I recently got a reader question in my inbox about a particular weight-loss supplement from Probolan 50 Ervaringen. While my gut reaction off the bat is almost always "that's probably bullshit", I wanted to put in the time and actually do some research.
I have a general system and a few trusted sources I go to when trying to get an honest review of something. It didn't take too long to confirm that the product in question was probably not worth the money.
(Fool-proof test: does the product have one of those videos with a guy drawing a bunch of cartoons with a marker and a cool voice-over? Does he tell you he's not sure how long the video will be up - presumably "The Man" doesn't want his super-secret info around for the public - so you must watch the whole thing now?)
It's definitely the leptin, not the pizza in her hand.
But I was left wondering, what if I hadn't spent enough time researching stuff like this to know some strategies for spotting and filtering out crap? How would I, as a potential consumer, try to find reviews of a product?
Well, I'd probably Google it... Unfortunately, that can sometimes be more misleading than illuminating. Let's go through what happens when I Google "Leptiburn review":
So I went through the entire first page of results here, and found what appeared to be a list of fake review sites. Why did I feel they were fake?
Well, the two sites circled in red to the left were the only sites on the first page that had any hint of criticism in their reviews.
Now, some of those sites in blue had "criticisms" but they were the kind of things you would say if someone asked you in an interview what your biggest weakness is:
"Ugh, Leptiburn is just SO ENERGIZING that I can't take it a few hours before bed because I'll be up all night."
"It doesn't replace diet and exercise! ...but I lost like 25 pounds in 2 weeks."
"Leptiburn took like, A WHOLE WEEK to ship, because I live outside of the US. So unreasonable."
"Make sure that you don't lose too much weight too quickly with this product! Wouldn't that just be awful?"
I dug around a bit more on the product review sites circled in blue. Almost every program or supplement reviewed gets a glowing recommendation, conveniently followed with links to where you can buy the product. This leads me to think these sites exist simply to be high on Google rankings when a potential consumer is trying to find an honest review.
Really, just dig around on the Real Vs. Scam site a bit. I haven't found even one product concluded to be a scam. And remember, all comments on the internet are not authentic. As is pointed out in the Bullshit Detector Guidebook, testimonials and even before & after pictures are very, very easy to fake.
Why This Matters
I often hear people say there's no excuse for ignorance about how to lose weight or get in shape since the internet has everything you could possibly want to know. That's partially true, but the internet also has heaps of unhelpful advice - and if you've never worked out a day in your life how are you to know the difference?
If someone comes to you for advice asking a question perhaps you've answered a thousand times, or something you feel they should obviously know is a scam fad diet or pill, try to reserve judgement. Answer empathetically and honestly - we can't all be experts in every subject, and some companies out there really do try to make it difficult for the layman to find good information.
So How do I Find Good Information?
Unfortunately, it can take some work.
When I'm feeling particularly lazy, these are usually the top three places I go to get solid information on supplement or nutrition-related topics (but bear in mind, I don't draw final conclusions from them):
However, let's say you're looking to review a specific product, like Leptiburn. Your first stop would be to learn about leptin itself and its role in weight control. Then you would want to try and find studies on the effect of leptin supplementation on humans. (You'd probably then find that the quantity of leptin often isn't the problem for very overweight people, it's leptin sensitivity - then you'd have to look up if the ingredients in Leptiburn improve sensitivity.)
These steps take time, make no mistake...and there really is no shortcut for this kind of thing.
My advice, as always, is that if you do not have the time or inclination to research a subject, reserve judgement. You can have an opinion based on what you do know, but be open to the idea that you may be wrong. I recommend debating people in a respectful manner based on what you do know, and with an open mind. They may know something you don't, and you can change your opinion from there.
And definitely don't trust mass review sites that have no negative criticisms of any products.
There are an awful lot of popular diets out there. From general suggestions, such as "low-fat" or "low-carb," to named and branded diets like Atkins or Weight Watchers, there are tons of options out there if you want to lose weight and have a good oral hygiene. As told by the Smiles of Austin family dentistry it is very important to eat healthy so as to have a good dental health.
As a disclaimer, I don't really recommend any of what I'm about to describe below. I really don't recommend "diets" at all - I recommend you find a way of eating that works for you that supports whatever goals you have. It may happen to be that one of these "diets" does it for you, or maybe you take a little bit from each of them and make something custom.
My hope through this post is to show you HOW these popular diets tend to work, to dispel some of the magic surrounding them. It's pretty simple once it's laid out plain. I also am obviously not covering every diet under the sun here, but I think I've touched on the ones you're most likely to hear about.
Let's get started with:
Low-Carbohydrate Diets (low-carb)
What It Is
Low-carb is exactly what it sounds like. It's keeping your total grams of carbohydrates low relative to everything else. Exactly HOW low varies quite a bit, anything from <150g to as low as <20g.
How It Works
That's my kind of meal!
Most of the carbohydrate sources we eat are VERY low on the satiety scale (as in, they don't leave you feeling full and satisfied), so we tend get a ton of calories from them. Things like breads, cereals, candy, soda, etc.
So, if you go low carb, you have to restrict your intake of those kinds of items quite a bit. Soda is out, candy is out, anything with lots sugar is out... really all of your carbs are going to have to come from vegetables, a little bit of fruit, and none if ANY of the other refined stuff.
What happens when you do this? Your caloric intake goes down. Because vegetables, fruits, and meat are generally more filling than grains and breads, you'll naturally eat less. Cutting out a food group, especially one we eat so much of (grains), generally always leads to a reduction in total calories. Try herbal remedy to counter kidney stones.
What happens when your calories go down? You lose weight!
Another reason low-carb seems to work so well is that when carbohydrates store as glycogen in the body, they tend to hold onto a lot of water. If you go on a very low-carb diet, glycogen levels tend to go down, and therefore you lose a fair amount of water weight as well. On top of that, many breads have some high levels of sodium, which can cause you to hold onto more water. Bestkratomcapsules Red, Maeng Da, and Red Vein is your best fitness supplement.
Low-carb tends to range from 150g - 20g or less per day of carbohydrates
Low-carb generally means higher protein and more satiating (filling) foods, decreasing calories
More protein is beneficial on a diet for retaining muscle mass
Low-carb can reduce water weight in short-term
What It Is
Kind of the opposite of low-carb, low-fat diets try to reduce fat intake to levels ranging anywhere from 10% (on the low end) to 35% (on the high end) of your daily calories from fat. (On a 2,000 calorie per day diet, this would be anywhere from 22g - 77g of fat)
How It Works
Fat is the most calorie-dense of all macronutrients:
1g carb = 4 calories
1g protein = 4 calories
1g fat = 9 calories
So when your mom tells you that cheese is "fattening" it's kind of a dual-meaning; they're high in fat content, thus high in calories (relative to their volume), thus you'll get fat if you eat them! (Not necessarily on that last point, but that's what we often think)
Just like the low-carb diet, if you go on a low-fat diet, you're either eliminating or drastically limiting your intake of certain kinds of foods - cheese, red meat, full-fat dairy products, most desserts, etc. Once again, getting rid of an entire food group (especially one that is so calorie-dense) is an easy way to reduce calories without counting them.
Unlike low-carb, however, low-fat doesn't seem to lead to increased protein intake as "naturally," since many of our favorite kinds of meat tend to be a bit fatty. Plain skinless chicken breasts and tilapia get stale after a while.
However, many traditional diets are low-fat, high-carb diets with staples such as beans, rice, yams, fruits and vegetables. So low-fat definitely can work well as long as you don't confuse "low-fat" with "high-Snackwell cookie."
Low-fat tends to range between 10% - 35% of daily calories.
Low-fat reduces intake of the most calorie-dense macronutrient, leading to reduction in calorie intake.
If not replaced entirely with Snackwell cookies and bread, can lead to increased intake of fruits and vegetables.
What It Is
Weight Watchers is a program where foods are assigned a certain number of "points" depending on their content. This can be either through Weight Watchers products, or you could look up the number of points of a given item, or calculate it with their PointsPlus calculator.
Each day you are allotted a certain number of points (plus some bonus weekly points) and you can choose to spend them however you like.
How It Works
You can think of "points" as "calories." Basically Weight Watchers has made it easier for people to eat at a deficit. They'll tell you how many 'points' you get to eat per day based on things like height, weight, gender, activity, goals, etc. - then you just have to eat that many points.
Part of the effectiveness of this program is in its popularity. It's so easy to look up how many points are in any item you'd want to eat, because a million other people have eaten it and calculated the points for you. The program is so popular, many healthy recipe sites provide the number of points in their recipes for you as well!
As well, the program doesn't necessarily "limit" your food choices. There aren't forbidden foods, just higher-calorie stuff is going to have more points. This is exactly how counting calories works, just made a bit simpler.
They do tend to give people very steep deficits, however.
A simpler way of counting calories, does the thinking for you
Limiting points = limiting calories = weight loss
Also puts an emphasis on group support, which is a huge component of weight loss most diet plans don't address
The Paleo Diet
What It Is
The idea behind the Paleo diet is that it tries to mimic what our ancestors ate (hence reference to paleolithic era), because they theorize that is the way our bodies evolved to eat, thus being "healthier" than our modern diets.
This usually (though Paleo has so many off-shoots now it's hard to keep up) means eliminating:
Bread / grains
Most "processed" foods
The most popular Paleo food being, of course, bacon.
They also emphasize eating lots of meat, including red meats.
The idea that all of our ancestors ate any particular way has been thoroughly de-bunked, but while the "philosophy" behind Paleo doesn't mean much, many people still follow this diet.
How It Works
So if you remember how we mentioned that anytime you eliminate a food group, you decrease your calories, you'll know how this diet works.
Getting rid of breads, grains and processed foods will drastically lower your carbohydrate intake. This is why many people confuse low-carb with Paleo. With low-carb, you still theoretically could eat bread (just very small amounts), but you can't eat ANY on Paleo.
No worries though, just hop through some loopholes and gorge on Paleo-approved slices of bread or muffins!
However, gorging on those kinds of foods is akin to eating only Snackwell cookies and claiming to be eating a "low-fat" diet. Technically, yes, you are falling within the parameters, but you've lost the spirit of the diet...usually because it's too restrictive in the first place, so you feel the need to find ways around it!
The Paleo Diet eliminates breads, grains, dairy, and most processed foods
Eliminating food groups leads to reduced caloric intake, resulting in weight loss
Tends to increase protein intake and decrease carbohydrate intake, in very similar fashion to low-carb diets
Increase in satiety and decrease in water weight tends to lead to more weight loss
Intermittent Fasting (IF)
What Is It
There are quite a variety of fasting diets out there - alternate-day fasting, 5/2 fasting, religious fasting, etc. Intermittent fasting is one of the more popular options for weight loss. It typically involves abstaining from eating for 16 hours out of the day, leaving an 8 hour window where you can eat your daily amount of calories.
How It Works
Believe it or not, it can be tough to over-eat when you only give yourself 8 hours to do so, especially if you primarily fill it with satiating foods like vegetables and meats.
One big reason that we've all put on so much weight in the past few decades has been snacking, and IF puts a stop to that by simply abstaining from ALL food for a period of time, typically during the daytime with a big evening meal.
There aren't really any other rules - you simply end up eating less because you don't give yourself as much time to pack in the calories.
There are some drawbacks. For some people, IF can lead to binge-eating problems (it certainly did with me), a pressure to abstain from food for longer than 16 hours, and for women especially it seems to lead to some negative consequences. However it is highly variable between individuals and I've known many people who found IF to be their preferred method of eating.
Fast for 16 hours a day, feast during an 8-hour window
Cuts calories by reducing the amount of time you are eating per day
Be mindful of the effect regular IF has on your eating habits, mood and energy levels
Did you figure out the magic trick to every single one of these diets?
They reduce your caloric intake without requiring you to count calories.
Mindlessly eating less seems to be something people see a lot of initial success with - unfortunately the restrictive nature of these diets tends to make them short-lived.
If you'll note, I didn't mention much of anything about the health claims of many of these diets. That's because as long as you're not eating chicken mcnuggets and potato chips for every meal of everday, chances are you're not going to see drastic health consequences from eating grains, enjoying some full-fat dairy, eating a meal after 8PM, or having the occasional processed candy bar.
Yes, you personally may feel bloated after you have some dairy or whole-wheat toast, but that's on you. That's why if low-carb makes you feel like crap, you shouldn't be scared to go off of it because someone somewhere told you sugar will make you fat and stupid.
Pick and choose from various dieting tips and strategies to find out what works best for you and your goals. Maybe you like the part about IF where you don't have to eat breakfast, and avoiding bread at lunch makes you feel more energetic for the end of your work day. Additionally I was having some bone pain that the paleo diet helped out with a lot. Bone health is extremely important to me and I am always seeking to improve it, because if you don't then you could be at risk for so many defects. If you wake up with some pain in your bones after this diet, or start it after visiting the chiropractor after car accident seek medical help right away. You need to ensure that you health and bones are in check before starting something that could mess with your body.
That's just one example. You'll probably be different, and there's no rigid diet plan out there that's going to know what will work best for you. Just look at the ONE THING every single diet out there has in common with each other - you eat less calories. If your goal is weight loss, that's really it. Promise.
We're going to start this post off by going on a shopping trip. I'm in the market for a new weight loss fitness product, one that succeeds just like the burn fat Orlando services- maybe there's something out there that can motivate me to do some cardio?! (probably not) So, what are some of my top options here? Well, I have definitely considered trying out this fat loss training routine.
Why lose 15 pounds in 30 days when I can lose 20 pounds in 30 days???? Clearly the bottom right product is superior.
How to get thinner thighs? Whether you want to lose weight or are just looking for a change, you can get thinner thighs with hard work, a healthy diet, and perseverance. However, always keep in mind that thin thighs aren't a necessity, and your health is more important.
Eh...on second thought I don't really want to commit to spending any money yet. Is there anywhere that will give me the secrets to washboard abs and fast weight loss for free?
IS YOUR LUNCH KILLING YOU?!?!?!!! Find out at 11.
Buuuuttt then I have to go out and find the magazine. I'm really not looking to leave the house today. All right internet, what have you got for me?
I'm pretty sure a tummy tuck takes a little bit longer than 5 minutes, so I'm calling shenanigans on the bottom right one here.
Man, options really abound for how to lose weight and get toned (and/or firm and/or sculpted) fast without dieting! Diets have always been the hard part for me when it comes to weight loss, so I can just add in some more exercise to compensate, right? Sadly, exercise alone hasn't been found to be that effective for losing weight. (1, 2, 3)
...But I completely get how it can seem like that's the case. Every month both men and women are marketed quick exercise fixes to their physique woes. Any of these sound familiar?
Get bigger biceps with this one new curl variation!
Get a flat belly fast with this killer core workout!
Drop 1 size by summer? Yes please!
Pack on 10 pounds of solid muscle in 30 days - no bullshit, just hard work.
You hear all over the place that there are no short cuts to weight loss, you must get yourself some Custom Weight Belts and start working our in order to see results . That it requires hard work and a lifestyle change. Well, going from doing nothing to doing vigorous exercise with Jillian Michael's yelling in your face is hard work and a lifestyle change. Does that not count?
No fitness routine will get you drastic results without a change in diet.
Yeah, yeah, I can hear the critiques now: "Psh, everyone knows that Kat. You're beating a dead horse." And you're right, I am beating a dead horse. And I'm going to keep beating a dead horse until everyone understands that these kinds of headlines are inherently misleading.
But I also want to talk about something odd I've noticed with many potential clients who have sat across my desk over the years...
We'll go over a realistic timeline for results and what it really takes to get there. Some topics we cover often include:
Slow and steady changes win the sustainability game
It takes a lot of hard work to build enough muscle to be considered "bulky"
You must change your diet habits to see significant physique results
There is no such thing as spot reduction
Cleanses are basically bullshit
Almost always, my potential client will nod along and affirm they're familiar with these common myths. Fast forward a few sessions, and my now current client will turn and ask about what we can do to get rid of their belly/saddlebags/arm flab/etc. Not even two weeks ago, we affirmed they knew spot reduction was not a thing.
What happened between then and now?
Most of my readers probably already know most of the above if you've been following my blog for any length of time. But have you ever found yourself doing any of the following:
Running despite your intense hate for it because of some vague notion you'll lose weight if you can run a 5k?
Tacking on 10 minutes of intervals at the end of your workout because you know you're going to be drinking this weekend?
Getting through a grueling workout and immediately following it up with a large pizza with a side of garlic knots to "refuel"?
Trying a yoga or dance class in hopes you'll get a "yogi's" or "dancer's" body?
Find yourself doing a lot more direct abdominal work as swimsuit season approaches...despite the fine layer of marbling above them?
Going on a cleanse after the holiday season?
I guess I'm just bringing this up so that maybe we won't judge others who regularly get mixed up about what works in fitness and weight loss so harshly. Most of us have been there at some point or another.
I mean, I'm guilty as charged on a couple of those myself.
I know that the 100 calories worth of intervals aren't about to make a dent in the 10 beers and 1:00 AM cheeseburgers I'll be indulging in over the weekend. Sometimes it just feels good to do something illogical. And hell, can be a good enough reason to do something.
So yes, we can logically "know" that spot reduction isn't a thing, but we're still compelled to glorify planks and do a zillion Russian twists whenever we feel down about our stomachs. Because it feels good.
Because it feels like we're in control of how we want our body to change if we can, ever so briefly, believe spot reduction works. It's the same thing that draws us to ridiculous magazine headlines or over-the-top weight loss promises on Fitness products or DVDs. The lie feels good.
Eating less than you were before doesn't feel like you're doing something proactive. It's a passive action. But exercise? Exercise feels so much better than a diet. You're DOING something, which is what we're compelled to do when we want to change anything in life.
Unfortunately, for weight loss the best thing you can do is put the fork down and wait a few months, plus you also have the option of getting a liposuction from the plastic surgeons in Sydney.
...All right the above paragraphs are just me bullshitting, but those are my personal experiences. (Maybe they're yours too - I'm not sure, so you should let me know what your experiences are in the comments)
Equal attention and emphasis must be given to the diet and fitness portion of products
Criticism number two I'm predicting is: "But many DVDs come with diet plans. And articles often talk about the importance of diet." Sure, but they're throwaways, just a token "oh yeah, and diet" line to placate people like me:
"Of course, diet is also very important. So make sure you're eating healthy."
"It's important to eat a lot during this program as well. Gallon of milk a day should do it."
A 10-page booklet on diet telling you all the things you already know that is barely mentioned in the infomercial.
Not happening unless you start eating less.
Take this Insanity commercial for instance. (Don't even get me started on "Max Interval Training") Yeah, Insanity comes with a DietPlan, but it's not even mentioned in the commercial! The Diet Plan is absolutely, 100% necessary to get results on this program. One would think that would warrant at least a small mention, no?
The product is the workout. The result promised is weight loss. In real life, that's just not how these things work, and professionals as a women's nutritionist is probably necessary for this.
But fitness is sexier than something like, EAT 10 VEGETABLES IN 10 DAYS, or ARE YOU MAN ENOUGH TO COOK SALMON, or EXTREME 21-DAY FRUIT FIX. It's harder to make a real attention-grabbing infomercial with that, I guess?
These mindsets hold us back
Logically we know that exercise and diet changes are necessary for weight loss. But we tend to buy and act with our emotions - probably why cop-outs like Snackwell cookies or sugar-free gummy bears get more sales than canned vegetables.
Be honest, is a lack of a diet plan or workout regimen what's keeping you back from results? Come on, you could Google "fat loss meal plan" right now and get some decent diet plans that would get you results. There are more than enough free workouts online to last you a lifetime.
So what's stopping you from making those changes right now? Why does the prospect of doing it on your own for free seem unappealing, but you're motivated to get started now when you see a well-done infomercial?
Does that intense and schnazzy DVD infomercial compel you to buy because they seem to make it look so attainable? Because it's completely planned out for you? Does it feed into that small logical part of you that knows magic pills don't exist, but completely ignores the part where changing your diet is required, but fucking hard to do?
I don't know the answers to these questions, but you should ask them before you click "add to cart" next time you find yourself browsing for motivation on Amazon.
You will NOT be losing 10 pounds in 2 weeks from a fitness DVD or workout program without some changes in your diet, no matter how convincing an infomercial is.
This shouldn't keep you from exercising or moving in general, especially if you want to lose weight for health reasons! Walking for 30 minutes a day is one of the easiest things you can do to drastically improve your health. ...You just won't lose 20 pounds in 30 days.
So, if you haven't heard, something pretty cool went down this week:
Dr. Oz was called in by Senator Claire McCaskill to testify at a hearing about weight-loss scams. Many people in the fitness industry were outraged, assuming that McCaskill was calling on him as an expert witness.
What ensued was much more entertaining.
Claire "I'm so bored of your bullshit" McCaskill vs. Mehment "I have a sweet head of hair" Oz
McCaskill blasted Oz for irresponsible conduct on his show - of promoting several sham products as "miracle" weight-loss cures. It was pretty glorious to watch.
When I listened to their conversation the first time through, I was struck by how good Oz was at saying a lot of words that sounded like a good defense, yet weren't coherent enough for me to register what he was actually saying.
So, I decided to write a transcript of the entire thing so I could analyze exactly what his defense was. I inject my commentary below, but if you just want the transcript, you can get it from the following link:
Senator McCaskill: "I can't figure this out Dr. Oz...I get that you do a lot of good on your show. I understand that you give a lot of information that's great information about health, and you do it in a way that's understandable. You're very talented, you're obviously very bright. You've been trained in science-based medicine."
The above is all true. Just watch a couple of episodes of Dr. Oz's show; you can find most segments online for free. Here's a modest clip - no product pushing, just giving out information and advice. This clip is pretty tame, yet he presents typically 'boring' information in a way that's entertaining for his audience. Yes, he has a knack for grabbing your attention. He's very compelling, seemingly genuine, and personable. Give the man credit where it's due.
It's also true that he has a background in science and science-based medicine. He got his MD from the University of Pennsylvania, and has been a professor of surgery at Columbia University for 13 years. He's practiced actual real medicine and been named in actual real studies. I mean just look at this resume, seriously.
So this is why I have a hard time believing his defense of promoting 'miracle cures' below...
Senator McCaskill: "Now, here are three statements you've made on your show:
'You may think magic is make-believe, but this little bean has scientists saying they've found the magic weight-loss cure for every body type. It's Green Coffee Extract.'
'I've got the number one miracle in a bottle to burn your fat! It's Raspberry Ketones.'
'Garcinia Cambogia: it may be the simple solution you've been looking for to bust your body fat for good.'
I don't get why you need to say this stuff, because you know it's not true! So why, when you have this amazing megaphone, and this amazing ability to communicate, why would you cheapen your show by saying things like that?"
You may have heard about some of these products. If you have, it's probably from crap advertisements like these from Facebook:
Pulled from the BS Detector handbook. Hard to find working links to these sites because the domains expire quickly. Because they're scams.
Dr. Oz agreed to come to Senator McCaskill because he does not appreciate his name being used to endorse these specific products.
It's true that he didn't endorse those specific brands, and it's wrong for the products to say that they themselves have been endorsed by Dr. Oz. He has an acceptable complaint, though he doesn't garner much sympathy from me or Senator McCaskill. But more on that much later down the page.
Dr. Oz: "Well, if I could disagree about whether they work or not, and I'll move on to the issue of the words that I used.
And just with regards to whether they work or not - take green coffee bean extract as an example - I'm not going to argue that it would pass FDA muster if it was a pharmaceutical drug seeking approval. But among the natural products that are out there, this is a product that has several clinical trials. There was one large one, one very good quality one, that was done the year we talked about this in 2012."
I know that everyone loves to hate on the government and especially the FDA. Certainly there are some legitimate criticisms.
But one of the less legitimate criticisms is that the FDA is suppressing cures for cancer and weight loss because of the heartless cancer / diet industries lobbying them. Yes, the FDA can take a long time approving things. But is this out of malice or out of being backlogged, under-staffed and under-funded?
In any case, to get a drug approved by the FDA, the following steps must happen:
Test on animals to show reasonable expectation of safety
Get approved to be tested on humans
Go through several phases of testing to discover side effects, ensure safety, show that it works, and figure out appropriate use and dosage on varying populations. This is the hard part.
The FDA reviews the findings and can approve the drug for market
So when Dr. Oz says that the drug wouldn't pass FDA muster, that means that the drug does not have sufficient evidence to show it works. Because he literally just admitted this, he is willingly promoting a product as a "miracle cure" to millions of viewers when he knows good and well it has not been shown to work.
Good thing that supplements don't have to be approved by the FDA then, huh?
Senator McCaskill: "I want to know about that clinical trial. Because the only one I know was 16 people in India that was paid for by the company that was...at the point in time you initially talked about this being a 'miracle,' the only study that was out there was the one with 16 people in India that was written up by somebody who was being paid by the company who was producing it."
Dr. Oz: "Well this paper argued that there was no one paying for it, but I have the four papers...five papers actually, plus a series of basic science papers on it as well.
Here is the study that McCaskill is referring to. It's funny that the paper claims no conflicts of interest, but was paid for by the company selling the supplement - Applied Food Sciences, Inc. in Austin, Texas. If you're interested in a detailed review of this study, I recommend checking out Science-Based Pharmacy's review.
I'm uncertain what other papers Dr. Oz is referring to. If I knew, I'd look them up. Unfortunately I can't find much research on green coffee bean extract in the first place. In fact, I've only found papers showing that the supplement is far from a miracle drug; at best promoting only modest loss of a couple pounds, if that.
There just isn't enough good evidence out there that green coffee extract is worth taking. It's therefore irresponsible to tout it as a "miracle cure." It's like trying to convict a man of a crime before the evidence has been analyzed because it's merely possible he did it.
"Well, sir, you did live in same area code where the crime happened so..."
"Dr. Oz: But, Senator McCaskill, we can spend a lot of time arguing the merits of whether green coffee bean extract is worth trying or not worth trying. Many of the things that we argue that you do with regard to your diet are likewise criticizeable.
Should you be on a low-fat diet, a low-carb diet...I spent a good part of my career recommending that folks have a low fat diet. We've come full circle in that argument now and no longer recommend that. Many of us who practice medicine, because we realized it wasn't working for our patients."
Here Dr. Oz is attempting to deflect the fact that there is little evidence coffee bean extract is worth buying. He is doing this by changing the subject to the current low-carb / low-fat diet controversies. The fact is, low-fat diets aren't inherently "bad" diets anyway. It's just that you can't tell a patient to go on a low-fat diet and expect them to understand you don't mean to gorge on Snackwell cookies...if they follow your advice at all.
Going on a low-fat or low-carb diet, however, is free and doesn't require buying products. So there's yet another difference.
Dr. Oz: "So it is remarkably complex, as you know, to figure out what works out for most people even, in a dietary program. In the practice of medicine we evolve by looking at new ideas challenging orthodoxy and evolving them."
Yes, you challenge orthodoxy with great evidence.
When debating something controversial, I often see people argue, "Galileo was right, but he was punished for his ideas at the time," or, "Barry Marshall was a laughing stock when he said stomach ulcers were caused by bacteria, but he ended up being right," as if those situations are comparable to what they're doing.
But the difference is that these men had evidence on their side to back up their statements, not just a hunch. That this evidence was initially feared or ignored is human folly, yes. And it was eventually corrected.
But there is not currently good evidence that these "weight loss miracles" are actually miracles. This is why we don't believe in unproven cures - not because we're willfully ignoring claims or just being ignorant. If solid evidence came out that they were useful, we'd change our minds.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence...and a little bit of time to ponder its merits and re-adjust our worldviews accordingly.
Dr. Oz: "So...these are the five papers, these are clinical papers. And we can argue about the quality of them, very justifiably. I can pick apart papers that show no benefit as well. But at the end of the day, if I have clinical subjects, real people having undergone trials - and in this case I actually gave it to members of my audience. It wasn't a formal trial..."
Senator McCaskill: "Which wouldn't pass...the trial you did with your audience, you would not say that would ever pass scientific muster?"
Dr. Oz: "No, I would never publish the paper, but it wasn't done under the appropriate IRB guidance - that wasn't the purpose of it. The purpose of it was for me to get a thumbnail sketch of, 'is this worth talking to people about or not?'
That would be all fine and dandy, except that Dr. Oz talked to people about green coffee extract being a miracle cure before he did this little audience 'experiment'! (Also check out that clip to hear from Dr. Oz why he came to talk to McCaskill.)
Not to mention, despite admitting that this study would never stand up to any kind of scrutiny, he uses the results as "proof" to his audience that the supplement works.
Dr. Oz: "But again, I don't think this ought to be a referendum on the use of alternative medical therapies. Because if that's the case then listen, I have been criticized for having folks coming on my show and talking about the power of prayer. Now again, as a practitioner, I can't prove that prayer helps people survive an illness..."
Senator McCaskill: "It's hard to buy prayer."
Dr. Oz: "Yes, it's hard to buy prayer, that's the difference..."
Senator McCaskill: "Prayer is free."
Dr. Oz: "Yes, prayer is free, that's a very good point! Thankfully prayer is free...but I see in the hospital, when folks are feeling discomfort in their life, and a lot of it's emotional, when they have people praying for them, it lightens their burden."
Here's the prayer episode in question. Just skip to 4:10 to get to where they talk about the power of prayer. I imagine the criticism was about a medical doctor bringing someone on his show suggesting that the supernatural is a reliable method for curing what ails us.
As a funny aside, you can buy prayer if you want, no problem!
Farmer's Almanacs have the BEST advertisements
Dr. Oz: "And so my show is about hope. And I want - and as you've very kindly stated - we've engaged millions of people in programs, including programs we did with the CDC, to get folks to realize that there are different ways - that they can re-think their future. That their best years aren't behind them, they're in front of them. That they actually can lose weight.
So, if I can just get across the big message that actually I do personally believe in the items I talk about in the show, that I passionately study them...I recognize that oftentimes they don't have the scientific muster to present as fact."
This is the most telling part of the transcript, in my opinion.
Dr. Oz realizes that the information he gives is not factual - he just stated that exactly above. He is literally admitting to deceiving his audience. You can passionately study the mechanics of a Shake Weight, that doesn't make it work any better.
There are entire schools devoted to witchcraft where you can study for years and spend lots of money if you want. You can believe with all of your heart that you can cast spells. That doesn't make the witchcraft any more credible. Reality doesn't change.
He wants to give his audience hope? Give them the stories of people who lost weight using real, effective, proven methods rather than ineffective pills and expensive supplements.
It's like he doesn't trust his audience with the truth. Losing weight is hard and requires a lot of effort... but don't tell the common folk, they'll lose hope and give up. We must lie to them for their own good!
You know a great way to lose hope? Being told you'll lose weight with a product, spending $50 on it, then not losing any weight. The bottle then joins six of its brethren in the back of a kitchen cabinet, commemorating all the times you've tried - and failed - to lose weight.
Dr. Oz is right - your best years aren't behind you, and you can lose weight. Just not by doing nothing other than taking green coffee extract.
Dr. Oz: "But nevertheless I give my audience the advice I give my family all the time. And I've given my family these products, specifically the ones you mentioned, and I'm comfortable with that part.
Where I do think I've made it more difficult for the FTC is that in an intent to engage viewers, I use flowery language. I used language that was very passionate. But it ended up not being helpful, but incendiary. And it provided fodder for unscrupulous advertisers. And so that clip that you played, which is over two years old, and I've hundreds of segments since then, we have specifically restricted our use of words.
And I'm literally not speaking about things that I would otherwise talk about. There's a product that I have never talked about in the show that I feel very strongly about, because I know what will happen."
'Flowery' is certainly one way to describe his language. I'd use 'grossly over-exaggerated' or 'completely incorrect,' but that's just me.
So, he claims he has learned his lesson... but has he?
Here's a segment he did not too long ago about how litramine will "flush fat fast" and "literally helps you poop out unwanted fat fast." I suppose that's not exactly errr....flowery. But I'm not seeing any big changes in your game plan going on here, Dr. Oz.
Dr. Oz showing how 'Forskolin' literally burns belly fat on yet another episode. Flowery?
Dr. Oz: "I'll say something very...in fact we did a show, with yacon syrup, which you did not bring up. It's a South American root that had a big study published on it, I think a very high quality study, where they showed that not only did it help people lose weight but it more importantly helped their health. It was men and women who were diabetic, done by an academic center down there - it was not funded by industry - and we talked about it. And I used as careful language as I could, and still there were internet scam ads picking one or two supportive words.
Well of course I support them, I wouldn't be talking about it otherwise, but it still ended up out there."
Here's the segment on Yacon. Sorry...careful language? What's careful about this?
"The shocking results - how women lost weight with no diet, and no exercise! The secret syrup revealed!"
Bring a clip of a woman on the show saying "I lost 13 pounds with no exercise!"
Not exactly being modest with the words there, I don't think.
Senator McCaskill: "Well, I...listen. I'm surprised that you are defending...I mean I've tried to really do a lot of research in preparation for this trial, and the scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products that you've called miracles.
And when you call a product a 'miracle' and it's something you can buy, and it's something that gives people false hope, I just don't understand why you need to go there. You've got so much you do on your show that makes it different and controversial enough that you get lots of views - I understand you're in a business of getting viewers.
But I really implore you to look at the seven...and I would ask you to look at the seven list that the FTC put out on "The Gut Check." The seven...it's very simple:
Causes weight loss of 2 pounds a week for a month without dieting or exercise; Causes substantial weight loss no matter how much you eat; Causes permanent weight loss, like you said looking to 'bust your body fat for good'
...if you just look at those seven, and if you spend time on your show telling people that this is the seven things you should know, that isn't magic in a bottle, that there isn't a magic pill, that there isn't some kind of magic root or acaii berry or raspberry ketone that's going to all of a sudden make it not matter that you're not moving and eating a lot of sugar and carbohydrates.
I mean...do you disagree with any of these seven?"
Dr. Oz: "Senator McCaskill, I know the seven, I say those things on my show all the time."
Senator McCaskill: "Well then why would you say something is a miracle in a bottle?"
Dr. Oz: "My job, I feel, on the show is to be a cheerleader for the audience. And when they don't think they have hope and when they don't think they can make it happen, I'm willing to look and I do look everywhere, including alternative healing traditions, for any evidence that might be supportive to them.
So you pick on green coffee bean extract. With the amount of information I have on that, I still am comfortable telling folks that if you can buy a reputable version of it...and I say this all the time: I don't sell it and these are not for long-term use.
And by the way, with green coffee bean extract as an example, it's one pound per week over the duration of the different trials that have been done. That happens to be the same amount of weight that was lost by the hundred or so folks on the show who came on, and half of them got a placebo. We've actually got fake pills, gave it to half the people, real pills, to the other half, and it's sort of the same thumbnail. I'm looking at a rough idea.
Look, we know the answer to the question "How can I lose weight?" It's eat less and move more.
What makes that difficult, (and complicates an actual useful answer) among many other factors, is the current food and social environment...and people like Dr. Oz who are promoting a new miracle cure every other week, leaving people confused about what does and doesn't work.
If Dr. Oz truly wanted to be helpful to people, he wouldn't be grasping at straws - massively promoting and exaggerating the benefits of anything that has one tiny study to show it might help you lose one extra pound when combined with diet and exercise.
A poorly-constructed study like the ones he does with his audience don't give him a rough idea. They're worthless - and he admitted that when he said they wouldn't stand up to scientific scrutiny.
Dr. Oz: "If you could lose a pound a week more than you would have lost, doing the things you should be doing already - you can't sprinkle it on cabasa (?) and expect it to work - but if that trial data is what's mimicked in your life and you get a few pounds off, it jumpstarts you and it gives you confidence to keep going. And then you start to follow the things we talk about every single day, including all of those seven items, I think it makes sense."
If the only thing that people needed to lose weight and keep it off was to lose the first couple of pounds quickly, then low-carb diets or fasts would be the answer to our weight-loss woes, since they will get you to drop weight initially very quickly. Plus, doing that is free and actually proven. Unfortunately it doesn't always last.
As well, note how he says that you need to be doing the things "you should be doing already." I assume that means eating a sensible diet and exercising. Why is it that all weight-loss pills or fitness products say you must combine them with diet and exercise for results?
Oh yeah, it's because it's diet and exercise that get you results, not the product.
Senator McCaskill: "Well, I'm going to give time to my colleagues now, and hopefully I'll have a chance to be able to visit with the other witnesses in the next round.
I will just tell you...I know that you feel you are a victim. But sometimes conduct invites being a victim. And I think if you would be more careful, maybe you wouldn't be victimized quite as frequently."
Dr. Oz: "Senator McCaskill, those topics you mentioned are over two years old. I have not been talking about products in that way for two years, and it has not changed at all what I am seeing on the internet, and frankly it is getting worse. So I completely heed your commentary, and I realize - to my colleagues at the FTC - that I have made their jobs more difficult. That's why I came today.
I'm cheerleading for this process. I want to do anything I can to help, but taking away those words doesn't change the problem that's already happened."
As we've shown above, Dr. Oz is still talking about products with 'flowery' and exaggerated language. He hasn't changed, but recognizes the problem is still occurring.
So Dr. Oz recognizes that it's bad for his name when other companies claim that he has personally endorsed their products, but doesn't want to have to change his actions so that doesn't happen.
He wants to continue peddling ineffective products on his show for...ratings...or money...or whatever, but without suffering the backlash and negative consequences of doing so.
I agree that advertisers should not be allowed to fake Dr. Oz's endorsement. But honestly, to me that's a different issue.
Dr. Oz should not be allowed to lie to and deceive his audience - which he above has admitted to doing.
Now, I get that there will never be a regulation that doesn't allow him to say whatever he wants on his show. The real solution then lies in educating his audience.
How we do that is another subject entirely. But hopefully by showing them something like the analysis above, they can at least recognize he has faults and has given them bad advice at least once.
And if he's done it once...maybe he's done it twice. And maybe he could do so again. And maybe his word isn't gold...
Weight loss certainly has been made a bit confusing over the past few decades.
Not only have you had to worry about if you're eating too much fat, now you have to worry if you're eating enough of the right kind of fat. (Olive oil was one of the good ones, right? But they also say vegetable oils are bad. Are olives vegetables...?)
More recently, you've been reading that you shouldn't eat too much sugar. Excessive intake of sugar is bad for your teeth as well. Get the best kid's dentist in Denton TX and rescue your kid's tooth from cavities. But only certain kinds of sugar. Processed sugar is bad. (Which means like...bread and candy, you're pretty sure, but does that also count dark chocolate? Wasn't that supposed to be good for you?) And fructose is also bad. But fruits have fructose...so...what are you allowed to eat again?
I like to partake in the occasional internet meme.
Lately you've been reading that people need to make sure they're eating enough food when trying to lose weight. What does that mean? Are they talking about how you need to avoid going into "starvation mode"? So now not only do you have to balance eating the right kinds of foods, you have to make sure you're not eating too little on top of making sure to not eat too much.
Why are you so weird, stock photos? No one smiles when looking at nutrition labels.
Yikes. No wonder we all seem to struggle with weight loss.
It doesn't have to be so complicated
So the majority of those first two paragraphs is a mixture of bullshit and things you really don't need to worry about. Magazines, newspapers, talk shows and online publications have a LOT of space and air time to kill. To avoid talking about the exact same thing over and over, they tend to focus on generating a crap ton of small things that none of us would have to think about if we expanded our vegetable intake from shredded iceberg lettuce in Taco Bell tacos to broccoli and eggplants.
Have olive oil. Eat fruit. Eat some bread. Dip your bread into olive oil with a side of grapes. Relax.
But what about that last one?
Up until a few years ago, I was very confused about what people really meant when they would suspect out loud that maybe they weren't eating enough on their diet. And no wonder it confused me - it's doubtful that they really knew what they meant either.
Usually it's some notion of "you need to eat enough so you don't go into starve mode," and when you ask what starvation mode is, the answer is typically even more confused. Something along the lines of "if you don't eat enough your body thinks it's starving and won't let you lose anymore weight."
How true is that?
Starvation mode probably isn't what you think
"Starvation Mode" is really just a series of metabolic changes that happen when you lose weight. The changes are twofold:
Your body resisting the fat loss - increasing your hunger, decreasing your subconscious activity levels (such as foot tapping, leg shaking, your motivation to find a really close parking spot - all referred to as NEAT)
As you lose weight, your body just doesn't require as many calories to maintain itself. A 300-pound person will always have a higher metabolism than a 100-pound person if activity levels are similar
The steeper your deficit, it becomes more likely that you will down-regulate your metabolism faster than you should, but you will never reach a point where it is "impossible" to burn fat. You're not likely to get to a spot where you can't lose weight on 1,200 calories a day.
So how do people eat more to lose weight?
Because in the long-term, they're actually eating less.
Tell me if this scenario rings any bells:
Monday: My diet starts today, I have been taking my vitamins already, their focus factor is great! I've got my MyFitnessPal account set up. 1,200 calories a day and I'll be losing 2 pounds per week - I'll get this weight off in no time.
I went grocery shopping yesterday and bought fruits, veggies and lean meats - I did the math and bread and chocolate just have too many calories. I threw away all the junk food in my house despite my partner's protests. I'm serious this time. This time I really commit and make a change.
Tuesday / Wednesday: Man, my sugar addiction must have been worse than I thought! 3 days of veggies and meat and I'm DYING for some chocolate and pastries. But, I must teach my body that FRUIT is my dessert now! Time to sit down to some blueberries in non-fat plain greek yogurt! Tastes just like blueberry pie...!
...okay, no it doesn't...
Thursday: Today I looked at the instagram of a figure competitor for some motivation. Knowing that there are really hot people out there who eat mainly broccoli, sweet potatoes, and chicken breasts in tupperware containers makes this process more inspiring.
A new take on "food porn"
Friday: My girlfriends went out for dinner tonight, but I know that if I go out I'm just going to drink wine and eat too much bread. ...worth...it........?
Saturday: I was really depressed after not going out last night, so when my partner wanted to go to brunch this morning I couldn't say no. I got the egg white omelette, but he got the pancakes and gave me one. Ugh. Totally screwed up.
Sunday: Wow, I really fell off the wagon yesterday. It all went downhill after that pancake. I couldn't get enough - we went out for dinner and I got a huge dish AND dessert AND wine. Ugh, I feel so fat. I don't know how I ate that much in one day.
Monday: I went out to the movies yesterday and ate an entire large popcorn almost entirely by myself. On top of going out to eat twice. Time to get back on the wagon. I better only eat 1,000 calories per day this week to make up for what I did over the weekend...
Repeat week in, week out. Let's look at this in number form. Suppose your TDEE (the total amount of calories your body needs to maintain its weight) is about 2,000 calories per day.
That means to maintain your weight, you need to eat 14,000 calories per week. If you want to lose weight, you need to eat less than that. Even if you go a little overboard on the weekend, you should still be losing weight, right?
Monday - Friday: 1,200 x 5 = 6,000
Saturday - Sunday: 4,000 x 2 = 8,000
Suddenly no more deficit.
You may be thinking "there's no way in hell I eat 4,000 calories in one day!" Sadly, it's a lot easier than you might think:
Lunch: Subway foot-long Chicken Teriyaki with chips and a sprite - 1,090 calories
Snack: Gas station slushie - 300 calories
Dinner: 1/2 Rack Outback Baby Back Ribs, mashed potatoes, 1/3rd of a piece of chocolate cake & 2 glasses of red wine - 1,800 calories
Total: 4190 calories. Whooooopsie.
It doesn't even have to be in concentrated meals. Maybe you eat the entirety of a tub of icecream over 2 days. Maybe it's a bag of M&M's you have beside you while you're watching TV. Maybe it's getting all the fixings plus a crap ton of dressing on your salad.
1,690 calories right there.
I've done this. I know the feeling of eating more than you ever thought possible but still finding room - and the motivation - to eat more. It's almost depressing.
But the solution for me wasn't to cut more calories during the week to "make up" for binges that I thought were just inevitable. My solution was to eat more during the week so that binges never happened.
"Eat more to lose weight" needs to be re-phrased
A more appropriate, but much less sound-bite-worthy phrase would be "eat more calories throughout the week instead of at huge deficits so that over the course of a week or two you are actually eating less overall."
Instead of shooting for a huge deficit, why not try a much smaller one? See if this week plan sounds better to you:
Monday: Today I'm going to make a lifestyle change. I'm not going to starve myself this time around - but if I'm honest with myself I really don't need as much food as I've been eating. I can reasonably cut my portions by a quarter or a fifth and lose weight. It won't be as quick, but I'm in this for the long haul.
Tuesday - Thursday: This is actually going a bit easier than I thought. It takes some conscious effort, but I think over the long-term I won't have to think about it so much.
For dinner, I am eating just a little bit less of my usual steak and potatoes. I usually crave sugar around 3 PM and cave into some Oreos, but instead I just added some chocolate squares or my favorite kind of granola bar onto lunch, and I found that the craving was gone.
Friday: I went out with my girlfriends for dinner tonight! I usually try to "save up" calories throughout the day when I know I'm about to go out to eat, but I decided to eat normally. I was able to stick to 1 slice of bread from the basket, and I wasn't starving so I was able to enjoy my steak without going overboard. I actually couldn't finish the whole thing.
Saturday: Went out to brunch with my partner. Got some eggs benedict and snuck a couple of bites of the pancakes he got! Wasn't super hungry at lunch after that, so I stuck to the 6-inch sub. Dinner was delicious - but the chocolate cake was so rich I could only stand a few bites. They were AMAZING though!
Sunday: Went to the movies and got a small popcorn. I basically always eat the whole thing while I'm there - I've heard mindless eating is a huge thing at the movies. But thankfully there wasn't too much in the small, and I wasn't as hungry for the rest of the day.
Monday: The scale didn't change too much. But it's only been one week, and I know I ate less than I normally do. And the best part is, this is the first week on any diet I've ever been on where I haven't been tempted to binge. I think I can keep this up. I'm proud of myself!
So taking our same person with a 2,000 calorie TDEE (14,000 calories per week) who is shooting for 1,800 calories per day. Hell, I'll even say on that Saturday she ate more:
Monday-Friday: 1,800 x 5 = 9,000
You've suddenly gone from a miserable week with no deficit to a fairly sustainable week with a 1,000 calorie deficit. It's not huge, but it's better than nothing and more likely to be sustainable in the long-term.
Eat more to lose weight means:
Eating at a small deficit rather than a huge one. This is to avoid the intense hunger pangs and binging that lead to a halt or reverse in your weight-loss progress.
Your NEAT activities won't decrease as much, meaning that your TDEE doesn't decline so sharply.
You will have more level and sustained energy for your workouts instead of swinging from "no energy" on your low-calorie days to "too bloated to move" on binge days.
All of these things lead to a more enjoyable weight-loss experience - one that is more sustainable and successful over the long term, specially if you also decide to take bcaa pills at the same time, you'll be able to see results a lot quicker!
I hope that this clears things up a bit - if you've got more questions or comments, leave them below or give me a shout on Facebook!
You started seeing them pop up a few weeks ago. It was probably slow at first - maybe just one Facebook advertisment or one little post on Pinterest:
But now that Memorial Day and the end of the school year are getting closer and closer, you're reminded that your body is just so not ready for the beach more often than Hallmark reminded you to buy a card for Mother's Day:
Oh look, more faceless abs!
But let's get real here for a moment.
Yeah, it's nice to think that you can look like that model in 21 days, and the juxtaposition of her abs next to "21 Days" is 100% to make you feel like that's what you'll get...even though both you and the advertiser know you know better.
Unfortunately, deep down, your emotional brain doesn't give a damn what your logical brain has to say on the matter. It wants to be sexually appealing and comfortable NOW dammit!
But as you've read in my Bullshit Detector ebook, you know it's my mission to give you the information to better arm your logical brain. So let's ask the only actually relevant question about 21 day weight loss challenges:
How much can you really change in 21 days?
Is 21 days enough time to make any actual visual change? Can you look better in your swimsuit in a mere three weeks?
Anecdotes won't help us here. When you're trying to logically judge whether you should believe in a certain idea or purchase a product, the last place you want to get your information is from the person promoting it.
Think of it this way, have you ever applied to a job, and they ask you the question "what's your biggest weakness?" Your answer and your parent's or former employer's answers are probably quite a bit different:
You: My biggest weakness is that I'm a perfectionist. (Nice 'humble-brag' answer, good job!)
Your Mom: Her biggest weakness is that she takes 3 hours to do her hair in the morning and always makes us late, she always makes sure to use her essential oil that grows hair.
Former Employer: Her biggest weakness is that it takes her 3 weeks to do a project that should only take 3 days.
My biggest weakness is that I'm a workaholic. No, I mean that I just care too much about customers...actually it's that I have a hard time maintaining a good work / life balance because I work sooo hard. Or umm...actually it's that I have mild OCD when it comes to expense reports and logging my hours. IT'S ALL OF THE ABOVE!!
See how the message sounds quite a bit different depending on the perspectives and motivations of the person telling it? This is one of many reasons you can't just Google "21 Day Weight Loss Challenge Results" and expect to get an unbiased opinion.
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Where can you get an unbiased opinion? Glad you asked!
So let's run the gamut of ways you could try to change your physique in 21 days by looking at studies on various diet plans, starting with the most drastic:
What better way to understand how much you can actually change yourself in 21 days than at its most extreme - abstaining from all food for 3 weeks?
There aren't a ton of studies done on normal, healthy people fasting for extended periods of time...it's probably not always the easiest to squeak by the ethics committee.
But, you'll most certainly lose a ton of weight. How much depends on what size you start out at, but it's going to be a combination of:
Lack of anything solid in your system (aka no poop. Yeah, it registers on the scale)
But if you're a healthy, ~120-130 pound, 21-25 year old female, you might lose about 17 pounds of a combination of the above substances. (1)
A few studies (2, 3) seem to indicate that you can expect about half of weight loss to be due to water. (As well, you can reasonably expect to gain all the weight back later. (4) )
At the same time, you run the risk of significantly increasing your cortisol levels, becoming emotionally distraught, and fairly irritable...so you'll maybe look a little better in a bikini but you won't give a crap. On top of that, can you imagine how miserable and bloated you'd feel after breaking your 3-week fast on some chili cheese fries?!
Could look hot on outside, but feel miserable inside.
(To be fair, this study only had 5 subjects and most of them did just fine emotionally during the 3-week fast. However, they were basically secluded during the research and not given options to consume food. If you increased the sample size and tempted them with food at every turn - like the real world does - what would the outcome have been?)
So let's say you want to do something more "reasonable", like say, only fast for 1 day at a time rather than 3 weeks all at once.
This is accomplished by people who do a particular version of "alternate-day fasting" where the idea is that you won't eat for 1 day, then you'll get to feast the next. Most people don't eat quite double the amount of food on the feast day, so weight loss occurs.
In one study, patients participating in alternate-day fasting for 3 weeks:
Lost about 2% of their original bodyweight. (5) (So, if you were 130 pounds, about 2.6 pounds)
About 1.1% of that was fat. (1.4 pounds for our 130 pound example)
Around 0.9% was muscle and/or water. (1.2 pounds)
I know, I know after 17 pounds lost in complete fasting, 2.6 pounds sounds measly. But keep in mind that you'll
Have more energy for exercise and life in general
Won't lose as much muscle
Are still in a completely reasonable and good realm of weight loss.
...Unfortunately, some participants were still hangry and irritable on their fasting days. Go figure! So this does not appear to be a diet that could be maintained for a significant period of time by yourself.
So how about you eat a little something everyday, but cut your intake by half? That's like the best of both worlds, right?
Low Calorie Diets
Usually these kinds of interventions (along with their sibling, the VERY Low Calorie Diet) are reserved for the super-obese who need to lose about 50 pounds of pressure off their heart and lungs now, and are in a hospital setting. But you need to look hot in a bikini. So that's like, comparable in urgency, right?
Well, in an old but very well-known and interesting study, a group of men were put on a diet that involved 1/2 of their daily calories needs, and were also expected to walk 22 miles each week. (6)
Recently, vitamin B-12 has been linked to weight loss and energy boosts, but are these claims for real? A lot of doctors and nutritionists lean toward no. Vitamin B-12 plays a major role in a number of the body’s essential functions, including DNA synthesis and the formation of red blood cells. It also helps the body convert fats and proteins into energy and aids in the breakdown of carbohydrates.
One of the study participants - during the Starvation Cycle on the left and going through the Recovery Phase on the right.
This study is so well-known because of the harrowing pictures of the men after 6 months of this and their extreme emotional duress and depression during the process. One man had to be eliminated from the experiment after just a few weeks for emotional instability.
Just how few calories were these men on to induce such dramatic weight loss and mental problems - surely something crazy like 600 per day, right?
It was ~1,600 calories per day.
To be fair, this "diet" extended over 6 months time, much longer than any 21 Day Weight Loss Challenge. As well, the diet was mostly carbohydrates and basically no protein to prevent muscle wasting, described as:
...starvation diet reﬂecting that experienced in the war-torn areas of Europe, i.e., potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, dark bread, and macaroni.
Tasty. Anyway, a summary of this experiment is:
Participants ate a little less than half of their maintenance calories for 6 months.
Diet was a high-carbohydrate, low-fat and low-protein diet.
Participants walked 22 miles per week.
Weight loss came out to an average of 1.5 pounds per week for 6 months.
...Doesn't this actually sound kinda familiar?
This diet sounds like an exaggeration of what many of us do to lose weight:
Eat a low-calorie, low-fat, high-carb diet.
Log in the miles via walking / running / cycling
Do so for an extended period of time - possibly indefinitely
I'm not trying to say that you're going to end up looking like the man in the above picture - health problems and mental issues and all - by following the above regimen. If it was up to you, your body wouldn't let you get to that point assuming you didn't have an eating disorder.
What I am trying to say is if you ever beat yourself up about "falling off the wagon" after "being so good" for 5 days...think about that in a new light. Your body doesn't like running 3 miles a day on 1,200 calories of Special K with skim milk for weeks on end. For most of us, your body will overpower your mind. That's probably for the best.
Hey, at least they're bucking the trend of this article and going for a 14-Day Challenge instead!
Summary: So what can you accomplish in 21 Days?
Complete Fast: ~17 pounds if you're a young, normal-weight female. Half of this will likely be water. The rest will be a combination of muscle tissue and fat, depending on your activity.
Alternate-Day Fasting: ~2% of your bodyweight for healthy, normal-weight people, half of it being fat.
Low Calorie Diets (~50% of daily needs): The men in the study started at ~150 pounds and lost on average 1.5 pounds per week over 6 months.
If you eat a similarly high-carb diet, you can probably expect this or a little bit more over 21 Days as weight loss is typically greater during the first few weeks.
If you eat a low-carb diet of similar calorie levels, you can expect to lose more due to losses in water weight. Note that this won't affect your appearance much.
The online phentermine tablet sales report has demonstrated that there are people who have gone through the diet pill experience and that you can control the weight gain to get better results to reach your goal.
Overrall: In all studies, subjects gained back all, or close to all, their weight back afterwards. Some even ended up heavier. Across the board were reports of irritability and distracting hunger, though this wasn't the case for all participants.
Look, I know the quick fix is always tempting, especially when you want to look good for a particular event. Marketers PREY on that. Just read Harper's Jumpstart to Skinny book (essentially a 21-Day Diet) - he repeats over and over how much you know you want to look hot for the beach / reunion / wedding!
And I'll be real with you: it's not that you're likely to kill yourself on these diets. (Though there is seriously a reason why all the participants on these diets, especially complete starvation, were under constant medical surveillance.) They're short-term, and the negative physiological consequences tend to go away after a couple days of re-feeding. (Though the mental ones can last much longer, which is my main concern) You'll probably even lose a fair amount of fat, an amount that you might even notice.
But now it's time for you to be real with me and with yourself: will it really make you that much happier to lose at most around 5-8 pounds of fat? Do you want to exchange 3 weeks of stress and misery for maybe 1 good day at the beach, only to have to repeat the cycle every year because you'll likely gain the weight back from the crash diet?
6 pound difference - 160 on the left, 154 on the right. Worth it? Only you can answer that question. (Also not covering my face out of anonymity, it was because I was making embarrassing faces in both pictures!)
Why not make this year the one that you do something permanent about your weight-loss goals by making small changes that add up over 365 days instead of huge changes that crumble after 21 days and leave you right where you started?
Maybe you have an iron will and you'll be really strict during your 21-Day calorie restricted diet, be really strict after, and keep the results. But if that was the case...wouldn't it be likely you'd be at a weight you're happy with already?
If you made it this far, thanks for staying with me. Leave a comment below, or share this with your weight-loss-hopeful friends and family if you enjoyed it!
P.S. While researching this article I came across this book on fasting. I only read Chapter 4 about fasting for medical interventions, but it looks like a good resource on the use of fasting for various reasons throughout human history!
P.P.S. I realize that many of the studies I posted are old, or I only used 1 study where it would be better to use at least 3. Many of them have small sample sizes...unfortunately finding 3-week long starvation or semi-starvation studies on healthy, non-obese individuals was really, really tough. So I worked with what I could find.
Just as good as homeopathy, psychic surgery and faith healing.
While reading through one of the books I recommend at the end of the BS-Detection guide, (Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, seriously amazing read. If you enjoy my work at all you'll love this book) I came across an interesting study on placebos.
(He even made a note saying that if you had a possible explanation for the results of this study, that you should write a blog post. So...here we are!)
This is a good study to try and read into a little bit, even if you're not a statistician. We may not be able to decide if their statistical analysis is any good (considering my 'C' grade in high school statistics, I'm gonna go ahead and put myself in the 'not expert' category on that one), but most of the study is in language any lay-person can understand.
Can the placebo effect improve the benefits of exercise?
Let's go over the structure of this study real quick:
What is the study trying to show?
In the first few paragraphs of this study, below the bolded abstract, the authors give us some interesting background on the surprising effects of placebos. Their definition of 'the placebo effect' is:
The placebo effect is any effect that is not attributed to an actual pharmaceutical drug or remedy, but rather is attributed to the individual’s mind-set.
And that's a very accurate definition. Let's expand on that a bit with an entertaining example from the wonderfully crude TV show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
In the episode "Manhunters," two of the main characters (Dee and Charlie) are persuaded by Dee's father, Frank, that they've accidentally eaten human flesh. Over the course of the episode, Dee and Charlie experience increasing cravings for human flesh, culminating in them kidnapping a homeless man to bring back to their apartment and eat.
Thankfully, Frank informs them in time that it was actually raccoon meat, and he was just fucking with them the whole time.
This example was just an excuse to post this youtube clip.
But Dee and Charlie feel the cravings for human flesh so intensely, they are convinced Frank is lying, and go on to attempt to eat him instead.
So, placebo effect is thinking you've eaten human flesh, causing the effect of craving human flesh, even though you only ate raccoon meat.
Where were we? Ah, right, so the researchers were trying to determine:
...the role of the placebo effect (the moderating role of mind-set) in the relationship between exercise and health. We hypothesized that the placebo effect plays a role in the health benefits of exercise: that one’s mind-set mediates the connection between exercise and one’s health.
In other words, does simply telling people about the benefits of their current exercise increase the benefits of said exercise without changing anything else about their lives?
How did they conduct the study?
Researchers took 84 maids from 7 different hotels. About half went into a 'control' group, and the other half were referred to as the 'informed' group.
The paper details exactly how they picked the maids and how they controlled for confounding factors like age, ethnicity, socioeconomic standing, etc. As well, they made sure that the maids from different groups didn't talk to eachother, to ensure the placebo effect didn't spread to the 'control' group.
A control group is standard in most all experiments. A control group basically exists as a reference for the changes made in the experiment group. It was led by a group of people at nextgenoms.com
For instance, in this study, if we had no control group, we would have no way of knowing whether any changes that occurred in the experiment group had anything to do with the actual experiment changes, or changes in say, the weather, or any other natural fluctuations.
What were they measuring?
How much exercise the women believed they got
How much of their job they thought counted as 'exercise'
Weight, body fat percentage (via one of these), and waist-to-hip ratio
They measured the first two bullet points by just surveying the workers. This would give insight into how their mind-set changed over the course of the experiment. The second two bullet points showed actual objective data to see if those changes in mind-set actually affected their measurable health levels.
What were the differences between the 'informed' group and the 'experiment' group?
Both groups were educated on their daily recommended amount of exercise, based on the Surgeon General's recommendations; about 200 calories worth per day. They were given handouts and posters were put up in their work lounges to remind them.
However, the 'informed' group was told that their jobs more than fulfilled said recommendations. The 'control' group was not told this.
So basically, the only difference was that the informed group had the peace of mind and satisfaction of knowing that they were surpassing the amount of exercise recommended for them to obtain and maintain good health, while the control group did not.
What were the results?
Four weeks later, the informed group had:
Much higher perceived amount of regular exercise
Regarded their job as contributing much more towards their exercise
Lower systolic (the first number in blood pressure readings) blood pressure by 10 points
Lost an average of 2 pounds
Lowered waist-to-hip ratio and body fat
These changes were not seen in the control group. In fact, they felt that their jobs counted less as exercise than before the experiment!
Ever watch Hoarders? Cleaning up that mess definitely counts as exercise.
So can the placebo effect help me to lose weight?
Possibly. But don't get too excited about the results yet. First of all, the body fat and weight loss results could be erroneous. The scale they used to measure body fat is highly inaccurate and very susceptible to changes from water content in the body. As well, many people experience weight fluctuations of 2+ pounds on a day to day basis regularly.
However, it's harder to mess up a blood pressure reading. With an average decrease of 10 points, something was definitely going on to improve the health of the ladies in the informed group.
The researchers stated that it doesn't appear that the ladies in the study changed their dietary habits. Nor did they report exercising more. So, did being informed that they were doing exercise magically cause these improvements in health?
I think what's probably going on here is some combination and waterfall effect of:
Realizing that they're not lazy people, and healthier than they thought
Figuring that maybe they've got a little bit more of their shit together than they realized
Perhaps having a little more fun with the job, potentially increasing their physical exertion without consciously registering it
Decrease in stress
Increase in duration and quality of sleep
Decrease in caloric intake due to stress reduction and increase in sleep, as well as because they think of themselves as healthier, fitter people than before.
These changes wouldn't have been a conscious decision by the ladies, so they wouldn't have reported any changes in their habits.
It's a bit of a stretch, I admit. But it seems more likely than a simple change in mindset decreasing one's waist-to-hip ratio. Those kinds of direct physical changes don't seem to be in the realm of placebo, kind of like how placebo can't re-grow limbs or alleviate paralysis.
What's the take-home?
Realize that exercise is ANY KIND of physical exertion. If you work a physical job like walking dogs, construction, teaching, cleaning, whatever, then you are getting exercise. If you enjoy playing frisbee with your dog, you are getting exercise. Exercise does not have to happen in a gym or even as a conscious effort.
As well, recognize the awesome power of a positive mind-set. Trust me, I know that this is easier said than done. I have not in any way accomplished this yet in my own life. But just feeling like you're just a little more in control of your life, eliminating just one source of stress, or maybe thinking of yourself as a bit of a healthier person can have huge effects on your actions and motivations.
Interested in learning more about how awesome and interesting the placebo effect is? Pick up Bad Science by Ben Goldacre. Seriously. This book is amazing.
Okay, so here we have a 5-minute piece with celebrity trainer David Kirsch. He's here to tell us how to get legs like Heidi Klum or <insert model here>. (So I guess this article should be renamed 'David's Tips for Killer Legs'!) Let's get started:
Katie: "Seriously David! Aren't you just born with A-list legs?"
David: "No. Sexy, tone, long and lean."
I'm not sure what that line is supposed to mean. It sort of seems that he just picked out every buzzword as his opening statement.
"Sexy" is subjective, but I suppose we'll assume that it entails the next three adjectives.
"Tone" could be added to your legs through exercise, true. (Although I loathe that word for a myriad of reasons)
"Long" - now here is something no exercise can do. If you're 5'0 with a long torso, long legs just aren't in the cards for you. You could perhaps make them look longer with certain cuts of shirts or heels, but there's only so much that can be done and there's no exercise routine that can elongate your femur.
"Lean" is something that can be achieved through diet and exercise, true.
Katie: "When clients come to you, David, and they say, 'Really, I want my legs to look better', you don't ever say 'Honey, it's genetic'?"
David: "No...never...there's not a one size fits all. You gotta visualize the legs you want to have. Whether it's Heidi's or Kate's..."
This is another bizarre exchange to analyze. After all, what does "look better" mean? Again, we'll assume that it's to have longer, thinner legs with low body fat. His response of "there's not a one size fits all" right next to the requirement of visualizing what individual's legs you want is rather odd. If there is no one size fits all, then why are you striving for the exact legs of another woman? That sort of sounds like one size fits all to me.
Katie: "Well don't I have to grow a foot or two to have Heidi Klum's legs?" (For reference, Katie is 5'1 and Heidi is 5'9)
David: "No, I've seen you wear crazy shoes. Wear those high heels, you've got the length - and you have...the genetics, you have that shape there."
Here we have direct contradiction #1. Above David said that genetics don't play a role in what kind of legs you have, and here he tells Katie she has the genetics to have Heidi Klum's legs. A bit ridiculous since Heidi is a good 8 inches taller than Katie and also has a habit of wearing crazy high heels.
Katie: "Let me ask you about diet...I mean how important is that to having great legs?"
David: "It's huge. I had a new woman come through today. She's shorter and she's got hips and thicker thighs and she's not working out properly. You know, she's doing a lot of squats and...just like...stop. No squats...no traditional squats. I said...visualize...I want a 'window'...here's your window, right up here, inner thighs. When your legs get too bulky, this space gets lost. So I want a window, I said I want to shave [the butt] and I want to lift it."
Well, first off she asked about diet and somehow this got turned into a conversation about exercise. Anyway, this section sets up for a bit more hilarity a couple of minutes later, but let's go over a few of the things here. First he is implying that squats make your legs too 'bulky' for a thigh gap. Oh wait, did I say thigh gap? Sorry, "window." Other things that can get rid of your thigh gap include genetics. It's been said a million times already, but even the skinniest of girls can manage to lack a thigh gap. Just depends on your anatomy.
Also, for a good example of heavy squatting not making your legs big, see Jennifer Petrosino or Nia Shanks.
Sup guys, just deadlifting almost 3 times my bodyweight. No big deal or anything.
So just to sum up what he just said, Window=Thigh Gap and Squats = Bad, Bulky and never to be done. Got it? We'll be quizzing you on this later.
David: "So if you're eating cheese - I live in Italy, cheese, pasta, bread - I'm like, no. No more dairy. Zero dairy. Because it's going right [to your butt and thighs]."
So...dairy by some magical property goes right to the hips and thighs as opposed to other kinds of foods? Many women may nod their head in agreement because when he says that food goes right to their hips and thighs, well, he's relating to their struggles. You've probably heard women in your life say that <insert 'bad' food here> goes straight to their thighs - maybe you've even said it yourself! But here's all that's happening:
Women tend to gain weight on hips and thighs
Dairy can have a lot of calories in it and things like cheese can add up quickly to a caloric surplus.
Dairy is then associated with going straight to the hips and thighs, even if it doesn't do so more than any other food.
I have a hard time believing that David truly believes what he's saying, but it is possible he is hardcore into Paleo. Who knows.
Katie: "But please don't be obsessed with this thigh gap thing, because a lot of girls are going crazy if they don't have thigh gaps, and they're starting to get eating disorders because of it."
David: "No, I'm not about eating disorders...look I have two twins, 4-year-old twins. And so, it's not ever about...we don't use the word 'diet', we don't use the word 'fat'...it's moving your body. It's doing correct moves. So all these moves, whether it's a single leg deadlift or sumo lunge or reverse crossover, will shape and tone your legs. And you'll get the inner...you'll tighten up...if you go like this and you tighten it up, you're gonna get the window."
I'm actually kinda proud of Katie on this one, I have to admit. I'm sure she wasn't intentionally calling him out on his "window" bullshit, but she inadvertently seemed to put him on the defensive. Just watch the video during this segment, it's really amusing. You have to watch him during this to get the most out of it. He is literally signifying a thigh gap with his hands and almost says "the inner thigh gap" but catches himself. Apparently using the word "window" is better than "thigh gap," and he clearly states that's what he wants for his clients, while somehow at the same time coming across as being anti-thigh gap.
It's probably because he pulled the "I have children" card, though he didn't mention if either of the twins were girls. So he doesn't use the word 'diet' and is anti-eating disorders but his clients aren't allowed to have dairy? "Fat" isn't okay but "bulky" is?
We also have our first claim of exercises being able to spot-reduce areas, but expressed with the word "tighten" instead.
The rest of this video, nothing much of value is said. David does say either the word "tighten" "shave" or "tone" 5 times in about 1 minute though! David takes us through three bodyweight lower body movements. Katie could use a little work on sitting back at the hips, but I suppose if I only had 90 seconds to show someone three exercises I wouldn't worry too much about it either.
David also says that if you want to avoid getting bulky, a big fear for many women, then the answer is to increase your repetitions and only use bodyweight exercises.
I don't see a thigh ga- I mean, window, on a single one of these girls. This is bullshit!
omg so bulky
I have a theory to why so many women fear getting bulky from a training program. It's because of people telling women they should be afraid of getting bulky on a training program.
Let's also point out how all three of the moves involved many of the same muscles as a 'traditional' squat. If a squat made you bulky, then so would these moves.
Katie: "Now what's that good for?"
David: "...Cardio, right? You're gonna get your heart rate up, you're gonna start metabolizing fat so it'll lean you out."
Sort of. The kind of workout you'd get doing all these moves in a row seems like it would be on the higher intensity side of things, as opposed to an easy walk. The higher the intensity, the less percentage of fat you'll use to power the movements, the lower the intensity, the more fat you'll use. However, it's important to bear in mind that the macronutrient you're utilizing (for most regular non-athlete trainees) doesn't matter for overall fat loss. It just comes down to how many calories you burn. (I may have mentioned that a couple of times before...)
In summation we get a good synopsis of the main pieces of misinformation spread by the fitness industry.
"Spot Reduction" being a thing, though apparently now going by the name 'shaving' and 'tightening'.
Mysterious and nonsensical food elimination rules that must be obeyed to lose fat. Dairy, in this case
Use high repetitions and light or no weight to avoid bulking during training.
Use of words like 'tone', 'shape', 'tighten' or 'firm' specifically in regards to women's fitness.
Automatic assumption that 'sexy' equals tall, thin with little muscle or fat.
Claims to be able to defy your own anatomy to obtain certain features such as 'long' legs or a thigh-gap, aka 'window'.
I'm honestly surprised to see something like that come on air so recently. I thought we were beyond things like spot reduction and fear of getting bulky - apparently not.
I'll start off with something positive here. Going out to drink will not help you get closer to any weight loss goals you may have, I agree with Harper there, instead if you have a drinking problem, you should take gold bali kratom.
However, I don't feel we need to demonize booze to get that point across. You're smart, you know alcohol has calories. If you recognize that and still want to go out and have a good time, by all means, go for it. If you only give yourself 3 weeks to lose as much weight as possible, then yeah, it doesn't sound like a good plan.
But if you're getting ready for a wedding (one of the examples for why one may need this diet program that Harper states over and over), do you want to miss out having fun with your friends on your bachelor / bachelorette party? Are you going to drink at your rehearsal dinners? To each their own, and if you don't need to drink to have a good time, more power to you. But personally I'd be a little upset if I didn't get every ounce of joy from those once-in-a-lifetime experiences to try and look slightly thinner in some pictures.
Anyway, that's all fluff. Let's go over the justifications on why to not drink alcohol:
"Alcohol...is a central nervous system depressant. You don't ever want that..."
Probably a time you'd want a little central nervous system depression.
Many bar-goers beg to differ! (Fun fact, did you know that archery competitions typically ban alcohol since it calms archer's nerves, decreasing hand tremors and improving accuracy?)
"Booze will alter your metabolism and slow down fat-burning."
Now this isn't an untrue statement. But I think many people see statements like this and assume that consuming alcohol will decrease your metabolic rate in general, for which I haven't found any good evidence - please correct me if I'm wrong. (I actually found a study - albeit a very old, small one - showing that it increases metabolism)
However, your body will process alcohol before anything else, by proxy lowering specifically "fat-burning." We've mentioned before that it doesn't matter too much if your body is burning fat or carbohydrates - everything will catch up eventually if you're eating at a caloric deficit.
"...then there's the simple fact that this is a low-calorie, three-week diet, and alcohol contains calories..."
Very true. If you're eating 800 calories a day, it would be best to get those calories from nutritious foods. (But you should probably not only be eating 800 calories a day. I think I've said that a couple of times.)
"Last but not least, it may surprise you that my objection to alcohol while on Jumpstart is less about calorie intake...
Every now and then, while driving home late at night...I see a line of guys outside the local open-late burger place. All of them fat and...drunk."
Typically what the line at Cook Out in Durham looks like at 1:00 AM.
Harper then goes on to describe what all of us are probably familiar with - late night drunken food runs to Cook Out or Taco Bell.
(Sooo it is about calorie intake then?)
Who hasn't done that once or twice? But I feel compelled to mention that there are plenty of skinny people who have this habit as well. Will drinking 800 calories of beer followed by a 2,000 calorie hush-puppy & corndog combo help you lose weight? No - but that doesn't mean there aren't people who do this on occasion without being fat.
I suppose my issue with him implying only fat people have this habit is that it says you're not allowed to party or have fun if you want to be at a reasonable weight, which is simply untrue. Being thin does not mean subjecting yourself to a life of constant restriction and misery.
Moral: Alcohol doesn't seem to lower your metabolism. (Correct me if I'm wrong) However, it does have calories and can lower your inhibitions towards food which will not help you achieve your weight loss goals. Sure is fun though.
Chapter / Rule 13 - An espresso a day...or two or three
Coffee has had quite a few news articles singing its praises. (Not endorsing that article, just showing there are a lot of claims around coffee)
Harper agrees with a few of them and gives us a couple of studies:
This study showing that coffee consumption is correlated with lowered risk of metabolic syndrome in men.
Another study showing that dark roast coffee had more antioxidants than light roast and that it contributed to "significant" body weight reduction.
A few issues with using the first study:
Diet was assessed through questionnaire, which as we know by this point can be prone to error.
There was no corresponding correlation with the women in the study, which is suspect.
The study acknowledged that this is an association and not enough to prove causation.
With study #2, the full text is really required. I will try to get access to it and amend this post - the abstract gives no context to the claim of "significant" body weight reduction.
French people drink coffee. French people are thin. Therefore coffee makes you thin.
Anyway, coffee has claims to increase fat metabolism (although whether the broken down fat gets used more readily as fuel during exercise over existing carbohydrates doesn't seem to be clear), and it also serves as an appetite depressant! (it is possible that decaffeinated coffee does a better job of this)
Harper makes a last point about why you should drink coffee on this plan - it will get your energy up for the workouts he'll talk about later. And on 800 calories a day, you'll need all the help you can get. I personally drink caffeine during my workouts - it may be placebo but I feel it helps me stay focused and energized when I'm going up for my eighth set of squats or whatever.
Moral: Coffee can be helpful for the dieter due to appetite-suppressing qualities. It could increase fat metabolism during exercise, maybe. As well, the increase in energy can help improve your performance during workouts.
Whew! Okay, that's a lot of rules.
But wait, there's more!
This book also contains a lovely workout plan, which I will enjoy reviewing in a bonus section!
'Let's Sharpen Our Bullshit Detectors' Update
Still working on my little guidebook for navigating the health & fitness industry. I'm about done and all I need are a couple of people who would be willing to give it a critique. I'm sure I've missed quite a few typos and there are probably some segments that don't make any sense. I could use another pair of eyes, so if you'd like to help me out, just shoot me an email at:
This chapter is short and sweet. And it also makes sense, for the most part.
On this diet, you are allowed to eat an unlimited amounts of a long list of vegetables Harper provides you. They are, for the most part, very low in calories but very satiating. And when you're only eating 800 calories per day, if you want any hope of your stomach not rumbling all day, tons of vegetables are a good plan. Have you ever tried to eat 500 calories of broccoli? It's tough.
Harper takes note that if you are eating all these vegetables, you'll be taking in a lot of fiber. While he comments on the benefits of fiber - feeling full, regular bowel movements, moving digestion along - it should be noted that if you are going from a low-fiber diet to a nearly all-fiber diet, you might have a bad time adjusting.
For some, too much fiber too quickly can result in cramping, bloating and constipation. You'd probably get over this after 3 weeks though.
He also notes that some vegetables are "natural diuretics" as an extra benefit. Considering he was very anti-diuretics in chapter 5, I find that worth mentioning. Obviously any diuretic properties of a vegetable likely nothing compared to a concentrated drug, but it's still just another gimmicky way to lose unnecessary water weight.
Moral: Vegetables are filling. They might help make a 800 calorie-a-day diet more bearable. They can be pretty tasty too. (If you follow me on facebook, you'll remember: FUCK YEAH ROASTED BROCCOLI!)
Chapter / Rule 11 - No fruit during week 3
I got a little depressed reading this chapter, I'm not going to lie.
There's just...so much bullshit guys. I'm sorry. I need a moment.
Well it looks like Harper listened to that popular lecture by Dr. Lustig. The gist of the lecture being, fructose is more harmful than other sugars like maltose or glucose.
Fructose is known as the "fruit" sugar since you can find it in most fruits like apples or berries. In fact, Harper has an entire chapter in "The Skinny Rules" dedicated to you eating plenty of apples and berries everyday. (Every. Single. Day!) He also wants you to eat simple sugars for this diet (see rule 3), of which fructose is a big one.
However, he wants you to cut out the fructose in week 3. Why?
"[Fructose's] metabolic profile is different from that of sucrose (usually made from cane or beet sugar) in one critical way: over-consumption of it skews our metabolism toward fat storage rather than fat burning."
Everytime you spout nutrition bullshit, a puppy cries. Why do you hate puppies Harper?
There is only one kind of over-consumption that drives our bodies to store fat rather than burn it: calories. Whether those calories come in the form of fructose or sucrose or skinless baked chicken breasts and steamed broccoli, it doesn't matter. If you are eating 800 calories per day (assuming you are not a 100 pound girl in a coma), regardless of where you are getting those calories from, you WILL lose fat. (until the inevitable binge happens)
"Many believe that our stepped-up consumption of fructose, usually through ingestion of all that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in soft and "fruit" drinks, plays a key factor in America's twin scourges of obesity and diabetes. That's why New York passed its ban on large soft drinks recently."
The attempted ban on soft drinks was not due to their HFCS content - it was due to their caloric content. If it truly had anything to do with HFCS, they would have made the law to replace it with sugar.
I was also going to point out how HFCS is nearly identical to sucrose in terms of fructose content - it's only got about 5% more fructose. But I'll let Harper explain with flawless logic why that's not good enough:
"Other researchers...believe that HFCS has been unjustly maligned, pointing out that the syrup contains only 5 to 10 percent more fructose than regular sugar.
I wonder what those guys would say if their mother's prescription for say, Lipitor, contained 10 percent more than she was supposed to take!"
This is a very bad argument. When I originally typed that sentence out, there were so many negative adjectives that I just gave up trying to articulate how bad it was.
As far as we are aware now, fructose does not appear worse for human consumption than simple sugar. The negative health effects of sugar result from eating a caloric surplus of sugar - and the nature of sugar makes it easy to do that. However, many cultures have thrived off high carbohydrate diets (Japanese, for instance). Comparing fructose consumption (of which we can take in vastly varying amounts and be okay) to altering a sensitive drug that requires a doctor's permission to take is asinine.
He then cites a study and concludes that fructose consumption impairs insulin sensitivity and makes it difficult to bring blood sugar down.
Unfortunately in this study, they were limited by the fact it was not conducted in a metabolic ward. Subjects were only required to log 3 days worth of food between visiting researchers (Which happened after 3 weeks). While that's certainly something, we are notorious at counting and measuring our food, even with kitchen scales. The fact that many foods contain high fructose corn syrup and sucrose outside of the sweetened beverages the participants were required to drink makes this study difficult to verify for accuracy.
"Does one week of [not eating fruit] really make a difference? Yes. It's one more way to cut calories, one more way to push your body into fat-burning mode, one more way to curb your sweet tooth. And: it works for me and my clients."
If you're already counting out 800 calories a day, removing fruit will not cut your calories anymore because you'll make up for it with string beans or Persian cucumbers or something. Is it the removing fruit that works for you and your clients, or is it the lack of calories?
Moral: Fructose has not been proven to be any worse for your health than sucrose. Neither seem to be particularly bad. There isn't a good reason given in this chapter to avoid fruit consumption in the last week of this diet. Harper made 4 puppies cry this chapter.