Dr. Brenda Watson is a world authority on digestive health, and author of the best selling book, The Fiber35 Diet: Nature’s Weight Loss Secret.*
Today, if a scientist working in a secret laboratory discovered a ‘new’ ingredient called fiber it would be hailed as a miracle nutrient and one of the greatest medical discoveries of all time.
The headlines might read “Fiber is the secret to ending obesity” or “Fiber is the key to reducing heart disease.” Fortunately, the reality is that the most respected scientific research institutions in the world have proven that fiber is the ‘secret’ ingredient that will help you lose weight, reduce the risk of chronic disease, and achieve optimum health.
Researchers have shown that fiber: increases satiety (the feeling of fullness), reduces hunger, and lowers caloric intake. Researchers agree that sufficient fiber intake every day can help you lose weight…. At the same time, a high fiber diet will dramatically improve your overall health and reduce the risk of many chronic health conditions.
8 Reasons Why Fiber Is a Miracle Nutrient
1. It helps you lose weight.
2. It helps you maintain your ideal weight for life.
3. It reduces the risk of heart attack.
4. It helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
5. It reduces the risk of diabetes and normalizes blood sugar levels.
6. It reduces the risk of chronic diseases.
7. It maintains bowel health and promotes regularity.
8. It improves the function of your immune system.
Weight Loss Math
Reducing the amount of calories consumed per day is the key to losing weight; there are no questions about it. Unless you reduce your intake below the number of calories that you need each day to maintain your current weight, long term weight loss is simply not possible.
Reducing calories is where most diets fail because, until now, that meant going hungry or eating foods that did not satisfy your hunger. Take a moment and think about every weight loss plan you have ever tried…
Fiber helps you reduce caloric intake and feel full in four compelling ways:
1. Fiber curbs your appetite, helping you reduce caloric intake.
2. Fiber helps reduce the absorption of calories from the food you eat.
3. Fiber-rich foods are low energy-density foods. In other words, you get to eat a lot of food without eating a lot of calories. [“Fiber” includes all parts of plant foods that the body can’t digest or absorb – some that dissolves in water to form a gel-like material and some that is insoluble bulk.]
4. Fiber slows down your body’s conversion of carbohydrates to sugar, thus supporting blood glucose stability to help you lose weight.
Cutting back on your calorie consumption is easier said than done. It’s one thing to start reducing calories, but it’s another thing to do it for a long enough period of time to achieve your weight loss goal (and then maintain that weight).
Who among us has not experienced the yo-yo effect? You lose ten pounds and then gain it right back. Why is permanent weight loss so hard? Is it because of a lack of motivation? Is it because of a lack of willpower? Is it that you really do not want to lose weight? Of course not. The reason is what I call the double-hunger whammy.
The first hunger whammy happens when you decrease your caloric intake, particularly if you decrease it by a significant amount. Your body sends signals saying “Eat Now.” They race through your body, and these signals can break down the will power of even the most motivated and disciplined among us.
This sequence of events includes a few signals that dash through your body, ultimately creating a double whammy.
• The first signal races through your body’s physiological express lane, screaming to the brain that it “needs more food.” Your brain then responds by attempting to protect the body, sending out signals that it is “time to eat.” The hunger pangs encourage you to do the very thing you are trying not to do – eat.
• The second hunger whammy is that your brain then sends out another signal that is even more insidious, since you do not even know it is happening. Worried that you might not get the food it needs to keep you alive, your brain begins to operate in “starvation mode.” This tells your body to slow down its metabolism (the rate at which you naturally burn calories).
Now, even though you are eating less, you begin to burn fewer calories because you body is trying to conserve energy.
If you were actually unable to find food, this physiological double-hunger whammy would be a life protecting system that would help you survive in a crisis. However, when you are trying to lose weight in a world where calories are everywhere, it makes the challenge that much more difficult.
CCK- The Hunger Hormone
Physiologically, hormones control much of what you feel – angry, tired, hungry, etc. Hormones are your body’s messengers. They act like traffic signs and signals, telling your body what to do and when to do it so that it runs smoothly and efficiently.
When it comes to hunger, there is a powerful hormone that helps regulate your satiety (the feeling of fullness that stops the hunger that causes you to eat). That hormone is
cholecystokinin or CCK. Think of CCK as the hormone that tells you “OK, I am full now, stop eating.” What a great messenger to have on your weight loss team!
Here is the great news. Fiber not only increases the volume of food in your stomach (with less caloric intake than other foods), but it also causes increased production and prolongs activity of the hormone CCK. In other words, by eating a high fiber diet you can reduce your caloric intake and still feel full and satisfied.
The Fiber Flush Effect
As powerful as fiber is in helping control your appetite, it also has another special property that aids in weight loss. Fiber actually helps reduce absorption of calories from food that you have already consumed. This is called the Fiber Flush Effect and it has been proven in different studies worldwide.
Simply put, for every gram of fiber you eat, you eliminate 7 calories.
This means that if you consume the minimum 35 grams of daily fiber [that I recommend] in The Fiber35 Diet* plan, you will eliminate 245 calories per day. This is a significant number and is one of the main reasons this high-fiber diet is so successful. You might be wondering how fiber manages to remove calories and take them out of your body before they become part of you.
The mechanism is actually quite simple. What fiber is doing is blocking the absorption of calories consumed by increasing the transit time of food through the body. Fiber works to move food through the intestinal system faster, so there is less time for the body to process all of the calories contained in the food. It is a natural mechanism of fiber and it is one of the main reasons why cultures that consume high-fiber diets do not suffer from the weight problems that we have in North America.
Fiber – The Biggest Bang For Your Calorie Buck
Fiber-rich foods allow you to eat the most amount of food with the least amount of calories. Fiber-rich foods are low-energy-density foods and therefore pack a high volume of content in a low-calorie package. In other words, you get to eat a lot of food without eating a lot of calories.
For example, a bar of chocolate has more calories than a peach that weighs five times more than the chocolate bar. You will gain more weight and feel less full eating the chocolate than you will the peach. In other words, the peach will leave you feeling fuller, with fewer calories because of its fiber content. It has a high volume, taking up more space and allowing for a feeling of fullness.
Blood Chemistry Stability
The most notable hormone to gain attention in weight loss research is insulin. When you eat sugars or starchy carbohydrates (especially refined ones like white flour and table sugar) your body turns them into glucose very rapidly. Glucose (or blood sugar) is the primary form of ‘fuel’ for our body, especially the brain.
In response to the presence of glucose in the bloodstream, your body produces insulin, whose job it is to move glucose out of the blood and into the cells of the tissue. Once glucose reaches the cellular level, three things may happen
1. It may be used for immediate energy.
2. In may be converted to glycogen (stored sugar) for later use.
3. It may be stored as fat. This is the outcome you are probably most familiar with.
If you overindulge in sugar or starchy carbohydrates at a meal your glucose level will rise sharply, but it will soon fall back. When this happens, you usually experience a craving for more carbohydrates to bring your blood sugar levels back up.
Habitual over-consumption of carbohydrates sets off a repetitive pattern of quick rises and drops in blood sugar levels, which causes your pancreas to work overtime releasing insulin.
As this pattern repeats itself over time, the effectiveness of insulin eventually starts to decline. A condition known as insulin resistance develops in which your cells become desensitized to insulin, making them ineffective at taking in glucose.
• The net result is too much insulin in your blood.
• That insulin is unavailable for your cells because their insulin receptors have become blocked.
• Due to decreased insulin sensitivity, adequate glucose is prevented from reaching your cells.
• Therefore it cannot be used for energy and as a result, you feel tired.
• Your liver reacts to this scenario by converting the glucose into stored fat.
Before long, you are tired and fat and at risk for numerous health related problems.
The good news is that fiber helps to slow down the conversion of carbohydrates, so it can help reverse insulin resistance. High fiber foods help normalize blood sugar levels. Fiber also increases insulin sensitivity, which is the measure of how well cells respond to insulin and reduce the level of glucose. Over time, using The Fibre35 Diet, your body will begin to use the glucose contained in the stored fat. In other words, your body will become a natural ‘fat burning’ machine.
The Fibre35 Diet – Calories and Fiber
Over the past 20 years, most weight loss plans have asked you to count something. First it was grams of fat, then it was protein, and then carbohydrates. The bottom line is that to succeed at your weight loss program, you need to have goals and set limits. With The Fibre35 Diet, you need to count calories and fiber intake per day.
While it might sound tedious, it is actually quite simple. For example, most women should eat between 1,500 to 2,000 calories per day. This is how much ‘fuel’ is needed to keep up with your body’s metabolism.
A pound of fat equals 3,500 calories, so if you want to lose 1 pound, you must eat 3,500 less calories than your body needs over a given period of time. For example, if you ate 1 calorie less than your body required every day, it would take 3,500 days or (9.58 years) to lose 1 pound. But don’t worry; with The Fibre35 Diet you can lose weight much faster than that!
Making Healthy Fiber Choices – 2 Grams or More Per 100 Calories
Be careful about eating foods that are high in calories but are disguised as “healthy” because the package says something like “good source of fiber.” The rule of thumb here is to seek foods that have at least 2 grams of fiber per 100 calories. Use the chart below to guide you:
• 1 gram of fiber or less it is a poor choice
• 2 grams of fiber it is a good choice
• 3 grams of fiber it is a better choice
• 4 + grams of fiber it is the best choice.
[Note: For an excellent guide to serving size, calorie content, and grams of fiber for a long list of foods – see the Dietary Fiber Chart compiled by Continuum Health Partners, New York.]
High Fiber Diet Basics & Keys for Success
Essentially, as detailed in Dr. Watson’s book, The Fiber35 Diet involves adopting a daily calorie reduction/weight loss target (considering the 35,000 calories = 1 pound formula) while gradually increasing fiber consumption to 35 grams per day. The gradual approach allows an unaccustomed digestive system, including the bacteria in the GI tract, time to adjust to the increase in fiber. The recommended meal pattern is to eat 5 or 6 smaller meals/snacks a day to avoid periods of hunger.
Then, when a satisfactory weight is achieved, continue to consume 35 or more grams of fiber – without counting calories unless you slip back into bad habits.
As explained above, even if you did not reduce calories, if you consumed the minimum 35 grams of daily fiber, you’d be canceling out 245 calories a day (35 grams x 7 calories per gram).
Other keys to success, says Dr. Watson, are that:
• No one should consume less than 1,200 calories a day.
• When you increase fiber intake, it is important to also increase water intake to avoid experiencing possible gas, bloating, or constipation. Dr. Watson recommends drinking half your body weight in ounces of water. 160 pounds = 80 ounces, or 10 glasses.
• Those with GI problems such as IBS should follow doctors’ guidelines regarding dietary fiber, and everyone should avoid eating excessive amounts of fiber, as this may interfere with absorption of essential nutrients.
• And when you’re burning fat, you’ll be releasing toxins into your body, so consider helping your body to deal with them using cleansing and detox products.
In addition to the step-by-step diet guide, Dr. Watson’s book offers high-fiber recipes and meal plans, information about fiber supplements and cleansing/detox products, and much more.
* The Fiber35 Diet: Nature’s Weight Loss Secret (Free Press, 2008), a New York Times Best-Seller by Brenda Watson, ND, with Leonard Smith, MD. The information presented here is excerpted with kind permission of the author from the April 2007 issue of Digestion Digest Newsletter, published by Brenda Watson, founder of Renew Life, Inc. and archived at www.renewlife.ca
Note: This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. It is generic and is not intended to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any illness, condition or disease. It is very important that you make no change in your healthcare plan or health support regimen without researching and discussing it in collaboration with your professional healthcare team.