The Skinny Rules by Bob Harper (Book Excerpt)

RULE 1: DRINK A LARGE GLASS OF WATER BEFORE EVERY MEAL—­NO EXCUSES!

This has got to be the easiest rule there is. Which is a good place to start. But it’s also one of the most important rules there is. You simply must stay hydrated. At a minimum I want you to drink a large glass of water before every meal. But I’d prefer that you drink at least five glasses of water a day, the first one within fifteen minutes of waking.

Now, do I really need to harass you about this? I do. Because during the process of losing weight, nothing is so crucial to your success. Water keeps your organs healthy while you’re sweating, keeps food moving through the system, and makes you feel full.

Let me put this plainly: drinking water helps you lose weight. You can see this most vividly in very overweight children. Recently, a group of Israeli researchers examined the resting energy expenditure (REE) of twenty-­one obese children. REE refers to the rate at which you burn calories when you are sleeping, watching TV, or just simply sitting there and staring into space. The researchers gave the kids a large serving of cold water, then began measuring the REE every 10 minutes. The reaction was more robust than anticipated. Within 24 minutes, REE began increasing. By 57 minutes, REE had increased by 25 percent, and this effect lasted 40 minutes.

Did you get that? Just by drinking water, your body increases its burning of calories. The scientists estimated that, if you just do this, you’ll burn off an extra three pounds over the next year.

That doesn’t sound like a lot, but I’ll take it. Won’t you?

Simple Hydration Tips

Make it your premeal policy: drink a large glass of water before every meal. No excuses.

End the day with preparation for a good start to the next: put a large, full glass of water on your bedstand every night and drink it when you wake up, every morning.

RULE 2: DON’T DRINK YOUR CALORIES

Caloric beverages steal your health and they steal great food from you. That’s right. They steal it because they are so heavily caloric themselves and will fill you up with all the wrong stuff. Think of the kinds of caloric beverages all around you.

Soft drinks: As you heft one of those cans or buckets of sugar water to your mouth, consider that you are actually eating the equivalent of what should be your entire lunch.

Think of it this way: all that corn syrup? It’s a bushel of corn! And remember, when factory farms want to fatten their cattle, what do they do? They feed them corn. So if you are drinking things with corn syrup, think about that. Are you a cow? No you are not.

Moreover, when you drink soda, you are ingesting what just about every legitimate medical authority in the world has named as suspect number one in today’s sprawling diabetes epidemic.

If, like most Americans, you are used to drinking lots of liquid calories, cutting out soda might be a tough adjustment. But it’s essential that you kick your soda habit ASAP.

Juices and juice drinks: Most juices have exactly the same number of calories—­and the same amount of simple sugars—­as a cola. Oh, you’ll protest, but doesn’t the fiber in a “natural” juice obviate that problem? No. That’s just what you’ve been told. It is the same as drinking a soft drink. You want fruit? Eat fruit. The whole piece of fruit. Not the extracted and manipulated juice.

A latte on the way to the gym? Sorry. Milk also has a tanker-­full of calories. True, coffee itself—­which most of the world drinks without milk, by the way—­is turning out to be a positive dietary element, although it’s still unclear why and how much. I’ll get back to that later, but for now, no lattes or chais, frappes, or mochas. If you must get something Euro, get a cappuccino, which contains very little milk (if made the right way), or even an Americano, in which you can better control the amount of milk. And if you must add milk, opt for the low-­ or no-­fat varieties. No cream. No half and half. Whole milk? No again.

In the same way I want you to step down from soda, I want you to immediately lay off the cream or half-­and-­half in your coffee. Don’t even go for the whole milk. Step down, step away! Start putting 2% milk or nonfat (skim) milk in your coffee and ordering any coffee-­based drink that way too. Today.

Now, why am I so down on liquid calories? Most of us know the basics: sugary drinks contain, uh, sugar, and sugar is made up of molecules that encourage the formation of new fat cells, as well as keeping existing ones filled. 

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