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I recently got a reader question in my inbox about a particular weight-loss supplement. 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?)

You know what I'm talking about.

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":

The Results

LeptiburnReview

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):

  1. Examine
  2. Alan Aragon's Research Review
  3. Precision Nutrition

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.

Moral

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.

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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 - 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?

FitnessWeightLossPromises

Why lose 15 pounds in 30 days when I can lose 20 pounds in 30 days???? Clearly the bottom right product is superior.

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?

FitnessDvdResults2

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?

FitnessWeightLossPromises3

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. 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.

...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.

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.

Moral:

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.

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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

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:

Transcript

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:

  1. '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.'
  2. 'I've got the number one miracle in a bottle to burn your fat!  It's Raspberry Ketones.'
  3. '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.

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:

  1. Test on animals to show reasonable expectation of safety
  2. Get approved to be tested on humans
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

prayerlol

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 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?"

Here's a link to "The Gut Check" article in question.  Good stuff.

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?

pill

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...

8 Comments

What would health and fitness advertising look like if marketers had to be honest?  I was inspired to do this post after seeing the hilarious before & after pictures here - I'm not sure who did these originally, but I owe them for a lot of laughs.

I had WAY too much fun doing these.  Someone should have been taping me giggling like an idiot while trying to come up with witty sentences in Photoshop.

In any case, I thought it had been far too long since I'd done something similar to my popular "Pinterest Modifications" post, so without further ado, here's my take on a few popular articles and products we've seen over the years...

AdRedo1

Alternative caption "9 foods that, just like everything else on Earth, contain chemicals."

AdRedo2

"Eat this, not that" potentially an experiment in "how many books can you sell off of one concept?"

AdRedo3

Please pay close attention to my pro-level Photoshop skills here.

AdRedo4

Any takers on how many VS models have done this workout?

AdRedo5

God I hate slideshows.

AdRedo6

Other products used: going back in time before having children, eating less, moving more.

AdRedo7

I mean this could be any exercise DVD / magazine headline / program promotion really.

And this last one is a little off-topic, but this was my theory for why Cosmo keeps talking about sex when any sane sex-having female would probably find those articles a tad ridiculous:

AdRedo8

I know this because I have experience being an 11 year-old girl.

(taken from wikipedia)

"A lie, Mr. Mulder, is most convincingly hidden between two truths."

-Deep Throat, The X-files

It's Sunday morning and you're awoken by sunlight streaming through your shades.  Groggily, you reach over for your phone to check the time.

...

Revision: it's Sunday afternoon.  You had a pretty hard night - even if you didn't remember exactly how much you drank, your inability to stand up without stumbling would have reminded you.  That's what happens when it's nickel shot night at O'Halligan's.

Your head is killing you and walking is proving quite difficult.  Do you:

  • A) Find the nearest Waffle House, stat
  • B) Take some advil and settle in to watch The Princess Bride for the millionth time
  • C) Salt the shit out of two scrambled eggs and wash it down with a Diet Coke (that was my tactic, anyway)
  • D) Grab some Vitamin Water then go about your day bright-eyed and bushy-tailed

Haha, Amish people!  That's so random and edgy Vitamin Water, you totally get me.

Well, this commercial would lead you to believe that 'D' is the best option.  Here are the claims made in this commercial.  The first two are stated explicitly, while the last is implicit - meaning they never actually say this, but it is glaringly obvious from the commercial.

  1. Vitamin Water Revive has B vitamins and potassium
  2. Vitamin Water Revive will re-hydrate you
  3. Vitamin Water Revive will relieve hangovers

Let's look at these claims more in-depth:

Vitamin Water Revive has B Vitamins and Potassium

VitaminWaterConfused

By 120 I mean 125.  If you know the reason behind the differences here, let me know!

This is true.  It DOES have these things.  However, in trying to find exactly how much, I came across some confusion in the actual nutrition label on Vitamin Water and what their website says.  It's possible this nutrition label information is out of date.

However, you shouldn't stop questioning there.  The next question you need to ask is:

Why does it matter that this product has B vitamins and potassium?

In the context of normal day-to-day life, it doesn't matter.  If you're not vegetarian, you're likely not deficient in any B vitamins.  If you're not competing or training in endurance sports or suffering from diarrhea, you're likely not deficient in potassium.  These are rare conditions.

So, if you're suffering from a hangover, does that change things?  We'll go over that in our last point.

Vitamin Water will re-hydrate you

Well, the first ingredient in Vitamin Water is - you guessed it - water.  (Right before the second ingredient - sugar.  Mmmm it's like hydration candy, delicious!)

Delicious hydration candy. Just look at all dat sugar. (taken from brobility.com)

So yeah, if you're dehydrated, Vitamin Water can help re-hydrate you.  So could tap water, or diet coke, or Gatorade, or tea, or broth...you get the idea.

Vitamin Water will relieve hangovers

Well, this is where we're getting into bullshit territory.  You would think that given humanity's long history of enjoying getting hammered, we'd understand hangovers better. Unfortunately, we don't have a strong grasp on exactly why they happen.

Home remedies abound however, usually consisting of some kind of salty food and water to 're-hydrate' you.  We all know that dehydration is the real cause of hangovers, right?

Well, it doesn't seem to be that easy.  Many hangover cures have been tried and found wanting.  (1, 2, 3) Dehydration only seems to account for a small fraction of symptoms, such as dry mouth.

But, that's not really my point.  This isn't an article about hangover cures.

My point was to draw your attention to one of many health and fitness marketing tactics: hiding the bullshit between some non-bullshit.  You can find examples all over the place.  Often you'll see this in nutrition products or supplements:

But you can also find it in different fitness routines:

SpotTheBullshit

I encourage you to go to the full website for hilarious explanations of the benefits of various yoga poses.

In this case you have one realistic claim and two bullshit ones.  A warm muscle is easier to stretch (4), detoxification is bullshit, and it's doubtful that a hot environment would increase cardiovascular benefits. (5 - an ACE sponsored study that I couldn't find in any database so take it with a grain of salt.  Here's a different study showing benefits of training in heat...but it's with cyclists, who undoubtedly have a much different adaptation to their training the hot yogis.)

Or in fitness products, like the Sketcher's "Shape Up" shoes (I encourage you to watch this video and look for the numerous questionable promises), which claim to:

  1. Maximize calorie burn
  2. Improve circulation
  3. Strengthen muscles

While Shape-Ups (or literally any other footwear...or just your bare feet) could improve circulation and strengthen muscles - due to the fact that you are exercising while wearing them - they do not significantly change the amount of calories you burn performing a particular exercise.  But it's easy to glance over that when you're watching an entire infomercial, isn't it?

Moral

Beware of the many claims put forth in advertisements and promotions of health and fitness products.  It may be true that a protein powder helps build lean muscle and keep you full, but it probably doesn't keep your blood sugar levels steady or promote alert thinking while somehow at the same time reducing anxiety.

Take every claim one at a time.  Many times the real benefits are just the benefits you'd get from eating any kind of food, or doing any kind of exercise, then with your defenses lowered they hit you with a bogus, too-good-to-be-true claim.  More than likely you'll take it.

Trust no advertisement.  That should have been Deep Throat's advice in the X-files.  Perhaps not as pertinent to Mulder, though.

 

4 Comments

Read Part I and Part II of the "Get a Bombshell Bikini Body" review.

Finally down to the LAST segment here of what has become an unexpectedly long review of a very short spread in Cosmo UK.

Before we start reviewing this last segment, I noted that all of the pictures from Anderson's blog have been removed for some reason.  So, I took the liberty of searching around for cached pictures and uploaded them to imgur.  We'll be focusing on the last page today.

Get Gwyneth Paltrow's Legs

Anderson has often stated that repetitive exercises, like running or biking will 'bulk' your legs.  This leads to some confusion because of her usual suggestions.  How much repetition is too much by her standards?

After all, she'd like for you to work up to doing 80 reps of each exercise (I'm assuming 80 reps per leg), would that be better or worse than taking 160 steps running?  You could obviously argue that the impact from running causes a stronger adaptation in your legs, bulking them - so what about biking?  is 160 rotations on a bike more or less likely to bulk than the exercises she gives in this section?

I suppose I'm being overly critical since almost no one is just going to take 160 steps or 160 rotations, but you can question the principle.

In any case, just take a look at some marathon runners to see that running a lot of miles doesn't automatically 'bulk' your legs:

Such bulk.  Much muscle.  Wow.

Such bulk. Much muscle. Wow.

And an endurance cyclist for good measure:

Here are the things a person needs to do in order to put massive bulk on their legs:

  1. Eat a caloric surplus - this is a must.  If you are eating less calories than you burn throughout the day, your body isn't going to put a lot of resources into building NEW muscle.  It must devote all of its energy to keeping your current body functioning.  As well, a good portion of said calories need to be protein.
  2. Train in a way that promotes muscle growth - this will typically be lifting weights that are difficult to do in a ~12-20 rep range.  Definitely not endurance running, definitely not long distance cycling, and for most all women not lifting heavy shit for less than 10 reps.  However, if condition #1 above is not being met, this point doesn't matter.
  3. Get enough sleep - good for a lot of things, like optimizing muscle growth.

Do all those though, and it's still going to be very, very difficult to put on a noticeable amount of muscle if you're not really trying at it.  You will never just wake up one day and look like a body builder on accident.

Secret Move #1 - The Frog Cross Leg Lift

"...stimulates the accessory muscles - key to pulling in the larger ones."

Even if working your "accessory" muscles (not sure what this term is supposed to mean) could pull in muscles five times their size, this exercise is working some very large muscle groups, such as your glutes and thighs.  This exercise is basically like a lying clamshell followed by a lying hip abduction.  Big, powerful muscles being worked here!  So again, I ask, WHAT accessory muscles?  What defines an accessory muscle?

The second 'secret' move worked the same large muscles as the first.  Nothing special here.

Gym / Fridge Friend

Our gym friend is the bike - with the stipulation that you shouldn't "overdo" it.  If overdoing it on the bike leads to massive bulk, it would certainly be nice to know what 'overdoing it' actually means.  Does it mean you shouldn't bike for more than 30 minutes?  That you should keep it under a certain number of rotations per minute?  Not to bike up hills or at a higher resistance?  Can you do intervals?

My advice - just do what you like.  Remember that if you're not following the 3 muscle-building musts outlined above, you won't be able to build much muscle.

Our fridge friends are a random assortment of high fiber foods because,

"High-fibre foods boost metabolism..."

It's possible that foods that are high in fiber take a little more energy to digest than say, pure fat.  However just know that the calories of fiber have already been taken out on your food labels.

Go ahead and do the math. 1g carb/protein = 4 calories. 1g fat = 9 calories. So, (1x9) + (25x4) + (2x4) = 117 calories. But the label says 60! Well, 14g of fiber, so: 117-(14x4) = 61. Pretty cool.

As well, I've been unable to find any studies to substantiate the claims of "negative" or "zero" calorie foods like celery.  The claim is that they take more energy to digest than they give - haven't been able to find anything to back that up.  If you find something, let me know.

In any case, for most people eating fiber is a good plan - it's satiating so you'll end up eating less calories, and it might even help you poop.  Woohoo!

The Secret Celebrity Trainers DON'T Want You to Know!

(Yes, that headline is very, very tongue-in cheek)

I've had many criticisms of my criticisms of celebrity trainers.  I've been told I'm just jealous and hating on their success, that not everyone wants to be a bodybuilder, that they personally really enjoy their workouts and DVDs, etc, etc.

The only one that really bothers me, though, are comments like "the proof is in the pudding!  If her methods don't work, why are all of her clients so small?"

Stick with me here, I'm going to drop a bomb:

Her clients already looked small before they ever even heard of her.

Yes, this is the key to being a successful model or actress - you must already look amazing.

Don't believe me?  Anderson's first superstar client was Madonna around 2007.  Here is Madonna in 2005 vs. 2010:

Looks about the same to me.

Looks about the same to me.

What about some of her other clients?  Let's look at Gwyneth Paltrow:

Paltrow

Shakira became a client more recently:

Shakira

You know the show America's Next Top Model?  All the girls on there are gorgeous.  They were gorgeous before being models, they'll continue being gorgeous after becoming models regardless of if they pick up a "trainer to the stars" or not.

Conclusion

I'm not trying to discount the hard work any of these ladies probably put in to maintain their figure.  But the moral of the story is that Anderson didn't 'make' their bodies.  She didn't give them their figure.  She's not defying their genetics.  I would say that her success is actually because of their genetics.

Thus concludes my first Anderson rant of 2014.  Hopefully I won't have to do more - but I probably will.

6 Comments

In our last segment we went over the introduction and first segment of a Cosmo UK spread telling us how to best get a beautiful bangin' bombshell bootylicious bikini bod in a mere two weeks.

Bangin' Burger Bikini Body

If that sounds too good to be true, it's because it is.  Let's delve into why in Part II of our investigation:

Get Jennifer Lopez's Abs

"Tracy says plain crunches won't work; some smarter moves are required..."

Here's the deal on exercising to get great abs:

You could be doing the best exercises for abdominal activation in the world, but it wouldn't matter if you don't lose the fat along with increasing the muscle.  Now, to be fair, the introduction to this article states you are to be eating 1,200 calories per day - anyone will lose weight on that.  (Not that I advocate eating that little) For most women, this would be enough to get closer to the abdominal muscles they want.

Tracy is also correct that plain crunches don't do a lot for your abdominals.

But, heavy squats and deadlifts activate various core muscles better than other bodyweight "ab" exercises like a sideplank.  (After all, your abs are a big player in keeping you upright during these lifts, as opposed to crumpling over that heavy weight on your back or in your hands) As well, doing certain exercises on an unstable surface doesn't seem to be doing us many favors either.

Here's an important question to ask yourself: What are you trying to accomplish with these ab exercises?

After all, 80 reps of any fancy ab exercise isn't going to build you much muscle.  And you're not going to spot-reduce away your belly fat.  So what are these abdominal exercises really accomplishing?

Maybe they're burning a few calories.  Maybe if you were completely sedentary before, 80 reps would build a little bit of muscle - but probably nothing that would cause a big visible difference.

Here are a few reasons to do abdominal-isolation exercises:

  1. To increase your core strength - so you'd want to stick on the lower end of repetitions if that was your goal.
  2. For aesthetics - if you're at a low body fat percentage already (or plan to be) and want bigger abdominal muscles.  You still wouldn't be doing 80 repetitions in a row for this.
  3. Physical therapy - many people who suffer from lower back pain go through a progression of core-strengthening exercises (most all of which involve your abdominals) to return to function.  Still not doing 80 reps in a row.

My advice for exercises to get better looking abs are to supplement heavy squats and deadlifts with abdominal isolation exercises that are difficult to complete in the 12-15 rep range.

In any case, there is nothing secret about the two moves presented here.  They're just a couple of exercises that activate your abdominals.  You could accomplish the same thing with a variety of other moves as well.

Gym Friend / Food Friend

Our gym friend is swimming and the treadmill.  Perhaps because you need to be at a caloric deficit to reveal your abs, and exercise can help accomplish that?  Don't see much of any other reason.

Our fridge friends are cherries, red grapes and blueberries.

"The chemicals responsible for their colouring are anthocyanins, which, according to research, can burn abdominal fat."

There have been a couple of studies showing that, in obese rats, fed either a very high-fat or very low-fat diet, consumption of blueberries or cherries appear to reduce markers for various metabolic diseases and a decrease in abdominal fat when compared to an equal-calorie control group.  (Well, the link about the blueberry study doesn't specify if the control group had an equal-calorie diet, but I'll assume they did.)

Unfortunately, rat metabolism can differ from human metabolism.  Truly all we know right now is put quite succinctly in the conclusion of one of the studies:

"In conclusion, in at-risk obese rats fed a high fat diet, physiologically relevant tart cherry consumption reduced several phenotypes of metabolic syndrome and reduced both systemic and local inflammation.  Tart cherries may reduce the degree or trajectory of metabolic syndrome, thereby reducing risk for the development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease."

So, eat cherries and blueberries if you like them - but I wouldn't count on it to make a large difference in your abdominal fat.  (But, on the other hand, it might - we really don't know one way or the other!)

Get Jennifer Aniston's Arms

"If I'm working with someone who needs to see some results fast, I will focus on their arms because they really don't take long to show results," Tracy says.

This can be true, especially if you have a client roster like Tracy's - people who are already pretty thin and lean.  For most women, the arms and upper body in general don't hold much fat relative to the lower body. (Minus the girls, of course.) So you're already 50% of the way to toned / firm / sculpted / shapely / whatever buzzword you want to use arms.  The other 50% is just adding some muscle.

Michelle Obama arms

How to get firmer arms: Step 1 - Have little bodyfat Step 2 - Have some muscle

Both of the moves Anderson gives work large muscle groups - exactly what she says will cause bulk.

"Tracy says using small weights in different rotations is the key to great arms."

The only key to 'great' (by which we are to understand, means small with low body fat) arms are Step 1 and Step 2 outlined above.  You could accomplish that with no weights and just do bodyweight resistance exercises like push-ups, or you could accomplish it with heavy bench or overhead press.  Doing 100 repetitions of overhead press with 3 pound dumbbells is essentially like doing cardio on an ergometer, except less shoulder-friendly.

Gym / Fridge Friend

Our gym friends are the rowing machine or arm bike (the ergometer like I linked above).  I'm surprised that Anderson is okay with these, considering she is often quoted as saying running will bulk your legs.  So wouldn't an arm bike bulk your arms by that same logic?

Anyway, if you're going at an easy pace, whether or not you use your arms in your cardio doesn't matter that much.  The only thing you're looking to accomplish here is burning overall calories - you can't spot reduce arm fat by using them during lifting or cardio.  If you're doing high-intensity intervals it's a little different, but for the most part just do what you enjoy if you're looking to get a little extra calorie burn in.  I'd suggest walking the dog or playing with the kids!

Our fridge friends are eggs, salmon and lean meat.

"Flabby arms can be due to low testosterone.  Good fats in eggs, organic salmon and lean meats can help."

If I'm reading this correctly, Cosmo is admitting that saturated fat is not a 'bad' fat like it has so often been labeled, which is awesome!  Yay!  (Chicken and eggs contain saturated fat)

Moving on to flabby arms being due to low testosterone - I'm uncertain what they are basing this off of, but my guess is it's off Charles Poliquin's Biosignature method.  (Which has a wonderful, in-depth critique here)

How hormones control fat distribution according to the Biosignature Method. (Which bear in mind has a ton of flaws)

In any case, there isn't much clear-cut evidence for low testosterone causing you to store an abnormal amount of fat on your arms.  Your best bet based on what we know now is to just lose overall bodyfat and gain muscle in your arms.

However, eating the 'fridge friends' above can absolutely help you with that - they're great sources of protein which can help you build lean muscle as well as keep your calories down.  And most importantly, they're delicious.

We'll finally conclude this in Part III.  I really only intended this to be one post, but apparently there's a lot to say on a simple two-page spread!

9 Comments

Today we have a detailed review of a segment in the UK Cosmo magazine claiming to show you how to get a "Bombshell Body in 14 Days."

Ten-Second Marketing Segue

Before we dive into the content, I'd like to point it the two uses of ellipses (...) on the cover page.  You can find use of these three important little dots on so many sales copy pages it's ridiculous.

EllipsesEverywhere

I'm not sure why, but for some reason the use of those kind of annoy me.  I spent a little time trying to find all the reasons they're used in the majority of sales copies - and it's mostly just because they get you to keep reading.  Interesting how three dots in a row continue to pique our interest and motivate us to keep reading!

Anyway, let's get back on track and go over how we're supposed to get a totally new body in 14 days.

The opening statement

There's not very much that gives a greater appearance of credibility than celebrity endorsements - let alone when you can rattle them off in a list.  Being able to claim that you are personally responsible for the bodies our society covets gives Anderson more expert status than any level of education in exercise physiology or biomechanics (which she lacks) ever could.

So what better way to convince you she's the real deal than listing off the famous celebrities she trains?  Add a flattering image of Kim Kardashian on the cover and name all of your routines after celebrities and you've got a recipe for the perfect illusion of expertise.

...while you should always exercise your entire body, Tracy believes that everyone should workout slightly differently according to their shape.  "We're all like snowflakes, no one has the same body.  We all store weight in different areas dependent on where we are muscularly weak," Tracy explains.

...What?

Even if you have no experience or knowledge in fitness, you can figure out why that last sentence makes no sense.  We store weight dependent on where we are weak?  Most of us know that women have weak upper bodies relative to their lower bodies.  So if we stored fat where we were weak, wouldn't we be more prone to store fat on our arms, chest and back rather than hips, thighs and butt?

Not to mention Anderson doesn't advocate becoming strong.  She's rather well-known around the fitness community for frequently saying things like women shouldn't lift anything heavier than three pounds.

That's not to say you can't get strong with just your bodyweight - just think about how strong gynmasts are!  But if you're okay with women doing something like a push-up, plank or handstand (which would put more strain on your arms than 3lb dumbbells), why wouldn't you be okay with them lifting heavier weights?

Here's Anderson lifting something heavier than 3 pounds.

Anyway, I also find it amusing that Anderson says no two bodies are the same, but is here to provide you workouts to give you Kim Kardashian's butt, Jennifer Aniston's arms or Gwenyth Paltrow's legs.  She just said your body is not like theirs, so why are you going to  to achieve their identical body parts?

Her method works by strengthening the smaller muscle groups so these muscles can pull in the larger ones.

Specifically which 'smaller' muscle groups is she talking about?  Either way, your muscles don't really work that way.  You're going to have a really tough time using your gracilis without the rest of your larger thigh muscles working in tandem.

Plus, as we'll see below, most of the exercises she gives do work your 'larger' muscle groups.

The intoduction also gives us some basic rules - eating 1,200 calories a day, doing an extra 30 minutes of cardio everyday and building up to doing 80 reps of each exercise.  Obviously I don't advocate eating only 1,200 calories a day, but I do like the idea of people going for a nice 30 minute walk everyday.  As far as 80 reps...I think I'd lose count.

Get Kim Kardashian's Butt 

Let's go over the formatting of this article really quickly.  Each section gives two "secret" moves to work a certain body part.  Just know, there are no 'secrets' in this industry anymore, really.  An exercise either works a certain body part or it doesn't.  This move either activates your glutes or it doesn't.  You could google "glute exercises" and get hundreds of thousands of free results.  Hardly a secret.

Each section also gives a gym friend (some machine or exercise to help work the area) and a food friend - a specific food meant to help you shape the area...somehow.

Her first move is basically a donkey kick with a little extra flair that doesn't add too much to the exercise.  The second move is a version of a squat.  I'd like to mention that both of these moves would work large muscle groups.  The donkey kick uses your glutes, which aren't exactly small.  The squat would use your hamstrings, glutes and quads among other things.  Once again, all large muscle groups.

Is this enough evidence to show that her 'method' is completely made up?

Secondly, Kim Kardashian has the butt she has because that's where she tends to store fat.

If making a muscle stronger would cause you to store less fat (according to Anderson's logic in the introduction), why would you work that area if you wanted a Kardashian-esque butt?

The things Anderson says just don't add up.

Gym Friend / Food Friend

The gym-friend here is the cross-trainer (aka elliptical).  Why?  Honestly your guess is as good as mine.  I mean there's nothing wrong with it, but why it's given specifically for your butt, I have no idea.

Your food friend is bananas and mangoes.  Supposedly they're going to boost blood flow and thus lessen cellulite.

Let's forget about the blood flow claim for a second.  Cellulite simply has to do with the distribution of fat on your body.  Women have it much more often than men.  It's not a health concern.  There is only ONE proven 'treatment' for cellulite.  It's losing fat.

Massage to increase blood flow to the area, scrubbing, laser treatment - none of these have been proven to work in reducing the frequency and appearance of cellulite.

It's not that you shouldn't eat bananas and mangoes - hell they may help you lose weight, which would reduce the appearance of cellulite.  But you shouldn't eat them just because you hope they'll help you get rid of cottage-cheese thighs.

I was going to review this all in one go but this has gotten a tad bit long.  In Part II we'll go over the rest of this article!

3 Comments

Just a quick little post today about "trigger" words used to grab our attention.

I've spent the past 3 months collecting keywords on the covers of several popular men's and women's magazines, most with a focus on fitness.  Here's what really matters to us, according to marketing:

MagazineCoversWomen

I'll bet you can guess which is which.

MagazineCoversMen

A couple of interesting things about magazine covers,

  1. Men's magazines used the word "sex" ONCE. ONE TIME. TOTAL. As you can see, women's magazines were WAY more obsessed with all derivatives of the word.
  2. Men's magazines in general used about 1/2 as many words as women. Don't really know how to read into that one.

An additional observation was that the models on the covers for men's magazines were predominantly athletes or former athletes with a few actors or performers in the mix. Women's magazines had ONE athlete on the cover (Maria Sharapova), the rest were models, actresses and singers.

Once again, we come back to a pivotal questions: Are marketers simply giving us what we want, or are we being force-fed these desires?

I'm going to take a stab at this and say it's a little bit of both.  Here are a few things that are innate in human nature:

  • Desire for sex, and thus to be sexually appealing.
  • High social status, to be on level with or above our peers.
  • Safety for ourselves and our friends and family.
  • To quickly understand and organize the world around us.

Marketers didn't need to make any of these up - most everyone is born with these desires.   Where they come in is evident in the keywords:

  • Sex appeal for men equals having lots of muscle, low body-fat and to a smaller extent strength.  Sex appeal for women equals being as small as possible with very little muscle (but not NO muscle), minimizing signs of aging such as wrinkles, cellulite or thinning / dull hair.  These are by far the most popular terms used above.
  • Social status means owning expensive things, having an advanced career or having stronger 'willpower,' 'work ethic' or knowing things your peers don't which manifests itself in a 'better' body than they have.  (Recall I'm focusing on the health and fitness industry here.  Obviously for different subjects this will manifest in other ways)
  • Safety for ourselves, friends and family is signaled with claims to prevent cancer, prevent obesity-related diseases and being overall highly concerned about health.
  • A quick and easy understanding of the world is shown through words like "secrets," "quickly," "by tonight," "easy," "slash," etc.  These are the most commonly used words behind those for sex appeal.

So what can we learn from this?  Well here are my takeaways:

  1. Sex appeal can mean so many different things to humans.  Our brains can be much more complex than "skinny waist and big boobs," despite what many an internet troll will tell you.  A potential mate's desire to have sex with you is not always derived from how conventionally "sexy" you are.  But damn if it isn't easy to sell something if you assure someone it will boost their appeal to potential mates.  This also ties into a desire for a quick and easy understanding of the world.  No cellulite = sex!  Big muscles = sex!  IT'S THAT EASY!
  2. Who gives a shit about how wealthy or perfect your peers perceive you to be?  Yoga pants are yoga pants, ice cubs are ice cubes.  You know who you are.  I know, that's not a very helpful or scientific observation, but I'm not going to claim to be an expert on our desire for social standing.  Someone else out there has probably written something much more insightful.  If you know of any, let me know and I'll link it here.
  3. Exploiting this desire is one of my least favorite tactics.  I know, cancer is brutal, terrifying and unfair.  Its existence causes us pain, fear and anxiety for good reason.  But how much does the latest article (about how in an observational study based on self-completed questionnaires, researchers found a small correlation between diet coke consumption and breast cancer) ACTUALLY help?  Does it REALLY deserve the title "The SECRET Big Pharma doesn't want you to know about stopping cancer in its tracks!" or "Ground-breaking new study finds potential cure for cancer!" ?  NO.  THIS HELPS NO ONE.
  4. Us humans are fantastic at identifying patterns.  Unfortunately, when we see a pattern we also automatically assume it means something significant.  So we read about a study that says obesity rates have increased as carbohydrate intake has increased - and now that you think about it, you really don't eat very much meat, just a lot of bread and candy.  The brain sees these threads and leads you to conclude carbohydrates = fat.  Unfortunately it missed the part where you and the public at large were just increasing your overall caloric intake.  Whoops.

Anyway, that's a little bit of a rant from me today.  Hope you found those keywords as interesting as I did!  I may try to keep this up for a year - I think that would give a better perspective.

1 Comment

Sometimes a good rant involves more than a mere 1,000 word blog post.

Now, I've made plenty of those, don't get me wrong.  But I've been thinking for a while that I'd like to compile all the fitness-industry ranting in my head and put it in one neat package.  I've been doing a not-really-consistent semi-weekly series on my facebook page called "Let's Sharpen Our Bullshit Detectors!" where what usually happens is I stumble upon some particularly offending health or fitness article and dissect it for everyone's viewing pleasure.

Since they usually go pretty well, I've been planning out a short book that goes through how we can protect ourselves from all the bullshit that gets thrown at us on a day to day basis.  It will come from the perspective of the health and fitness industry (since that's what people come here to read about, and it's also my favorite subject), but you should be able to take away tools and tips to apply towards anything.

Topics that I plan on going over include:

  • The importance of skeptical thinking
  • How to read a scientific paper even when most of the jargon goes way over your head
  • Common tactics used by marketers in the health and fitness industry
  • How to improve your own critical thinking skills
  • Becoming an intelligent, rather than an emotional consumer

Here's an excerpt I've got written so far.  I'm still not sure if I'm going to make this into a series of posts or one short ebook.  Either way, I'm pretty pumped about the content and hope that you all get something fun and interesting out of it.  Drop me a comment below if you have any feedback or if there's anything in particular you'd like to have covered!

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The internet lets marketers get pretty creative when it comes to making money. In this particular example, it really looks like that is all they care about. I want you to take a note of the actual CONTENT to ADVERTISING ratio here:

Exhibit1

#1 – Slideshows

You may have noticed lately many of your favorite websites use a “slideshow” format. If you're like me, you find this very annoying. But websites do this for one main reason: more page clicks. The more viewers it appears that it has, the more money it can get from advertisers, the more people will be willing to affiliate with them and the more likely they'll be able to enter into lucrative sponsorship deals.

This also affords them the opportunity to insert in more advertisements. If you only had to view one or two pages to get all your information about 'weight loss superfoods' (or whatever the hell) instead of 29 pages, there is much less page real estate to sell. If you have to click through to a new page 29 times – and maybe even insert a full-page ad around click number 16 – that's a lot more opportunity to sell you crap.

#2 – Strong headlines

The stronger the headline, the bolder the claim, the more likely you will be to actually click through all 29 pages. More page clicks = more money. If the headline was something more realistic, such as “A few nutrient-dense foods that, eaten in combination with an exercise plan and reasonable-calorie diet, may promote weight loss,” there is a real good chance you won't care enough to muck your way through all 29 pages of advertisement opportunity.

#3 – Do Our Advertising For Us

Didn't you just love this article? Share it with all of your friends who may have missed it so that we can get more page clicks.”

Now, this isn't a bad thing. If you love an article, a product, a particular group, sharing is a great way to help them continue to do whatever it is they do. But just recognize that is what you're doing – and always be aware of what you're sharing.

If you clicked to share this article, what are you really promoting? Did you actually get a lot of useful information out of the slideshow? (Did you actually make it all the way through?) Do you support whatever Health's general mission statement is? Do you want to look like the kind of person who is into being really healthy, and the best way you can do that is showing everyone on facebook how much you love “superfoods”? Before you click, think about these things.

Be a knowledgeable consumer, not an emotional one.

#4 – Seriously, click through to the next page. And share us on facebook.

Having multiple opportunities to share / stay on the website increases your chance of doing so. This leads to more page views for Health.

#5 – Did we mention we're on facebook? And twitter? And pinterest? And instagram?

Following Health on one or more leads to more page views.

#6 – Other links in the same category

The vast majority of blogs do this. If you label a post as a certain category, such as “nutrition,” you can have a list at the bottom or the side that shows other past posts from you under “nutrition.” They already know you're interested in it, so you'll be more likely to continue clicking through the website. More page views = more money.

#7 – Affiliate programs

Affiliate programs are a popular way for bloggers to make money. Amazon has a very large affiliate program, and in the fitness world it's not hard to find a product or program to affiliate with. Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with this, but it is good to know as a consumer that Health would make money if you purchased that product.

#8 – Paid Advertisements

I don't think I would have thought to make that tiny space an advertising spot. I guess that's why I'm not in marketing!

These are the straight-forward ads. The company or group directly gives Health money for page real estate. Simple!

#9 – Beware the “free”

Here is why Health wants to give you free stuff:

  • So that you sign up for 2 free issues of the magazine which requires your credit card information, thinking that you'll just use them and leave once you get your free stuff.
  • But then you actually just forget and end up paying $50 before you even remember you didn't want the magazine in the first place.

Conclusion

Just look at the content to advertising ratio on this page. You get 2 paragraphs with nothing but buzzwords in return for 9 opportunities to give Health money. And if you think that's only because it was the introduction page, here is the next slide:

Exhibit1b

Oh, a paragraph devoid of anything substantial followed by a link to a recipe on your website? How long you must have spent researching this piece! What a cornucopia of value for me!