The secret behind Beyonce’s bootylicious bounceback

The secret behind Beyonce’s bootylicious bounceback: The superstar credits nutritionist Marco Borges for her speedy weight loss after giving birth to twins… and you don’t need to be an A-list mum to benefit

  • Beyonce followed Marco Borges’ vegan diet for 44 days ahead of Coachella
  • The nutritionist to the stars details ‘22 Laws’ for plant-based living in Greenprint
  • He believes the vegan lifestyle will become the norm within the next 10 years
  • Marco gave an example of his day on a plate and the diet rules he lives by  

Earlier this summer, pop queen Beyoncé posted a new video to social media with footage from rehearsals for her celebrated 2018 appearance at the music festival Coachella, the American equivalent of Glastonbury.

It was less than a year since she’d given birth to twins Rumi and Sir, and she needed to get back into those trademark sequins in time for the gig. We see her famous feet approach the scales — ‘every woman’s nightmare’ she whispers, stepping on — before revealing a weight of 175lb, or 12st 7lb. ‘Long way to go,’ she mutters. ‘Let’s get it.’

Cut to the man she turns to — Marco Borges, ‘exercise physiologist’ and nutritionist to the stars, who in 2013 put Queen Bey and husband Jay-Z on a radical vegan diet and has ever since been on speed dial chez Knowles-Carter.

In the video, we see him personally overseeing Beyoncé’s diet and exercise regime, and almost before you can whip up an almond-milk smoothie and top it with broccoli, she’s back on stage looking fab in sparkly Lycra.

Beyonce (pictured at Coachella) turned to nutritionist Marco Borges’ ahead of her 2018 appearance at Coachella

It is, of course, the best advert for Borges’ methods you could possibly have crafted, with more than 19 million people viewing the video within 24 hours of its posting.

It is clearly no coincidence that Borges has a book to sell — Greenprint, which describes in detail the ‘22 Laws’ behind his manifesto for plant-based living, the ‘22 Day Nutrition Plan’, a figure chosen because apparently it takes 21 days to break bad habits and form better ones.

Beyoncé followed the diet for 44 days, in fact. (She and Jay-Z are not just pals of Borges, by the way; they’re business partners in a venture that’s just expanded to include a $99-a-year subscription service selling personalised meal planners and online advice from ‘food coaches’.)

Yet the backlash was swift, with some accusing Beyoncé of ‘body shaming’ women who weigh more than 12 st 7lb.

Others wondered aloud whether Borges’ diet and lifestyle plan, which involves no bread, no carbs, sugar, dairy, meat, fish or alcohol and is also followed by actress Jennifer Lopez and singer Pharrell Williams, was too restrictive for mere mortals without personal chefs.

Dieticians, meanwhile, questioned the low calorie count — 1,400 a day, according to the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine. (The NHS recommends 2,500 calories a day for men and 2,000 for women.)

Is it really healthy only ever to eat plants? Not even honey, since, like cow’s milk, that breaks one of Borges’ cardinal rules: don’t eat any product from a thing ‘with a face’.

Miami-based Marco Borges (pictured) is the author of Greenprint, which details his ‘22 Laws’ for plant-based living

On the phone from Miami, where he grew up and still lives, Borges is every inch the exceptionally honed evangelist for all things very vegan indeed.

‘I met Beyoncé when Jay-Z was coming out of retirement and she was preparing for an album, and we decided to work together for a couple of weeks and that turned into a beautiful friendship,’ he fizzes. ‘I count her literally as my sister and him as my brother.

‘She lives to empower people and lift them with kindness. She’s a beautiful soul, and I have to say an absolute perfectionist, too. The reality is we’ve had this obsession with animal protein for decades. We’ve gone through endless fad diets, and yet people are still dying from lifestyle illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, which are absolutely about diet.

What it claims to do…

Research has shown that plant-based eating, and the Greenprint plan in particular …

  • Takes off kilos rapidly and consistently. It prevents obesity because plant foods make you feel fuller with fewer calories.
  • Fights diabetes.
  • Keeps your heart healthy by lowering cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, clogged arteries and abnormal clot formation.
  • Naturally detoxifies your body against cancer-causing agents.
  • Eases arthritis and joint pain.
  • Strengthens your immune system so that you rarely become ill.
  • Boosts your memory and wards off dementia.
  • Preserves your vision and protects your eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration.
  • Makes your skin, your hair and your nails glow.

‘The definition of madness is to know something is killing us but to do it anyway. These are diseases we could definitely prevent and even reverse if we modified our behaviour.

‘The more you move towards a plant-based diet, the more fibre you consume, the more you reduce your intake of saturated fats, the more you lose weight, increase energy, and mitigate the damage done by this reliance on meat.’

Borges grew up one of three children to a single mum of Cuban origin. ‘We were very poor and we struggled a lot. Sometimes it was a choice between food and electricity,’ he says.

Meat was key to their diet, but watching his sickly elder relatives pop daily pills to combat high blood pressure or cholesterol, the young Borges began to question everything he knew about food. An obsession with nutrition was born.

How does he react to accusations of fat-shaming in the wake of that video? Is 12st 7lb really too big? ‘[Beyoncé] was having a candid conversation on camera,’ he says. ‘Do you know of a woman who doesn’t dread getting on the scales? We need to have a dialogue about this.

‘Of course people have had enough of watching other people getting abused or put down because of how they look on the outside — and that’s wrong on all levels. But that should not be interpreted as closing down all conversations about fat and health. Just talking about it is not fat-shaming. It’s not body-shaming.

‘Obesity kills people, and we’re supposed to stand by and say nothing? It increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and we’re not allowed to talk about it?

Marco says there needs to be a dialogue about how women feel about scales, following the reaction to Beyonce (pictured) weighing herself ahead of Coachella 

‘When I first told my own mother that I was going to follow a plant-only diet, she said I was crazy. I’m not going to be offended by people I’ve never met, when my own mother told me I was wrong.’

Borges’ veganism is a business, but it’s also fashionably activist in spirit. It is a rallying cry against corporate agriculture and its failure to manage food production responsibly.

Last month’s UN report from the world’s leading climate change scientists would seem to back him up with its urgent call for us all to eat less meat.

‘The Greenprint is the dietary version of a carbon footprint,’ he says. ‘Skipping a burger once a week for a year is the equivalent of driving 320 fewer miles.’ But is a vegan diet really do-able for most of us? Burgers make him shudder, and yet fast food is cheap and easy. A take-away burger will always be less expensive than chickpea tabbouleh at Planet Organic.

‘People say, well, this lifestyle of yours is quite elitist and expensive to follow. I reject that absolutely — a pound of spinach doesn’t cost more than a pound of beef — but even if it was, we have to have a conversation about priorities.’

Marco believes veganism will be the norm within the next ten years, he put Queen Bey and husband Jay-Z (pictured together at Coachella) on a radical vegan diet in 2013

As for accusations that his diet is too restrictive, Borges says they come from people who simply don’t understand his regime, and indeed his book devotes many pages to sources of vegan protein, iron and other vitamins and minerals (while also admitting he takes a daily B12 vitamin supplement himself).

On this, the lay person just has to choose which expert to believe.

What it’s not, quite literally, is a mindless lifestyle. Borges’ diet requires thought, commitment and time. And yet it’s also very much of the moment, with veganism increasingly seen as a mainstream choice compared even to five years ago.

‘We’re in the middle of a big tidal wave of change,’ Borges states.

‘It’s not just about food, it’s a whole mindset.

‘The planet has become such a dangerous place, and people are starting to realise that they need to be the change they want to see. I think that within the next ten years, this [vegan] lifestyle will be the norm.’

His enthusiasm — idealism — is infectious, and if his 22 rules are a little too cultish for the cynic, they clearly work for the true believer. Oh, and apparently you get Beyonce’s thighs, too.

22 rules you mustn’t break 

1. Eat more plants and less of everything else

I have one simple guideline: I don’t eat anything produced from or by something that has a face.

2. Nobody ever plans to fail — people just fail to plan

Selecting healthy, life-giving foods for each of your three meals a day is possible, but just like any lasting change, it requires planning. It requires effort.

BLT breakfast sandwich with aubergine ‘bacon

3. Eat more, weigh less

Following a plant-based diet fights fat around the waistline. That’s because plant foods are much denser in nutrients but lighter in calories. The American Cancer Society found that men and women who ate 19 or more servings of vegetables a week did not develop muffin tops or love handles, while those who ate meat more than seven times a week did.

4. Water is life fuel

Water kick-starts your metabolism and helps you feel full before a meal.

5. Protect your heart

Plaque has been identified in the hearts of children as young as five, and a sizeable amount of build-up has been detected in the arteries of teens — the result of diets high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Plant-based living, and lots of dark leafy greens, is the key to preventing — and even reversing — heart disease.

6. Take care of your mind

What we put into our mouth makes a big difference to our brain health. To slash your risk of dementia, eat plenty of whole grains, legumes and fresh fruits and vegetables.

7. Fasting for health and longevity

Have dinner at 6pm and breakfast later the next day, say 10am. By following this time-table, you have a 16-hour gap of potential fat-burning between meals and it will help your body stay naturally thin and fit.

8. Think about the Earth before you eat

Become a ‘locavore’ — someone who, wherever possible, eats only food grown locally, thereby reducing carbon footprint and the use of chemical preservatives.

9. Love food that loves you back

By the middle of this century, scientists say one in three people globally will have diabetes. Once you understand the implications for health, you won’t mind trading junk food for salads or cutting out fizzy drinks and simple carbohydrates. It won’t seem right that you should eat bacon over fruit.

Marco who refuses to eat anything that has a face, says eating meat depletes resources and stresses the environment 

10. Movement begets movement

Commit to exercising every day, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. If you want a healthy body, you have to treat it like it is the most precious thing you own. Because it is.

11. Trash must be taken out

A wide range of symptoms, including headaches, fatigue, pains, coughs, chronic respiratory or sinus problems, gastrointestinal problems and problems from immune weakness, can all be related to toxicity. The simple act of eating plant foods detoxifies your body naturally.

12. The world doesn’t need us to survive — we need the world to survive

Mounting evidence suggests every step of meat production, from feeding the animals to processing their meat, depletes resources and stresses an already fragile environment.

13. Change starts with you

Scale back your food budget and the amount that you waste. For every bit of food you don’t need, that much less fossil fuel, pesticides, fertiliser and water are required to produce it.

14. The best time to start is today

Become a vegan and in the first month, according to cardiologist and longevity expert Dr Joel Kahn, you’ll avoid the death of 33 animals, the destruction of 900 sq ft of forest and the creation of 600 lb of CO2.

15. Perfection can be the enemy of progress

Don’t aim for perfection — it’ll end in disappointment. Instead, make small incremental steps towards a bigger change. Over the course of a year, skipping meat and cheese for one day a week is the equivalent of taking your car off the road for five weeks.

Marco advises taking pleasure in food by eliminating distractions such as mobile phones and television (file image)

16. Listen to your body

No one knows your body as well as you do, so don’t ignore abnormal symptoms. Visit the doctor. Remember, too, that in so many cases, lifestyle changes can cure ailments like insomnia and high blood pressure.

17. Focus on what you can eat, not what you can’t

When you’re an optimist, good things happen to your health. Free yourself from meat and know that you’ve made a conscious effort to be healthier and smarter — the best version of you.

18. Plants have the power

You don’t need meat to work out at the gym. There is plenty of protein in a nutritionally balanced plant-based diet, and plant protein is much better for muscle building than animal protein.

19. A behaviour rewarded will be repeated

Identify foods you enjoy eating. Choking down a veggie burger and hating every bite is not going to help you change your food habits. Find plant-based foods you like to eat!

20. You cannot give what you do not have

You can’t take care of family and friends, or do your best at work, if you’re not taking care of yourself. Make time to unwind in whatever way you like.

21. Mindful eating

Slow down and take pleasure in food. Eliminate distractions — mobile phones, television and so forth. Stay present and focused as you unhurriedly enjoy your food.

22. Practise kaizen

Japanese for ‘good change’, kaizen is the concept of small improvements. Lose 1lb, eat one extra serving of veg a day, walk for ten minutes. These actions put you in the right frame of mind to develop a new habit.

Marco (pictured) suggests practicing Kaizen to overhaul your frame of mind and to develop a new habit

Day on the plate of the Greenprint eating plan 

BREAKFAST

ALMOND BUTTER AND BANANA GREEN SMOOTHIE

  • 250ml almond milk
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 2 tbsp crunchy almond butter
  • 100g fresh spinach
  • 25g frozen blueberries

In a blender, combine the non-dairy milk, banana, almond butter and spinach and blitz until smooth. Serve the smoothie in a mason jar, topped with the blueberries.

Other days you can have …

  • A wholegrain cereal such as quinoa, oatmeal or granola with nut milk and a serving of fresh fruit. Or …
  • Mashed avocado on gluten-free wholegrain toast with a serving of fresh fruit.

Simply topping: Baked sweet potato

LUNCH

  • Spiralised courgette mixed with quinoa and your choice of salad dressing. Or …
  • Baked sweet potato topped with pinto beans, peppers, spinach and pineapple salsa. Or …
  • Large salad: at least 300g greens (whichever you like), 35g beans or lentils, 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, vegetables and dressing of your choice

AFTERNOON SNACK

  • Fresh fruit with a dollop of nut butter. Or …
  • Handful of roasted chickpeas. Or…
  • Bowl of edamame.

DINNER

  • Build-your-own burrito: Wholegrain wraps, pinto or black beans, some salsa and a handful of at least two vegetables, such as chopped onion, chopped peppers, sliced jalapeños, and/or shredded lettuce. Or …
  • Vegan chilli with cooked quinoa. Or …
  • Chickpea pasta with pesto: Sautéed courgette, aubergine, onions and mushrooms, mixed with chickpea pasta and tossed with pesto sauce. Or …
  • Black beans, kale and quinoa topped with salsa and avocado.

The Greenprint by Marco Borges, with an introduction by Jay-Z and Beyoncé, is published by HQ, HarperCollins in ebook and paperback. 

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