Tired of counting calories and trying to find extra time for more exercise to lose weight? A controversial new diet is promising to help people shed pounds by eliminating wheat from the menu.
Susan Zemke and Michelle Stork are two women striving to get fit and maintain a healthy lifestyle, but the change in their physiques didn't come from upping their exercise. Instead, they were able to buck extra weight by making a bold change in their eating habits.
"Eating habits before were: No limitations," Stork admits. "I ate anything."
Until six weeks ago, that is. That's when Stork started working with Lifetime Fitness Dietician Cliff Edberg, who told the 43-year-old to cut out wheat from her diet.
"It was interesting to see just how many things have wheat products in them," she recalled. "That part was a little overwhelming."
It's true that wheat is included in a lot of products found in grocery isles -- including in foods that you probably wouldn't expect, but Stork says she's already seen results.
"I've lost 11 percent body fat -- 13 pounds, and I have a lot of energy," Stork said. "Most days, I would take a nap. I don't' take naps anymore."
Zemke says she's seen similar results, but she's been wheat-free for a year.
"Before, I used to think I felt pretty good," she said. "I worked out and did other things, and now I feel fantastic."
So why would cutting wheat increase energy levels and boost energy levels without requiring additional exercise? Edberg explains that it's all about blood sugar.
"Your blood sugar will actually go higher from eating two pieces of wheat bread than having six teaspoons of sugar," he explained. "The higher your blood sugars go, the more fat-storing hormone you are going to send out."
According to the author of the book "Wheat Belly," the blood sugar reaction to wheat products is what creates those extra pounds.
"Wheat belly is not a diet," said cardiologist William Davis, who made a YouTube video promoting his weight-loss theory about wheat. "It's an articulation of an explosive and large problem in the American style of eating."
Davis says the problem begins with the way wheat is produced, arguing that its evolution over the past 50 years via agricultural science is now making wheat unhealthy.
"Wheat has changed," he argues. "It's been changed -- completely and utterly, and removal of this thing from the human diet, I think, is among the most incredibly powerful health strategies I have ever seen."
Yet, people have been told for years that they need to eat healthy grains, including whole wheat.
"I'm going to propose to you the national message to eat more healthy whole grains got us into this mess," Davis argues.
He goes on to claim that those who cut wheat out of their diets have fewer mood swings, improved concentration and also sleep better within just days of their last bite. Edberg agrees that making the switch can create better overall health.
"If we are bringing down blood sugars, we are preventing diabetes, bringing down triglycerides -- a known factor in heart disease, bringing down cholesterol levels… we are decreasing inflammation throughout the entire body."
Edberg says he'd recommend the wheat belly diet to anyone, but dietician Linda Enright says she doesn't think everyone needs to adopt such a "drastic" dietary switch.
"I think we're always looking for that quick fix," she said, adding that she thinks the Wheat Belly diet is the latest fad. "Removing wheat could be effective for some people to see health benefits, certainly to see some weight loss -- but is it the one-size-fits-all that he claims? I don't believe it is."
Enright said she has incorporated some of the teachings in Davis' book, but she says it's important to work with an individual's needs.
"To suggest to someone that eats wheat 12 times a day eliminate that from their diet -- they could do it for a little while, then they are going to get real tired of it," she said. "It's going to be a ton of work, and may be more expensive -- and they are not going to maintain that. That's why these fad diets don't' work."
Instead, Enright suggests avoiding the portion of the grocery store where all the boxed and processed foods can be found. Instead, shoppers should steer their carts to what she calls "real foods" -- the fruits, vegetables and meats.
"I still believe in whole grains," she said. "The book puts down all grains -- lumps them all together as being bad. The benefit of whole grains is that it still gives you nutrients that refined grains don't."