Excerpt: 'The Four Day Diet'

Are you one of the many Americans who've tried diet after diet, just to end up putting the weight you've lost back on? Dr. Ian K. Smith, known for "The Fat Smash Diet" book and for being the diet expert on VH1's "Celebrity Fit Club," has designed the "Four Day Diet," a new weight-loss plan that he says helps you overcome the mental obstacles to weight loss by switching the foods you eat every four days.

Here is an excerpt of "The Four Day Diet:"

Resist Temptation

YOUR MIND MUST LEAD YOU

Is it easy resisting temptation? Absolutely not, but this chapter will help you stay

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resolved in the face of it. Let's establish context first. Temptations are abundantly and conveniently located throughout our environment. Whether it's that expensive designer scarf that you want so badly but know it's beyond your budget, eavesdropping on a conversation between an arguing couple at the table next to yours, or a piece of double fudge chocolate cake—the temptations are endless. The good news is that we are successful more times than not at resisting the urges to indulge in these forbidden callings. So why do we lose on occasion and give in to temptation? What happens late at night when you can't stop yourself from downing a handful of chocolate chip cookies or plucking off the lid to that pint of butter pecan ice cream? It's about the mind losing its competitive edge.

One way of thinking about temptation is as a fierce conflict, one that you can win if you focus mentally and train properly. When it comes to resisting temptation, your mind is locked in an epic battle with your anticipated sense of physical satisfaction. Your body knows that buying that scarf, eavesdropping on the juicy details of that argument, or biting into that double fudge cake will produce a physical response of pleasure. Your challenge is to convince yourself that the brief reward you get from the indulgence will be less pleasurable than the reward you get from abstaining. In other words, you have to train your mind, strengthen it, and prepare it to recognize and seek the more enduring pleasure—a pleasure that does not provide immediate gratification but can be extremely satisfying over the long term.

Before we begin to train your brain, you must first be convinced that you can resist all those temptations lurking in vending machines, bakeries, and fast-food restaurants. If you believe that it's possible to develop the mental willpower to succeed, then this increases your chances dramatically. Any doubt or skepticism will only reduce your chances of ultimate success. Keep telling yourself that your mind is strong enough to keep your body under control. The discipline you learn and exhibit in this phase of your program can prove useful not only in your weight-loss efforts but on the larger stage of life.

Train Your Brain

Understanding The Physical

Why do we eat foods even when we know they will keep us from losing weight? Getting to that answer means understanding pleasure and the body's physical response to it. Scientists have believed for years that the neurotransmitter dopamine, a chemical found in the brain, is the brain's "pleasure chemical," sending signals between brain cells in a way to reward a person for a particular activity. The precise details of this pleasure loop haven't been completely determined, but enough of it has been clarified to give us an idea of why the body commits us to actions that are against what we know makes sense for that body.

The neurons—nerve cells in the brain—that produce dopamine seem to activate just before the pleasurable activity is engaged. The timing of what comes first is still being worked out, but one leading theory is that our brain releases a certain amount of dopamine in anticipation of how pleasurable we expect the activity is going to be. The dopamine then becomes a motivator as it increases our energy and drive to participate in the pleasurable activity. The more pleasurable the activity, the higher the dopamine levels, the more vigorously we pursue and engage in the activity. If you don't find the activity as pleasurable as you expected, your dopamine levels decrease and you lose interest.

The brain's dopamine reward system can be extremely strong depending on the degree of pleasure one achieves. For example, take warm apple pie and vanilla ice cream. For many people, eating this dessert produces such a level of pleasure and satisfaction that they find it almost impossible to pass up the opportunity to order it when seeing it on a restaurant menu or being served to another diner. The dopamine response to the thought, sight, smell, and taste of the apple pie is overpowering, and despite great efforts to avoid the sugary dessert, they simply can't help themselves.

Cravings

We've all had a craving—a strong desire to eat or drink something, so strong we can't get the thought of it out of our minds. Most people think of cravings as intense urges that gnaw at the body and mind until the desired item is consumed. But scientists aren't so sure where cravings come from or why they exist. One long-held belief is that when we are calorie starved or deficient of certain nutrients, we crave what we're missing, whether it's carbohydrates, fat, or protein. The craving serves as the body's alarm clock to let it know that the level of that particular type of fuel is getting dangerously low and it's time to do something about it—eat.

Another popular theory is that when we eat the right combination of fat and carbohydrates that have pleasurable tastes and textures, our body builds up a memory of satisfaction and seeks to repeat it in the future. In essence, the body craves those foods that make it feel good. Some leading nutritionists have even drawn the conclusion that cravings are connected to hormones. That theory says that as we age we become less hormonal and the frequency of our cravings diminishes drastically.

80-20 Rule

No one is perfect, and no one is going to follow any particular diet program perfectly. In fact, it's advantageous at times to indulge in some of the "fun" foods that your program might consider off limits. Some diets go too far in eliminating too many foods. If something is completely prohibited, it's too easy to focus on it. One of the dangers this imposes is that you become obsessed with those "off-limit" foods, which increases the temptation and pressure to eat them. It's fine to have a "cheat" every once in a while; in fact, some programs even call for a cheat day. The truth of the matter is that eating an extra cookie or scoop of ice cream occasionally is not going to sabotage your program. That's why I believe in the 80–20 rule. If 80 percent of what you eat is healthy and on the program and the remaining 20 percent is off the program, you will still be successful at losing weight.

The reason many programs don't want to allow for cheating, however, is that most people don't know when to stop. One cheat can lead to a bigger cheat that leads to an even bigger cheat, and then you're off the program. You have to be the judge of your discipline level. If you're someone who gets a taste of chocolate or french fries and can't stop yourself from eating the entire package or serving, then this method is not for you. You'd be better off following the program as closely as possible with a goal of staying away from those temptations that tend to lead you to overeat.

From The 4 Day Diet by Ian K. Smith, M.D. Copyright 2009 by Ian K. Smith, M.D.. Reprinted by permission of St. Martin's Press.

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