Regulars and Shorts

Body, Mind & Wellness: Four tips for healthy weight loss

By Lucy Beale

Go sweet on sour, for starters.
by Lucy Beale

You may catch more flies with sugar than vinegar, but when it comes to your ideal weight and over-all good health, forget the flies—choose the vinegar.

Years ago the Apple Cider Vinegar Diet was popular: You were to take two to four teaspoons (a tablespoon is three teaspoons) of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water after every meal. Too simplistic to be of use?

It worked then and it works now. Vinegar helps control insulin and blood sugar levels, as well as helps healthy weight loss.

New research shows that acetic acid, the main component of vinegar, may help control blood pressure, blood sugar levels and fat accumulation. The theory is that acetic acid fights fat by turning on genes for fatty acid oxidation enzymes. The genes churn out proteins involved in breaking down fats, thus suppressing body fat accumulation. Glycemic index research shows that four teaspoons of vinegar with a meal reduces the glycemic effect of a meal by 30%, which helps keep blood sugar and insulin levels normal.

If you don’t have a preference for sour foods, you may want to develop your palate to appreciate vinegar and oil salad dressings, dill pickles, capers, sauerkraut, tangy salsas, green olives, mustard and horseradish. Add to that sour fruit and vegetables: lemons, limes, grapefruit, tomatoes and some berries and greens.

In other words, a couple of spoonfuls of sour a day can keep the doctor away, along with that apple. (The healing power of apples amaze me. When I’m going through a high-stress time, eating an apple or two a day rebalances whatever was out of balance.)

Will a spoonful of sugar help the vinegar go down? If it’s a small spoonful, okay. The American Heart Association (AHA) now recommends no more than six teaspoons a day for women, and eight for men. Sugar includes table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, which is in many, if not most, processed foods. A can of soda contains eight teaspoons of sugar, so if you’re a woman and enjoy soda, have only three-quarters of a can once a day—then don’t eat any food that contains sugar the rest of the day. (And no—diet soda is not the answer, not by a longshot. But that’s another column.)


A recent Time Magazine article claimed exercise won’t help a person lose weight. The premise was that exercisers overindulge in “treat” foods after a workout, eating more calories than the workout has burned.

If only the facts on exercise were that simple.

Exercise helps your body’s cells take up glucose, which normalizes or reduces insulin levels and keeps blood sugar levels in the normal range, avoiding metabolic syndrome and, ultimately, the risk of developing type two diabetes or other chronic health conditions. Plus, exercise lifts moods.

To keep your insulin levels normal, exercise and eat mostly low-glycemic foods. Again, easy on the sugar.


The New York Times Magazine recently ran an article on the sorry state of home cooking. Basically, we’re watching more televised cooking shows and doing less cooking in our homes. The article offered this innovative way to lose weight (and I suspect one could lose substantial amounts of weight): Only eat food that you prepare by hand. That means you would bake your own bread and make your own candy, cookies and pastry. You would cook each meal that you eat. You couldn’t use muffin mix or any convenience packaged food. You’d make spaghetti sauce from scratch. Ditto ice cream. Just like they did on the farm 100 years ago. Anyone want to try this and let me know your results after six months?


There you have it. Include apple cider vinegar and other sour foods into your diet. Cut down on sugar. Exercise. Prepare your own food, cooking from scratch. Eventually you’ll be at your best weight, and overall healthier. u

Lucy Beale is a regular contributor to CATALYST. Her newest books are “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Glycemic Index Weight Loss” and its cookbook companion, coauthored with Joan Clark-Werner. Lucy lives in Sandy, Utah.


This article was originally published on November 1, 2009.