, or flank steak and sautéed spinach, an olive oil vinaigrette-dressed tomato and blackberries with cream. The book includes 80-plus recipes for dishes that can be eaten on the program.
Three other meals for the day consist of a protein shake boosted with an artificial sweetener such as Splenda, two tablespoons of heavy cream, leucine and D-ribose. Diet syrups, diet soda and frozen berries may be added to the shakes for flavoring. A vitamin and mineral supplement is highly recommended.
The Eadeses say the composition of their diet is what slims down the midsection specifically. They say that protein and saturated fat are needed to help the body shed the visceral fat that accumulates in the abdomen around the organs. (Visceral fat -- different from subcutaneous fat stored under the skin around the body -- has been associated with health problems such as cardiovascular disease.) They describe an at-home procedure to determine which kind of fat you have in your midsection.
The Eadeses say that the accumulation of visceral fat is linked to nonalcoholic fatty liver disorder
and that the intake of protein and saturated fat has been shown in studies to rid the liver of fat.
The book’s explanation of how the process reportedly works is complex. Suffice to say, many nutritional experts might raise an eyebrow or two at some of the claims. Here's Mayo Clinic’s explanation of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and its causes.
The Eadeses also discuss the reported role of stress, and subsequent cortisol production, in the widening of the waistline. Menopause can play a part, they say, and they recommend getting reproductive hormones checked to correct imbalances.
Would you lose weight on the Eadeses’ diet? On such a restricted eating plan, it’s a pretty safe bet most would. Is the diet nutritionally sound or one most people could or should maintain over time? That’s less certain.
-- Anne Colby
Photo: "The 6-Week Cure for the Middle-Aged Middle," Mary Dan Eades, MD, and Michael R. Eades, MD, Crown Publishers, $24.99