Feeling down about your weight? It may be time to rejoice and maybe even reacquaint yourelf with some of the foods you cut out during your attempt to drop a few pounds.
CARB is no longer a four-letter word for us dieters!
In the new paperback version of their best-selling The Serotonin Power Diet (Rodale), renowned scientist Judith Wurtman, PhD, and her co-writer, Nina T. Frusztajer, MD, detail the power of carbs which they say help us...
The subtitle of The Serotonin Diet is Eat Carbs -- Nature's Own Appetite Suppressant -- to Stop Emotional Overeating and Halt Antidepressant-Associated Weight Gain. Serotonin is the feel-good chemical that fires up our brain and keeps us from reaching for food when our emotions get ruffled.
Wurtzman and Frusztajer agreed to answer six questions for this Diet-to-Go exclusive feature.
1. Carbs are nature's own appetite suppressant? I thought carbs were a dirty word for the person trying to lose weight and get healthier?
Serotonin is a brain chemical that acts like an appetite thermostat. It completely turns off eating even if the eater has consumed less than normal amounts of food as in a diet!
What turns on serotonin is the consumption of carbohydrates. When any non-fruit carbohydrate is eaten, an amino acid called tryptophan gets into the brain and is immediately converted to serotonin and the serotonin terminates eating.
Eating protein by itself or along with carbohydrates prevents serotonin from being made so the dieter can have a full stomach but a brain that has not turned off eating.
2. What is serotonin and how does it switch off your appetite?
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter; it communicates between brain cells. When the appetite controlling functions of serotonin are activated by the consumption of carbohydrates, serotonin makes the eater feel satisfied, satiated and totally disinterested in eating.
3. Emotional eating has been blamed for the failure of many a well-intentioned diet -- why do we let our emotions ruin our resolve and how easily can we regain control over our emotions?
Food has an enormous impact on emotional state. We don't like to let our emotions ruin our resolve to lose weight but sometimes the emotional pain of a stressful situation is too much to bear without eating.
Food takes away emotional distress; if it DID NOT, we would not eat when we are unhappy.
Carbohydrates soothe us because as mentioned above they make serotonin and another function of serotonin is to restore emotional stability. The problem is that unless people read our research and book, they will not know how much carbohydrate to eat and people always eat too much.
They also eat carbohydrates that contain fat as in chocolate, cookies, cake, chips, pie and ice cream. The fat does not make serotonin, it just makes people fat. And the fat delays digestion so that it takes a very long time for the serotonin to be made.
Our suggestion is to choose high carbohydrate, low or fat-free bland-tasting snacks and eat them in the therapeutic amounts we recommend. Wait 20 minutes or so for the food to be digested without eating anything else.
The emotional state will be improve and the eating will be halted.
4. What led you both to key on serotonin as the "magic bullet" for weight loss?
About three decades of animal and people research and many years running a Harvard hospital weight loss facility made us realize the power of serotonin.
We knew that serotonin had to functions that were helpful to the dieter: serotonin kept people in a good mood and turned off appetite. And then we did many studies, published in scientific journals, that showed the effectiveness of this brain chemical for weight loss.
5. Why do most diets fail?
Diets that prevent serotonin from being made by forbidding or restricting carbohydrates will fail because serotonin levels in the brain will drop. The dieter is left feeling tense, anxious and hungry.
In fact a recent report that followed hundreds to dieters showed this.
Diets also fail because they cannot be maintained in real life. They fail because the dieter does not exercise and take his or her body's fitness seriously.
But there is a link between depression and obesity: antidepressants and mood stabilizers (used for bipolar disorder) cause serious weight gain. So if you are depressed and go on most drugs used to help restore normal mood, you will gain weight.
Our book is probably the only diet book that offers a successful food plan to allow people on these drugs to lose weight.
6. You have a chapter: Snack your way to serotonin power. What are a few good snacks to fill us up without filling us out?
Good serotonin producing snacks have about 120-130 calories and contain about 30 grams of carbohydrate, no more than 1-2 grams of protein and less than 2 grams of fat.
Breakfast cereals make great snacks; just read back of box to figure out whether you need to eat 3/4 of a cup or l cup. Pretzels, popcorn, rice and soy crackers, breadsticks, flatbread, fat-free frozen yogurt, Twizzlers, gumdrops, gummy bears, very low fat cookies like fig newtons and low fat granola bars are examples of low-calorie snacks that will take your appetite and pounds away.
5 Tips to Get Your Serotonin Cranking
1. Eat the carbohydrate on an empty stomach to avoid interference from protein from a previous meal or snack. Wait about 3 hours after a meal containing protein.
2. The carbohydrate food such as graham crackers or pretzels should contain between 25-35 grams of carbohydrate. The carbohydrate can be sweet or starchy. High-fiber carbohydrates take a long time to digest and are not recommended for a rapid improvement in mood or decrease in pre-meal appetite. Eat them as part of the daily food plan instead for their nutritional value.
3. The protein content of the snack should not exceed 4 grams.
4. To avoid eating too many calories and slowing down digestion, avoid snacks containing more than 3 grams of fat.
5. Do not continue to eat after you have consumed the correct amount of food. It will take about 20-40 minutes for you to feel the effect. Eating more carbohydrates during the interval is unnecessary and may cause weight gain.