News! Sticking to any diet causes a metabolism slowdown that stalls weight loss for women over 40. The genius fix: Dr. Ian Smith’s new ‘confuse it to lose it’ plan powers off fat fast-and forever!
Have you ever tried to follow a diet only to cheat a few days in? Have you successfully lost weight but then gained it all back when you eased up on a super-restrictive plan? You’re not alone! The sad truth is, most diets don’t work — and new science shows that’s because they’re far too strict and regimented. In fact, scientists at the National Institutes of Health report that consistent restrictive dieting actually has the reverse effect-slowing metabolism and making it twice as hard for the body to drop excess pounds.
It turns out that rigid dieting pushes the body into a rut, says Harvard-educated physician Ian Smith, M.D., anchor host of the syndicated television show The Doctors. “The body’s number one goal is to be efficient, so it learns how to adjust to every scenario you throw at it,” he says. Knowing exactly how much energy it needs to perform its daily functions, the body burns just enough calories to keep it going and stores the rest as fat for a possible emergency. And it only takes 21 days of a regimented routine for the body to adapt this way. So no matter what type of plan you’re on-whether it’s keto or vegan-your body will acclimate, your metabolism will slow and weight loss will stall.
Determined to help women overcome weight-loss intolerance, Dr. Smith dug into the research and created a three-pronged plan built on a foundation of three science-backed approaches. Each strategy is effective on its own, but combining them stops the body from acclimating to maximize the fat-blasting results. “Every week is different. It doesn’t give your body the chance to become acclimated to a consistent style of eating,” says Dr. Smith, who designed a three-week plan exclusively for FIRST that combines these approaches:
- Every week of Dr. Smith’s plan includes time-restricted eating to regulate fat-storage hormones. You’ll eat all your meals in a 10- or 12-hour window. Also called intermittent fasting, this drives weight loss by lowering levels of insulin, the hormone that instructs fat cells to hold on to their stores of excess energy, explains Dr. Smith. Without insulin, the body dips into fat for energy.
- Eating mostly plant-based meals optimizes hunger hormones. You’ll get plenty of nutrient-rich, fiber-filled foods, which trigger the brain to release hunger-dampening hormones. “Fiber slows digestion, which makes you feel full longer,” Dr. Smith explains. That’s an advantage that increased dieters’ weight loss by 400 percent in a Spanish study.
- Switching up calorie intake revs metabolism. One week on the plan, you’ll eat a low-calorie diet two days a week (800 calories a day maximum) and a higher-calorie diet (up to 1,600 calories) the other five days. This throws the body off-kilter in a way that stimulates fat burning. Indeed, New Zealand researchers found that this approach doubles fat loss compared to diets that call for steady calorie intake.
Women following Dr. Smith’s latest plan drop up to 11 pounds a week. Just ask 47-year-old Stacie Ickes, who teamed up with her sister and mom to try Dr. Smith’s new plan. “Intermittent fasting helped keep my metabolism on its toes,” says the preschool teacher. “Changing every once in a while shakes up your system. I never had a week where I gained.”
Weight loss is just the beginning! “I look to the future now, and I feel it’s possible to be healthy,” cheers Stacie, who is sleeping better and feels more energized in addition to having lost 38 pounds. Says Dr. Smith, “Most of us gauge a diet’s success by the number on the scale, and while that’s important, my plan helps when it comes to living better and longer. I keep hearing from people who’ve lowered their blood-sugar levels to the point of having their diabetes medication cut in half. I’ve heard from others who’ve lowered their cholesterol and feel amazing.” Ready to start? Read on!
Dr. Smith’s 3-Week Plan (Exclusively for First For Women!)
Combining intermittent fasting with alternating food formulas is a surefire way to boost metabolism and power off the pounds. “When you take one program that’s powerful and combine it with another program that’s powerful, in effect, you’re attacking weight loss from different angles-and in this case, the benefits are cumulative,” says Ian Smith, M.D., who outlines the full nine-week plan in his upcoming book, Fast Burn, and is sharing a simplified, three-week version here-only for FIRST magazine readers!
Before you dig into each individual week, consider these simple success strategies that will help you lose faster during every phase of the plan.
- Stay hydrated. Drink 8 oz. of water before each meal, then sip a second cup while you eat. Feel free to add citrus or drink carbonated water, if you’d like. “Water fills you up, which is key when it comes to keeping calories in check and feeling satisfied after meals,” explains Dr. Smith.
- Go for ‘clean’ picks. Reaching for whole foods as much as possible means most of your meals contain very few processed ingredients and lots of fiber. Says Dr. Smith, “Eating cleaner-not necessarily perfectly – will speed your weight loss.”
- Move every day. This doesn’t have to mean exercising for hours at a gym or doing high-intensity workouts, assures Dr. Smith. “Simply focus on increasing your activity in a doable way, whether that means jogging, swimming, dancing or walking.” Aim for at least 30 minutes daily-all at once or broken up throughout the day.
- Be kind to yourself. If you slip up, try not to worry. “Just take a deep breath, refocus and get back on track,” says Dr. Smith. “I designed Fast Burn to be forgiving, so you don’t need to start all over if you slip a little.”
Week 1: Blast stubborn fat
This week, you’ll fast for 12 hours every day and eat every three hours for the rest of the day — for a total of three meals and one or two snacks. “Eating a meal or snack about every 3 hours helps you avoid getting too hungry,” says Dr. Smith. “Also, eat slowly and mindfully enough that you can listen to your body’s cues that you are full.” You can choose the starting and ending times for your fasting window-just make sure you’re not accidentally breaking your fast by drinking sugary coffee or tea.
- Breakfast (after a 12-hour fast): 1 cup of lemon water, 1 piece of fruit (1 banana or apple or 1⁄2 cup of berries), 1 small bowl of sugar-free cereal with 2% milk
- Snack 1 (2 hours after breakfast): 8 baby carrots with 2 Tbs. of hummus or other bean dip
- Lunch (3 hours after snack): Large green salad with lots of veggies, 3 oz. of chicken and 2 Tbs. of fat-free dressing
- Snack 2 (2 hours after lunch): 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce
- Dinner (3 hours after snack): 6 oz. of grilled or steamed salmon or other fatty fish (like tuna or trout) with at least 1 cup of mixed steamed vegetables
Week 2: Ward off hunger
Time to mix things up! You’ll increase your fasting time-eating during a 10-hour window and fasting for 14 hours each day. You’ll aim to eat four small meals a day, keeping most (or all, if possible) of those meals totally plant-based. If you’re more of a meat eater, it’s okay to add 3 oz. of chicken or fish to one meal every other day. “The goal this week is to feel satisfied while keeping your calories low,” says Dr. Smith, “and the best way to do that is to get all of the protein and fiber you need through a plant-based diet.”
PLANT-BASED SAMPLE DAY
- Breakfast (after a 14-hour fast): 11⁄2 cups of oatmeal with 1⁄2 cup of fresh fruit
- Lunch (2 hours after breakfast): Large salad with greens, olives, cherry tomatoes, nuts, cucumbers and beans. Top with 2 Tbs. of fat-free vinaigrette
- Large snack (3 hours after lunch): Wrap your favorite roasted veggies (try peppers, onions, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes) and a dash of balsamic vinegar in a whole-grain tortilla with a slice of cheese
- Dinner (2 hours after snack): 1 cup of whole-wheat pasta in marinara sauce topped with sautéed zucchini and eggplant. Garnish with shredded cheese and basil
Week 3: Supercharge metabolism
You’ve probably noticed fat is melting away and you’re feeling energized. This week, pick the fasting window that feels most comfortable -12 or 14 hours-and add a “flash fasting” strategy. This means that five days this week, you’ll eat about 1,600 calories (similar to what you ate during week 1), and on the other two days, you’ll eat 800 calories. “This week will be a bit of a challenge, but I’ve seen it lead to noticeable results,” Dr. Smith says. “It can also make the scale move again if you’ve plateaued.”
LOW-CALORIE SAMPLE DAY
- Breakfast (after a 12- or 14-hour fast): In a blender, combine 1⁄4 cup of milk, half of a medium ripe banana, 1 Tbs. of creamy peanut butter, 1 cup of fresh or frozen raspberries and 1⁄2 cup of crushed ice
- Snack 1 (3 hours after breakfast): 1 cup of grape tomatoes
- Snack 2 (2 hours after snack): 1 hard-boiled egg with 1⁄2 cup of sugar snap peas
- Snack 3 (2 hours after snack): 1medium cucumber sprinkled with balsamic vinaigrette
- Dinner (2-3 hours after snack): 1 1⁄2 cups of vegetable soup, either homemade or from a BPA-free can, topped with 1⁄2 cup of beans or 3 oz. of lean protein, like chicken breast
Snacks That Will Help You Stick to the Plan
Ian Smith, M.D., suggests constantly changing your food formula to boost metabolism. These delicious picks speed results and deliver bonus health benefits too!
- Tired? Munch on a banana. Snacking on a banana boosts energy for up to two hours, say Canadian researchers. Thanks goes to the fruit’s rich stores of potassium, which stimulates muscles and nerves. Tip: Enjoy it with melted chocolate to double mood and pep for two hours.
- Cranky? Try a sweet potato. These spuds are packed with carotenoids that encourage the brain to release dopamine, a brain chemical that acts like a natural antidepressant. Enjoy 1⁄2 cup daily, and Australian researchers say you’ll feel 33 percent more upbeat all day.
- Always hungry? Snack on dates. Dr. Smith recommends enjoying five dates stuffed with almonds or walnuts when hunger strikes. That’s because this combo is rich in fiber, unsaturated fatty acids and protein that work together to keep hunger at bay. Plus, its natural sweetness helps eliminate sweet cravings.
Weight Loss Success: Before & Afters
“I dropped from size 26 to 8!”
LaKeisha Watson, 43
- THEN: 304 lbs
- NOW: 187 lbs
LeKeisha Watson sat in the fitting room and cried. She’d gone dress shopping with women from her office, but LeKeisha couldn’t find anything in her size at the mall. She realized, My choices are so limited. I have to make a change.
LeKeisha felt weight problems were her family’s curse. To break it, LeKeisha gave up meat for 30 days. She dropped 13 pounds in one month and continued experimenting with a plant-based diet. She kept her metabolism guessing by doing weekly challenges like giving up bread and fasting overnight.
LeKeisha knew her body was transforming when she could tuck in her shirt. “It might sound funny, but that was a big moment!” She adds, “I went to my sister’s house just to show her my belt.”
In all, LeKeisha has shed 117 pounds, improved her energy, erased chronic back pain and feels years younger. She even inspired her daughter to lose 65 pounds.
Today, LeKeisha thanks God her healthy journey happened when it did. She has since survived battles with cancer and COVID. “I wouldn’t have had the strength to fight if I had still been unhealthy,” she reveals. “We hear a lot about generational wealth, but generational health is just as important. It is the best legacy I can leave for my children!”
“I’m saving $2,000 a month on meds!”
Debbie Yearwood, 67
- THEN: 279 lbs
- NOW: 169 lbs
Thick smoke filled the hallway, but Debbie Yearwood stood motionless, leaning against her walker. The building was on fire, the elevators shut down, but Debbie knew she couldn’t get down the stairs. If I get out of this, I have to regain control, she promised herself. My weight is impacting my safety!
As Debbie’s weight climbed, she was taking 10 prescription medications and she became desperate to undo the damage. Debbie b began eating a keto diet and seeing results. But the diet felt restrictive, so over the months, she slowly adopted a flexible plant based lifestyle, including intermittent fasting. She also tracked her food using the free app LoseIt!
The weight kept melting away. Five months later, Debbie was down 79 pounds, and within six months, with her doctor’s approval, she stopped taking all 10 medications, saving her $2,000 a month. Thanks to all those nuts, seeds and leafy greens, Debbie says, “This diet reduced inflammation, altered my brain chemistry and reversed all my health issues.” As a bonus, she saves up to $300 on groceries a month. “I haven’t eaten anything after supper in over a year and I feel great!”
Now, Debbie has her freedom. She can even walk more than five miles. “I love to go up and down the stairs, just because. It’s my way of showing them who’s boss!”
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.