Dr. Howard Shapiro’s Picture Perfect Diet Prescription

Dr. Howard Shapiro's Picture Perfect Diet Prescription

Find out for yourself about the diet plan that helped Mariah Carey drop pounds.

The following is an excerpt from the book The Picture Perfect Prescription by Dr. Howard Shapiro.

Take 11 Days, Add 10 Years to Your Life

Psst. Want to live longer?

You can! You have it in your power right now to add a decade or more of healthy, fit, vital, rewarding years to your life span.

What will it take?

Eleven days.

That’s all.

In just 11 days, you can discover the lifestyle and formulate the patterns that will add at least 10 years of fitness and vitality to your life. In these 11 days, you will discover a whole new range of possibilities, affecting not only the way you eat, drink, sleep and exercise, but also the way you handle stress in your life and relate to others. At the same time that you’re adding to your life expectancy ‑- the years of your life ‑- you’ll also increase your sense of satisfaction, fulfillment and happiness, which means the quality of those years.

In the pages ahead, I’ll show you how.

I’ve been practicing medicine in New York City for more than a quarter of a century, specializing in weight loss. I know how to get patients to change their relationship with food so that they reach and maintain their ideal weight, satisfying their tastes while they eat the kinds of foods that stave off disease and add strength and vigor to their lives.

From Weight Loss to Life Gain

My patients have taught me that there is much more to health and vitality than attaining your ideal weight and eating a healthy, nutritious diet. Over the years, I’ve observed that my healthiest patients ‑- the ones with the best self-image, the most vitality, the fewest illnesses and the most optimistic outlook ‑- combine four essential factors in their daily lives.

  • They know how to chill out ‑- to get control of the stresses that drag them down. They have learned how to free themselves from tension in their lives.
  • They know how vital it is to move their bodies, to stay fit with exercise.
  • They understand that it’s essential to maintain a healthy weight while eating nutritious food that tastes good.
  • They know that they need to reach out to others ‑- to connect with the world in which they live and the people around them.

Not only do they know these things, but they have also worked out ways to put together all these life-expansion factors in their daily lives.

The truth is, these four life-lengthening actions are all related. Take the relationship between diet and stress, for instance. You can lose all the weight you want, but at the same time, you need to deal with stress. Otherwise, the health benefits that you gain by achieving an ideal weight can easily be wiped out by the harm of being wired, anxious or a bundle of nerves. And not only that ‑- as I’m sure you recognize, your stress level affects appetite, and appetite (of course) has an impact on how well you maintain your ideal weight.

Or consider what happens to people who exercise but don’t take care of their personal relationships. At first glance, you might suppose that people who are really fit are the ones with the longest life expectancy and the fewest health problems. But not so. A perfectly tuned body will take you only so far. After that, researchers have discovered, the quality of your relationships with other people ‑- in your personal, social and spiritual life ‑- has a huge impact on your health and your life span. You can work out at the gym till your body is an athlete’s dream, but if you really want to improve your health and vigor, and extend your life span, you have to engage with other people.

There’s Research to Prove It!

Fortunately, the essentials of longevity that I have just described ‑- those cornerstones of life expansion ‑- are now studied extensively by hosts of scientists, researchers and doctors. I say “fortunately” because it means there is a wealth of evidence to support what I’ve observed so vividly in my medical practice.

In fact, science and technology have consistently extended the life span of the human species. When the 20th century began, for example, our great-great-grandparents expected to live, on average, some 48 years. By the time the century ended, the average life span was calculated to be 77.4 years for men and 79.8 for women.

As I write this, in laboratories around the world, scientists are working hard to understand the process of aging, so they can perhaps find drugs that will slow, stem or control the process ‑- possibly even reverse it. It’s not that we think we’ll never die; it’s that we want to live long lives with perfect vigor and keep our youthfulness.

Right here, let me give you an overview of what scientists know about the lifestyle factors that affect aging ‑- and what every one of us can do to look, feel and stay younger in body and mind.

1. Stress shortens life.

Incontrovertible research shows that stress drains energy, raises blood pressure and reduces the ability of the human immune system to deal with invading microbes like viruses and bacteria. Clearly, there’s a connection between stress and specific lifestyle behaviors ‑- like smoking, drinking alcohol, overeating, being sedentary ‑- that, quite simply, can kill us. With numerous studies in human behavior, researchers have proven that people who have the ability to manage stress live longer and better. And that’s true whether you’re handling the acute kind of stress that’s the result of a major accident, loss or disaster, or the more chronic kind of stress that saps your energy when you’re tied to a hated job or trapped in a relationship that’s gone sour.

2. Exercise is good for you.

Despite all that’s been said in support of regular exercise, most people don’t really know the medical reasons why it is so important. In this book I’m going to be very specific about the kind of exercise that can help the most with weight loss, staving off debilitative disease, improving mental health, and enhancing your sense of well-being. Fortunately, there is plenty of research to show which exercises ‑- and what patterns of exercise ‑- help you to feel better, live longer and resist disease. The program in this book puts the emphasis on the kind of exercise that not only extends your life but also gives you new reserves of energy.

3. Eat right, live longer.

Eating right does not mean dieting. While everybody knows that health risks soar when you’re overweight, what many people don’t know is that the wrong kind of diet can actually shorten your life expectancy. The Atkins and South Beach diets, for example, may bring about immediate weight loss, but they have health downsides that nobody has told readers about. Both promote meat, poultry and dairy foods that substantially increase the risk of a range of diseases ‑- cancers of every description, osteoporosis, asthma, arthritis, kidney disease and more. While both these diets promote unhealthy choices, neither of them offers replacement suggestions that would help compensate for nutritional shortcomings. In fact, the South Beach Diet offers no alternatives at all; its very rigidity is an encouragement to eat foods that should not be a part of a healthy eating plan.

What’s more, these diets are strictly short term, which means people regain weight in a hurry if they waver from the prescribed plan. With Atkins ‑- which has been around long enough for studies to be done ‑- there is evidence that people who go off the diet not only rush to regain their original weight, but eventually go over the original weight. The metabolic process of ketosis, essential to the success of the Atkins Diet, accelerates the rapid weight loss, but it’s not healthy over a long period of time.

Bottom line? Such diets will not do the trick in “curing” overweight. In fact, they may actually shorten life and erode its quality.

Achieving and maintaining ideal weight is certainly one of the most important things a person can do to ensure healthy longevity. But that’s only true if you eat the kinds of foods that actually advance health benefits. That’s why I don’t subscribe to harsh, restrictive diets that end up depriving the body. Instead, I show people how to change their relationship with food. The result is that you’ll eat till you’re satisfied, enjoy the planet’s bounty of tastes, lose weight and keep it off. At the same time, you can maximize your body’s ability to prevent disease by adding life-enhancing nutrition to your diet. And this can all happen at once. The program in this book will teach you how.

4. Stay involved to stay alive.

Some recent health research has stunned many doctors who held to the belief that pills, prescriptions and surgery would provide the key to human longevity. It turns out that one of the key factors in long-term good health is your involvement with other people and with the world at large. Studies are conclusive: People in stable relationships live longer, are happier, enjoy better health, even do better financially than those who are more isolated or self-involved.

The interesting thing is, it’s not necessary to have the most wonderful relationship with a spouse, partner or close-knit social group. People who participate in any kind of cause ‑- anything that takes them outside themselves and connects them to the world at large ‑- enhance their sense of well-being. Perhaps that’s not so surprising, since we naturally feel better when we’re active. But it’s been astonishing to learn how this enhanced sense of well-being both lengthens life and makes it more worthwhile. This is a critical link. People who watch their weight, exercise regularly and take measures to control their stress levels may unconsciously ignore or bypass this critical component of longevity. Taking steps to overcome natural shyness or mix with people of similar interests may be just as critical to your health as controlling stress, exercising regularly and eating well.

Sometimes it’s all too easy to focus on yourself, particularly if you have a tendency to feel shy, housebound or emotionally “not ready.” But if you do that, you may be depriving yourself of an essential resource of good health. That’s why this book has a program for initiating and sustaining this essential tool of longevity.

Whatever Your Age — Take 11 Days Now

Perhaps you are in your 20s or 30s, feeling like you’re at the peak of your physical and mental powers. Or you’re in your 40s or 50s, feeling much younger than that but starting to be concerned about your weight, your fast pace of life and feelings of fatigue. Or you’re in your 50s or 60s, quite possibly hoping for a change of pace ‑- a healthier lifestyle, with less stress ‑- but still facing many of the challenges that confronted you earlier in life.

No matter what your age, the 11 days that you spend on this program will pay you back many times over. These 11 days are not like a Caribbean vacation or a week at the spa, where you take a break and enjoy a completely different lifestyle, only to return to the same life you had before. The 11 days are nothing like an intense crash course or disciplined boot camp, where you have to follow the rules and obey the leaders. During these 11 days, you won’t be dropping out to do something completely different ‑- in fact, those around you may hardly notice the changes you make in your daily life. And yet, in those 11 days, you are going to have a unique learning experience. This is your opportunity to discover how you can smoothly integrate the four basic factors of life expansion into your daily life.

Let’s face it. We all want to live longer. But the really important thing is to feel more healthy, fit and vital every day of our lives. You don’t just want to extend the number of years you’re here; you want to stave off or avoid the decline of power and vigor that comes with aging. You want to keep your youth. And you can.

A Look at the 11-Day Program

Over the years, I’ve refined and formalized the kinds of measures that worked and have structured them into the four programs in this book: A program for managing stress, source of the biggest killers in our society ‑- heart disease, stroke and related ailments A program for making exercise an integral part of your life ‑- essential for maintaining vigor, peace of mind and the looks that go with them A program of healthy, low-calorie eating that asks you to change your relationship with food once and for all ‑- my proprietary Picture Perfect Weight Loss Program A program for reaching beyond yourself to the wider world and the people in it ‑- a connection that has been proven essential for longevity

If you tried to do each of these programs separately, it might take you months to figure out how to make the necessary lifestyle adjustments. But it doesn’t need to take that long. With the 11-day program, I’ll be providing recommendations that allow you to address all four issues simultaneously in a very reasonable period of time.

The first four days of the program are about understanding where you stand in relation to each of the four life extenders; think of these days as awareness training. The awareness is essential. This isn’t a matter of attending lectures and taking notes; instead, you will be playing detective about exactly where you stand on each of these four elements of longevity. You’ll learn to identify your own stress-causing demons, to know precisely why you must exercise and what kinds of exercise work for you. You’ll understand the principles of the Picture Perfect Weight Loss Program so that you can change your relationship with food once and for all. And you’ll assess how you might engage with others for those all-important connections beyond yourself.

Following the four days of awareness training, you’ll embark on a seven-day action plan for changing where you stand. For each of the four longevity initiatives ‑- chill, move, eat, connect ‑- I’ve structured a day-by-day program of action, assigning you steps to take each day and giving you the tools you need to execute the assignments.

Together, the four-day awareness program and the seven-day action program constitute a life-changing and life-lengthening experience.

What You’ll Gain with This Program

What will be the consequences of undertaking this program? Some will be immediate, some longer term.

For starters, on the “immediate” side of the ledger, you’ll lose an estimated seven pounds or more in 11 days. That is simply step one in changing your relationship with food so that you eat foods you love, eat till you’re satisfied, enjoy the great variety of tastes in the world, and know that you’re eating healthfully and for slimness.

You’ll also seamlessly ease yourself into a daily exercise program. You’ll get a handle on the stress in your life. And you will have taken the first steps toward commitment to lives beyond your own.

In short, you’ll be slim, healthy, active, sexy, involved and engaged now ‑- and for a long life to come.

But the immediate results are only the starting point. By undertaking this life-changing and life-enhancing program, you’ll have taken steps to prevent both the killer diseases we all fear ‑- cancer, heart disease, diabetes ‑- and the debilitating ailments that weigh down our later years ‑- arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, osteoporosis and depression, among others.

You’ll be on your way to staying active in body and mind for a lifetime. Think what that means. It means you’ll always have the strength and eagerness to travel widely, to be on the move, to stay sharp and attuned to new events and developments, to enjoy books and movies and theater all your life, to be no burden to your children ‑- ever. And you’ll look younger ‑- more fit, more healthy and more rested. That’s the final promise of this program. The right nutrition and exercise, plus living a life that is as free as possible of stress and as rich as possible in connections, will show ‑- in your body’s slim limberness, in the condition of your skin and hair and teeth, in the strength you’ll continue to bring to every activity, every interaction with others, every hearty handshake.

Think of the Children, Too

Even if this 11-day program is just for your own benefit, it’s for the next generation, too.

For the first time in American history, today’s generation of children is looking ahead to a shorter life span than their parents enjoyed. Unhappily, they look it, they feel it, and they act it. Obesity has become an epidemic among American children, and diseases once reserved for adulthood are now showing up in teenagers and youths. Adult diabetes has become a kid’s disease. So has elevated cholesterol. The children afflicted with these diseases aren’t the only ones who will pay. We all will, in skyrocketing insurance costs, higher taxes to pay for more public health initiatives, lost productivity in the workplace ‑- and, of course, the grief and despair of lives limited by disease or ended far too early.

The reasons for this disastrous state of affairs are all too obvious: fast food and supersized portions, even in school cafeterias; kids who can wield a computer or TV remote but can’t walk a block without complaining; family members who pass one another like ships in the night, never sitting down together to a real meal; logging on while tuning out. Schools with no gym programs and towns with no sidewalks or bike paths. Pressure to succeed ‑- in nursery school! From an early age, Americans are learning how to live unhealthy, unhappy lives. No wonder today’s generation can be expected to have a shorter life expectancy than that of the preceding generation.

This new form of a generation gap was brought to my attention recently by one of my friends. She has always been an avid tennis player, and at 61, she continues to enjoy the game as often as possible. Not long ago, she visited her daughter and son-in-law in Florida and played a few games with her 11-year-old granddaughter. Before the set was half finished, her granddaughter was completely exhausted, while my friend, 50 years her senior, wasn’t even breathing hard.

Unfortunately, my friend is the exception rather than the rule. She has remained active all her life. Too many adults, I’m afraid, have become sedentary, and that is the example that today’s kids seem to be following. Systematically, we’ve thrown away or overturned the great opportunities for health and fitness that surround us. We’ve surrendered instead to the extrinsic and intrinsic forces that are killing us ‑- from the competitive scramble and pollution of modern life to bad habits learned in childhood to today’s popular diets. The effects of these forces are felt not just in the dread diseases we all fear ‑- cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis ‑- but also in respiratory problems, joint problems and arthritis, decreased sex drive, gout, even skin problems, not to mention unhappiness and the high costs of health care. The bottom line? We’re shortening our lives every day.

An Integrated Program That’s in Your Hands

This book provides not an elixir but a plan. There’s no expense involved ‑- and no radical change in lifestyle. If you undertake this program today, you’ll not only add more years to your life, you’ll also keep your youth. Doing so is in your power. That means you’re going to have to do some work. Here’s why:

The aging process, as we all know, is influenced by genetics. But environmental influences have a huge effect. And while there’s nothing you can do about the set of genes you were born with, there is plenty you can do about environmental influences. Making changes in that arena quite literally, and dramatically, affects life expectancy.

Take a simple example ‑- one we’re all familiar with. Do you smoke? On average, smokers lose 14 years of their life to this habit; quit the habit, and you can start getting the years back. Quit today ‑- no matter how old you are or how long you’ve been smoking ‑- and you will immediately gain back a year of your life.

But here’s another factor you can control, though it’s not as easily recognized as a pack of deadly cigarettes. Is your blood pressure high? Many people don’t realize that by learning to handle stress you can significantly lower blood pressure. Do that, and you can easily add 1.3 years to your life.

How about this one: Do you lead a sedentary lifestyle? Walk an hour and a half a day, seven days a week, and add a year to your life.

These are not fictional promises; they are actuarial assumptions used by insurance companies and based on years of statistics. They’re for real.

This book will not so much concentrate on the bad habits you should drop ‑- like smoking ‑- as on four things you can do proactively, starting today, to achieve a healthy longevity. Actually, in taking these four life-extending measures, you’ll effectively drop the bad habits anyway ‑- virtually automatically.

The funny thing is, you already know something about all four factors that are part of the 11-day program ‑- stress reduction, exercise, weight loss and connecting with others. We all know exactly how to live longer and better. Doctors have been telling patients how for years.

What I’ve done in this book is get it together. I’ve compiled the scientific know-how and the medical advice into a practical, workable program you can do in 11 days ‑- four days of awareness training and seven days of action. In all, the 11 days are a life-changing experience that will give you a longer, healthier, happier life ‑- one filled with youthfulness.

Surely you can take 11 days for all that.

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