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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.

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

Bangin' Burger Bikini Body

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

Get Jennifer Lopez's Abs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gym Friend / Food Friend

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

Our fridge friends are cherries, red grapes and blueberries.

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

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

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

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

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

Get Jennifer Aniston's Arms

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

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

Michelle Obama arms

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

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

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

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

Gym / Fridge Friend

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

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

Our fridge friends are eggs, salmon and lean meat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten-Second Marketing Segue

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

EllipsesEverywhere

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

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

The opening statement

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

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

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

...What?

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

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

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

Here's Anderson lifting something heavier than 3 pounds.

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

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

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

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

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

Get Kim Kardashian's Butt 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The things Anderson says just don't add up.

Gym Friend / Food Friend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chapter / Rule 17 - Eat Your Vegetables - Just Do It!

It's finally happened.  I found a chapter that I have basically no greivences with.  Vegetables are swell.  They can taste good if you learn to cook them right.  I agree with all this.

...What do I do now?  What do I use this space for?  No witty or sarcastic disagreements.  No silly pictures with ridiculous captions.  I got nothing.

Moral: Vegetables are a lovely weight loss tool.  They aren't magic, but they are very filling and tend to help you eat less, while simultaneously being nutritious.  Going to go sit in a corner and re-evaluate my life now.

Chapter / Rule 18 - Go To Bed Hungry

Oh good, something for me to vehemently disagree with.  I was a little concerned for my mental health after that last chapter there.  Let's take this opportunity to point out some really stupid quotes:

"...overweight people are often lonely and anxious; eating before bed is nerve-settling, comforting."

Well that sounds like a bit of an over-generalization...

"The absence of carbs in your bloodstream will let your body produce the hormones it needs for better sleep."

Come again?

In fact, in looking up what he could be talking about, I came across many articles that encouraged eating carbs before bed to help you get to sleep.  If you use Harper's logic about no carbs after lunch, it would make sense.  He says in that chapter that carbs make you sleepy.  So...why am I going to bed hungry again?  Sounds like a perfect occasion to eat cake to me.

This is me about 10 minutes post-Thanksgiving dessert.

"Denied fuel for more than 5 hours, your body will start burning its own fat and sugar.  That means that, if your dinner was at 8PM, you're burning fat by 1AM."

Again....what?

Your body doesn't work that simplistically.  It's not about trying to trick your body's processes into burning ONLY FAT EVER - it's about letting it do its own thing while just giving it a little less fuel total than it needs.  And that little less fuel could be done over the course of a day, over the course of a week, month, year, whatever.

And in any case, your body is probably burning mostly fat while you're sitting at your computer reading this.  It's just not burning very much of it.  Because you're just sitting around.  Same for when you're sleeping.

It doesn't even matter if your body is burning fat or glycogen anyway.  If you have eaten less than you need to function, your body will eventually get around to losing fat, whether you burned away fat directly or you burned out some glycogen stores.  IT DOES NOT MATTER.

So that 'fat-burning' zone on the treadmill?  You can forget about it.  Becoming 'fat-adapted'?  Pointless.  Calories reign supreme.

Moral: Going to bed hungry is not something we should aspire to.   When you are aspiring to the lifestyle forced upon people who can't afford food, you should really re-think your choices.

Chapter / Rule 19 - Sleep Right

Oh no...it's happening again.  A chapter I generally agree with.  Umm...okay...what did I do here last time.   Just cut straight to the moral.  Right.  But this time I'll add in a cute puppy:

Taken from 16-horsepower.tumblr.com

 Moral: Sleep is good.  It will make your weight-loss efforts easier to stick with.  You'll feel better, have more energy to do that exercise thing, and be less apt to over-eat the next day.  Sleep rules.

Chapter / Rules 20 - Plan One Splurge Meal a Week

One thing I do like about this chapter is that Harper concedes that there are many people who disagree with this rule.  It's easy when you've been restricting all week to have your cheat meal turn into a binge meal.  It would hardly be your fault.

Coming from someone who used to do things similar to this, it makes eating for me highly stressful.  The cheat meal is even stressful.  There are a million things I can't eat anymore, so what do I want to indulge in?  It was like trying to answer a trick question - if I didn't get exactly what I was craving (which was everything), I'd have to wait A WHOLE EXTRA WEEK to get it.  Pizza?  Ice cream?  Chinese food?  A sandwich?  Any dessert?  YES TO ALL OF THE ABOVE OM NOM NOM NOM.

I'm using this picture again because I love it.  OM NOM NOM NOM!

I'm using this picture again because I love it. OM NOM NOM NOM!

Then I'd feel guilty anyway.

So yeah, cheat meals don't work well with my brain.

But, again, that's me.  Just like Harper states, it has worked for him and his clients.  Doesn't mean it will work for you, and that's okay.

But either way, there are a few rules he gives even to your cheat meals:

  • No liquid calories except red wine
  • Make sure to count your calories anyway
  • Try to make your splurge at lunch or breakfast.  If it's dinner, make it before 7.
  • Only drink water, and don't get any of the bread.
  • No fast food.

This cheat meal certainly has an awful lot of caveats.  Some cheat.

Moral: Cheat days aren't for everyone.  They certainly aren't for me.  But, if it works for you, keep on keepin' on.

Chapter / Rule 14 - Eat A Real Breakfast

More studies showing that health-conscious people eat breakfast and thus weigh less.  People who don't eat breakfast usually don't do it intentionally for health reasons, and are more likely to be less concerned about health, thus weigh more.

I'll quote myself from a previous review:

Moral: "You do not have to eat breakfast.  It does not ‘jumpstart‘ your metabolism.  You do not have to eat breakfast."

Chapter / Rule 15 - Make your own food and eat at least ten meals a week at home

Not totally bad advice, and typically something that I can get behind.

Typically cooking your own meals is cheaper, it's easier to control what goes into your food, and usually (though of course, not always) you'll be eating less calories than if you got some fast food.

However, once again, it's not absolutely, utterly necessary to lose weight.

Mmmm Chipotle Burrito Bowl. Delicious, completely compatible with a weight-loss focused diet, and also happens to be fast food. Woo! (taken from livingtherun.com)

As well, a significant portion of the obese and overweight population live in areas with a distinct lack of access to grocery stores, cookware, and decent kitchen facilities.  As well, one shouldn't discount the fact that, especially if you're inexperienced, cooking takes time.  It's the time to get to the grocery store, pick out your groceries, store them, cook them, and clean up after them, as well as put away any leftovers.  Is it so hard to see why someone working 80 hours a week would be disinclined?  Does it make them doomed to be fat forever?

Other than that, I generally like this chapter.  While I don't do it, eating only at the table is good habit to have, and he gives a pretty good list of basic cookware that you'll need.

Moral: It's probably easier to lose weight eating mostly from home.  It's also typically cheaper.  However, it's not absolutely required.

Chapter / Rule 16 - Banish High-Salt Foods

Harper is correct about one thing.  Salt can cause water retention, which can create some serious scale fluctuations which many dieters may find discouraging.  However, I think this is one of many reasons that the scale is not a good way to measure body recomposition progress.

However, as far as salt being bad for you, unless you already have blood-pressure issues, you really need not concern yourself with how much sodium you're taking in.  In any case, if you've been following his advice of not eating fast food, you'll probably be fine.   I do think American cuisine could use a bit more when it comes to herbs and spices, though.  Salt, pepper and garlic powder aren't the only things out there!

Basil, oregano, Italian seasoning, cumin, curry powder, ginger, rosemary or chili powder are some of my favorites.  (I have no idea of their sodium content, however!)

Moral: Unless you have an existing blood-pressure condition, don't sweat your sodium content.  I would encourage experimenting with new spices and herbs however!

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Chapter / Rule 8 - Learn to read food labels so you know what you are eating

I'm all for knowing what you're eating.  Obviously if you're looking to lose weight, having an idea of how many calories you're getting, or how much protein you've had is very important information.  And if you're feeling extra frisky, knowing that you're getting the Recommended Dietary Allowance of essential vitamins and minerals is pretty swell.  (I'll admit though, I don't do that last one at all.)

So, at first anyway, it seems me and Harper agree.  Knowing how to read a food label can be a helpful tool to keeping your weight in your control.  However, I apparently have a lot more faith in humanity in general to figure out how to read nutrition labels that Harper says are:

"frequently confusing - graphically busy, laden with irrelevant claims and detail, sometimes almost impossible to find on the container."

Yeah, just look at all those graphics and irrelevant claims.

Also containers are typically only so big.  I'm not sure how it could ever be tough for someone to find a nutrition label on it if it has one.  I'm envisioning something like a black-and-white scene in an infomercial for a useless product of someone having way too hard a time doing a mundane activity.  

Anyway, Harper then goes on to cite a couple studies about how people who read nutrition labels eat more fiber and nutrients and less calories and blah blah blah blah correlation without causation people who read nutrition labels are more likely to be concerned about their health and make better food choices etc etc etc.

Let's take a look at what Harper says are the "absolutely fundamental" things to understand when reading labels:

Serving Size / Number of Servings 

I definitely agree with this.  I can't tell how many times I read the calories on an item and thought "not bad" only to realize it was one of three servings.  How one cookie can get away with being technically 3 servings, I don't know.  Speaking of the ridiculousness of serving sizes, allow me this opportunity to share one of my favorite stand-up bits:

Calories

The single most important thing when it comes to losing weight.  Probably why it's the easiest thing to find to read on the label.  I've got no complaints about this one.  But just because something is dense in calories doesn't mean you can't eat it, even if you're looking to lose weight.

Protein

Probably the second most important thing when it comes to fat loss.  Assuming you're looking to retain your muscle, that is.  (Probably something you'd want to do)

Sugar

I mean, I guess it's cool to know how much sugar is in whatever you're buying.  It's probably surprising to see how much is in some products.  The more sugar, the quicker it will likely digest, the less satiating it will probably be.  But, again, if you're looking to lose weight, you can still eat this if it's within the more important calorie range.  That's certainly more realistic than Harper's advice to not buy it if it's a main ingredient.  Guess we all should stop eating apples.  (Oh wait, you're supposed to eat those Every. Single. Day.  I'M SO CONFUSED HARPER.)

Roughly 76% sugar here. (Well, 100% if you consider the fact that all carbohydrates become simple sugars eventually) Image from prevention.com

Sodium

Unless you have a blood pressure issue, there isn't much of a reason to be super concerned with how much sodium you're taking in.  There are much more important things to concern yourself over if you're struggling to lose fat.  Sodium may increase your water retention which will make the scale number fluctuate annoyingly, but that's really not the best metric to use, as I'm sure you've heard a million times.  Drink enough water and you'll be fine.

Fat / Trans fats 

I like that Harper says fat is not a bad thing - there is still a sense out there of the fat-phobia left over from the 90's.  Fat doesn't make you fat.  It seems people are taking baby steps though and aren't completely ready to relinquish the fear of fat with certain restrictions:   "Unsaturated fats are good, saturated fats bad."  It's time to let go of that last bit of fat fear: saturated fats are fine.  Eat red meat and full-fat dairy if you like them.  You won't clog your arteries or get heart disease from them, it's okay.

However I can't completely say all fats are fine either - there is evidence that trans fats may be harmful in certain amounts.  However I'm not sure I'll ever call them 'demon-spawn' as Harper does.

As well, Harper says not to eat anything that is over 20% fat calories.  I'm sure he doesn't mean one shouldn't have oil or most nuts, but he should really specify that.

Carbs

Yep, carbs are a thing.  They have calories.  If you eat the kind with more fiber, vitamins and minerals, you'll get more fiber, vitamins and minerals if that's your thing.  However Harper has a whole list of kinds of carbs that you cannot eat to lose weight.  Did you know that you absolutely can't have cornmeal or potato starch and stay slim?

Fiber

Generally the more fiber in an item, the more full it will make you feel and as Harper says, probably the less processed it is.  I really enjoy feeling full, so eating vegetables and fruits and Quest Bars and Arctic Zero (completely processed foods that are also completely filling and awesome) is a good idea for me.  However, I also eat lots of things that don't have a ton of fiber, like cake.  Mmmm cake.

Net Carbs

Net carbs is basically this on a nutrition label:

Total Carb grams - Fiber grams = Net carbs

This is because fiber is indigestible, but still counts towards the carb amount on the nutrition label.  I mentioned in my old blog about how food companies are already allowed to reflect this fact in their total calories.  So this is more just a fun fact, not something you really need to pay attention to.

The Ingredient List

Ingredient lists are super helpful when it comes to figuring out exactly what you're putting in your body.  Whether or not long ingredient lists necessarily mean something is bad for your health though is not cut and dry.  There are heavily processed products that can absolutely support a healthy, lean body.  (See Quest Bars, Arctic Zero and the wide variety of protein powders available.) And here's one quote I'm going to go off on a bit of a tangent about:

"For one, if it's got that many ingredients, it's probably incredibly processed - dense in chemicals that Mother Nature never intended you to eat."

Please, what exactly did Mother Nature intend for us to eat?  Did she intend for us to eat Quaker oatmeal for breakfast everyday?  Did she intend for us to domesticate pigs and chickens and eat bacon and eggs regularly?  Did she intend for us to turn the unrecognizable wild banana into the domesticated kind we see in supermarkets today?  Did she intend for people to ever drink tea, or eat horse meat?  Is there any kind of of force, or power, or spirit that has dictated what is 'good' and 'bad' for us, or is it not completely up to us?

Anyway, sorry for that rant, but for some reason it's started to grind my gears whenever people say we weren't 'meant' to eat a certain kind of food item.

Chemicals

I'm going to make a confession.  I am not in any way qualified or knowledgeable in this area to make a good analysis of the chemicals in the list of things to avoid by Harper:

  • Food dyes
  • Aspartame
  • Polysorbate 60
  • Olestra
  • MSG

However, if you're interested, I wouldn't take the book at its word.  Ask your friendly local food safety professional if you want a second opinion.

The "Percent of Daily Values" Section

Helpful section if you're looking to make sure you're getting sufficient vitamins and minerals.  Honestly though, if you're eating a diet that contains fruits, vegetables and animal products of some kind, you're probably getting enough.  Typically your local, fresher, grass-fed type will contain more, but that can get a bit pricey.

Moral:  If you're looking to lose weight, understanding what is in your food is important.  The most important component is the calorie content, followed by protein.  After that things tend to get a bit muddy and open to personal interpretation and preference.

Chapter / Rule 9 - Stop guessing about portion size and get it right - for good

Harper touches on one point that I find interesting about the culture of food in recent years, especially in America.   Portion sizes have gotten much larger - he gives the statistic that at-home meals have increased by 20 to 30 percent over the past 20 years. (20 to 30 percent increase in what he doesn't say.  Calories?  Volume? Plate size?)  Regardless, the size options available at fast food places have certainly increased, and perhaps our expectation of appropriate food volume has with it.

From Gawker

This chapter has 2 techniques to control your portion sizes:

1) Forced Portion Control

Basically the advice of have snacks already partitioned in small sizes so that if you're in a bind you can quickly grab something that isn't super calorie-dense.  I can get on board with that - it makes counting your calories real easy if you're into that kind of thing too.

However, I know that if there are easy things to snack on around the kitchen, there is a high chance that I will snack on them.  So, whatever works for you.

2) "Harpersizing"

Described as "taking advantage of high-fiber, low-calorie foods that fill you up." Basically saying, vegetables have very few calories and are very filling, so you could eat a whole plate, be absolutely stuffed, and still not have eaten much in the way of calories.  I like this idea, and I do it often.  Here is a favorite dinner side dish:

  • Take a shit ton of broccoli florets and lay them on a pan
  • Spray with olive oil
  • Top with seasoning salt, garlic powder and pepper
  • Put in oven on 415 for 15-20 minutes until they're basically totally burnt (Okay, this step is just because I'm weird and like my vegetables burnt to a crisp)

This is paired wonderfully with some responsibly-raised, grass-fed, free-roaming, anti-biotic and hormone-free beef, or cake.

Moral: Controlling your portion sizes is just another way to control your caloric intake.  If you'd prefer a big, huge meal at one point during the day or several small meals throughout the day both are okay.  Oh, and vegetables are filling.

Chapter / Rule 10 - No more added sweeteners, including artificial ones

"You won't psychologically expect supersweet when I'm done with you."

That sounds terrifying.

"You don't have the physiological ammo to "just have a little"."

That sounds inaccurate.

Here's an anecdote.  Take it with a grain of salt:

Before I was doing the "If It Fits your Macros" part of my experiments, I tried avoiding things like chocolate and sweets on a regular basis.  When I did have them, they were in huge quantities I couldn't get enough of.  I scoffed at the idea of anything in 'moderation' - in fact I hated that term.  I couldn't fathom people not desiring huge quantities of sweets if they ever got their hands on some.

Enter IIFYM.  I would have bits of chocolate or sweets on a daily basis.  Shortly after, 2 squares of dark chocolate was enough.  I could eat that and be satisfied.  I think I 'get' what people meant by moderation now.

So, perhaps you don't feel like you don't have the 'physiological ammo' for moderation because you...don't eat stuff in moderation.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents on that subject.  We don't have any studies to analyze here about whether or not that's backed up with data.

Harper, going off of a previously de-bunked idea of certain foods causing weight gain more than others independent of their caloric content, says that sugar will make you gain weight more than fat will.  Yes, over the decades our consumption of carbohydrates (and thus, sugar) has gone up, but much more importantly our consumption of just straight-up calories has gone up even more.

He then states his plan is based around low-sugar fruits.  Uhh...what is a low-sugar fruit, exactly?  Look at the nutrition for an apple like I listed above.  Same thing for berries.  Low relative to what?

Any splenda or other artificial sweeteners in your coffee or tea?  NOPE DO THAT AND YOU'LL JUST BINGE ON TWINKIES LATER BECAUSE YOU'RE ADDICTED TO SUGAR.  Or something like that.

Moral: Sugar usually means a less-satiating food.  (Exceptions, obviously include things like fruit.) Avoiding sugar typically means you're avoiding excess calories, which is what leads to weight loss.  However, you are fully capable of exercising moderation if you so choose.

3 Comments

In my last post we went over the introduction to "The Skinny Rules" by Bob Harper.  He had a few good points, but also some points of contention.  We'll continue with the analysis here, going over rules 1 through 3.

Chapter // Rule 1 - Drink a large glass of water before every meal - no excuses!

Harper states that this is his first rule, not just because it is so easy, but because "...nothing is so crucial to your success [as drinking water is]."  In fact, drinking a glass before each meal is the minimum, he'd prefer at least 5 glasses.

Unfortunately he never states exactly how much is considered a 'large glass,' so we'll just assume it's somewhere between 8 - 16 oz.  At 5 times per day, he seems to suggest 40 - 80 oz per day.  Let's compare to some other recommendations:

Institute of Medicine - Men: 104 oz // Women: 72 oz

Old Adage - 8oz 8 times a day: 64 oz

USDA - Newborns: ~27 oz // Toddler - 8yrs: 44 - 57 oz // Teenage boys, adult men & women: at least 91 oz

Yet Another Adage - Half of your bodyweight in ounces: 160lb = 80 oz

So recommendations are kind of all over the place.  This makes sense because it's a little tricky to try and give a blanket recommendation when you could be dealing with a 100lb sedentary teenage girl or a 240lb professional male athlete.  Think those two might need different intakes of water?

Another thing: it's REALLY tough to find studies on this kind of thing because no one actually knows.  What is the defining point of dehydration?  Mild dehydration is stated as a loss of 5% of the body's fluid.  How do you know how much that actually is?  What exactly is being measured to make that determination?  No, seriously, I have no clue so if someone could fill me in that'd be great.

But even if you were concerned about your water intake, here are some things to consider:

-Soda contains water.

-Milk contains water.

-Fruit contains water.

-Vegetables contain water.

-Soup, Tea and Coffee are basically water.

First ingredient is indeed water.  I know, it's not kosher to mention it.

First ingredient is indeed water. I know, it's not kosher to mention it.

So if you are consuming the above, I'd venture to say you're probably taking in enough water for health purposes.  HOWEVER, water has been shown to possibly help in decreasing the amount of food consumption during a meal.  So if you're looking to increase your feelings of satiety, it may help to drink water before and during your meal.  Whether that is due to actually filling your stomach or because drinking during your meal will typically elongate its duration, which has been shown many times to decrease overall caloric consumption, I'm not sure.

Harper cites a study showing that water itself will increase your caloric expenditure.  The study recruited 21 overweight children and measured their baseline resting energy expenditure (REE) - or the amount of calories they burn at rest.  They then gave them each 10 ml of water per kilo bodyweight, cooled to 39 degrees Fahrenheit. (This is a pretty large amount of water for one sitting)

Their resting energy expenditure decreased from ~0.8 cal / min to ~0.6 cal / min for about 20 minutes.  REE then increased to ~0.9 cal / min for about 30 - 35 minutes.  The maximal amount of increase was about 1 cal / min.  Unfortunately I was unable to get the entire text of the study, but it seemed that these increases lasted about an hour.

This may seem very exciting, but overall this is really not a huge increase for the time duration.  There was a brief decrease followed by a less-brief increase, sure, but the MAXIMAL increase in caloric burn was only .2 calories per minute.  For some perspective, even if that increase had been the whole hour you would have seen only an extra 12 calories burned.  We're not sure how more or less water affects this, if the same applies to warmer or colder water, or if this would happen more than once a day; at least not according to this study.

Not to say you shouldn't drink water, but I'd take the idea that it will help you burn a significant portion of calories with a grain of salt.

Moral: I'm still speculative about the extreme amounts of water people recommend drinking.  I've been having a rough time just coming up with studies to support ANY of the health benefit claims.  If you drink tea, coffee, milk or soda in any regular amounts you are consuming water.  It takes a LARGE (5-7 cups of coffee worth) amount of caffeine to counter-act their water content.  However, drinking water can decrease caloric intake by increasing satiety, increasing meal duration, and decreasing consumption of caloric beverages.

Chapter // Rule 2 - Don't Drink your Calories

Here is one thing Harper and I agree on: drinking a large portion of your daily calories is a pretty good way to ensure that weight-loss won't be long-term.  Liquids just don't seem to trigger satiety the same way solids do - even solids that are mostly water like watermelon.  It's pretty easy to down a couple sodas and still be hungry.  Try that caloric equivalent with broccoli.  Not quite the same sensation.

However, just as I said in the Introduction review, if you were to only take in 1,200 calories a day in soda and nothing else when your total daily energy expenditure(TDEE) is 2,000 you're still gonna lose weight.  Again, you will feel like shit, but you will still lose weight.

One point that Harper makes is about artificial sweeteners: "If you're a diet soda drinker, you haven't dodged the problem...You're guzzling artificial sweeteners and...I don't think highly of these at all.  They only serve to whet your appetite for more sweet."

I wish I could give a consensus about artificial sweeteners.  I wish I had an answer.  There are studies that show it may blunt insulin sensitivity, there are studies that show they don't.  They probably don't cause cancer.  They may increase your appetite, then again, they might not.

Anecdotal Aside:

I drink diet soda a fair amount.  I usually use about 1/2 a pack of splenda in my coffee.  I'll use artificial sweetener in my desserts.   I think it's asinine to say that it's 'just as bad' as real sugar in terms of weight gain.  How many more calories would I have ingested over my lifetime had I been drinking regular soda the whole time?  While they may 'increase your appetite' or 'make you continue to crave sweets,' whether or not that adversely affects your food choices depends on you.

I'm counting my calories right now (will make a post about moving on to phase 2 of my diet experiment soon), so drinking a diet soda actually won't make me eat more.  It doesn't matter at all if it increases my appetite (I'm usually pretty full at the end of the day which is nice), because I'm still not going to eat over a certain number of calories.

Back to Harper:

He gives a 'step-down' option for those having a hard time ditching flavored liquids.  In the introduction, he states that the step-down options are an "...intermediary step [that] is meant to be temporary."  His flavored liquid step-down is to experiment with flavored drinks such as seltzer water with lime / lemon juice or tea.

I don't understand why those options should be temporary.  They sound perfectly acceptable to me.  Most people would agree that naturally flavored water, coffee and tea are all acceptable drink options.  I think I get that he's just trying to provide options, but it's confusing to put those in the 'temporary solution' box.  Those are permanent solutions.

Another step-down he gives is to stop putting cream in your coffee - opt for 2% or non-fat milk.  This is another point I disagree with.  Please tell me how a splash of cream is going to ruin your calorie intake.  I find that when using cream a splash is all you need to make the coffee taste a million times better, but skim milk needs to be roughly half the cup.  Of course, this is contingent on the person.  I drink maybe 2 cups of coffee per day, to which I'll add about a tablespoon of half and half.  That's 40 calories per day.  Big whoop.  However if you drink 5 cups per day and add a lot more than a splash, perhaps consider weaning yourself off.  Again, it's not that his advice is inherently bad - it's just that it's not non-negotiable.  It's not a necessary rule.  Think about your circumstances, your tendencies, your lifestyle and what fits.  Think for yourself.

Here are some things I agree with though:

-Juice and fruit smoothies have been improperly labeled as 'healthy.'  They are just sugar and calories.  As Harper says, just eat the fruit.

-You do not need a Gatorade for your hour-long run or lifting session.  These are applicable for people running marathons / ironmans and the like.  If you need an energy drink to get through the day, you should take a good look at your life habits and try to fix them rather than giving tons of your money away to put a band-aid on your problems.

-Most coffees at a Starbucks are basically dessert.

One of these things is not like the other.

One of these things is not like the other.

-Alcohol has like, a lot of calories.

Moral: Drink your coffee with full-fat milk if you'd like.  The jury is still out on artificial sweeteners, so use at your own discretion.  They probably don't cause cancer.  Tea and lemon / lime / whatever flavored water are great.  Drinking calories isn't very filling which is why you should try not to do so.  But it is entirely possible to lose weight while drinking soda as long as your calorie intake is still below TDEE.

Extra Note: While taking notes for this chapter, I wrote this down but couldn't find a really good place to put it above.  I thought it was funny so I'll share below:

"Interesting how he demonizes all sugars – honey, juices, white sugar, high fructose corn-syrup – yet he LOVES him some damn oatmeal."

Rule // Chapter 3 - Eat Protein at Every Meal, or Stay Hungry and Grouchy

I'm going to start this segment out with one of the most ridiculous things I read in this whole book:

"Let me be blunt: if you don't start eating fish, you're going to get fat again."

WHAT.

....WHAT.

I hope you read that and burst out laughing like I did, or just stare dumbfounded that anyone could say anything so fucking stupid.

Let ME be blunt: if you don't start eating fish....you're...uhh...probably not going to frequent Red Lobster.

That's about all I could come up with.  EATING FISH IS IN NO WAY REQUIRED TO LOSE OR MAINTAIN FAT LOSS.

All those lean and healthy vegetarians out there must be using secret voodoo magic to stay that way.  I don't really eat fish and I stay not-fat by making sacrifices to the Gods of Leanness every fortnight.

Here is vegetarian and often-times vegan Natalie Portman, famous for her portrayal of an incredibly obese ballet dancer in "Black Swan."

I almost don't even want to review the rest of this chapter because of how mind-blowingly idiotic that one statement was.  But I'll push through:

Harper starts out with a strong, and true statement.  Protein is crucial for people who want to lose fat.  It's satiating, it preserves muscle mass and helps you recover from the strength-training you should be doing.  In fact, one of the reasons people experience success on low-carb diets isn't because they're low-carb, but because they force people to increase their protein intake.

Different bodies have different recommendations.  The FDA and most government recommendations are notorious for their high-carb, low protein levels, which many other bodies disagree with.  Rejection of these recommendations can be seen with the raging popularity of the Paleo Diet, books such as "Good Calories, Bad Calories" and "Wheat Belly."  Not saying I agree with any of the above, but alternative recommendations are out there.

FDA: 65g protein per 2,000 calories

USDA: .36g per pound bodyweight

Harper: .5g per pound bodyweight

Other recommendations out there typically range from .8 - 1.5g per pound bodyweight.  If you're weight training (and you should be if you're trying to lose fat), I usually say .8 - 1.2g / lb.   That's going to be more than the FDA recommendation for sure.

Back to the fish thing - Harper cites a study and says "Like we talked about in the beginning, some foods seem to boost weight loss, and not just because they are low in calories.  Fish is a perfect example."  Well, we already debunked that part in the introduction.  But let's take a look at the study.

In it, a few hundred young, overweight men and women were recruited and BMI was recorded.  It was measured at 3 points during the study - at the start, mid-point, and end.  The study lasted 8 weeks.  Participants seafood intake was recorded by questionnaire, along with activity level which the researchers recommended they keep at the same level.

The subjects were split into 4 groups, one taking a placebo pill and no seafood, one taking in a certain amount of lean fish, another fatty fish, and another took fish oil capsules.  Macronutrient levels were kept relatively level across all groups.  In the end, the men who took in fatty fish and fish oil lost a significant amount more weight than the lean fish / no fish groups. (Around ~1 pound difference in weight loss)  However, women experienced no difference in weight loss across groups.

To me this study isn't very convincing for a few reasons.  First and most importantly, it's another study that relies on questionnaire rather than an actual controlled setting.  It's really hard to say you've concluded anything definitive when there is such a high opportunity for mis-judging and under or over-reporting on the part of the participants.  Secondly, women saw no difference, which makes me suspicious of any significance in the finding with men.

To read this study and determine that one MUST eat fish in order to lose and keep off weight is, again, asinine.

Omega-3 fatty acid intake does certainly have health benefits especially in regards to inflammation, so I'm not trying to dissuade someone from looking into fish-oil supplementation or including fish - or grass-fed beef for that matter.

Harper then goes on to talk about his time as a vegan.  His biggest reason was morals, which I can completely get behind.  Animals are often treated very cruelly, there's no denying it.  However, he then speaks about the supposed superior health benefits of a vegan diet, citing the much-loved "China Study" made famous by the documentary "Forks over Knives."  Now, debunking that study would take a textbook, so if you're interested in reading a second opinion, check out this really detailed review by an awesome lady over at her awesome blog.

Moral: Meat is awesome, and you should definitely take in a healthy amount of protein when you're trying to lose fat - more than the USDA or FDA recommends.  Fish is great for omega-3's, but they aren't magic.  Please read a review of the China Study before you proclaim how much Forks over Knives changed your life.  And seriously, you DO NOT HAVE TO EAT FISH TO MAINTAIN WEIGHT LOSS.

Check back next week for a few more chapters!

3 Comments

I think it's a new pre-requisite for every fitness and diet book to start out with a statement on HOW MUCH INFORMATION about fitness there is out there.

POWEROVERWHELMING

"With so much conflicting information..." "Everywhere you look there's an expert proclaiming the truth..." YOU ARE LITERALLY CONTRIBUTING TO THAT. Oh wait, so am I. Oh God.

"With so much conflicting weight-loss advice out there to confuse your efforts, it's no wonder you haven't been successful losing weight and keeping it off," he starts.  Will his book be any different?  Will it be just another over-valued diet book proclaiming certain guidelines are THE WAY and nothing else?  Or perhaps this will finally be the voice of reason and the end to all of your searching.

...If you've been keeping up with me thus far, I think you can predict where this is going.  Read on as I dissect this book chapter by chapter.

Introduction

I'll go ahead and warn readers in advance that this is going to to delve into dry scientific studies.  I wouldn't do this unless it was ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for your understanding, so please bear with me.  It's for your own good, promise.  Bob Harper thinks you're smart enough for scientific studies, and goodness knows I think you are too.

The introduction starts out like any good book, with a story.  An anecdote, if you will.  The inspiration for why Harper decided to make the 'rules' he's going to outline.  He describes the husband of a contestant on "The Biggest Loser" show who lost 100 pounds himself during taping.  He did so by following meals and tips posted by Harper on twitter, saying they gave him structure like a set of rules.

And thus, Harper concludes, all people need is a set of rules:

"So, what if we eliminated the clutter? I began to think. What if I could come up with a list of simple, nonnegotiable rules that the average Jane or Joe can follow in daily life—rules you can always fall back on in a pinch, rules you can use not just when you are trying to lose weight, but for when you are trying to stay slender.

Skinny Rules!"

I bolded "Non-negotiable" because I want to draw attention to that.  According to Harper, one MUST follow these rules in order to succeed.  At least, I'm fairly certain that's what someone means when they say non-negotiable.

Harper then lists 7 'myths' about diet and weight loss to get out of the way.  Fair enough!  It's always good to make sure everyone is on the same page first.  Some of these are sound: You can't out-exercise a bad diet, starving yourself is generally a really bad way to try and lose weight, you don't need to completely cut out carbs or fat and in some cases losing a lot of weight really quickly is NOT a bad thing.  (For instance in very obese clients, which is his specialty being on The Biggest Loser.)
Here are some points that have contention:

1) You can weigh yourself more often than once per week.
 

You can, and maybe it might help you.  I know I weigh myself everyday for the weight loss experiments.  But to say everyone needs to check the scale on a frequent basis is a bit of a stretch.  He cites a study that showed people who weighed more frequently lost more weight than those who did not.

Unfortunately, the article in its entirety is not available for free so I wasn't able to read the whole thing.  From what I did read, however, it seemed that people were not told how frequently to weigh themselves - it was completely voluntary.  That leads to a host a correlation problems: is it not logical that people concerned about their weight would weigh-in more frequently and those who weren't actively attempting to lose weight would not?  It's hard to reach too many conclusions based on the little I was able to read, but it seems likely.

Moral: Does weighing-in too much depress you and cause you to reach for the nearest pack of Oreos in defeat?  If so, frequent weighing may not be for you.  Does weighing-in everyday keep you on track and let you know when you need to back down on the eating?  If so, frequent weighing may be for you.  SCIENCE. 

2) It's not as simple as calories in calories out

This one is pretty tricky.  You've probably heard over the years some combination of "FAT BAD" "NO CARBS BAD" "MEAT IS BAD AND WILL LITERALLY GIVE YOU A HEART ATTACK."So what's the deal?  If you eat 1200 calories of Oreos is that not equivalent to 1200 calories of chicken?  The answer is yes and no.  So anticlimactic, I know.  Oreos don't have a lot going for them in terms of nutrition and protein, it's true.  They won't really help you out too much in terms of muscle repair and growth.  If your energy expenditure for the day is 2000 calories though you'll still lose weight.  You'll probably feel like complete shit, but still lose weight.  If your energy expenditure for the day is 2000 calories and you eat 3200 calories of skinless, boiled, rubbery, disgustingly healthy chicken, you'll still get fat.  Sad day

Tricky part: If all you eat is carbs and not enough fat or protein, your body will start slowing down.  You'll lose muscle (especially if you're not performing resistance exercise), lowering that energy expenditure from 2000 to 1800 to 1600. (One of the key factors in why metabolism decreases as you age) Without adequate fat intake, cells and hormones don't function quite like they used to - this too may decrease metabolism.

Harper cites one of my favorite improperly-used series of studies of all time: The Harvard Nurse's Study!  Wondering where you heard that red meat was bad for you?  Hormone replacement therapy decreases risk of heart attack? (completely false)  It's all from right here, in a study that, while extensive, doesn't offer much in the way of SOLID science.  In general the study went something like this:

1) Recruit a bunch of nurses to get baseline weight / BMI / lifestyle and dietary habits.  Get rid of outliers and those with confounding variables such as disease or advanced age.

2) Every 4 years, retest weight, BMI, lifestyle and dietary habits.
3) Over time, analyze data to show what lifestyle and dietary habits are correlated with a higher / lower weight.  Repeat over 20 years.

Sounds pretty simple right?  Unfortunately the lifestyle and dietary habits were self-reported.  This means no one followed around the participants during the 20 years to make sure their reported intake of fruits and veggies was accurate.  This is also an observational study, which means it can't give you a cause for why you're observing what you are.  Harper summarizes the results:

"The answer stunned a lot of traditionalists. Predictably, increases in fruits and veggies were associated with weight loss, while caloric increases in potato chips were associated with weight gain.

The shocker came in the less-intuitive items. Increases in nuts,whole grains, and—usefully for us, as you’ll see later— yogurt were associated with substantial weight loss.  No one is quite sure why, but we can guess: these foods don’t spike your blood sugar and insulin responses the way other foods do, so they don’t make you hungry."

Most of this seems pretty common-sense.  People who eat more fruits, veggies, nuts, <insert healthy food here> tend to weigh less than those who don't.  I don't think we've stunned anyone quite yet.  However, Harper seems to look at this data and reach the conclusion that there is something inherently special about these foods that cause you to lose weight.  I look at this data and conclude that those who are more conscious about their health and weight tend to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Even though there is absolutely nothing wrong with meat, people used to think fat was bad so those who were health-conscious (and thus weighed less) avoided things like meat.  Now people think that it's meat that was the culprit and so those who are health-conscious don't eat so much, reinforcing that meat is what makes one unhealthy rather than simply eating too much in general.

Two other issues with this study:

1) BMI and weight are fucking ridiculous metrics for one's health.
2) This study depended on people reliably self-reporting their food intake for the past TWO YEARS.  I don't even fucking know what I had for dinner two nights ago, let alone two YEARS ago.

Also, whole grain shredded wheat raises your blood sugar more than a Snicker's bar - fun fact.

I'm not disagreeing with the premise that one should eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, yogurt, etc.  I'm just saying it's not that these foods magically cause one to lose weight, it's that they generally promote satiety better than say, pop-tarts, for fewer calories.  They also provide you with super-awesome vitamins and minerals that leave you feeling super-awesome rather than wanting to take a nap.

Moral
: These foods do not, by themselves, cause you to lose weight.  They typically cause one to eat less.  They also typically make you feel more energetic and inclined to do active things.  This in turn will probably help you sleep better and be a happier person in general.  These benefits, among many others, are a chain reaction that causes you to lose fat.
Harper concludes this section with:

I mean, just how wrong could 129,000 nurses be?

Actually it was only 50,422 nurses after they got rid of those who didn't meet the qualifications for the study.  I also only included this part to be snarky.  And to say that humanity has a rich history of large groups of people believing completely false shit.

Oh...uhh...whoops.
3) Eat Breakfast

I mean everyone had to see that one coming.  He does mention that having a bagel with low-fat cream cheese is probably not the best idea for your meal, which I completely agree with.  However he does say that breakfast is the "most important meal of the day," so let me take this opportunity again to restate:
You do not have to eat breakfast.  It does not 'jumpstart' your metabolism.  You do not have to eat breakfast.  SERIOUSLY IF YOU AREN'T HUNGRY DON'T EAT.

All right.  That took a lot longer than I thought it would.  Hope you're still with me here.  Look for reviews of Chapters 1-3 in the future!