9 Hard Truths About Weight Loss

Hard Truths about weight lossYou don’t need us to tell you that losing weight — and keeping it off — is hard. About 80 percent of people who lose weight gain it all back, and sometimes more, within a year, experts say. But understanding why weight loss is so difficult can help you stop beating yourself up over every little setback, and increase your chances of success. Forget the gimmicks, and come to terms with these difficult weight-loss lessons.

Hard Truth No. 1: Your Body Works Against You

It’s not your imagination. When you try to lose weight, you’re not only fighting your cravings, but also your own body. When you lose body fat, you decrease the hormone leptin, which signals your brain that you’re full, and you increase the hormone gherlin, which stimulates hunger, Australian researchers found. The bad news is that this hormone imbalance continues long after dieters succeed at weight loss, making it even harder for them to keep the pounds off. But if you try to cut too many calories for weight loss, your body will go into hibernation mode so that you don’t starve, and your metabolism will slow, Sarah Dolven, MD, an endocrinologist in Charleston, S.C. explains.

It’s also important to realize that once you reach your weight-loss goal and start eating a little more again, the pounds can come back pretty quickly, so it’s smart to increase your calories gradually.

Hard Truth No. 2: There Are No Quick Fixes

Wishing you were 30 pounds lighter in time for your high school reunion next month will not make it so, and there are no magic pills or miracle cures that can make it happen. “When you’re trying to lose weight, it’s hard to be patient,” says Mark Pettus, MD, chief of medicine at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, N.Y., who also developed and teaches the Healthy Living program at the Western Massachusetts Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge. But you have to be patient because quick starvation diets can wreak havoc on your metabolism, damaging your weight-loss efforts for the long term. As you start your diet, remember that slow and steady weight loss is the easiest to maintain, Pettus says, and aim for one to two pounds of fat loss each week.

Hard Truth No. 3: Exercise Can’t Conquer All

Yes, exercise helps you lose weight and keep it off — the National Weight Control Registry reports that people who maintain their weight loss exercise for at least 60 minutes most days — but it’s nearly impossible to lose weight from exercise alone, Pettus says. Just do the math: A 135-pound person biking 60 minutes at 12 miles an hour will burn 369 calories. You can put all that back on with just a post-workout protein bar. To lose a pound of fat, you have to burn 3,500 calories more than you consume, so you can see how hard it is to exercise your way through a poor diet. Instead, you have to watch what you eat and exercise, Pettus says. If there’s any “magic” to dieting, it’s in that combination.

Hard Truth No. 4: Diet Supplements Don’t Work

Those little pills that claim to supercharge your metabolism are tempting, but there’s little evidence that they work. After a review of thousands of dieters, researchers at Beth Israwl Deaconess Medical Center in Boston found that liquid diets, fad diets, and over-the-counter supplement were not linked to weight loss. So what worked? Portion control, regular exercise, and group support. As Dolven says, “nothing replaces a low-calorie diet and exercise for weight loss.”

Hard Truth No. 5: Fad Diets Don’t Work

Grapefruit. Maple syrup. Cabbage. Apple-cider vinegar. Juice. All these “miracle” diets are supposed to help you melt pounds and trigger fat burning. The hard fact: Not only is it hard to lose weight on fad diets, but also they can be so restrictive that they’re almost impossible to follow, and they can damage your metabolism. When it comes to weight loss, Dolven warns that if it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is. Not to belabor the point, she says, “but the key to weight loss is to be diligent about eating quality calories and staying physically active.”

Hard Truth No. 6: One Diet Doesn’t Fit All

Every body is unique, so the diet that works for your friend, your co-worker, your mother, or your sister might not work for you. When looking at how best to lose weight, consider your health and family history, your metabolism, your activity level, your age, your gender, and your likes and dislikes. When you’re dieting, it’s important to allow yourself some foods that you enjoy, Dolven says, or else you’ll feel deprived and be less likely to stick with an overall healthy eating plan. For weight-loss success, tailor your diet to your body and accept that one diet won’t work for everyone.

Hard Truth No. 7: Building Muscle Is Hard Work

Because a pound of muscle burns more calories at rest than a pound of fat, an increased muscle mass is the key to a revved metabolism — plus it helps you look more sleek and svelte. Unfortunately, many dieters skip strength training when in reality, it’s one of the most important components if your weight-loss plan. Schedule it into your routine two to three times a week, along with at least three 30-minute cardio sessions.

Hard Truth No. 8: He Can Eat More Than She Can

It doesn’t seem fair, but men can eat more than women and still lose weight. That’s because men tend to naturally burn more calories than woman, thanks to their larger size, muscle mass, and elevated levels of the hormone testosterone, which promotes muscle growth. Plus, the male body is genetically designed for more muscle and less fat than the female body because men do not have to store the energy required to bear children. Once you come to terms with this fact and start eating less than your male partner or friends, the scale will thank you.

Hard Truth No. 9: It’s Not a Diet, It’s a Lifestyle Change

If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you have to change your behavior not just until you reach your goal weight, but for the months and years to follow. That’s because as soon as you stop your “diet,” you’re likely to gain back the pounds you worked so hard to shed. To be successful at weight loss, you need to make lifestyle changes, healthy food choices at most every meal, and exercise almost every day for a minimum of 30 minutes a session (60 is even better). Getting to your healthy weight and staying there really has to be a way of life for the long haul, Dolven says.

Fat, Not Glucose, is the Preferred Fuel for Your Body

Dietary FatWhile we may consider ourselves to be at the pinnacle of human development, our modern food manufacturing processes have utterly failed at improving health and increasing longevity.

During the Paleolithic period, many thousands of years ago, our ancestors ate primarily vegetables, fruit, nuts, roots and meat—and a wide variety of it. This diet was high in fats and protein, and low in grain- and sugar-derived carbohydrates.

The average person’s diet today, on the other hand, is the complete opposite, and the average person’s health is a testament of what happens when you adhere to a faulty diet. Humans today suffer more chronic and debilitating diseases than ever before.

And there can be little doubt that our food choices play a major role in this development. Quite simply, you were not designed to eat large amounts of refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, cereal, bread, potatoes and pasteurized milk products.

As Mark Sisson states in the featured article1:

“If you want to live a better life and eat the best foods nature provided for health and fitness, then it’s time to ditch the old paradigms and climb on to the primal approach to eating better.”

Is Glucose Really Your Body’s Preferred Fuel?

The notion that glucose is the preferred fuel for your body is a pervasive one. Everyone from diabetics to top athletes are advised to make sure they eat “enough” carbs to keep their systems from crashing. This is unfortunate, as this misguided advice is at the very heart of many of our current health failures.

As Mark so succinctly spells out in his article, FAT is actually the preferred fuel of human metabolism, and this can be traced back to our evolutionary roots.

Historically speaking, carbohydrate intake has always been quite low. Likewise, the diseases we now know are associated with insulin resistance—which is primarily caused by excess consumption of refined carbs—have been quite rare.

The evidence is both clear and overwhelming: Carbohydrate intake is the primary factor that determines your body’s fat ratio, and processed grains and sugars (particularly fructose) are the primary culprits behind our skyrocketing obesity and diabetes rates.

“It follows logically that if you can limit carb intake to a range of which is absolutely necessary (and even up to 50 grams a day over) and make the difference up with tasty fats and protein, you can literally reprogram your genes back to the evolutionary-based factory setting you had at birth – the setting that offered you the opportunity to start life as a truly efficient fat-burning organism and to continue to do so for the rest of your life as long as you send the right signals to your genes,” Mark writes.

Why the Low-Carb/High-Fat Diet Works for Weight Loss

Switching from a carb-based diet to a fat- and protein-based diet will help rebalance your body’s chemistry, and a natural side effect of this is weight loss, and/or improved weight management once you’re at an ideal weight. One explanation for this is that you don’t really get fat from eating too much and exercising too little. Nor do you get fat from eating fat. One researcher that has clearly established this is Dr. Richard Johnson, whose latest book, The Fat Switch, dispels many of the most pervasive myths relating to diet and obesity.

Dr. Johnson discovered the method that animals use to gain fat prior to times of food scarcity, which turned out to be a powerful adaptive benefit. His research showed that fructose activates a key enzyme, fructokinase, which in turn activates another enzyme that causes cells to accumulate fat. When this enzyme is blocked, fat cannot be stored in the cell. Interestingly, this is the exact same “switch” animals use to fatten up in the fall and to burn fat during the winter. Fructose is the dietary ingredient that turns on this “switch,” causing cells to accumulate fat, both in animals and in humans.

In essence, overeating and excess weight could be viewed as a symptom of an improper diet. It’s not necessarily the result of eating too many calories, per se, but rather getting your calories from the wrong sources. In simple terms, when you consume too many sugars and carbs, you set off a cascade of chemical reactions in your body that makes you hungry and craving for sweets:

  1. First, fructose is metabolized differently from glucose, with the majority being turned directly into fat because fructose stimulates a powerful “fat switch.”
  2. This rapidly leads to weight gain and abdominal obesity (“beer belly”), decreased HDL, increased LDL, elevated triglycerides, elevated blood sugar, and high blood pressure—i.e., classic metabolic syndrome.
  3. Dietary carbohydrates, especially fructose, are also the primary source of a substance called glycerol-3-phosphate (g-3-p), which causes fat to become fixed in fat tissue.
  4. At the same time, high carb intake raises your insulin levels, which prevents fat from being released.
  5. Fructose further tricks your body into gaining weight by turning off your body’s appetite-control system. Fructose does not suppress ghrelin (the “hunger hormone”) and doesn’t stimulate leptin (the “satiety hormone”), which together result in feeling hungry all the time, even though you’ve eaten. As a result, you overeat and develop insulin resistance, which is not only an underlying factor of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and a long list of other chronic diseases.

The resulting equation is simple: fructose and dietary carbohydrates (grains, which break down into sugar) lead to excess body fat, obesity and related health issues. Furthermore, no amount of exercise can compensate for this damage because if you eat excessive fructose and grains—the primary ingredients NOT found in our ancestral diet—it will activate programming to cause your body to become, and remain, fat.

How Much Glucose or Carbs Do You Really Need?

The debate about whether or not you really need glucose, and if so, how much, is by no means settled. Earlier this year, I ran a series of articles featuring the back-and-forth discussion between two well-researched experts on this topic, Dr. Jaminet and Dr. Rosedale.

Dr. Jaminet is a proponent of so-called “safe starches,” and is of the conviction that depleting your glycogen store can stress other systems to provide the glucose your body requires to perform. Dr. Rosedale, on the other hand, points out that because glucose consumption will undoubtedly spike blood glucose levels and increase insulin and leptin, promoting resistance, glucose consumption is always associated with some incremental degree of damage and/or increased risk of mortality. His diet is subsequently extremely carb-restrictive.

Yet another diet similar to Drs. Jaminet and Rosedale’s is the GAPS diet, created by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, which is specifically designed to help “heal and seal” your gut. As such, it primarily consists of easily digestible, lightly cooked foods that are high in protein, fats, and fermented foods, and low in fiber and carbs.

Mark Sisson also adds valuable insight to this discussion2:

“At any one time, the total amount of glucose dissolved in the bloodstream of a healthy non-diabetic is equivalent to only a teaspoon (maybe 5 grams). Much more than that is toxic; much less than that and you pass out. That’s not much range for a so-called “preferred” fuel, is it?

Several studies have shown that under normal low MET conditions (at rest or low-to mid- levels of activity such as walking and easy work) the body only needs about 5 grams of glucose an hour. And that’s for people who aren’t yet fat-adapted or keto-adapted. The brain is the major consumer of glucose, needing maybe 120 grams a day in people who aren’t yet on a low carb eating program.

Low carb eating reduces the brain’s glucose requirements considerably, and those who are very low carb (VLC) and keto-adapted may only require about 30 grams of glucose per day to fuel the brain… Twenty of those grams can come from glycerol (a byproduct of fat metabolism) and the balance from gluconeogenesis in the liver (which can actually make up to a whopping 150 grams a day if you haven’t metabolically damaged it with NAFLD through fructose overdosing).

Bottom line, unless you are a physical laborer or are training (exercising) hard on a daily basis, once you become fat-adapted, you probably don’t ever need to consume more than 150 grams of dietary carbs – and you can probably thrive on far less. Many Pbers [Mark’s diet, Primal Blueprint] do very well (including working out) on 30-70 grams a day.” [Emphasis mine]

Key Point: Replace Carbs with Healthful Fats

As I see it, this is really a non-issue for most people as few people anywhere near Dr. Jaminet’s recommendation of cutting carbs from the standard 50 percent down to 20-30 percent of total calories. However, if you’ve already begun to seriously address your carb intake then you may want to experiment with various amounts of “safe carbs” like rice and potatoes. As Mark describes, the actual amount of carbs could vary anywhere from 30 to 150 grams a day, depending on whether your body has adapted to burning ketones and your level of exercise.

Keep in mind that when we’re talking about harmful carbs, we’re only referring to grains and sugars, NOT vegetable carbs.

When you cut grain/sugar carbs you actually need to radically increase the amount of vegetables you eat since, by volume, the grains you need to trade out are denser than vegetables. You also need to dramatically increase healthful fats such as avocados, coconut oil, egg yolks, raw grass fed organic butter, olives and nuts.

You would not want to use highly processed and genetically engineered omega-6 oils like corn, canola and soy as they will upset your omega 6/3 ratio. Of course you want to avoid all trans fats, but contrary to popular advice, saturated fats are a key component of a healthy diet that will promote weight loss.

A reasonable goal will be to have as much as 50-70 percent of your diet as healthy fat, which will radically reduce your carbohydrate intake. It can be helpful to remember that fat is far more satiating than carbs, so if you have cut down on carbs and feel ravenous, this is a sign that you have not replaced them with sufficient amounts of healthy fat. Sources of healthy fats that you’ll want to add to your diet include:

  • Olives and Olive oil (for cold dishes)
  • Coconuts, and coconut oil (for all types of cooking and baking)
  • Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk
  • Raw Nuts, such as, almonds or pecans
  • Organic pastured egg yolks
  • Avocados
  • Pasture finished meats
  • Palm oil
  • Unheated organic nut oils

Most people will likely notice massive improvement in their health by following this approach as they are presently consuming FAR more grain and bean carbohydrates in their diet, and any reduction will be a step in the right direction. To help you get started on the right track, review my Nutritional Plan, which guides you through these dietary changes one step at a time.

Recent Research Confirms Benefits of Low-Carb/High-Fat Diet

Conventional advice has focused on low-fat diets for weight loss and heart disease prevention, but again and again, studies demonstrate that this advice is diametrically opposed to reality… In one such study, researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Heart and Vascular Institute compared the effects of two diets on vascular health; one low in fat, the other low in carbs. The study in question was presented at this year’s meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Denver, on June 33.

The study included a total of 46 men and women weighing on average 218 pounds. The six-month long weight loss program consisted of moderate aerobic exercise and strength training, and one of two diets, either:

 

  • Low-carb, high-fat: Less than 30 percent of calories from carbs (pastas, breads and sugary fruits), and up to 40 percent from fats (meat, dairy products, and nuts)
  • Low-fat, high-carb diet: Less than 30 percent of calories from fat, and 55 percent from carbs

The low-carb group on average shed 10 pounds in 45 days, while the low-fat group took 70 days to lose the same amount of weight. In terms of vascular health, the low-carb, high-fat dieters showed no harmful vascular changes, which is the primary reason for why so many are afraid of high-fat diets.

According to the lead investigator, professor of medicine and director of clinical and research exercise physiology, Kerry Stewart, Ed.D:

“Our study should help allay the concerns that many people who need to lose weight have about choosing a low-carb diet instead of a low-fat one, and provide re-assurance that both types of diet are effective at weight loss and that a low-carb approach does not seem to pose any immediate risk to vascular health. More people should be considering a low-carb diet as a good option.”

Stewart also believes that the emphasis on low-fat diets has likely contributed to the obesity epidemic in the US by promoting overconsumption of sugars and grains. I couldn’t agree more. The simple reason for this is that grains and sugars raise your insulin levels, which causes insulin resistance and, ultimately, weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease.

Listen to Your Body

The evidence is quite clear that chronically raising your blood glucose through consumption of grains and sugars will increase your insulin resistance, which in turn will increase insulin and leptin resistance. And avoiding insulin and leptin resistance is perhaps the single most important factors if you seek optimal health and longevity.

That said, the degree to which you choose to reduce carbs however is, ultimately, up to you. And certain individual biochemical differences can make one diet more beneficial for you than others. The key point is to be aware that consuming sugar, grains and starches will promote insulin resistance to some degree or other, depending on the amount you consume.

As always, remember to listen to your body as it will give you feedback if what you are doing is right for your unique biochemistry and genetics. So listen to that feedback and adjust your program accordingly.

How to Lose Weight on Any Diet

Lose WeightWhen it comes to losing weight, everyone has an opinion about what works best. Low fat, low carb, or Mediterranean style—you’ve probably heard stories of people dropping major pounds by following one of these diets. The truth is you’ll lose weight on any diet as long as you take in fewer calories than you burn. Keep reading to find out which diet is best for you.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health studied more than 800 overweight adults over 2 years, and researchers found that as long as people made healthy choices, the percentage of protein, carbs, and fat consumed didn’t really matter. All the study participants (divided into groups eating low fat, high fat, high carb, or high protein) lost about the same amount of weight when they ate fewer calories than they burned.

The bottom line: The diet you choose should make you feel good, keep you satisfied, and limit your cravings for unhealthy foods. So how do you decide what plan will work for you?

• Try balancing various amounts of lean protein (poultry, fish, and lean beef), complex carbs (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), and healthy fat (nuts, olive oil, and seeds). Find the combination that makes you full and energetic.

• Keep a food journal of what you eat and how you feel. Over time, you’ll start to see patterns emerge.

• Visit the Eat Smart section of Team Beachbody and choose from three different pre-populated meal plans (Balanced, Low Carb, and Active Lifestyle), or custom design your own according to your preferences.

When you decide what kind of diet to follow, here’s how to get the most out of it:
Low-fat diet
The amount of fat you eat varies according to the diet’s creator. The Ornish Diet, designed by cardiologist Dean Ornish to help people reverse heart disease, recommends that you eat 10 percent of your calories from fat. The American Heart Association, on the other hand, considers low fat to be up to 35 percent from fat. A low-fat diet should consist of lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans and legumes, and little meat. It is not an excuse to eat mountains of pasta or processed carbs (like fat-free cookies or crackers), as these will spike your blood sugar, make you hungrier, and add a lot of unnecessary calories.

Low-carb diet
Plans like Atkins, South Beach, and the “Paleo” diet claim that by cutting carbohydrates your body will have to dig into its fat stores for energy. That is often true, at least at first, until your body adapts to the decreased energy from carbs and rapid weight loss slows. Plus, if you chow down on artery-clogging bacon, butter, and steak every day and don’t choose heart-healthy protein and fat sources (like lean meats, nuts, and olive oil), you can develop other health problems and nutrient deficiencies. Watch out for saturated fat in foods like whole milk, butter, and meat, and be mindful of portion sizes when you’re following a low-carb diet. You might find it hard to sustain a low-carb diet over the long term because you have less energy and feel tired a lot. If that happens, just switch to another diet plan.

Mediterranean-style diet
This has gained popularity over the last few years as a healthy, balanced approach to eating. It emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, unsaturated fats from nuts and olive oil, and lean protein like fish and chicken. You don’t want to overdo the pasta, cheese, and alcohol on this diet because these calories add up quickly. This is a moderate-fat diet that offers a variety of choices and will suit many different tastes. You’ll find that most Beachbody® nutrition plans follow guidelines that are similar to a Mediterranean-style diet. It’s easy to get all the nutrients you need to sustain a healthy, energetic lifestyle with this method of eating.

When you’ve found the diet that suits you, you may notice that your weight starts to drop without a lot of effort. You’ll be more satisfied and less prone to cravings, which will help you be consistent with your plan. As long as you stick to your diet and combine it with a workout program that also fits your preferences—Slim in 6®, ChaLEAN Extreme®, or whatever you choose—you will be able to lose weight and keep it off.

Seaweed Superfoods

Seaweed
Seaweeds are the most nutritionally dense plants on the planet as they have access to all the nutrients in the ocean. They can contain up to 10 times more calcium than milk and eight times as much as beef. The chemical composition of seaweeds is so close to human blood plasma, that perhaps their greatest benefit is regulating and purifying our blood system. They help to alkalize our blood, neutralizing the over-acid effects of our modern diet and protect us from a wide array of toxic elements in the environment, including heavy metals, pollutants and radiation by-products converting them to harmless salts that the body can eliminate.

But the most remarkable results with seaweeds we see is boosting weight loss and deterring cellulite build-up. The high concentration of natural iodine helps to stimulate the thyroid gland so that food fuels are used before they can be turned into fatty deposits. At the same time, the minerals act like electrolytes to break the chemical bond that seals the fat cells allowing trapped wastes to escape. Both by eating sea vegetables or bathing in them helps reduce cellulite and stimulates lymphatic drainage.

Nori – is best known for the seaweed used to make sushi rolls. You can make your own at home, make sure you use the untoasted nori sheets for maximum nutrient content.

Kelp – kelp is available in powder or capsule form for those who feel awkward eating seaweed. It is also the most common seaweed found along the ocean shores. Due to their thick leaves they are perfect for a hot seaweed bath.

Dulse – a red seaweed, available in flakes. There is no need to cook dulse. It is great to use as seasoning on salads, vegetables and soups.

Arame – consists of brown stringy seaweed. Soak in hot water for 5 minutes and it is ready to use.

Wakame – With a sweet flavor makes a great compliment to sandwiches. Soak for 5 minutes in hot water.

Kombu – Used in Japan for centuries as a mineral rich flavour enhancer. Add a strip of kombu when cooking beans making them more digestible and reducing gas. Add a strip of kombu to your sprouts when soaking them to allow them to soak up the minerals.

11 Tips for Cooking Out Without Pigging Out

Grilling OutIt’s summertime, which means it’s time to fire up the grill and enjoy the great outdoors. It all sounds pretty healthy, until somebody shows up with a bowl of mayonnaise and potatoes, which, without a trace of irony, will be announced as a salad. It’s like calling a stick of butter a nutrition bar. A few side dishes like this, combined with some fatty hot dogs, hamburgers, potato chips, and ice cream, and bathing-suit season can become caftan season before you know it. But if you only invite the neighbors over for celery sticks and tofu kabobs, you can count on getting the stink-eye from everyone next time you’re out mowing the lawn. The secret to throwing a great barbecue is to find ways to eat healthily without making it seem like last call at fat camp. Fortunately, with so many great foods available during the summer months, it’s easy to plan a menu that will include great-tasting food and let you keep your P90X®, Slim in 6®, or ChaLEAN Extreme® figure. Here are some tips to keep in mind when planning your outdoor culinary excursions, so you can picnic without the pounds, still enjoy good food, and keep yourself and your family and friends healthy.

1. Veg out
The cookout doesn’t need to be a celebration of the weather being so good that the unhealthy foods we used to eat in front of the TV can now be eaten in the backyard. It’s summer! The time of year when all the best fruits and vegetables are at their peak. And grilling vegetables is a great way to get tons of flavor without tons of calories. Delicious on their own or as a complement to another dish, grilled veggies are a must-have for a healthy cookout. Use them in salads, on burgers, or by themselves. Check out what’s fresh at your local farmers’ market. Good veggies for grilling include peppers, asparagus, artichokes, eggplant, zucchini, squash, scallions, and onions. Just brush them with a little olive oil, some fresh herbs, and a pinch of salt and pepper, and you’re serving something healthy that you and your guests can load up on guilt free.

2. Herbal remedies
Only the worst chefs need to rely on fat and salt for seasoning. Now’s the time to stock up on fresh basil, oregano, tarragon, dill, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, etc. Or even better, grow your own. Oftentimes, a pot of living basil from the nursery costs less than a handful of leaves from your produce section. Use fresh herbs liberally in all of your recipes, and you’ll be replacing fat with flavor.

3. Hold the mayo
Nothing lays waste to the best-laid plans for a healthy barbecue like mayonnaise. A main ingredient in picnic staples like potato salad, macaroni salad, and coleslaw, mayo loads up enough fat and calories that your only hope of weight loss is that the dishes stay out in the sun long enough to cause salmonella poisoning. Try using healthier ingredients, like yogurt or low-fat ricotta cheese, and adding fresh herbs. Instead of mayonnaise, use yogurt and fresh dill in your potato salad. Make a whole-grain pasta salad with cherry or grape tomatoes, fresh basil, and a balsamic vinaigrette.

4. Don’t be so starchy!
There’s no law that says every picnic “salad” needs to begin with potatoes or pasta. There are plenty of salad recipes out there that are so delicious, no one will miss their starchy, fatty counterparts. How about making that old-time favorite, three-bean salad! Or if you want something a little heartier, lentils mixed with a light vinaigrette, a little onion or garlic, some fresh herbs, and a sprinkling of feta cheese will fill you up and give you enough energy to play more than horseshoes and lawn darts later. Make some simple, fresh vegetable salads. Slice up some tomatoes or cucumbers, and toss them with a bit of vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, fresh herbs, and onions or garlic, and you have a refreshing side dish that will fill you up without filling you out.

5. Know your cuts of meat
It’s not just a game on Letterman. While of course substituting skinless chicken or fish for your rib eye would be the BEST nutritional decision, we know you’re not made of stone. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a barbecue without the scent of grilled steak or pork in the air. But not all cuts are created equal. For beef, the best rule is to look for cuts with the word loin or round. Other great lean cuts are flank steak, skirt steak, tri-tip, and London broil. With pork, the leanest cuts are the tenderloin and loin chops. With both pork and beef, try to avoid anything involving the ribs (including rib eyes), which have the fattiest cuts of meat. And those baby back ribs will make you look like you’re having the baby. Because of their low fat content, most of the lean cuts will need to be marinated for a couple of hours before grilling. Read on for marinade ideas.

6. Lay off the (store-bought) sauce
One of the main ingredients in most store-bought barbecue and teriyaki sauces is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Even the most casual Beachbody reader knows how we feel about HFCS. Instead, bust out those herbs you bought or grew (see tip #2), and make some gourmet marinades and sauces that won’t send your blood sugar into a tailspin. Using ingredients like fresh herbs; citrus juices; olive, sesame, and canola oils; wine; low-sodium soy sauce; and various vinegars, you can liven up your meat dishes and save the sugar for dessert. And when you’re planning your marinades . . .

7. Go global
Since the U.S. is one of the most obese nations in the world, maybe it’s worth checking out what those in slimmer nations are grilling. How about a Cuban marinade for your chicken, or pork with citrus juice and garlic? Or Indian tandoori-style skinless chicken thighs marinated in yogurt and spices like turmeric, curry, or cardamom? Try making your own Japanese teriyaki with sesame oil, ginger, soy sauce, and honey, and skip the corn syrup from the store brands. Try out Greek kabobs, Korean barbecue, or Jamaican jerk-rubbed meat—whatever catches your eye or your taste buds. And throwing a barbecue with an international theme sounds a lot more appetizing than a barbecue where “we’re watching our weight.”

8. Good dogs
Of course, not everyone is going to be keen on vegetables and treats from foreign lands. Kids, for example. So you’re probably going to need some kind of hot dog for these less adventurous eaters. Pretty much anything can end up in a hot dog, but in most cases, hot dogs are tubes full of fatty meat and carcinogenic nitrates—yum! This is where it really pays to read the label. A regular hot dog runs over 200 calories and 18 grams of fat. A turkey frank has half of that. The fat, calorie, and sodium contents of various brands and types of dogs vary wildly, so choose carefully. For the less fussy, there are also several varieties of chicken and turkey sausages with gourmet ingredients that are delicious and low in fat and calories.

9. Better burgers
A friend of mine who is highly phobic of meat-borne illnesses like E. Coli and mad cow disease had the great idea of asking the butcher to grind up a piece of sirloin or top round that she selected from the meat case for hamburgers. This limits your exposure to contaminants, as there’s only one cow involved in the making of a steak, where there could be hundreds involved in a package of ground beef. This also allows you to control the fat content that’s in your hamburger. If you have a decent food processor, you could even grind your meat at home and blend in spices, garlic, or onion to enhance the flavor. If all this talk of cows and contaminants has put you off beef, you might give a turkey burger a try. But again, read the label. Many packages of ground turkey contain ground-up skin and other fatty pieces, resulting in a fat and calorie content not much better than ground beef. Try looking for extra-lean or ground turkey breast. And if you’re worried about the bird flu, it might be worth giving veggie burgers another try. If you haven’t had one in a few years, you may remember them as I do—some sort of reconstituted cardboard patty that smelled like feet. But there have been great strides in veggie burger technology. In fact, there are a couple of brands a vegan friend of mine refuses to eat, because they taste too much like meat. Try a couple of different brands. You may be surprised.

10. Topping it off
When you’re putting together the topping trays for your grilled delights, you can also save a few calories. The traditional lettuce, tomatoes, and onions are great, but skip the cheese, mayonnaise, and corn-syrup–laden ketchup. Instead, try putting some of those grilled veggies you made on your burger or chicken breast. Or add a slice of avocado if you miss the creaminess of melted cheese. Put out a variety of mustards, hot sauces, and salsas, which are low in calories and fat, and don’t usually contain corn syrup. Don’t forget to look for whole-grain buns for your dogs or burgers, or try eating them open-faced or bunless, if you’re trying to cut carbs.

11. Just desserts
Well, you’ve behaved admirably during the rest of the barbecue, so you deserve a little summer treat. Have a little bit of ice cream (although frozen yogurt would be even better, and plain yogurt better yet!), but heap a bunch of fruit on it, instead of a dollop of fudge or a side of pie. After all, what we said about vegetables goes for fruit too. This is the time of year where you can get your hands on the best fruit, at the lowest prices. Indulge in berries, peaches, oranges, melons, and all your favorite seasonal fruits. Make a huge fruit salad, or blend fruit with yogurt and ice for a smoothie. Or for those with ambition and an ice cream maker, try making your own fruit sorbet. You may decide to skip the ice cream after all!

Hopefully, these suggestions will help make your summer barbecue a huge success. And in the worst-case scenario that you end up being forced to partake in your neighbor’s annual Salute to Mayonnaise, you can always use Beachbody’s 3-Day Refresh® to minimize the damage before the next pool party! so you don’t absentmindedly munch a thousand or so calories from a big bag.