Rants

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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...

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I've just got a quick, fun post for you all today.

Before we start this little quiz I'd like to explain why I decided to make this post.

If you spend much time on Facebook, especially if you follow extreme health 'purists', you'll find a lot of images like this scattered around:

Get it? The milk is blood. Because...blood is...bad?

Get it? The milk is blood. Because...blood is...bad?

Or this...

lolwat

For some reason, when we see images like those or articles explaining the points in finer detail, we tend to take it at face value.  Why would someone go through all the trouble to make that image or write that 1,000 word article unless it was true?

Unfortunately, that image is about as accurate as this quote, and not nearly as funny:

In this exercise I'm trying to drive this point home:

Just because it's in a book, on the internet, or got shared by a thousand people does not make it true.

Spotting Health Bullshit

Could you even recognize the truth if you saw it?  Let's find out.  In the pairs of images below, I edited the text in one of them with complete nonsense I came up with off the top of my head, or just made a completely new image.  (Photoshop skill handicap)

Can you find the fake? (I hope I did a decent enough job editing to make the answers not obvious...as well, you may need to click on the images to bring up a larger version to read the text)

#1 - Let's start with something easy.
ToF5

 

#2 - It's almost like the numbers were pulled out of a hat.

ToF4

#3 - Note that you must eat EXACTLY what's listed below...why?  Your guess is as good as mine.

ToF3

#4 - Ahhh a picture of something "natural" next to a laundry list of cures for very serious ailments that have been plaguing humans since the dawn of time.  Sounds legit.

ToF1

#5 - Yes, pure sugar in the form of honey or agave works wonders for your waistline.

ToF2

 

Answer Key

Let me take up some space here with some cuddly puppies so you don't accidentally spoil it for yourself:

#1 - Original on the left

#2 - Original on the right

#3 - Original on the right

#4 - Actually both of these are real.  TEN THOUSAND TIMES STRONGER THAN CHEMOTHERAPY!!!  KILL 10,000 TIMES THE CELLS!

#5 - Original on the left

How did you do?  Probably could have gotten a good score judging by not-quite-perfect font replacements, but hopefully they weren't too bad.

In any case, health bullshit around the internet is RAMPANT.  Everything cures cancer, everything causes cancer, everything is a harmful chemical, everything is an all-natural cure for HIV despite HIV itself being all-natural.

Be skeptical of what you see.

 

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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.

Guess it's time for my second "I hate Tracy Anderson with the fiery passion of 1,000 suns" post of 2014.  I'm a glutton for punishment I suppose.

When I saw that Tracy Anderson and Dr Oz were going to "de-bunk some popular fitness myths" I felt a strange combination of sorrow and giddiness.  This is an unlikely mix of emotion that can only really be properly encapsulated with one sentence:

"Oh my God, this is going to be the worst thing I've ever seen."

JustShittyThings

Tracy Anderson and Dr Oz - a dynamic duo topped only by Avril Lavigne and Chad Kroeger

But you know what, after watching the clip, I gotta say...it really wasn't that bad.

I mean, in just five minutes it's tough to get across any actual good information.  But nothing they said was particularly egregious.

I know, I was shocked as well.

So, let's go over exactly what was said and see if there was anything really helpful to glean from this segment.  Let's start from the top:

Dr. Oz: "You think you know the facts about getting fit?  Well you may be surprised to find that much of what you've been told is fiction.  So fitness expert Tracy Anderson is here to help de-bunk the three biggest fitness myths.

Why is it so important to tell fact from fiction for you?"

Anderson: "It's so important, we don't have a lot of time to exercise. We want people to see results, we don't want them to hurt themselves - they need to be educated."

Oh boy.  Let's just get this out of the way first...

Tracy Anderson is one of the biggest promoters of fitness myths

Whether it's having zero understanding of how the human body actually works,

...you know that my method reengineers your muscular structure through the constant flow of new workout sequences, prescribed specifically for you. These unique sequences are based on targeting the accessory muscles (the small muscle groups). Strengthening the accessory muscles while burning fat through intense cardiovascular work helps to create a tight knit group of small muscles that actually pull in the larger muscle groups...

seemingly just making shit up off the top of her head,

"We all store weight in different areas dependent on where we are muscularly weak," Tracy explains.

being under the impression that literally everything bulks women up (except her super-secret dance routines),

"...spinning creates an imbalance in the muscular system. It bulks the thigh and butt muscles. You develop mass by working these same muscles over and over."

Tracy is totally against other forms of cardio, such as running, where you repeat your movements over and over. That, she says, will bulk muscles.

or of course, the numerous times she's said not to lift anything heavier than 3 pounds,

"A woman should never lift anything heavier than 3 pounds."..."I carry my 30 pound son in my left arm...so [my right arm] sags lower than [my left arm]" The dissonance hurts...

So you want to build muscle but not look like the Terminator? Anderson suggests working accessory muscles first, avoiding bulking up the large groups. Also, never work out with weights heavier than 3 lbs.

Anderson says more things that are flat-out wrong and completely in line with common fitness myths than anything remotely close to the truth.

Let's not mention that some of Anderon's methods take an unnecessarily long time.  For example, one reporter had this to say about her "30-Day Method" plan:

On the 30-Day Method you have to do to three hours of exercise a day, which decreases to one hour on the 90-day plan.

Or her recommendation to work up to doing 100 repetitions of a single exercise - that wouldn't take a long time or anything:

Now on to toning. For each of the below, start with 10 repetitions and work up to 100.

Anyway, let's move on to the first myth Tracy Anderson and Dr Oz set out to de-bunk:

JustShittyThings2

Myth #1: Crunches are the key to flat abs

Dr. Oz: "This is why crunches don't help you get flat abs - it's all about this concept of 'spot reduction,' it doesn't work...

So if you really want to lose the fat so you can see the six-pack underneath, you gotta build up a lot of muscle, not just a little bit of muscle in your belly.  And to do that, Tracy, you say you've got a better way of doing it?"

Anderson: "Yes, I'm going to reach all of those muscles, not just the large ones, and we're going to use our whole body so we're gonna burn calories at the same time - which burns off the fat." 

This is an interesting exchange to look at in-depth.  I actually completely missed what Dr. Oz said the first time around - that one should 'build up a lot of muscle' to lose fat and see your abs.  This advice (though not the umm...best tactic for fat loss) completely flies in the face of everything Anderson promotes and suggests, so it's interesting to see how they just rolled with it.

Anderson suggesting that exercises that use more muscles at once burn more calories for your time is true enough. (For instance, doing a deadlift instead of fancy kneeling kicks for "butt toning") And burning extra calories could certainly help to get rid of the fat over your stomach eventually.  When she says "all of the muscles," she's referring to working all of your abdominal muscles, I assume.

There are a lot of exercises that do that.  Walking, squatting, deadlifting...etc.  But the exercise she demonstrates does as well.  It's a perfectly fine exercise, I suppose, but it's not likely to help you out a significant amount more than crunches to reveal dem abs.

JustShittyThings3

"I can't copyright a plank, so I added this little leg kick."

 Dr. Oz: "So you build those core muscles up...with all those core muscles getting strong you have a better metabolic furnace burning through calories to get rid of that fat."

It's technically true that muscle requires more calories to sustain itself than fat, though the difference is pathetically small.  Regardless, two things with that:

  1. Anderson doesn't advocate building muscle
  2. Simply doing that exercise won't be enough to build significant muscle mass

As well, counting on building muscle to be your saving grace in fat loss is probably not the way to go about achieving your goals.  If you've got a significant layer of fat covering those abs, your best bet will be to eat at a caloric deficit (which generally won't allow you to build much muscle anyway) to get rid of it.

Myth #2: The more you sweat, the more calories you burn

Dr Oz: "The amount you perspire is not at all correlated to the amount of calories you burn...you could sit in a sauna...and you're perfectly still burning no calories at all, sweating away.  So it clearly doesn't work.  In order to burn more calories you have to elevate your heart rate." 

I don't have too much to comment on here.  This is generally correct.  Sweating more does not equal burning more calories.  You might just be in a sauna, like Oz suggested, or you may be trying to squat in a garage gym with no AC in the middle of a North Carolina summer and have a hard time keeping the bar on your back because it's so sweaty and you nearly pass out.  I dunno.

As far as needing to elevate your heart rate to burn more calories, I'm gonna admit that I'm not 100% on how true that is.  After all, you could go through a weightlifting session picking up heavy weights for few reps at a time not get your heart rate up that much while still burning a significant number of calories.

Anyway, they go on to do some cardio to elevate the heart rate.  Yay.

Myth #3: Stretching before a workout warms up the muscles

Dr. Oz: "Truth is you can actually injure muscles if you stretch before you warm up a little bit."

I've read many studies on the efficacy of static stretching before warming-up, but none mentioned static stretching actively injuring the muscles - just that they didn't prevent injury from happening too well.  I may be missing studies on this, however. (1, 2, 3)

Anderson: "Absolutely, it's about warming up, it's about connecting your brain to your muscles, getting focused, getting ready to burn calories, build muscle..."

Woah woah woah.  Is this segment a foreshadow to Anderson's impending endorsement of building muscle for women?  Considering that she just released her exercise routine for men to make them "skinny ripped" panthers, as opposed to big, bulky, overdeveloped bison, it seems unlikely.  But then again, strength training for women is catching on...

In any case, I've got nothing against a good warm-up that gets your mind right to do some awesome stuff in the gym. (or do 30 minutes of glorified arm circles, whichever)

"Range of Motion"

"Range of Motion"

In the segment, Anderson says the warm-up sequence she's demonstrating will work on your range of motion, however I could think of quite a few better ways to do so than doing a slight knee bend with a backwards-to-overhead arm reach. Could try something like:

  1. Spiderman Lunge x 10
  2. Bodyweight Squat x 10
  3. Laying Windmill x 8 each side
  4. Downward Dog to Plank x 10

But, whatever, not a really big deal.

Conclusion

We end with a product promotion and that's the end of it.  Seriously, that's all.  Nothing that makes me want to rage and claw my eyes out or facepalm.  It's not a segment I'd be particularly proud of, but it's not one that would make me want to hide under my bed in shame for the rest of my life, I suppose.

And that's the most positive endorsement you'll likely ever hear me say about Anderson.

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Summer abounds with month-long challenges: the 30 Day Squat Challenge, 30 Day Plank Challenge, 30 Day Body Transformation Challenge...it goes on.

This was the only picture I could find of a not half-naked butt.

Hell there's an entire website devoted to 30 Day Challenges.  I want to take a moment to talk about these challenges, and why they're so popular.

See if this sounds familiar:

What we WANT to happen after 30 days...

  • Day 1: I'm so excited to start this challenge!  It's a whole new way of life - but easy to do.  I'm going to look SO HOT in my shorts this summer.
  • Day 5: I'm pretty sore, so I know it's working.  I think my legs might be looking a little firmer!  It's hard work, but I've got this.
  • Day 15: Half way through!  I feel great, these squats are getting easier and easier.  They take a bit longer now, but it's no problem.  Man my legs look great.
  • Day 25: Finish line in sight!  In addition to doing a crap ton of squats everyday, I've been eating fresh veggies every meal and drinking a shitload of water out of my fancy water bottle.  It didn't even take any thought on my part.  I feel so light!  So pure.  Much healthy.
  • Day 30: Damn, my ass is fine.  I feel great.  It was tough, but this experience was truly rewarding and absolutely worth it.  Not to mention these results will last forever and I'm never going to have to squat again.

What ACTUALLY happens after 30 Days...

  • Day 1: I'm so excited to start this challenge!  It's a whole new way of life - but easy to do.  I'm going to look SO HOT in my shorts this summer.
  • Day 3: Holy fuck my thighs are sore.  I have to spend 5 minutes strategizing how to get on and off the toilet.  My coworkers spent all day asking why I was walking funny.  How embarrassing.
  • Day 4: I can't even do 5 squats like this.  Way too sore.  Good thing it's a rest day.
  • Day 5: Legs...so stiff...gonna have to take another day off.
  • Day 6: I dream of getting in and out of chairs without sounding like an angry boar.
  • Day 8: Okay.  Feeling better.  I got this.  So I guess I'll just have to pretend this is Day 5.  I'm feeling a little discouraged so I better look at some motivational quotes to get going:
Pinterest #5

"Fuck yeah! Let's do this!"

  • Day 12: Thankfully not feeling quite as sore, though getting in and out of chairs is still a bit difficult.  My main gripe is that I haven't seen ANY changes in my legs or butt...maybe they're a bit firmer?  I just can't tell.
  • Day 15: My knees hurt.
  • Day 17: Oh God my knees hurt.
  • Day 21: Had to take a day off and put some frozen peas on my knees.  Now I'm 4 days behind.  And I haven't seen any results.  Feeling discouraged.  Time for more motivational quotes:

"Ugh, how the hell does anyone actually look like that? Whatever, just keep going I guess..."

  • Day 22: Fuck this shit, I'm done.

And this is, for many people I know, how these challenges tend to go down.  But maybe not for those of you who start out a little less sedentary.  If you were exercising regularly before braving a challenge, you may complete the challenge just fine with little soreness involved.

And if you were proficient in squatting technique beforehand, maybe you'll never end up with aching knees.  Should you still do the challenge?

Reasons to do a 30 Day Squat Challenge:

  1. To build up some lower body muscular endurance
  2. Just for the hell of it

Yep, those are really about the only reasons I could think of.  Perhaps the best explanation as to why would be by explaining why you wouldn't want to do one.

Reasons NOT to do a 30 Day Squat Challenge:

  1. To "tone" your legs or butt
    As I went over in my muscle tone post, you'll be wanting to gain muscle and lose fat to achieve the "toned" look.  This workout accomplishes neither, really.  See point #3.
  2. To get stronger in the squat
    You'll get really good at doing over 200 squats in a row on this program, but you won't get really good at squatting heavier weight.
  3. To lose weight
    This may burn a few extra calories, but it isn't significant enough to make a big difference without diet changes as well. 

At the gym, we often joke when someone is doing 10+ barbell squats, that they're doing 'cardio squats' :

That's essentially how you can think of this program.

Here are some other reasons to pass up the next 30/60/90 Day Challenge your friends or coworkers start chatting about:

  • Not a well-balanced plan
    If you're doing a push-up challenge, do you ignore your legs?  If it's a butt challenge, do you ignore your upper body? Are you supposed to do these challenges on top of a regular workout routine?
  • Only one form of progression
    These challenges tend to only get harder in one way: by increasing reps.  While that's certainly one way of doing it, how do you keep improving?  Do you move all the way up to 1,000 reps a day?
  • Where do you go next?
    After you've completed the challenge, where do you go?  Do you move on to a push-up challenge and neglect your legs for a month?  Or do you go to another lower-body program that has you restart at 25 squats?
  • Not much is accomplished
    You're not building strength.  Not gaining muscle, not burning too many calories.  So in the end, what are you trying to accomplish?

I get the appeal of these kinds of challenges, I really do.  When you're not 100% sure what to do when it comes to fitness, having a solid plan written out by someone else is a huge relief.  It can even make working out more fun!  (I should know, I've paid someone to write my own personal workout program before, and I'm a trainer!)

As well, these challenges are stupid simple, don't usually require equipment (so they can be done alone at home), and promise you the world.  Plus, you'll get a real feeling of accomplishment after just 30 days.  Making real progress on your first pull-up or losing fat can leave you waiting a lot longer than that!

Moral

If they get you off the couch, challenges are fine!  If you're simply pushing yourself and keeping up with friends, they can be a ton of fun.

Just keep in mind they won't get you too much in the way of results.  For that, you'll need to eat at a caloric deficit and engage in some sort of strength-training program!

This week I'm re-hashing a very old post from my last blog.  Sadly attitudes towards female bodybuilders (and even male bodybuilders) by many hasn't changed much since.  I'm hoping that re-surfacing this post can help others to respect rather than be revolted by bodybuilders. 

Take a look at the two pictures below:

NaturalBodybuilders

They may not be very pleasing to your eyes.  It's probably not a physique you'd ever want to have.  You may even be a little disgusted.

It's completely fine to not want to look like a bodybuilder, I'd say most people don't.  However there's a trend I notice when talking about bodybuilders with many people that I do find a little troubling -

Bodybuilders are spoken of with disdain, with disgust, as though they were somehow less human than the rest of us merely because of their chosen sport.  As though because we don't like their physique ideals something about them must be flawed.

If you do a Google search for 'female bodybuilders,' the first link is entitled "Steroids gave me a penis."  Seriously?

In truth, bodybuilders are doing what most people want to accomplish, but to a higher degree: Losing fat and gaining muscle.  They're experts at it.  Thankfully for most of us, we don't have to work half as hard as a bodybuilder must to achieve our goals.

I'm hoping that this post will serve two purposes:

  1. Lend more evidence to why merely doing strength training is not enough to 'bulk' you up.  We'll take a look at how some bodybuilders train - it's probably a bit different than your typical strength routine!  Bodybuilders would love if they could just wake up one morning HUGE from a few months of strength training!
  2. Come to respect bodybuilders for their resolve, consistency and dedication to their sport instead of being repulsed by it.

Competition Divisions

Back in the day of Arnold Schwarzenegger and crew, bodybuilding was pretty simple.  Nowadays there are several different divisions, each with their own judging criteria.  It can get a little confusing.

In general though, all of the competitions are looking for some degree of muscle size, the best muscle symmetry and proportion, as well as a certain degree of muscle definition.

The fake tans caked on so liberally that competitors' heads look photoshopped on, oil, and minimal clothing isn't just to look as strange and inhuman as possible.  It's to enhance muscle definition and make it more visible to judges.

Let's define the different types of body aesthetic competitions:

Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding competitions have simple goals: Get as much muscle and as little bodyfat as possible, while maintaining good symmetry and proportion. (As in, not having one shoulder larger than the other and not having quads that are out of proportion with your hamstrings)

There are drug-tested bodybuilding competitions (the two bodybuilders at the beginning of the post are "natural" competitors), and then there are open divisions where basically anything goes.  That's where you'll find your Jay Cutlers, Ronnie Coleman's and Iris Kyle's.

Iris Kyle looks like she cares a lot about your opinion of her body.

In addition to the spray tans, oil, etc. mentioned above, dehydration and lifting weights before going on stage (in combination with drastically low body fat percentages) are some other techniques used to help increase vascularity and get that really 'shredded' look.  Before going on stage a competitor may also take in a high amount of carbohydrates in order to make the muscles appear fuller and larger.

Physique

Female physique competitors

Very similar to bodybuilding, except competitors can get marked down for having too much muscle.  That's really the main difference.  Sort of seems like an option for women looking to be muscular and compete but still retain a more traditionally "feminine" shape - but don't quote me on that.

Fitness

A step down again in terms of muscle size, leanness, and vascularity requirements.  However competitors in this division typically have to do some kind of routine that combines aspects of strength / flexibility, so a greater degree of athleticism is required.

Figure

Like the Fitness division, minus the routine.

Bikini

Bikini Competitors

I'll admit, I'm not sure what exactly judges look for in this division, because the only judging criteria from the NPC (National Physique Committee) website are:

  • Balance and Shape
  • Overall physical appearance including complexion, skin tone, poise and overall presentation.

So, perhaps a step down from figure.  Judging by the pictures of most bikini competitors, that's accurate: fairly lean, not much muscle definition.

Note: I thought Scott Abel's take on 'watering-down' bodybuilding competitions was interesting.  There is a lot of talk about the dangers of deciding to compete in figure and bikini competitions going on lately.  Take a few minutes to listen to this podcast starting at 12:48.

Bodybuilding Exercise Routines

Bodybuilders spend a lot of time in the gym.  The stereotypical "bodybuilding split" workout typically involves 4-5 days a week and tons of volume. (Competitors on drugs can recover faster and thus do more work) That takes quite a chunk of time each week.  To give you an idea, here's a sample day from competitor Josh McMillan:

*2 warm up sets of 15 reps, seated dumbbell curls, then:

  1. INCLINE SEATED DBELL CURLS (SUPINATED)-
    4 sets of 6 reps (slow deceleration), then 6 hammers.
  2. BARBELL REVERSE CURLS (to forehead)-
    3 sets of 12 reps (3 second decel)
  3. HIGH PULLEY MACHINE CURLS-
    3 sets to failure (around 15-20 rep range)
    *2 warm up sets of tricep push downs
  4. TRICEP ROPE PUSHDOWNS-
    4 sets of 12 reps w/flex
  5. ONE ARM REVERSE TRICEP PUSHDOWNS
    3 sets of 10 reps
  6. BENCH DIPS-
    3 sets to failure
  7. MACHINE SHRUGS-
    4 sets to failure

A bit more work than most put in on a typical day - done 4 or 5 times per week.  Doing exercises to failure is not pleasant.  It burns.  Your body begs you to stop but you must have the mental fortitude to push through it anyway.  Rinse, repeat again the next day.

This doesn't count the cardio that many competitors put in.  It varies from competitor to competitor, and you'll find many arguments for and against excessive cardio.  But at the end of the day most will do some form of cardio in the weeks leading up to a competition.

I got to interview Staci, a natural female bodybuilder in the 118-132lb weight group.  She gave me a general idea of how much time she spent in the gym and how much cardio she also did on top of regular training:

"During off season, I am in the gym for 1 hour a day for weight training 4 days a week and cardio will take up 2 of those other days, with 1 day full rest. When I am cutting for competition, I am in the gym in the morning for HITT (High Intensity Interval Training) before breakfast and for another hour later in the day for weights. I will do this for 4 days, and depending on energy levels, I will put in a few more cardio sessions the other 3 days as well."

Now bear in mind, this is just a sample.  Bodybuilding requires you to take note of whether or not an exercise is working for you, whether or not you should consider a different angle on the bench when you're doing incline bench press, whether or not you should widen or narrow your grip, are you making sure to target both your soleus and your gastrocnemius on calf day?

Bodybuilders need to have a good, basic understanding of human anatomy to be successful.  How can you make a muscle bigger when you don't know it exists?  How can you make sure a muscle is activating unless you know what its function is and what bone it attaches to? (You could always read blog posts, I guess!)

So if one needs to have a broad knowledge base in anatomy and physiology (or hire someone who does) to be successful in bodybuilding, where did this stereotype come from?

Bodybuilding Diets 

Dieting for a show can get pretty grueling - not to mention boring.  Ask any competitor.

If you think that your diet is restrictive, try a bodybuilder's who is preparing for competition.  Men strive to reach levels of 3-8% bodyfat, women around 9-15%.  For reference, average bodyfat percentage for men is 18-25% and for women is 25-31%.  How do you have to eat to get to these numbers?  I asked my friend Charlie, and he had this to say about dieting for competition:

"The diet is the tough part. Lifting is fun, being hungry for 12-16 weeks is not. Diet for competition is usually a low carb diet... total calories 1700-2000. The target is no more than 2lbs of weight lost a week, anything more your losing muscle. Off season diet is 3500-4000 calories a day with protein being about the same, but way more carbs...

Three weeks out from the show I wanted to quit. I was grumpy, tired, hungry, and wondered was it all worth it. I didn't quit, because I knew I would beat myself up if I did. The diet messes with your mind. You question everything your doing and wonder if you're screwing up. This is why I think a coach is the most important thing you can have. Someone to talk you off the ledge, to have a sane mind that can hold you to the plan and can gauge your progress and make adjustments without sabotaging everything."

In the weeks leading up to the show, all food is logged.  How many ounces of chicken, exactly how many almonds, how many grams of plain oats?  Exact calories and macronutrient levels must be measured.  There can be no cheating involved - you bring your food to work, to restraunts, to birthday parties and holidays.  Research the correct supplements (legal or not, depending on your division), take them at the exact right times according to your training each day.  Any deviation might mean the different between first and last place.

And then there's the post-competition diet.  You don't want to completely de-rail for a month (though many do) and get fat, since it's just that much more weight you'll have to lose before the next show.  But to gain muscle, you do have to eat at a caloric surplus.  It's a fine balance between eating enough to gain muscle and support your workouts, but not so much you gain 50 pounds of fat.

Staci had this to say about switching between phases:

"The main difference between off season eating and pre-contest diet is the amount of calories. When I am bulking, I aim for about 2500 to 3000 cals a day. When cutting, I am looking at around 1400 to 1000 cals, depending on the workout for the day. Macros will move up or down, obviously but keep protein very very high...

The transition can be grueling. The key is to not reduce the amounts to quickly, as you will almost go in to shock psychologically and mentally. Obviously your body is use to taking in so much, and when it is not receiving, it will come back to bite you...[[One time]] I cut my cals too quickly and had a difficult time functioning, as far as speech, cognitive and emotionally. It was an eye opener to see just how much this affects you."

Now obviously if you found female bodybuilders less than easy on the eyes before this post, nothing above will have changed that.

But how about we show these ladies (and gents) a little respect for the tremendous amount of work they do and do away with comments like these:

FemaleBodybuilders

How about we stop being "afraid" of getting too "bulky" as though that's a bad thing or the only reason to lift weights?  Again, bodybuilders would LOVE it if it were that easy.  Hopefully we can see now that's not the case.

Even in light of all this, the physique of a bodybuilder will probably be continually unappealing.  And that's okay.  Take a look at this video of a young female bodybuilder:

Chances are good she doesn't care if you think she's too manly looking, or that some random dude on the internet wouldn't have sex with her.  But I just want you to look at the confidence she exudes while on stage.  Just from her body language you can see the hard work she put in, the dedication, and you can tell she knows she's amazing.

Even if you don't want to look like her, we should respect her for her resolve.  We should respect her for having the guts to even decide to prepare to get up on that stage.  We should respect her for the respect she has for herself.

That's something that we should all strive for, no matter in what manner.

2 Comments

There's an old adage of the internet: Never read the comments section.

Most of the time this is good advice.  If you get easily frustrated at misinformed opinions, have a hard time controlling what you say to internet strangers, or just want to save yourself the pain of a dozen facepalms, then yeah, comments may not be for you.

(From The Oatmeal)

(From The Oatmeal)

But I almost never follow this rule.

Before I write about a certain topic, I try to do a fair amount of research on it.  This leads me to some heated discussions at times.

There are battles being waged in blog posts and news articles around the net.  Some of them still rage on, some of them are now just smoldering ruins of harsh words and hurt egos with no real victor.

Some common weapons used by these fierce internet warriors are ad hominems and appeals to authority, among other masterful forms of name-calling and condescension.

This is how I imagine flame wars.

This is how I imagine flame wars.

We can do better than that.

The internet is a fantastic medium to have a debate on a particular topic:

1) With in-person debates, if you take time to gather your thoughts and make a smart rebuttal, it can seem like you don't have a retort at all.  You look bad.  Try to fill it in with meaningless fluff, and someone, somewhere will call you out on it.  Lose-lose.

With internet debates, however, you not only have your opponent's arguments in front of your face, verbatim, but you have time to gather your thoughts and articulate them in an organized manner.

2) I remember in the last presidential debates, Obama and Romney were debating about oil costs.  It went something like:

Obama: Costs are down from four years ago.
Romney: Actually, they aren't.  They're up <some specific number> percentage!
Obama: No, your information is out-dated.
Romney: No it's not.
Obama: Yes it is.

What could the listener have possibly learned from that?  When you don't have proof in hand, there's no amount of words that can thoroughly de-bunk your opponent in the heat of the moment.

True, you could fact check after the debate, but most viewers aren't going to do that.  With the glory of the internet, you can link to your sources right in your argument!  How fantastic!

3) If a certain piece of information isn't known between the two debating, others can chime in to help fill gaps on knowledge so the debate can continue.Because no one is literally talking over eachother (you can just skip to the comments you want to read), things are much less confusing.

Sadly many of us don't take advantage of this.  I'm not innocent - there have been plenty of times I just had such a witty response to a stupid comment that I couldn't wait to hit the submit button.  I've regretted it everytime.  The only purpose such a comment serves is to make the commenter feel smart.

If you couldn't tell, I feel that internet debates could be a great tool for change.  If you agree, here are 4 things to keep in mind when engaging in yet another discussion on GMOs or the latest T-nation 'cardio makes you fat' article:

1) When you engage in debate, your goal is NOT to convince the person you are debating

During an argument you've probably told yourself "what's the point, he'll never change his mind."  And it's true.  How many times have you engaged in a debate and had your opponent conceded defeat?  It's been known to happen, but it's only like 5% of the time, via a statistic I just made up.

When it's become clear that your debate is a stalemate, comments like "We'll just have to agree to disagree," or this show up:

InternetDebates2

A message like the above also makes you seem like an asshole, which is rather unhelpful.

Approach your arguments with the knowledge that you're not going to win.  Your objective is to educate and persuade the audience.  Trust me, there is always an audience of lurkers who you will never speak to.  You'll probably never know they exist at all unless they post something about getting out popcorn for the impending argument.

I spent 6 years just reading about exercise and nutrition before I ever made a single comment or assertion on any message board.  We're out there.

So even when you know the person you debate isn't going to address the studies you cited or refute solid arguments you gave, keep pushing them to do so.  When they resort to name-calling, anecdotes, conjecture, and excessive obscenity, remain level-headed and positive.  This way you avoid alienating anyone who may be listening.

Keep responding as long as you can do this for the benefit of your audience.  You're giving them ammunition to try out on their own in any debates they do choose to engage in.  And if anything, you're teaching everyone what an argument should actually look like.

2) Yes, it is your job to educate people

If you care about a subject (say, de-bunking the myth that red meat is inherently bad for you), then when someone says "but what about The China Study?" for the umpteenth time, it is your duty to answer them.

You don't have to write out a unique answer for every comment, but at least be prepared to give out appropriate resources for commonly asked questions. ("I watched this documentary Forks over Knives and it said...")

Having FAQs if you have a website on a controversial topic is helpful, but dismissing people's questions with a derisive "Read the fucking FAQ" is not.  Simply stating that there are resources out there is equally unhelpful.  Make it EASY for the person you're debating (well, more importantly for the people reading along) to see how you came to your conclusions.

InternetDebates1

What books exactly? What number of press releases are appropriate?

I know it can be very frustrating to answer the same questions over and over (spot-reduction and "toning" anyone?), but while they are old news to you, they are brand new to the person who is asking.  They're not idiots and they're not being willfully ignorant.  If you turn away someone who is actively seeking to expand their knowledge, you are not representing your cause very well.

3) Always go back to the science

Reuters put out an article recently about the number of people who believe in medical conspiracy theories.  While these kinds of stories are probably old news to many of my readers, as the article states there are plenty of people who still believe in them.

What can you do when someone believes in 'conspiracy theories'?  Are they beyond saving?

Well, if someone believes that herbal supplements are the best way to treat cancer, calling their belief a 'conspiracy theory' right off the bat is probably not the best place to start.  They obviously don't see it that way.

In a similar vein, what good does it do to tell someone "The FDA cleared it" when debating GMO's if they already distrust the government and think they're in bed with Monsanto?

If someone has had bad experiences with doctors their whole life, will the argument of "The AMA stands behind it" help in a conversation about vaccines?

Regardless of how much sense it can make to call upon these arguments, for some people they will fall on deaf ears.  In this case you must always fall back on the scientific studies that the FDA or AMA based their judgments off of.

"But Kat," you say, "the studies probably won't mean anything to them.  Many of these studies are not lay-person friendly."

That's absolutely true.  Not being able to comprehend studies is a huge issue in these kinds of arguments and why it's so important that everyone gets a basic understanding in how they work.  (Even then it's not enough to say you'll be able to understand as well as someone who actually works in the field) Unfortunately that's another topic for another day.

Sometimes you are just going to have to let someone go when they fall back on arguments that are impossible to refute. ("All of these studies are secretly funded by Monsanto", "there is literally nothing you could say to change my mind", etc.) The best you can hope for is that your audience doesn't feel the same way.

4) Be humble.

You (usually) never know when someone will come out with a new study that blows your beliefs out of the water.  They may even confirm the opposite and you'll have an awful lot of apologizing to do.  (If you wonder why researchers seem to just refuse to say things in certain and clear-cut terms, that's why.)

Got any other suggestions?  Think I'm crazy and that humanity is inevitably doomed?  Wonder if I've ever seen Idiocracy? (yes) Let me know!

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.

7 Comments

This video is low-hanging fruit, I'll admit it.  But it was such a perfect compilation of the flawed language used by the fitness industry at large that I couldn't resist the opportunity.

First of all, let's watch this thing, then go over it line by line.

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.

  1. "Sexy" is subjective, but I suppose we'll assume that it entails the next three adjectives.
  2. "Tone" could be added to your legs through exercise, true.  (Although I loathe that word for a myriad of reasons)
  3. "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.
  4. "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.

HeidiHeels

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!

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...)

Conclusion

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.