If you asked twenty-five-year-old me to predict what my forties would look like, I would have used just one word to describe them: fat.
Fat was my inevitable destiny; how could it not be? I had grown up as a latchkey kid with a serious sugar addiction; my best friends were the Three Musketeers and all I knew of the world outside my suburban Pennsylvania neighborhood was French vanilla, English toffee, and Dutch chocolate.
The Navy Reserves whipped me into shape but when I entered the workforce soon after, the weight began to pile back on. Even as Editorial Director of Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness and author of The Abs Diet and Eat This, Not That!, I struggled with my love of added sugars.
So when I challenged myself to give them up, even I thought it couldn’t be done. How can someone go from eating up to 600 calories a day in added sugars to virtually none? And what the heck would I be eating then?
To find out, I worked with nutritionists to develop Zero Sugar Diet, and ran a test panel of 1,000 people where we documented—on a day-by-day basis—the remarkable changes that happened. Energy levels soared. Waistlines shrank. Blood pressure and cholesterol numbers plummeted. Muscles became toned and lean.
When you give up added sugars, and replace them with the no-sugar superfoods I reveal in my new book Zero Sugar Diet, a number of amazing things will happen, with shocking rapidity (and yes, you can still eat all of your favorite foods without ever having to diet). Here’s what happened to me, after two weeks consuming zero added sugars.
As your body detects that you’ve started to lose weight, your hunger hormones get furious. They start firing off signals to your brain telling you that winter’s approaching, the barbarian hordes are at the gate, and you’d better consume every calorie in sight in order to prepare for the famine ahead. Zero Sugar Diet uses the power of fiber to counteract that basic instinct. By slowing the progress of carbohydrates through your body, fiber helps give you a continuous, steady dose of energy, so you never get the “I’m empty” signal. So for those two weeks, I ate only foods free from added sugars with high fiber counts—filling foods like protein pancakes, roast beef wraps, juicy beef burgers, seared ahi tuna, creamy smoothies, popcorn—all the recipes in the book, tailor-made to be delicious and easy to make.
One of the first things you notice when you replace simple carbs with high-fiber foods is that your belly begins to flatten out—literally within days. The reason: Most Americans only take in 15 of the recommended 25 to 38 grams of fiber per day, according to the Institute of Medicine. As a result, the healthy gut microbes that keep us lean have less to munch on, and the unhealthy microbes—which feast on sugar—take over. Those are the little buggers that cause bloating and make your belly look bigger than it actually is. In fact, an increase in the “bad” belly biome bacteria—a family called Firmicutes—is one of the most noticeable differences between Americans in the lean 1980s and those in the fat 2000s. Zero Sugar Diet changes the way your gut acts and feels, and why fourteen days is all it takes to shrink your waist size by as much as seven inches.
Immediately. Reducing your intake of calorie-dense sugar carbs automatically reduces the amount of calories you’re consuming on a daily basis, which forces your body to burn fat stored around your midsection for energy, rather than the sugars it takes from carbohydrates. After five days on the Zero Sugar Diet, I’d lost five pounds.
In one of the most stunning studies of recent years, scientists have linked refined sugar to a condition called sarcopenia—basically, age-related loss of muscle mass. It happens because added sugar actually blocks the body’s ability to synthesize protein into muscle. (Spending big bucks on protein supplements? If they have added sugar, they’re probably hurting, not enhancing, your ability to build lean muscle.) By reducing the impact of sugar thanks to Zero Sugar Diet, you will keep your muscles younger and stronger—protecting you from injury and helping you to burn fat faster and more efficiently.
After writing Zero Sugar Diet, the response was tremendous. The book became an instant New York Times bestseller. It shot to #1 on Amazon, where it has mostly five-star reviews. Fans of Good Morning America loved it. So effective is the plan that Fox News anchor Kimberly Guilfoyle highlighted it on her national show, saying: “It’s so important that you don’t have too much sugar in your life, and everybody wants a lean, tight stomach. And now there’s a great new book—Zero Sugar Diet—that’s going to work very well for people.”
And the biggest reviewers in the country agreed. “A user-friendly guide [that provides] a wealth of helpful information and tools for those wishing to limit added sugars in their diet,” said Library Journal. “Zero Sugar Diet is informative and entertaining and will help readers rein in cravings and become savvy monitors of added sugar consumption,” wrote Publishers Weekly.
During the two weeks, many people asked me: Don’t you have headaches? Are you feeling sluggish? The answer, honestly, was no, not when eating the Zero Sugar Diet way. By slowing your body’s absorption of carbohydrates, you’ll keep your body and your brain more fully fueled all the time, beating both general physical fatigue and the brain fog that can often accompany it. You’ll no longer need to make poor food choices as a way of getting quick energy, and you won’t be dragging through those afternoon hours. I had enough energy for my early morning TV appearances, a gym session by noon, and events into the night.
There you have it: Fourteen days. That’s all it will take to change your body.
After my two weeks, I was so happy with the results of avoiding added sugars, I now limit them daily. And as I began to teach others this simple method of nutritional balance, I saw how quickly you could see dramatic results. In just two weeks on Zero Sugar Diet, your body, and your life, will change for the better—not just for 14 days, but for a lifetime.