Most dieters choose their food plans with a single goal: Weight loss. But exercise physiologist Jimmy Pena, whose clients have included Mario Lopez, LL Cool J and Tyler Perry, says that diets can provide more than a way to shed pounds. In an exclusive interview, Jimmy talked with us about his faith-based belief that dieting can feed the body, mind and soul, detailed in his new book: "The PrayFit Diet: The Revolutionary, Faith-Based Plan to Balance Your Plate and Shed Weight."
Rather than obsess about counting calories or restricting carbohydrates, Jimmy told us that he feels successful diet plans must address the whole person, including instruction in how to create a nutritionally balanced meal. The plan has been shown to help dieters lose up to 20 pounds in 33 days. His other best-selling books include "Prayfit: Your Guide to A Healthy Body and A Stronger Faith in 28 Days" (click for details).
And his goals are focused on healing by helping "each person see their health as a way to serve their community, their family and most importantly, the Lord. It's not about the mirror, but about the One we're trying to mirror. Plainly said, somewhere between vanity and gluttony is abundant life, and that's where I want to lead people," he told us.
For those baffled as to the link between faith and weight loss, Jimmy explains:
I believe faith is the most powerful tool God gave us to conquer life's obstacles and that includes our health. Not only that, but I believe faith is the most important reason to be healthy. It's funny, we're bold to declare that faith can move mountains, and yet we doubt it can help us move a muscle. Truth is, faith works. But that's the only way it works.
When it comes to diet specifics, Jimmy is a believer in the use of protein for fat-burning, saying:
- 1.) Protein Fills. Studies show that increasing protein intake - even without reducing carb intake in fact - increases satiety and reduces appetite. This results in fewer cravings, less overeating and a better ability to maintain healthy habits.
- 2.) Protein builds - Adequate protein consumption supplies muscle with the building blocks they need to rebuild and repair, making you stronger for whatever you choose to conquer.
- 3.) Protein goes slow - Protein has hidden superpower: it slows down digestion. It takes your body a long time to break protein down into its more usable amino acids, so when you eat it with other food, the delay in digestion acts in your favor.
His "go-to proteins" include chicken, fish, eggs, ground turkey, yogurt, almonds, shrimp and black beans. However, despite Jimmy's faith in protein power, he does not advocate low-carb, high fat ketogenic diets nor does he recommend the protein-rich Paleo diet that eliminates grains.
I'm a big fan of whole grains. In truth - and contrary to what the low-carb advocates would have you believe - carbohydrates are the body's preferred energy source and should be consumed in enough quantity to power your daily life. Your brain's gray matter is powered by the stuff, relying on carbs exclusively for fuel.
Not surprisingly, those who go on ultra low carb diets - which are higher in fat, a far less efficient source of energy - end up feeling sluggish and often notice marked decreases in cognitive performance and social interaction. Anecdotally, those who go without carbs for long periods of time can end up feeling depressed.
Jimmy also has created a series of DVDs to boost your weight loss and help you enhance your overall health. They include "Prayfit: 33-Day Total Body Challenge" (click for more information) and "Prayfit 33-Day Body Toning System."
To fuel those workouts and your life, Jimmy recommends consuming complex carbohydrates. "They're digested very slowly by the body and provide a steady dose of energy along the way. These foods, which include oatmeal, whole grains and brown rice, are usually replete with fiber, vitamins and minerals, making them something of a gold mine for those looking for an instant, noticeable upgrade in energy levels. These foods are lower on the glycemic index, which serves as a measure of how fast blood sugar levels rise after consumption. The lower the GI rating, the better the food choice. Simple carbs typically rate very high on the GI. My favorites are: Oatmeal, Ezekiel bread and tortillas."
Rather than fear carbohydrates, Jimmy suggests focusing on fiber. "One way to bolster the benefit of your carbohydrate consumption is to make sure they are high in fiber. More than just a dietary catch word, fiber is a wonder food that most people can stand to have more of. Basically, it is a form of complex carbohydrate that can slow the breakdown and digestion of many foods we eat. That is a desirable effect because it reduces those pesky swings in blood sugar and insulin. This means that food stays in your system longer, extending the energy release that food provides. And because of this digestion slow-down, fiber has a satiety effect, making you feel fuller, longer. This means that you are less likely to go reaching for unhealthy snacks in the hours that follow a high-fiber meal."
As for fats, the Prayfit weight loss diet emphasizes healthy fats, says Jimmy.
"For me and PrayFit, the monounsaturated fats (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) are the superstars of the fat family. These are the good fats that you'll need to get to know a bit better. Saturated fats, which should be more closely monitored and trans fats, which should be avoided, are the unhealthy fats that gave them all a bad name," he explains.
"Monounsaturated fats have one (hence "mono") hydrogen missing and can help to lower cholesterol levels and can aid fat loss. Polyunsaturated fat have more than one (hence "poly") hydrogen atom missing. One type of polyunsaturated fat, omega-3 fats, provide numerous health benefits such as enhanced fat loss, better heart health and even reduced risk of certain cancers."
Eating these fats provides many benefits, from cholesterol to heart health to blood pressure. "And here's the kicker: research shows that the omega-3 fats can actually activate key genes that help to burn fat while turning off genes that increase fat storage. Additional studies have shown that those who increased their monounsaturated fat intake lost weight without decreasing their overall calories," says Jimmy.
Among the best fats: Nuts, vegetable oils, flaxseed and avocado, as well as cold water fish, which combines protein and the right kind of fats, such as salmon, says Jimmy.
We asked him to share his favorite recipe below. Find out more information, including how to order, by clicking here now for "The PrayFit Diet: The Revolutionary, Faith-Based Plan to Balance Your Plate and Shed Weight."
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into strips
¼ teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper
½ cup sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup chopped canned artichoke hearts, drained well
¼ cup white wine or chicken broth
2 tablespoons 2% Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
Parmesan cheese for topping (optional)
Heat oil in a large skillet. Add chicken, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Add leeks, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and wine or broth to the pan and cook for an additional 6 to 8 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Add Greek yogurt and mix to combine. Garnish with fresh tarragon and Parmesan cheese, if using, and serve.
THE 33 DIFFERENCE: This favorite made the menu for two reasons. First of all, it tastes amazing. Second, it is a low-fat, low-carb, high-protein dinner that stores and reheats well. Though there are a few variations of this recipe floating around, this one represents the healthiest incarnation available without sacrificing flavor. Get more information about the "Prayfit Diet" by clicking here.