“Many women skimp on olive oil because they think it has too many calories. But even a small amount can make a big difference when it comes to flattening the tummy,” insists author Erin Palinski-Wade, R.D. “Olive oil has been proven to affect our cells and hormones in ways that target our abdominal fat stores and cause them to shrink.”
Results, she promises, can be quite dramatic. And sure enough, Woman’s World readers who tested Palinski-Wade’s olive-oil-infused menus, below, melted up to eight pounds and four inches of ab flab in just seven days. “I tried Weight Watchers, supplements, fad diets — but nothing worked until this,” says Pennsylvania grandmother Eleanor Downing, 62. “I lost a pant size in a week!” Colorado travel agent Erika Crocker, 47—who whisked 4” off her middle—still can’t believe such a simple approach could be so effective. As for Mississippi mom Lindsey Bradley, 30, also down a size, she raves: “For once, my belly got flatter without hunger pangs.”
The anti-belly formula: revealed!
To maximize the benefits of olive oil, Palinski-Wade mixes six servings a day with other ingredients scientifically proven to blast belly fat — including lean protein (which helps keep belly-fat hormones low) and dairy (rich in an amino acid that speeds the release of ab fat). You’ll also enjoy berries, greens, beans, potatoes and more — plant foods that come packed with belly-fat-fighting antioxidants.
Then there’s what you won’t eat. Palinski-Wade gives your body a break from the worst waist-plumping culprits. That means you’ll skip sweeteners and processed starch, which set off blood-sugar spikes strongly linked to belly-fat storage. Trans-fats and red meat are also out, since both can worsen a type of cellular inflammation and make belly-fat hormones go haywire.
How olive oil helps attack belly fat
Olive oil cuts hunger. You won’t burn belly fat (or any fat, for that matter) unless you first take in fewer calories than your body needs to fuel itself. “And you won’t stick with a low-cal approach if you’re constantly hungry,” says Palinksi-Wade. That’s where olive oil comes in. “You often hear that protein or fiber help control hunger, but I find olive oil is equally if not more powerful.” Explanation: Olive oil is made up of 75 percent oleic acid, a substance shown to help us feel content for hours longer between meals. For this reason, Palinski-Wade actually includes more olive oil on the lowest-calorie version of her plan. “Olive oil is extremely filling.”
It blitzes ab fat with antioxidants. Olive oil is an amazing source of polyphenols, an antioxidant linked to small waists. It also helps us absorb more antioxidants from other foods. And, on top of that, even chefs love olive oil. “It makes other food, especially vegetables, taste delicious,” says Palinski-Wade. Raw broccoli? Salad with fat-free dressing? Meh. But broccoli sautéed with garlic and olive oil, salad drizzled with homemade vinaigrette — now we’re talking. “There are so many micronutrients in veggies with potential to help reduce belly fat — but they won’t work if you don’t eat them. I really think that’s a huge reason diets rich in olive oil have been shown to take off more weight,” says the pro. “Olive oil leads to greater vegetable consumption!”
It has a belly-melting X factor. Olive oil is what scientists call a monounsaturated fat (MUFA). And while the mechanism that makes MUFAs melt ab fat isn’t yet fully understood, one thing is for sure: MUFAs lower levels of insulin, a hormone programmed to turn excess blood sugar to belly fat. No wonder studies show that when we choose mostly MUFAs, our bellies shrink up to 350 percent faster than when we choose other fats or no fat at all. Says Palinski-Wade: “This actually works better than really crazy diets.”
Now maybe you don’t want to choose olive oil over, say, butter or marbled steak for the rest of your life. Not to worry. “You don’t have to give up favorite foods forever,” promises Palinski-Wade. “As you use my plan and lose weight, your body chemistry shifts. You’ll be able to indulge from time to time without adding belly fat.” And if you’re looking to get a smaller waist as quickly as possible, “You won’t find a better jumpstart. This is perfect for the impatient dieter.”
Based on ultra-simple guidelines in The Belly Fat Diet for Dummies, these menus incorporate six servings of waist-shrinking olive oil a day into meals that are both low in calories and highly delicious. Just pick your favorites—and let the waist shrinking begin! While using this plan, drink as much water as you like. Add ultra-low-cal extras (coffee, tea, herbs, spices, vinegar) as desired. Note: As always, get a doctor’s okay to try any new plan.
Breakfast (choose one daily)
- 1 egg scrambled with 1 oz. reduced-fat cheese
- 2 cups baby spinach sautéed in 1 tsp. olive oil, lemon and herbs to taste
- 2 oz. lean ham
- 1-2 cups asparagus or green beans prepared with 1 tsp. olive oil
Mid-morning snack (enjoy once daily)
- 1 cup fat-free milk or plain Greek yogurt
- 1 cup berries or 1/2 large grapefruit
Lunch (choose one daily)
- 4 oz. skinless rotisserie chicken
- 1 ½ cups nonstarchy vegetables (such as broccoli or coleslaw mix) with 2 tsp. olive oil and vinegar to taste
- 4 oz. pork tenderloin, seasoning to taste
- 12 asparagus stalks or 1 cup steamed green beans, drizzled with 2 tsp. olive oil
- 4 oz. ground turkey breast rolled into balls and sautéed in 1 tsp. olive oil; serve with 1/4 cup marinara sauce
- 1 large zucchini, cut into fettuccine-like strips with a vegetable peeler, sautéed in 1 tsp. olive oil with basil or oregano to taste
Afternoon snack (choose one daily)
- 2 cups mixed salad greens with 1/2 cup nonstarchy vegetables, 1 tsp. olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste
- 1 cup reduced-sodium vegetable soup (up to 100 calories), stir in 1 tsp. olive oil and add herbs to taste
Dinner (choose one daily)
- 5 oz. lean burger, 1 oz. reduced-fat cheese, 1 tsp. each mustard and ketchup
- 6 baby red potatoes and 12 baby carrots, baked or boiled, with 2 tsp. olive oil, rosemary to taste
- 6 oz. chicken breast and 2 cups bell pepper sautéed in 2 tsp. olive oil with seasoning to taste; serve with 2 Tbs. salsa, 2 Tbs. plain yogurt (optional)
- 1 ear corn on the cob or ½ cup corn, fresh lime and cilantro to taste
- 6 oz. salmon prepared with 2 tsp. olive oil
- ½ cup smashed sweet potato, cinnamon to taste
- 1 cup steamed kale or spinach, lemon wedge
Evening snack (enjoy once daily)
Make your own menus!
At breakfast: Allow yourself 2 oz. protein (such as 2 eggs, 2 oz. cheese or 2 oz. ham); 1 serving of non-starchy veggies (such as 2 cups leafy greens, 1 cup raw veggies or 1/2 cup cooked veggies); and 1 tsp. of olive oil
At lunch: Go for 4 oz. lean protein; 1-2 servings non-starchy vegetables and 2 tsps. olive oil
At dinner: Enjoy 6 oz. lean protein; 1/2 cup beans, corn or potatoes; 2 servings non-starchy veggies and 2 tsps. olive oil
At snack time: Once daily, enjoy a serving of low-fat dairy with a serving of low-sugar fruit and enjoy a serving or two of non-starchy veggies with 1 tsp. olive oil. And before bed, indulge in a small handful of nuts.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.