Tag Archives: Fat loss

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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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Weight loss certainly has been made a bit confusing over the past few decades.

Not only have you had to worry about if you're eating too much fat, now you have to worry if you're eating enough of the right kind of fat. (Olive oil was one of the good ones, right?  But they also say vegetable oils are bad.  Are olives vegetables...?)

More recently, you've been reading that you shouldn't eat too much sugar.  But only certain kinds of sugar.  Processed sugar is bad.  (Which means like...bread and candy, you're pretty sure, but does that also count dark chocolate?  Wasn't that supposed to be good for you?) And fructose is also bad.  But fruits have fructose...so...what are you allowed to eat again?

I like to partake in the occasional internet meme.

Lately you've been reading that people need to make sure they're eating enough food when trying to lose weight.  What does that mean?  Are they talking about how you need to avoid going into "starvation mode"?  So now not only do you have to balance eating the right kinds of foods, you have to make sure you're not eating too little on top of making sure to not eat too much.

Why are you so weird, stock photos? No one smiles when looking at nutrition labels.

Yikes.  No wonder we all seem to struggle with weight loss.

It doesn't have to be so complicated

So the majority of those first two paragraphs is a mixture of bullshit and things you really don't need to worry about. Magazines, newspapers, talk shows and online publications have a LOT of space and air time to kill.  To avoid talking about the exact same thing over and over, they tend to focus on generating a crap ton of small things that none of us would have to think about if we expanded our vegetable intake from shredded iceberg lettuce in Taco Bell tacos to broccoli and eggplants.

Have olive oil.  Eat fruit.  Eat some bread.  Dip your bread into olive oil with a side of grapes. Relax.

But what about that last one?

Up until a few years ago, I was very confused about what people really meant when they would suspect out loud that maybe they weren't eating enough on their diet.  And no wonder it confused me - it's doubtful that they really knew what they meant either.

Usually it's some notion of "you need to eat enough so you don't go into starve mode," and when you ask what starvation mode is, the answer is typically even more confused. Something along the lines of "if you don't eat enough your body thinks it's starving and won't let you lose anymore weight."

How true is that?

Starvation mode probably isn't what you think

"Starvation Mode" is really just a series of metabolic changes that happen when you lose weight.  The changes are twofold:

  1. Your body resisting the fat loss - increasing your hunger, decreasing your subconscious activity levels (such as foot tapping, leg shaking, your motivation to find a really close parking spot - all referred to as NEAT)
  2. As you lose weight, your body just doesn't require as many calories to maintain itself. A 300-pound person will always have a higher metabolism than a 100-pound person if activity levels are similar

The steeper your deficit, it becomes more likely that you will down-regulate your metabolism faster than you should, but you will never reach a point where it is "impossible" to burn fat. You're not likely to get to a spot where you can't lose weight on 1,200 calories a day.

So how do people eat more to lose weight?

Because in the long-term, they're actually eating less.

Tell me if this scenario rings any bells:

Monday: My diet starts today!  I've got my MyFitnessPal account set up.  1,200 calories a day and I'll be losing 2 pounds per week - I'll get this weight off in no time.

I went grocery shopping yesterday and bought fruits, veggies and lean meats - I did the math and bread and chocolate just have too many calories.  I threw away all the junk food in my house despite my partner's protests.  I'm serious this time.  This time I really commit and make a change.

Tuesday / Wednesday: Man, my sugar addiction must have been worse than I thought!  3 days of veggies and meat and I'm DYING for some chocolate and pastries.  But, I must teach my body that FRUIT is my dessert now!  Time to sit down to some blueberries in non-fat plain greek yogurt!  Tastes just like blueberry pie...!

....

...okay, no it doesn't...

Thursday: Today I looked at the instagram of a figure competitor for some motivation. Knowing that there are really hot people out there who eat mainly broccoli, sweet potatoes, and chicken breasts in tupperware containers makes this process more inspiring.

A new take on "food porn"

Friday: My girlfriends went out for dinner tonight, but I know that if I go out I'm just going to drink wine and eat too much bread.  ...worth...it........?

Saturday: I was really depressed after not going out last night, so when my partner wanted to go to brunch this morning I couldn't say no.  I got the egg white omelette, but he got the pancakes and gave me one.  Ugh.  Totally screwed up.

Sunday: Wow, I really fell off the wagon yesterday.  It all went downhill after that pancake.  I couldn't get enough - we went out for dinner and I got a huge dish AND dessert AND wine. Ugh, I feel so fat.  I don't know how I ate that much in one day.

Monday: I went out to the movies yesterday and ate an entire large popcorn almost entirely by myself.  On top of going out to eat twice. Time to get back on the wagon.  I better only eat 1,000 calories per day this week to make up for what I did over the weekend...

Repeat week in, week out.  Let's look at this in number form.  Suppose your TDEE (the total amount of calories your body needs to maintain its weight) is about 2,000 calories per day.

That means to maintain your weight, you need to eat 14,000 calories per week.  If you want to lose weight, you need to eat less than that.  Even if you go a little overboard on the weekend, you should still be losing weight, right?

  • Monday - Friday: 1,200 x 5 = 6,000
  • Saturday - Sunday: 4,000 x 2 = 8,000
  • Total: 14,000

Suddenly no more deficit.

You may be thinking "there's no way in hell I eat 4,000 calories in one day!"  Sadly, it's a lot easier than you might think:

  • Breakfast: Starbucks Vanilla Frappucino (Grande) & Blueberry Scone - 800 calories
  • Snack: Granola Bar - 200 calories
  • Lunch: Subway foot-long Chicken Teriyaki with chips and a sprite - 1,090 calories
  • Snack: Gas station slushie - 300 calories
  • Dinner: 1/2 Rack Outback Baby Back Ribs, mashed potatoes, 1/3rd of a piece of chocolate cake & 2 glasses of red wine - 1,800 calories
  • Total: 4190 calories.  Whooooopsie.

It doesn't even have to be in concentrated meals.  Maybe you eat the entirety of a tub of icecream over 2 days.  Maybe it's a bag of M&M's you have beside you while you're watching TV.  Maybe it's getting all the fixings plus a crap ton of dressing on your salad.

1,690 calories right there.

I've done this.  I know the feeling of eating more than you ever thought possible but still finding room - and the motivation - to eat more.  It's almost depressing.

But the solution for me wasn't to cut more calories during the week to "make up" for binges that I thought were just inevitable.  My solution was to eat more during the week so that binges never happened.  

"Eat more to lose weight" needs to be re-phrased

A more appropriate, but much less sound-bite-worthy phrase would be "eat more calories throughout the week instead of at huge deficits so that over the course of a week or two you are actually eating less overall."

Instead of shooting for a huge deficit, why not try a much smaller one?  See if this week plan sounds better to you:

Monday: Today I'm going to make a lifestyle change.  I'm not going to starve myself this time around - but if I'm honest with myself I really don't need as much food as I've been eating.  I can reasonably cut my portions by a quarter or a fifth and lose weight.  It won't be as quick, but I'm in this for the long haul.

Tuesday - Thursday: This is actually going a bit easier than I thought.  It takes some conscious effort, but I think over the long-term I won't have to think about it so much.

For dinner, I am eating just a little bit less of my usual steak and potatoes.  I usually crave sugar around 3 PM and cave into some Oreos, but instead I just added some chocolate squares or my favorite kind of granola bar onto lunch, and I found that the craving was gone.

Friday: I went out with my girlfriends for dinner tonight!  I usually try to "save up" calories throughout the day when I know I'm about to go out to eat, but I decided to eat normally. I was able to stick to 1 slice of bread from the basket, and I wasn't starving so I was able to enjoy my steak without going overboard.  I actually couldn't finish the whole thing.

Saturday: Went out to brunch with my partner.  Got some eggs benedict and snuck a couple of bites of the pancakes he got!  Wasn't super hungry at lunch after that, so I stuck to the 6-inch sub.  Dinner was delicious - but the chocolate cake was so rich I could only stand a few bites.  They were AMAZING though!

Sunday:  Went to the movies and got a small popcorn.  I basically always eat the whole thing while I'm there - I've heard mindless eating is a huge thing at the movies.  But thankfully there wasn't too much in the small, and I wasn't as hungry for the rest of the day.

Monday: The scale didn't change too much.  But it's only been one week, and I know I ate less than I normally do.  And the best part is, this is the first week on any diet I've ever been on where I haven't been tempted to binge.  I think I can keep this up.  I'm proud of myself!

So taking our same person with a 2,000 calorie TDEE (14,000 calories per week) who is shooting for 1,800 calories per day.  Hell, I'll even say on that Saturday she ate more:

  • Monday-Friday: 1,800 x 5 = 9,000
  • Saturday: 2,100
  • Sunday: 1,900
  • Total: 13,000

You've suddenly gone from a miserable week with no deficit to a fairly sustainable week with a 1,000 calorie deficit.  It's not huge, but it's better than nothing and more likely to be sustainable in the long-term.

Moral:

Eat more to lose weight means:

  1. Eating at a small deficit rather than a huge one.  This is to avoid the intense hunger pangs and binging that lead to a halt or reverse in your weight-loss progress.
  2. Your NEAT activities won't decrease as much, meaning that your TDEE doesn't decline so sharply.
  3. You will have more level and sustained energy for your workouts instead of swinging from "no energy" on your low-calorie days to "too bloated to move" on binge days.

All of these things lead to a more enjoyable weight-loss experience - one that is more sustainable and successful over the long term.

I hope that this clears things up a bit - if you've got more questions or comments, leave them below or give me a shout on Facebook!

P.S. I'd feel remiss if I didn't mention Leigh Peele's book "Starve Mode" if you're interested in more details about the metabolic changes that can happen when you lose weight.

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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.

Chapter / Rule 12 - Lay off ALL Booze!

I'll start off with something positive here.  Going out to drink will not help you get closer to any weight loss goals you may have, I agree with Harper there.

However, I don't feel we need to demonize booze to get that point across.  You're smart, you know alcohol has calories.  If you recognize that and still want to go out and have a good time, by all means, go for it.  If you only give yourself 3 weeks to lose as much weight as possible, then yeah, it doesn't sound like a good plan.

But if you're getting ready for a wedding (one of the examples for why one may need this diet program that Harper states over and over), do you want to miss out having fun with your friends on your bachelor / bachelorette party?  Are you going to drink at your rehearsal dinners?  To each their own, and if you don't need to drink to have a good time, more power to you.  But personally I'd be a little upset if I didn't get every ounce of joy from those once-in-a-lifetime experiences to try and look slightly thinner in some pictures.

Anyway, that's all fluff.  Let's go over the justifications on why to not drink alcohol:

"Alcohol...is a central nervous system depressant.  You don't ever want that..."

Probably a time you'd want a little liquid courage.

Probably a time you'd want a little central nervous system depression.

Many bar-goers beg to differ! (Fun fact, did you know that archery competitions typically ban alcohol since it calms archer's nerves, decreasing hand tremors and improving accuracy?)

"Booze will alter your metabolism and slow down fat-burning."

Now this isn't an untrue statement.  But I think many people see statements like this and assume that consuming alcohol will decrease your metabolic rate in general, for which I haven't found any good evidence - please correct me if I'm wrong.  (I actually found a study - albeit a very old, small one - showing that it increases metabolism)

However, your body will process alcohol before anything else, by proxy lowering specifically "fat-burning."  We've mentioned before that it doesn't matter too much if your body is burning fat or carbohydrates - everything will catch up eventually if you're eating at a caloric deficit.

"...then there's the simple fact that this is a low-calorie, three-week diet, and alcohol contains calories..."

Very true.  If you're eating 800 calories a day, it would be best to get those calories from nutritious foods.  (But you should probably not only be eating 800 calories a day.  I think I've said that a couple of times.)

"Last but not least, it may surprise you that my objection to alcohol while on Jumpstart is less about calorie intake...

Every now and then, while driving home late at night...I see a line of guys outside the local open-late burger place.  All of them fat and...drunk."

Typically what the line at Cook-Out in Durham looks like at 1:00 AM.

Typically what the line at Cook Out in Durham looks like at 1:00 AM.

Harper then goes on to describe what all of us are probably familiar with - late night drunken food runs to Cook Out or Taco Bell.

(Sooo it is about calorie intake then?)

Who hasn't done that once or twice?  But I feel compelled to mention that there are plenty of skinny people who have this habit as well.  Will drinking 800 calories of beer followed by a 2,000 calorie hush-puppy & corndog combo help you lose weight?  No - but that doesn't mean there aren't people who do this on occasion without being fat.

I suppose my issue with him implying only fat people have this habit is that it says you're not allowed to party or have fun if you want to be at a reasonable weight, which is simply untrue.  Being thin does not mean subjecting yourself to a life of constant restriction and misery.

Moral: Alcohol doesn't seem to lower your metabolism.  (Correct me if I'm wrong) However, it does have calories and can lower your inhibitions towards food which will not help you achieve your weight loss goals.  Sure is fun though.

Chapter / Rule 13 - An espresso a day...or two or three

Coffee has had quite a few news articles singing its praises.  (Not endorsing that article, just showing there are a lot of claims around coffee)

Harper agrees with a few of them and gives us a couple of studies:

  1. This study showing that coffee consumption is correlated with lowered risk of metabolic syndrome in men.
  2. Another study showing that dark roast coffee had more antioxidants than light roast and that it contributed to "significant" body weight reduction.

A few issues with using the first study:

  • Diet was assessed through questionnaire, which as we know by this point can be prone to error.
  • There was no corresponding correlation with the women in the study, which is suspect.
  • The study acknowledged that this is an association and not enough to prove causation.

With study #2, the full text is really required.  I will try to get access to it and amend this post - the abstract gives no context to the claim of "significant" body weight reduction.

French people drink coffee.  French people are thin.  Therefore coffee makes you thin.

French people drink coffee. French people are thin. Therefore coffee makes you thin.

Anyway, coffee has claims to increase fat metabolism (although whether the broken down fat gets used more readily as fuel during exercise over existing carbohydrates doesn't seem to be clear), and it also serves as an appetite depressant! (it is possible that decaffeinated coffee does a better job of this)

Harper makes a last point about why you should drink coffee on this plan - it will get your energy up for the workouts he'll talk about later.  And on 800 calories a day, you'll need all the help you can get.  I personally drink caffeine during my workouts - it may be placebo but I feel it helps me stay focused and energized when I'm going up for my eighth set of squats or whatever.

Moral: Coffee can be helpful for the dieter due to appetite-suppressing qualities.  It could increase fat metabolism during exercise, maybe.  As well, the increase in energy can help improve your performance during workouts.

Whew!  Okay, that's a lot of rules.

But wait, there's more!

This book also contains a lovely workout plan, which I will enjoy reviewing in a bonus section!

'Let's Sharpen Our Bullshit Detectors' Update

Still working on my little guidebook for navigating the health & fitness industry.  I'm about done and all I need are a couple of people who would be willing to give it a critique.  I'm sure I've missed quite a few typos and there are probably some segments that don't make any sense.  I could use another pair of eyes, so if you'd like to help me out, just shoot me an email at:

kat@capitalstrength.com

2 Comments

With no powerlifting meets on the horizon, a host of bodyweight exercises I want to master and feeling a general lull in my training, I figured it's about that time of year again:  I'm gonna lose some weight.  (I'd be lying if I said it wasn't for some aesthetic reasons as well.)  Last year I went through this journey experimenting with intermittent fasting, carb cycling and performing zero cardio to achieve my goals.  Unfortunately, I think I made a mistake in getting down to a mere 1,200 calories on rest days and 1,500 on workout days.  This time around, I want to ask; can I drop to an even lower weight without dropping the calories so low?

I've been spending the last few months trying to hash out what I want to test on this new round of fat loss.  After a bit of deliberation, I've set out a rough plan for what I'm going to do for the next few months:

Phase 1: Eating 'clean'

The first phase will probably be 2-3 months in duration.  Eating 'clean' seems to be a really popular idea among people trying to optimize their health and weight.  It's appealing for a number of reasons, most important for a lot of people being the idea that as long as you're 'eating clean' you don't need to count your calories.  Whether it's because when eating minimally processed 'clean' foods you'll feel full when you're meant to, or because you subscribe to the idea that 'a calorie is not just a calorie,' it's presumed that there is no need to weigh and measure your food.

Well, that suits me just fine because the few times in my life I've tried to keep an online food log and be super precise with my eating, I've gotten rather agitated and annoyed - which will make Phase 2 and 3 particularly tough.

Phase 2: Meticulous Weighing 

I'm really not a type-A personality.  I don't feel the need to know exactly what I'm putting in my mouth at all times - I'm okay with a little ambiguity.  Unfortunately for this phase though, I'm going to need to weigh, measure, and calculate the nutritional profile of everything I put in my mouth.  This phase will last until I reach a few pounds below the top end of the weight class I want to compete in.  (132.5 lb. up to 148.5 lb, so I'll stop around 145lbs)

Phase 3: How much can I eat?

I recently watched a video about the kind of metabolic damage that figure athletes / bodybuilder / average dieters (particularly women) go through when trying to cut down their weight.

While I don't think I'm suffering from a particularly low metabolism, it sure does sound fun to see just how far I push my calories without gaining back more than 3-5 pounds.  This will be a ridiculously slow process, so I'm not sure how long this phase will last.

Where I'm Starting

When last we left, I was weighing in at 154.  Nowadays I've gone up to ~160, which is a weight that's been holding relatively steady regardless of what I've been eating (within reason of course).  I did sort of push the calories the past few months in anticipation of this upcoming experiment, so hopefully I'll have a little more room to work with!  The past 2 weeks I've tracked my weight daily to see what the natural fluctuations are:

WG (4-29, 5-13)

Safe to say I'm starting at 160!  I'll end this post with some starting pictures.  Here's to hoping for some more flattering ones in the future!

Taken 5/12/13:

photo 1Side (5-13)Back (5-13)BackF (5-13)

People often seem surprised when I tell them how much I weigh.  They ask me where I keep it all.  I'll leave that for you to figure out!

Oh yeah and I made a new site.