Traveling can be stressful, which may raise cortisol and lead to fat retention; not to mention the extra calories you can eat while being out of your element. In this short video, I give a few quick tips on how to keep the weight gain down while traveling.
If there are other topics of interest to you, please let me know in the comments!
by Cyrus Peikari, M.D.
Warning: I don’t like using tricks like these to lose weight fast. I’d much rather have you stay lean and “beach ready” year round. Why? Because when you look good on the outside, you are healthy on the inside.
Think logically: when you have a lean, strong, sexy body, you are less likely to get diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Often, you can “cure” those diseases by losing just 10 pounds of belly fat.
The following tips won’t reverse years of bad habits. However, they can give you a quick “tune up” and give you confidence at the beach. I want you to take that confidence and nurture it: let it inspire you to make positive, long lasting changes to your diet and health routine.
Tip 1: Cut salt
Excess sodium causes fluid retention. This fluid retention makes you look big and bloated. Try to cut salt at least 3 to 5 days before hitting the beach. Be careful, because salt sneaks into most foods these days. Examples of salty foods include: cold cuts and cured meats, chips, pizza, processed chicken, soups, cheese, sauces, and most junk food.
Tip 2: Skip one cheat day
If you are following my version of the slow carb diet (see my free slow carb diet articles or videos), you use Saturday as your “dieters gone wild” day. Unfortunately, the fast carbs (like bread, pasta, and chips) cause fluid retention for several days. I recommend skipping one weekly cheat day before your trip to the beach. You’ll be amazed at how much tighter you look in the mirror. However, don’t skip your cheat day for too many weeks in a row; it’s a mistake I’ve made many times. Regular cheat days are essential for maintaining your hormone levels, particularly thyroid, leptin and testosterone.
Tip 3: Do some light resistance exercise
Just a few minutes of resistance exercise gives you that muscle “pump” that looks so good in photos. You don’t need a gym: pushups, squats, and planks are my favorite. You can even add a few calf raises to make those calves really pop!
Tip 4: Choose your supplements
I don’t use many supplements, but a few are helpful. I take a multivitamin a few times a week to help with skin clarity. Nearly every day I’ll have a protein shake: this helps to preserve muscle when losing weight. And when I’m trying to drop weight a bit faster, I’ll take a Slim Cut Pro® tablet at breakfast and lunch to help with metabolism and hunger.
Tip 5: Tan
Tanning is a massive lever for looking good in a hurry. I feel that a mild amount of natural sunlight is good for most people. However, if you don’t want the extra radiation, consider a spray tan instead. It’s worth it.
Tip 6: Modulate your diet
Ok, this is an advanced technique. I really don’t recommend it unless you are very experienced. With this technique, you temporarily INCREASE calories to drop weight. That’s right, if you’ve been dieting hard for a long time, eating more may cause weight to drop temporarily.
For example, one of my athletic patients was stuck at 205 pounds, and he could not get his weight down to his goal of 199 pounds, despite months of hard exercise and severe calorie restriction. I told him to DOUBLE his daily calories. He was convinced that I had lost my mind! But when the patient came back the following week, his weight had dropped to 199 pounds. What happened? By increasing his calories to maintenance level, he took the stress of his body, and his cortisol levels dropped. So the weight he lost was water weight. (As I describe in my YouTube videos, high cortisol from stress causes water and belly fat retention).
Tip 7: Be confident
You don’t need any of the above tricks…you’re already hot! Have confidence in yourself. Stand straight and project your positive energy to others.
These are some tricks to get you looking good for the beach fast. But don’t stop here. Keep getting lean, strong and sexy: it’s the best way to prevent chronic diseases. Don’t you want to be healthy, so that you can better serve humanity?
There’s no magic bullet for achieving a lean body year round. But luckily, it’s not as hard as you think. I eat French fries and chocolate every day, and my only cardio is walking. I’m doing it, and you can, too! Your first step is to spread the positive energy. Please take a moment to share this article with someone you love.
A doctor’s experience with the Slow Carb Diet
by Cyrus Peikari, M.D.
I love recommending this variation of a slow carb diet to my intermediate-level patients. It is an “easy mode” diet that keeps you full and satisfied, allows unlimited desserts one day per week, and works for nearly everyone. “Slow” carbs are those that are absorbed slowly as sugar into your bloodstream. For example, white hamburger buns will spike your blood sugar very high and very quickly, whereas beans won’t. Both are carbs, but the white bread provokes a stronger “insulin response” from your body.
Popularized and refined by author Tim Ferris, this variation of the slow carb diet has simple tenets:
Rule #1: Avoid “white” carbohydrates
We will get into specifics below, but for now, this is the general rule: ry to avoid any carbohydrate that can be considered “white” carbs. That includes rice, potatoes, cereal, bread, pasta, or any breaded fried foods.
There are two exceptions to this rule. First you can have white carbs within 30 minutes of finishing a resistance based workout of at least 20 minutes in length; this includes weight lifting, yoga, etc. Second, you can have fast carbs on your “cheat day”, described below.
Rule #2: Eat the same few meals over and over again
The most successful dieters try to eat roughly the same foods every day, especially at the beginning of the diet. Numerous studies show that the more choices you have to make, the more likely you are to overeat. At the very least, try to keep breakfast the same, so that your mind is not clouded with superfluous decisions early in the day.
Rule #3: Never drink calories
Liquid calories (with the exception of certain kinds of protein shakes) are among the fastest absorbed, and they can give the most severe sugar spikes. Drink as much water as you like, but stay away from sugared beverages. Milk and fruit juice both have a lot of sugar, so strictly avoid them. You can have unsweetened iced tea, tea, coffee (without cream, or other no-calorie beverages).
Rule #4: Take one day off per week
This is the “dieters gone wild” part of the week. On Saturdays I’ll load up on as many chocolate croissants as I want. Anything goes on your cheat day, including sugary cereal with milk, cheesecake, and cupcakes. This is when others will think you’ve lost your mind.
However, spiking your insulin one day per week not only helps with compliance, but also prevents the diet from failing. Why? Because on nearly every diet, the body adapts and down-regulates your metabolism over time, putting the body into “starvation” or survival mode.
You have tried diets in the past, which worked for a few weeks or months, but eventually you gained the fat weight back. That is partly because of your lowered thyroid and leptin levels, two of the hormones that help control your level of metabolism. Worse, you now feel deprived, and you may tend to binge eat: which is all the more dangerous now that your metabolism is lower. The cheat day, then, is programmed to prevent this.
Psychologically, it is also far better to plan your cheat day in advance, rather than “slipping up” and then feeling guilty for blowing your diet.
What foods are allowed?
The following list includes foods which you are allowed to eat as much as you like; at the beginner level, there is no need to count calories or portion sizes:
2) All meat not treated with hormones or antibiotics (fish, poultry, pork and beef)
3) Turkey bacon, organic bacon, organic sausages
4) All fish and seafood
5) All beans (but chickpeas and hummus only in moderation)
6) All vegetables (except yams, potatoes, and sweet potatoes)
7) Hot sauce
8) Salsa (without added sugar)
9) Any oil
11) Spices and herbs
13) Non-creamy, low-sugar dressings
14) Brown rice protein, hemp protein, pea protein
15) Unflavored whey protein isolate
16) Unsweetened cocoa
What foods are NOT allowed on the diet?
The following foods should only be eaten on a cheat day:
2) Milk products including cheese (except cottage cheese)
3) Refined soy products (soy milk, tofu, tempeh, soy protein shake)
4) Fruit, except for tomatoes and up to one medium avocado per day
5) Potatoes (any starchy vegetable, including sweet potatoes, yams, yucca)
6) Bread, rice, grains, quinoa, oatmeal, tortillas
8) Creamy dressings and dressings with sugar
9) Sugar, honey, corn syrup, maple syrup, fructose, agave
10) Deep-fried breaded food
11) Corn, popcorn
12) Alcohol, in any amount or frequency (note: I STRONGLY recommend avoiding this completely, even on cheat days)
The following foods may be eaten in moderation:
4) Avocado (1 medium sized avocado per day)
5) Peanut butter and almond butter (max: 1 or 2 tablespoons per day)
6) Nuts (one small handful per day)
7) Hummus and chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
8) Coffee or tea. You may add up to 2 tablespoons of heavy cream per day.
9) Unsweetened almond milk
Advantages of the Slow Carb Diet
I usually see massive improvement in a patient within days of starting them on this slow carb diet. Over the first few weeks, both high blood sugar and high blood pressure often come down to a normal range. The pasty complexion vanishes from their skin, and a healthy, ruddy glow replaces it. They already look thinner, since water weight is shed first. After several weeks, cholesterol drops as well. Patients who have been on medicines for high cholesterol (statins), diabetes, and high blood pressure may be able to stop their medicines (IMPORTANT: check with your doctor first).
Within a few months, most patients have lost inches from their waist. Note that the scale may not change, but rather your body composition has changed from fat to muscle.
A problem to consider: you may need to go shopping for smaller clothes!
One of the real drawbacks to this diet is psychological: a day or two after your cheat day, the scale temporarily will rise by a few pounds due to water retention from the spike in carbs on the prior cheat day. This water weight will come off over the next few days, but if you don’t have faith in the process, it can be psychologically devastating. Most of us, particularly women, have been brainwashed to be slaves to the scale; even if we are losing inches and looking great, we start to panic if the scale weight doesn’t go down. For example, I helped one of my patients (a high school girl who had struggled with PCOS and weight gain for years) drop from 214 down to an athletic 175 with this diet. Unfortunately, her mom made her stop the diet because she felt it made her daughter “bloated”. In other words, her mother had forgotten about the 39 pounds of fat loss, and was obsessed only by the 2-3 pounds of temporary water weight after a cheat day.
Other issues can occur in women with PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome. Many women have PCOS, or a partially expressed (“subclinical”) form of PCOS, characterized by various symptoms including irregular periods, excessive weight gain, increased body and facial hair, decreased fertility, and a tendency towards diabetes. To be clear, the slow carb diet is amazing for women with PCOS: it works really well for fat loss. It may even improve insulin resistance (thus staving off diabetes) and can improve fertility. However, with PCOS, ANY diet that causes fat loss can result in a flare of acne. That’s partly because estrogen is produced by fat cells; as you lose body fat, your estrogen dominance is reduced. Less estrogen means a higher relative concentration of male hormones, causing acne. Luckily, there are ways to address the acne if it occurs.
For vegans, this can be a tough diet. Eliminating fast carbs for 6 days per week means that you will have to get creative in your food choices. Without rice, bread, chips, and potatoes, your carbs must come from other sources such as beans.
Expert Tips for the Cheat Day
There are various ways to limit the damage that you do on your cheat day. The most important trick is to break your fast with a large serving of protein, 30 grams or more. If you charge right into breakfast with sugary cereal and donuts, you are likely to get dizzy and stay that way all day. In fact, I prefer to have servings of protein before each meal or large snack throughout the entire cheat day. That way, I end up eating fewer chocolate croissants, and thanks to the protein buffer I don’t feel as bloated or dizzy.
Another method is to start the cheat day later, or end it earlier. For example, you can wait until after lunch to start your cheat day, and then continue it until dinnertime.
After several weeks or months, you actually may start to dread the cheat day, because you’ll miss the mental sharpness that you’ve developed on your slow carb days. In this case, you may want to do the cheat day only ever second or third week.
Do I Need to See a Doctor?
It is standard to always recommend seeing a doctor before starting any new diet. Practically speaking, there are some cases where it is a big advantage to get supervision from a provider familiar with nutrition. These cases include, but are not limited to, the following examples:
If you are over the age of 50, or taking meds for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes, then you definitely want to involve your healthcare provider in your plans. Diabetics can get into trouble on this diet, since your blood sugar levels can drop back to the normal range within days of starting it. In this case, diabetes meds can drop the blood sugar too low, causing hypoglycemia. For example, passing out when you are driving can be deadly for you and others.
If you have symptoms of low thyroid, you may need to have that treated; otherwise, weight loss can stall. Symptoms of low thyroid include fatigue, difficulty losing weight, hair loss, constipation, irritability, memory loss, decreased libido, or sensitivity to heat or cold temperatures. There are many well established forms of thyroid replacement, including synthetic thyroid, and the more traditional “dessicated thyroid”.
If you suffer from chronically low testosterone, it can be very difficult to lose body fat without treatment. It would be like trying to swim upstream. Both men and women can have low testosterone, particularly after the age of 50. Symptoms of low testosterone include trouble sleeping, reduced sex drive, fatigue, hot flashes, loss of muscle, depression, mood swings, and a pot belly.
Scared That it Won’t Work?
Of all the diets I’ve used with patients over the years, this slow carb diet seems to have the highest success rate long term. You’ll stay full and satisfied every day. And you still get to eat all the desserts and foods that you love, as much as you want, on your cheat day every week. Please take a second to leave your comment below!
DISCLAIMER: The information provided is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your own healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition. The safest and only proven way to lose weight is through regular moderate exercise and appropriate diet, as prescribed by your own healthcare provider. RESULTS NOT TYPICAL.
by Cyrus Peikari, M.D.
In this video I share three of the top diet strategies I use to help patients lose weight, and keep it off long term, while still being able to enjoy the foods that you love… such as chocolate chip cookies!
by Cyrus Peikari, M.D.
I did cardio for over 30 years, but it only made me fatter. I now realize that long, mindless cardio is like accumulating credit card debt on your “adrenal glands”: eventually, your body repays it with metabolic interest.
Cardio isn’t evil. Some people thrive on it. In fact, used sparingly it can relieve mental stress. However, any form of excessive exercise (even resistance exercise) can work against you.
The adrenal glands are small, pyramid-shaped organs that sit on top of your kidneys. They produce multiple hormones that keep you alive and healthy, including sex hormones and stress hormones. One of the stress hormones that your adrenal glands produces is “cortisol”, a cousin to the drug that doctors give you, for example, during a poison ivy reaction (such as Prednisone tablets, or cortisone shots).
I’ll bash cortisol in a minute, but first let me praise it. Cortisol is necessary for survival. In fact, if your adrenals stopped producing cortisol, you would die. I’ve seen this in patients who have autoimmune disorders that shut down their adrenal glands: if they don’t take cortisone pills every day, they sicken and die.
President John F. Kennedy suffered from an autoimmune syndrome known as Addison ’s disease, which attacks the adrenal glands. Addison’s disease is extreme “adrenal insufficiency,” and it’s rare. However, there is a common form of adrenal insufficiency known as “adrenal fatigue.” The main symptoms of adrenal fatigue are chronic fatigue, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, muscle loss, and abdominal pain. (Athletes can suffer a flavor of this known as exercise burnout, or “overtraining”).
Other symptoms of adrenal fatigue are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, irritability and depression, craving salty foods, low blood sugar, headache, sweating, low libido, and in women irregular or absent menstrual periods.
Patients with adrenal fatigue are among the most complex medical challenges, and for this reason many physicians refuse to see them. (Usually it’s not the doctor’s fault: medical managers routinely yell at employed physicians who spend more than five minutes per patient…one of the main reasons I fled “factory” medicine and started a private practice).
Adrenal fatigue from exercise often happens like this: You want to lose weight, so you get on the cardio machines at the gym. Great news! You’ve lost some weight, but you hit a plateau. The answer? More cardio! OK, great, you’ve lost a few more pounds, but after a few months you hit another plateau. Guess what? You decide to increase the cardio further. Your good intentions are paving the road to metabolic Hell.
This excessive cardio is stressful to the body. In fact, any kind of excessive exercise causes stress. That includes overindulging in resistance exercise such as yoga or weight lifting. I’m picking on cardio simply because it’s the most abused. In the short run, it may seem great, but months (or years) later you’ll pay the price for overdoing it.
The result of all this stress: your adrenal glands respond by increasing cortisol output. To dramatize the negative effects of cortisol, let’s examine the “opposite” of Addison’s disease: a situation where the adrenals produce excess cortisol, known as “Cushing’s syndrome”
Symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome include high blood pressure, abdominal fat (with thin arms and legs), a round “chipmunk” face, a fatty neck, weak muscles, weak bones, acne, and thin skin. Women may have excess body hair and have irregular menstruation. Other symptoms include mood changes, headache, and chronic tiredness. Cushing’s syndrome results from too much cortisol-like medication (such as prednisone), or by a tumor that results in excessive cortisol (known as Cushing’s disease).
When you overindulge in cardio long term, the stress casts a mild shadow of Cushing’s syndrome. You retain belly fat, and you struggle to build muscle.
Another notorious effect of cortisol: your appetite may increase, particularly for junk food.
What happens if you get injured or stop exercising due to burnout? Unfortunately, you’re in a worse situation. Because of elevated cortisol levels, the weight gain returns with a vengeance: it’s far worse than before you started cardio.
As bleak as that sounds, it gets worse. Now that you are frustrated over lack of progress, you might commit the ultimate sin: you cut your calories. It’s a sin I’ve committed many times.
Why is cutting calories so sinister? On the one hand, lowering calories stresses the body, which causes your adrenals to produce more cortisol: the same cortisol that, in long term excess, burns muscle and creates belly fat. Isn’t that the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve?
Cutting calories is a big mistake for another reason: it puts your metabolism into “starvation” mode. Your body slows down. Your “basal metabolic rate” decreases. It seems like you are gaining weight again, though you have stopped eating. Welcome to Hell!
Now that we’ve reviewed the science, how do we escape this mess? We said that long, mindless cardio is like accumulating credit card debt that your body has to pay back with metabolic interest. (By the time I see someone in my office, they are deep into years of “metabolic debt.”)
You can start to “pay down” those metabolic credit cards with a number of positive steps. Look to reduce stressors in your life. Most of the time, one of your biggest stressors will be a family member or close friend: a co-dependent relationship. They are stressing you out, which makes you feed back into their stress, creating an endless loop of dysfunction. Instead of a person, it may be an activity (such as needless work stress). A professional counselor helps.
Another way to pay off your metabolic credit cards is by eating more. That’s correct: you may need to eat more. Strategically raising your calorie intake may break through a fat loss plateau.
A third and powerful adjustment to your metabolic portfolio is to re-evaluate your exercise regimen. I usually slash a patient’s workout volume by 50—75%. With less exercise, stress goes down, you’re less hungry, and you burn fat more efficiently. It’s not the quantity, but the quality. Pick the right exercises for your body. That’s why I take my patients to the gym and give them a custom regimen.
Some of you might think, “I don’t exercise at all. How can you cut that down for me?” The answer is that you have exercised in the past, but you got frustrated seeing little or no progress. Since the definition of insanity is to keep doing something that doesn’t work, you did the “sane” thing, and gave up on exercise altogether.
For most, the problem is too much cardio. The solution? Find a good trainer or mentor to coach you on short, low-volume routines.
Just remember to pick someone who doesn’t stress you out.
In this video I show how Dr. Rick lost 47 pounds in just 5 months, while getting stronger and enjoying big, delicious meals every day. 20 of our top tips are included.
Toby Threadgill is an elite caliber athlete who travels the globe teaching classical Japanese martial arts. He is the only non-Japanese in the world to currently hold ultimate authority over one of the old samurai era martial arts schools. His schedule can be grueling with him traveling over 130,000 miles a year and teaching 8 hour days, 10 days straight. He also teaches international law enforcement as well as members of our international security infrastructure. At the age of 54 he approached Dr. Peikari for help in maintaining his physical prowess.
Says Threadgill: “I suffered for 20 years before I met Dr. Cyrus Peikari. I tried training harder, but it only made me hurt worse. What amazed me is that I had all these blood tests, and had seen all these doctors, for all these years, and had constantly complained of these symptoms, but no one ever got it. No one even brought up the possibility of hormone deficiency. Then I met Dr. Peikari, and within 10 minutes of talking to him, he knew what was wrong with me. And he turned out to be correct, which blew my mind. As soon as I got on thyroid replacement, within 2 days I felt better. Within a week I was feeling normal, and within 7 weeks I was building muscle again, while the joints were no longer hurting the way they were. A year later, the difference is dramatic. I had suffered, undiagnosed, for 20 years; and after I turned 50, everything accelerated and I fell apart. Everyone just told me I was getting old; but I knew something wasn’t right. It was so frustrating knowing that something was wrong, but having doctors either tell me that nothing was wrong, or that there is nothing I could do about it. The things I was experiencing were really devastating…until I met Dr. Peikari. I’m 56 years old, but now I feel like I’m in my 30’s again.”
by Cyrus Peikari, M.D.
Is there an “ideal” physique? I’ll discuss that in a minute, but the important thing is that you love your body as you are now. Don’t try to get into shape to be happy: instead, be happy now, exactly as you are, because you are perfect.
Once you learn to love yourself, the weight loss journey becomes easy. Letting go of guilt, anxiety, and negative feelings will decrease your cortisol levels. Immediately, you’ll see physical changes. When you relax, your cortisol levels drop; water weight comes off, you feel energy, and you move from fat-storing to fat-burning.
So is there an “ideal” physique? Michelangelo reportedly designed his David statue using the “golden ratio” of proportions. First studied in ancient Greece, this ratio is approximately 1 to 1.618. It is the same ratio found throughout nature, such as the veins of tree leaves. It is the same number, as well, obtained from dividing any number in the Fibonacci sequence by its predecessor.
For over 2000 years, the golden ratio has fascinated sculptors, biologists, painters, mathematicians and architects. For example, the Pantheon in Rome incorporates many elements of the golden ratio. And Leonardo da Vinci’s book “De divina proportione” (On Divine Proportions) is based on the golden ratio.
For years I struggled with weight loss. Forget any “golden ratio”: being short, it was a battle to keep from becoming a perfect sphere. I’ve got an apple-shaped body. The problem is that can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, skin and hair issues, fatigue, and loss of libido.
It wasn’t until I “cracked the code” to eating rhythm that I started to see results. After years of doing it wrong, it suddenly became easy. Now I have that golden ratio: In the attached picture, taken this morning, my shoulder to waist ratio is 1.6 (both linear and circumferential).
I did this by enjoying potato chips and chocolate every day. I don’t do any cardio. And I do only 2 or 3 easy, 30 minute weight lifting sessions in the gym each week, with just 9 or 10 easy sets per workout.
Mostly, I achieved the golden ratio by lying on the couch and watching Netflix. That’s right, relaxation is the key. And strategically eating great food such as hamburgers and fries allows your body to rest, which lowers cortisol levels.
It worked for me, and it can work for you.
Personally, I don’t use any supplements, hormones, or diet pills. However, some of you may have an undiagnosed hormone deficiency. I see patients with thyroid or another hormone deficiencies that have been missed for decades. Fixing a hidden hormone deficiency brings results faster.
It is so rewarding when I can help my patients get off their diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol medications. It’s such a relief to stop the frustrating cycle of restrictive diets and harsh exercise programs that dig a deeper hole. The easier way is fun!
Please take a minute to post your own experience. I’d love to hear what has (or hasn’t) worked for you.
P.S. In case you missed it, I discuss cortisol in more detail in this blog post and video: https://cpeikari.wordpress.com/2015/11/12/i-screwed-up-big-time/