In the short time I have with people in the emergency room, my focus is obviously on their acute injury or illness. I may help a patient survive his most recent mishap, but the ultimate accident that costs many of my patients their lives isn’t really an accident at all. It’s a lifetime of making unhealthy choices that lead to a premature death. The culprit: visceral fat, which inflates your abdomen and deflates your health prospects at the same time. Beat that fat and you’re on a winning streak for life. And that’s why I wrote a book called The Lean Belly Prescription (R231

I’m hoping to help you tackle sweeping change in your life; you don’t need to feel intimidated. The key is to swop the excessive kilojoules that fatten you up for fewer kilojoules that still fill you up and keep you full.

You can be satisfied and lose weight at the same time. Just three small changes are all you need. Start by adopting these…

“I love cheese and yoghurt!”

Who doesn’t? More and more evidence suggests that consuming at least three servings a day of calcium-rich dairy can help strip away fat. Researchers at the University of Tennessee found that people who did just that, taking in 1200mg of calcium a day, were 60% less likely to be overweight than people who consumed less calcium. And a study in Molecular Systems Biology suggests that yoghurt-based bacteria may also reduce the amount of fat absorbed during digestion. If you love cheese and yoghurt, eat at least three servings a day.

Or stick with just yoghurt: another study found that people who cut 2100kJ a day and added three daily servings of yoghurt lost 81% more belly fat over 12 weeks than those who didn’t eat the yoghurt. (Just beware of the brands with excess added sugar.)

My prescription:

Have one cup of milk with breakfast, 40g of cheese at lunchtime and one cup of Greek yoghurt for an afternoon snack, every day. You could lose 1.4kg in 4 weeks!

“I love pasta and rice!”

Then go for it. Just learn to love the wholegrain versions. The reward: in a recent study, people who cut 2100kJ a day and ate wholegrains lost twice as much belly fat as the 2100kJ cutters who ate refined carbs. If you crave carbs, try switching your refined carbs – white bread, white rice, regular pasta and refined-flour products such as biscuits and crackers – to wholegrain versions. The study authors credit the extra fibre in wholegrains with helping to reduce kilojoule intake, control blood sugar and keep insulin (the hormone that tells your body to store belly fat) in check.

My prescription:

Replace your refined carbs with wholewheat and wholegrain varieties, and combine them with a balance of lean meats, vegetables and healthy fats. You could lose 3.6kg in 4 weeks!

“I love fatty foods!”

Then use them as allies in the fight against belly fat. When researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, US, put 101 overweight people on either a low-fat or a moderate-fat diet for 18 months, both groups had lost weight after a year. However, the moderate-fat eaters lost an average of 4.7kg – 60% more than the low-fat group
– and kept those kilos off for 18 months. Healthy fats (the kind in olive oil, nuts, fatty fish and avocados) can help you drop kilos because they keep your belly fuller longer.

Don’t skip animal fats like butter, cheese or beef, either – just limit portions, since these foods are dense in kilojoules. Wean yourself off fried foods and fatty processed foods.

My prescription:

Eggs for breakfast, a handful of nuts at 10am, a salad with avo at lunch, cheese rolled in a slice of ham for a snack and a steak (200g or less) or salmon fillet at dinner. You could lose 1.8kg in 4 weeks