Tag Archives: Weight loss

There are an awful lot of popular diets out there. From general suggestions, such as "low-fat" or "low-carb," to named and branded diets like Atkins or Weight Watchers, there are tons of options out there if you want to lose weight.

As a disclaimer, I don't really recommend any of what I'm about to describe below. I really don't recommend "diets" at all - I recommend you find a way of eating that works for you that supports whatever goals you have. It may happen to be that one of these "diets" does it for you, or maybe you take a little bit from each of them and make something custom.

My hope through this post is to show you HOW these popular diets tend to work, to dispel some of the magic surrounding them. It's pretty simple once it's laid out plain. I also am obviously not covering every diet under the sun here, but I think I've touched on the ones you're most likely to hear about.

Let's get started with:

Low-Carbohydrate Diets (low-carb)

What It Is

Low-carb is exactly what it sounds like. It's keeping your total grams of carbohydrates low relative to everything else. Exactly HOW low varies quite a bit, anything from <150g to as low as <20g.

How It Works

That's my kind of meal!

Most of the carbohydrate sources we eat are VERY low on the satiety scale (as in, they don't leave you feeling full and satisfied), so we tend get a ton of calories from them. Things like breads, cereals, candy, soda, etc.

So, if you go low carb, you have to restrict your intake of those kinds of items quite a bit. Soda is out, candy is out, anything with lots sugar is out... really all of your carbs are going to have to come from vegetables, a little bit of fruit, and none if ANY of the other refined stuff.

What happens when you do this? Your caloric intake goes down. Because vegetables, fruits, and meat are generally more filling than grains and breads, you'll naturally eat less. Cutting out a food group, especially one we eat so much of (grains), generally always leads to a reduction in total calories.

What happens when your calories go down? You lose weight!

Another reason low-carb seems to work so well is that when carbohydrates store as glycogen in the body, they tend to hold onto a lot of water. If you go on a very low-carb diet, glycogen levels tend to go down, and therefore you lose a fair amount of water weight as well. On top of that, many breads have some high levels of sodium, which can cause you to hold onto more water.

Summary

  • Low-carb tends to range from 150g - 20g or less per day of carbohydrates
  • Low-carb generally means higher protein and more satiating (filling) foods, decreasing calories
  • More protein is beneficial on a diet for retaining muscle mass
  • Low-carb can reduce water weight in short-term

Low-Fat Diets

What It Is220px-ShreddedWheat

Kind of the opposite of low-carb, low-fat diets try to reduce fat intake to levels ranging anywhere from 10% (on the low end) to 35%  (on the high end) of your daily calories from fat. (On a 2,000 calorie per day diet, this would be anywhere from 22g - 77g of fat)

How It Works

Fat is the most calorie-dense of all macronutrients:

  • 1g carb = 4 calories
  • 1g protein = 4 calories
  • 1g fat = 9 calories

So when your mom tells you that cheese is "fattening" it's kind of a dual-meaning; they're high in fat content, thus high in calories (relative to their volume), thus you'll get fat if you eat them! (Not necessarily on that last point, but that's what we often think)

Just like the low-carb diet, if you go on a low-fat diet, you're either eliminating or drastically limiting your intake of certain kinds of foods - cheese, red meat, full-fat dairy products, most desserts, etc. Once again, getting rid of an entire food group (especially one that is so calorie-dense) is an easy way to reduce calories without counting them.

Unlike low-carb, however, low-fat doesn't seem to lead to increased protein intake as "naturally," since many of our favorite kinds of meat tend to be a bit fatty. Plain skinless chicken breasts and tilapia get stale after a while.

However, many traditional diets are low-fat, high-carb diets with staples such as beans, rice, yams, fruits and vegetables. So low-fat definitely can work well as long as you don't confuse "low-fat" with "high-Snackwell cookie."

Summary

  • Low-fat tends to range between 10% - 35% of daily calories.
  • Low-fat reduces intake of the most calorie-dense macronutrient, leading to reduction in calorie intake.
  • If not replaced entirely with Snackwell cookies and bread, can lead to increased intake of fruits and vegetables.

Weight Watchers

What It Is

Weight Watchers is a program where foods are assigned a certain number of "points" depending on their content. This can be either through Weight Watchers products, or you could look up the number of points of a given item, or calculate it with their PointsPlus calculator.

Each day you are allotted a certain number of points (plus some bonus weekly points) and you can choose to spend them however you like.

How It Works

You can think of "points" as "calories." Basically Weight Watchers has made it easier for people to eat at a deficit. They'll tell you how many 'points' you get to eat per day based on things like height, weight, gender, activity, goals, etc. - then you just have to eat that many points.

Part of the effectiveness of this program is in its popularity. It's so easy to look up how many points are in any item you'd want to eat, because a million other people have eaten it and calculated the points for you. The program is so popular, many healthy recipe sites provide the number of points in their recipes for you as well!

As well, the program doesn't necessarily "limit" your food choices. There aren't forbidden foods, just higher-calorie stuff is going to have more points. This is exactly how counting calories works, just made a bit simpler.

They do tend to give people very steep deficits, however.

Summary

  • A simpler way of counting calories, does the thinking for you
  • Limiting points = limiting calories = weight loss
  • Also puts an emphasis on group support, which is a huge component of weight loss most diet plans don't address

The Paleo Diet

What It Is

The idea behind the Paleo diet is that it tries to mimic what our ancestors ate (hence reference to paleolithic era), because they theorize that is the way our bodies evolved to eat, thus being "healthier" than our modern diets.

This usually (though Paleo has so many off-shoots now it's hard to keep up) means eliminating:

  • Bread / grains
  • Dairy
  • Most "processed" foods

The most popular Paleo food being, of course, bacon.

They also emphasize eating lots of meat, including red meats.

The idea that all of our ancestors ate any particular way has been thoroughly de-bunked, but while the "philosophy" behind Paleo doesn't mean much, many people still follow this diet.

 

How It Works 

So if you remember how we mentioned that anytime you eliminate a food group, you decrease your calories, you'll know how this diet works.

Getting rid of breads, grains and processed foods will drastically lower your carbohydrate intake. This is why many people confuse low-carb with Paleo. With low-carb, you still theoretically could eat bread (just very small amounts), but you can't eat ANY on Paleo.

No worries though, just hop through some loopholes and gorge on Paleo-approved slices of bread or muffins!

However, gorging on those kinds of foods is akin to eating only Snackwell cookies and claiming to be eating a "low-fat" diet. Technically, yes, you are falling within the parameters, but you've lost the spirit of the diet...usually because it's too restrictive in the first place, so you feel the need to find ways around it!

Summary

  • The Paleo Diet eliminates breads, grains, dairy, and most processed foods
  • Eliminating food groups leads to reduced caloric intake, resulting in weight loss
  • Tends to increase protein intake and decrease carbohydrate intake, in very similar fashion to low-carb diets
  • Increase in satiety and decrease in water weight tends to lead to more weight loss

Intermittent Fasting (IF)

What Is It 

There are quite a variety of fasting diets out there - alternate-day fasting, 5/2 fasting, religious fasting, etc. Intermittent fasting is one of the more popular options for weight loss. It typically involves abstaining from eating for 16 hours out of the day, leaving an 8 hour window where you can eat your daily amount of calories.

How It Works

Believe it or not, it can be tough to over-eat when you only give yourself 8 hours to do so, especially if you primarily fill it with satiating foods like vegetables and meats.

One big reason that we've all put on so much weight in the past few decades has been snacking, and IF puts a stop to that by simply abstaining from ALL food for a period of time, typically during the daytime with a big evening meal.

There aren't really any other rules - you simply end up eating less because you don't give yourself as much time to pack in the calories.

There are some drawbacks. For some people, IF can lead to binge-eating problems (it certainly did with me), a pressure to abstain from food for longer than 16 hours, and for women especially it seems to lead to some negative consequences. However it is highly variable between individuals and I've known many people who found IF to be their preferred method of eating.

Summary

  • Fast for 16 hours a day, feast during an 8-hour window
  • Cuts calories by reducing the amount of time you are eating per day
  • Be mindful of the effect regular IF has on your eating habits, mood and energy levels

Conclusion

Did you figure out the magic trick to every single one of these diets?

They reduce your caloric intake without requiring you to count calories.

Mindlessly eating less seems to be something people see a lot of initial success with - unfortunately the restrictive nature of these diets tends to make them short-lived.

If you'll note, I didn't mention much of anything about the health claims of many of these diets. That's because as long as you're not eating chicken mcnuggets and potato chips for every meal of everday, chances are you're not going to see drastic health consequences from eating grains, enjoying some full-fat dairy, eating a meal after 8PM, or having the occasional processed candy bar.

Yes, you personally may feel bloated after you have some dairy or whole-wheat toast, but that's on you. That's why if low-carb makes you feel like crap, you shouldn't be scared to go off of it because someone somewhere told you sugar will make you fat and stupid.

Pick and choose from various dieting tips and strategies to find out what works best for you and your goals. Maybe you like the part about IF where you don't have to eat breakfast, and avoiding bread at lunch makes you feel more energetic for the end of your work day. Then at dinner you indulge in some dessert, but check to make sure it doesn't have a billion calories beforehand.

That's just one example. You'll probably be different, and there's no rigid diet plan out there that's going to know what will work best for you. Just look at the ONE THING every single diet out there has in common with each other - you eat less calories. If your goal is weight loss, that's really it. Promise.

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So, if you haven't heard, something pretty cool went down this week:

Dr. Oz was called in by Senator Claire McCaskill to testify at a hearing about weight-loss scams.  Many people in the fitness industry were outraged, assuming that McCaskill was calling on him as an expert witness.

What ensued was much more entertaining.

Claire "I'm so bored of your bullshit" McCaskill vs. Mehment "I have a sweet head of hair" Oz

Claire "I'm so bored of your bullshit" McCaskill vs. Mehment "I have a sweet head of hair" Oz

McCaskill blasted Oz for irresponsible conduct on his show - of promoting several sham products as "miracle" weight-loss cures.  It was pretty glorious to watch.

When I listened to their conversation the first time through, I was struck by how good Oz was at saying a lot of words that sounded like a good defense, yet weren't coherent enough for me to register what he was actually saying.

So, I decided to write a transcript of the entire thing so I could analyze exactly what his defense was.  I inject my commentary below, but if you just want the transcript, you can get it from the following link:

Transcript

Senator McCaskill: "I can't figure this out Dr. Oz...I get that you do a lot of good on your show.  I understand that you give a lot of information that's great information about health, and you do it in a way that's understandable.  You're very talented, you're obviously very bright. You've been trained in science-based medicine."

The above is all true.  Just watch a couple of episodes of Dr. Oz's show; you can find most segments online for free.  Here's a modest clip - no product pushing, just giving out information and advice.  This clip is pretty tame, yet he presents typically 'boring' information in a way that's entertaining for his audience.  Yes, he has a knack for grabbing your attention.  He's very compelling, seemingly genuine, and personable.  Give the man credit where it's due.

It's also true that he has a background in science and science-based medicine.  He got his MD from the University of Pennsylvania, and has been a professor of surgery at Columbia University for 13 years.  He's practiced actual real medicine and been named in actual real studies.  I mean just look at this resume, seriously.

So this is why I have a hard time believing his defense of promoting 'miracle cures' below...

Senator McCaskill: "Now, here are three statements you've made on your show:

  1. 'You may think magic is make-believe, but this little bean has scientists saying they've found the magic weight-loss cure for every body type.  It's Green Coffee Extract.'
  2. 'I've got the number one miracle in a bottle to burn your fat!  It's Raspberry Ketones.'
  3. 'Garcinia Cambogia: it may be the simple solution you've been looking for to bust your body fat for good.'

I don't get why you need to say this stuff, because you know it's not true!  So why, when you have this amazing megaphone, and this amazing ability to communicate, why would you cheapen your show by saying things like that?"

You may have heard about some of these products.  If you have, it's probably from crap advertisements like these from Facebook:

Pulled from the BS Detector handbook.  Hard to find working links to these sites because the domains expire quickly.  Because they're scams.

Pulled from the BS Detector handbook. Hard to find working links to these sites because the domains expire quickly. Because they're scams.

Dr. Oz agreed to come to Senator McCaskill because he does not appreciate his name being used to endorse these specific products.

It's true that he didn't endorse those specific brands, and it's wrong for the products to say that they themselves have been endorsed by Dr. Oz.  He has an acceptable complaint, though he doesn't garner much sympathy from me or Senator McCaskill.  But more on that much later down the page.

Dr. Oz: "Well, if I could disagree about whether they work or not, and I'll move on to the issue of the words that I used.

And just with regards to whether they work or not - take green coffee bean extract as an example - I'm not going to argue that it would pass FDA muster if it was a pharmaceutical drug seeking approval.  But among the natural products that are out there, this is a product that has several clinical trials.  There was one large one, one very good quality one, that was done the year we talked about this in 2012."

I know that everyone loves to hate on the government and especially the FDA. Certainly there are some legitimate criticisms.

But one of the less legitimate criticisms is that the FDA is suppressing cures for cancer and weight loss because of the heartless cancer / diet industries lobbying them.  Yes, the FDA can take a long time approving things.  But is this out of malice or out of being backlogged, under-staffed and under-funded?

In any case, to get a drug approved by the FDA, the following steps must happen:

  1. Test on animals to show reasonable expectation of safety
  2. Get approved to be tested on humans
  3. Go through several phases of testing to discover side effects, ensure safety, show that it works, and figure out appropriate use and dosage on varying populations.  This is the hard part.
  4. The FDA reviews the findings and can approve the drug for market

So when Dr. Oz says that the drug wouldn't pass FDA muster, that means that the drug does not have sufficient evidence to show it works.  Because he literally just admitted this, he is willingly promoting a product as a "miracle cure" to millions of viewers when he knows good and well it has not been shown to work.

Good thing that supplements don't have to be approved by the FDA then, huh?  

Senator McCaskill: "I want to know about that clinical trial.  Because the only one I know was 16 people in India that was paid for by the company that was...at the point in time you initially talked about this being a 'miracle,' the only study that was out there was the one with 16 people in India that was written up by somebody who was being paid by the company who was producing it."

Dr. Oz: "Well this paper argued that there was no one paying for it, but I have the four papers...five papers actually, plus a series of basic science papers on it as well.

Here is the study that McCaskill is referring to.  It's funny that the paper claims no conflicts of interest, but was paid for by the company selling the supplement - Applied Food Sciences, Inc. in Austin, Texas.  If you're interested in a detailed review of this study, I recommend checking out Science-Based Pharmacy's review.

I'm uncertain what other papers Dr. Oz is referring to.  If I knew, I'd look them up. Unfortunately I can't find much research on green coffee bean extract in the first place.  In fact, I've only found papers showing that the supplement is far from a miracle drug; at best promoting only modest loss of a couple pounds, if that.

There just isn't enough good evidence out there that green coffee extract is worth taking.  It's therefore irresponsible to tout it as a "miracle cure."  It's like trying to convict a man of a crime before the evidence has been analyzed because it's merely possible he did it.

"Well, sir, you did live in same area code where the crime happened so..."

"Dr. Oz: But, Senator McCaskill, we can spend a lot of time arguing the merits of whether green coffee bean extract is worth trying or not worth trying.  Many of the things that we argue that you do with regard to your diet are likewise criticizeable.

Should you be on a low-fat diet, a low-carb diet...I spent a good part of my career recommending that folks have a low fat diet.  We've come full circle in that argument now and no longer recommend that.  Many of us who practice medicine, because we realized it wasn't working for our patients."

Here Dr. Oz is attempting to deflect the fact that there is little evidence coffee bean extract is worth buying.  He is doing this by changing the subject to the current low-carb / low-fat diet controversies.  The fact is, low-fat diets aren't inherently "bad" diets anyway.  It's just that you can't tell a patient to go on a low-fat diet and expect them to understand you don't mean to gorge on Snackwell cookies...if they follow your advice at all.

Going on a low-fat or low-carb diet, however, is free and doesn't require buying products.  So there's yet another difference.

Dr. Oz: "So it is remarkably complex, as you know, to figure out what works out for most people even, in a dietary program.  In the practice of medicine we evolve by looking at new ideas challenging orthodoxy and evolving them."

Yes, you challenge orthodoxy with great evidence.

When debating something controversial, I often see people argue, "Galileo was right, but he was punished for his ideas at the time," or, "Barry Marshall was a laughing stock when he said stomach ulcers were caused by bacteria, but he ended up being right," as if those situations are comparable to what they're doing.

But the difference is that these men had evidence on their side to back up their statements, not just a hunch.  That this evidence was initially feared or ignored is human folly, yes.  And it was eventually corrected.

But there is not currently good evidence that these "weight loss miracles" are actually miracles.  This is why we don't believe in unproven cures - not because we're willfully ignoring claims or just being ignorant.  If solid evidence came out that they were useful, we'd change our minds.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence...and a little bit of time to ponder its merits and re-adjust our worldviews accordingly.

Dr. Oz: "So...these are the five papers, these are clinical papers.  And we can argue about the quality of them, very justifiably.  I can pick apart papers that show no benefit as well.  But at the end of the day, if I have clinical subjects, real people having undergone trials - and in this case I actually gave it to members of my audience.  It wasn't a formal trial..."

Senator McCaskill: "Which wouldn't pass...the trial you did with your audience, you would not say that would ever pass scientific muster?"

Dr. Oz: "No, I would never publish the paper, but it wasn't done under the appropriate IRB guidance - that wasn't the purpose of it. The purpose of it was for me to get a thumbnail sketch of, 'is this worth talking to people about or not?'

That would be all fine and dandy, except that Dr. Oz talked to people about green coffee extract being a miracle cure before he did this little audience 'experiment'!  (Also check out that clip to hear from Dr. Oz why he came to talk to McCaskill.)

Not to mention, despite admitting that this study would never stand up to any kind of scrutiny, he uses the results as "proof" to his audience that the supplement works.

Dr. Oz: "But again, I don't think this ought to be a referendum on the use of alternative medical therapies.  Because if that's the case then listen, I have been criticized for having folks coming on my show and talking about the power of prayer.  Now again, as a practitioner, I can't prove that prayer helps people survive an illness..."

Senator McCaskill: "It's hard to buy prayer."

Dr. Oz: "Yes, it's hard to buy prayer, that's the difference..."

Senator McCaskill: "Prayer is free."

Dr. Oz: "Yes, prayer is free, that's a very good point!  Thankfully prayer is free...but I see in the hospital, when folks are feeling discomfort in their life, and a lot of it's emotional, when they have people praying for them, it lightens their burden."

Here's the prayer episode in question.  Just skip to 4:10 to get to where they talk about the power of prayer.  I imagine the criticism was about a medical doctor bringing someone on his show suggesting that the supernatural is a reliable method for curing what ails us.

As a funny aside, you can buy prayer if you want, no problem!

prayerlol

Farmer's Almanacs have the BEST advertisements

Dr. Oz: "And so my show is about hope.  And I want - and as you've very kindly stated - we've engaged millions of people in programs, including programs we did with the CDC, to get folks to realize that there are different ways - that they can re-think their future.  That their best years aren't behind them, they're in front of them.  That they actually can lose weight.

So, if I can just get across the big message that actually I do personally believe in the items I talk about in the show, that I passionately study them...I recognize that oftentimes they don't have the scientific muster to present as fact."

This is the most telling part of the transcript, in my opinion.

Dr. Oz realizes that the information he gives is not factual - he just stated that exactly above.  He is literally admitting to deceiving his audience.  You can passionately study the mechanics of a Shake Weight, that doesn't make it work any better.

There are entire schools devoted to witchcraft where you can study for years and spend lots of money if you want.  You can believe with all of your heart that you can cast spells. That doesn't make the witchcraft any more credible.  Reality doesn't change.

He wants to give his audience hope?  Give them the stories of people who lost weight using real, effective, proven methods rather than ineffective pills and expensive supplements.

It's like he doesn't trust his audience with the truth.  Losing weight is hard and requires a lot of effort... but don't tell the common folk, they'll lose hope and give up.  We must lie to them for their own good!

You know a great way to lose hope?  Being told you'll lose weight with a product, spending $50 on it, then not losing any weight.  The bottle then joins six of its brethren in the back of a kitchen cabinet, commemorating all the times you've tried - and failed - to lose weight.

Dr. Oz is right - your best years aren't behind you, and you can lose weight.  Just not by doing nothing other than taking green coffee extract.

Dr. Oz: "But nevertheless I give my audience the advice I give my family all the time.  And I've given my family these products, specifically the ones you mentioned, and I'm comfortable with that part.

Where I do think I've made it more difficult for the FTC is that in an intent to engage viewers, I use flowery language.  I used language that was very passionate.  But it ended up not being helpful, but incendiary. And it provided fodder for unscrupulous advertisers.  And so that clip that you played, which is over two years old, and I've hundreds of segments since then, we have specifically restricted our use of words.

And I'm literally not speaking about things that I would otherwise talk about.  There's a product that I have never talked about in the show that I feel very strongly about, because I know what will happen."

'Flowery' is certainly one way to describe his language.  I'd use 'grossly over-exaggerated' or 'completely incorrect,' but that's just me.

So, he claims he has learned his lesson... but has he?

Here's a segment he did not too long ago about how litramine will "flush fat fast" and "literally helps you poop out unwanted fat fast."  I suppose that's not exactly errr....flowery.  But I'm not seeing any big changes in your game plan going on here, Dr. Oz.

Dr. Oz showing how 'Forskolin' literally burns belly fat on yet another episode.  Flowery?

Dr. Oz showing how 'Forskolin' literally burns belly fat on yet another episode. Flowery?

Dr. Oz: "I'll say something very...in fact we did a show, with yacon syrup, which you did not bring up. It's a South American root that had a big study published on it, I think a very high quality study, where they showed that not only did it help people lose weight but it more importantly helped their health.  It was men and women who were diabetic, done by an academic center down there - it was not funded by industry - and we talked about it.  And I used as careful language as I could, and still there were internet scam ads picking one or two supportive words.

Well of course I support them, I wouldn't be talking about it otherwise, but it still ended up out there."

Here's the segment on Yacon.  Sorry...careful language?  What's careful about this?

  • "The shocking results - how women lost weight with no diet, and no exercise!  The secret syrup revealed!"
  • Bring a clip of a woman on the show saying "I lost 13 pounds with no exercise!"

Not exactly being modest with the words there, I don't think.

Senator McCaskill: "Well, I...listen.  I'm surprised that you are defending...I mean I've tried to really do a lot of research in preparation for this trial, and the scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products that you've called miracles.

And when you call a product a 'miracle' and it's something you can buy, and it's something that gives people false hope, I just don't understand why you need to go there.  You've got so much you do on your show that makes it different and controversial enough that you get lots of views - I understand you're in a business of getting viewers.

But I really implore you to look at the seven...and I would ask you to look at the seven list that the FTC put out on "The Gut Check."  The seven...it's very simple:

Causes weight loss of 2 pounds a week for a month without dieting or exercise; Causes substantial weight loss no matter how much you eat; Causes permanent weight loss, like you said looking to 'bust your body fat for good'

...if you just look at those seven, and if you spend time on your show telling people that this is the seven things you should know, that isn't magic in a bottle, that there isn't a magic pill, that there isn't some kind of magic root or acaii berry or raspberry ketone that's going to all of a sudden make it not matter that you're not moving and eating a lot of sugar and carbohydrates.

I mean...do you disagree with any of these seven?"

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

Dr. Oz: "Senator McCaskill, I know the seven, I say those things on my show all the time."

Senator McCaskill: "Well then why would you say something is a miracle in a bottle?"

Dr. Oz: "My job, I feel, on the show is to be a cheerleader for the audience.  And when they don't think they have hope and when they don't think they can make it happen, I'm willing to look and I do look everywhere, including alternative healing traditions, for any evidence that might be supportive to them.

So you pick on green coffee bean extract.  With the amount of information I have on that, I still am comfortable telling folks that if you can buy a reputable version of it...and I say this all the time: I don't sell it and these are not for long-term use.

And by the way, with green coffee bean extract as an example, it's one pound per week over the duration of the different trials that have been done.  That happens to be the same amount of weight that was lost by the hundred or so folks on the show who came on, and half of them got a placebo.  We've actually got fake pills, gave it to half the people, real pills, to the other half, and it's sort of the same thumbnail.  I'm looking at a rough idea.

Look, we know the answer to the question "How can I lose weight?"  It's eat less and move more.

What makes that difficult, (and complicates an actual useful answer) among many other factors, is the current food and social environment...and people like Dr. Oz who are promoting a new miracle cure every other week, leaving people confused about what does and doesn't work.

If Dr. Oz truly wanted to be helpful to people, he wouldn't be grasping at straws - massively promoting and exaggerating the benefits of anything that has one tiny study to show it might help you lose one extra pound when combined with diet and exercise.

A poorly-constructed study like the ones he does with his audience don't give him a rough idea.  They're worthless - and he admitted that when he said they wouldn't stand up to scientific scrutiny.

Dr. Oz: "If you could lose a pound a week more than you would have lost, doing the things you should be doing already - you can't sprinkle it on cabasa (?) and expect it to work - but if that trial data is what's mimicked in your life and you get a few pounds off, it jumpstarts you and it gives you confidence to keep going.  And then you start to follow the things we talk about every single day, including all of those seven items, I think it makes sense."

If the only thing that people needed to lose weight and keep it off was to lose the first couple of pounds quickly, then low-carb diets or fasts would be the answer to our weight-loss woes, since they will get you to drop weight initially very quickly. Plus, doing that is free and actually proven.  Unfortunately it doesn't always last.

As well, note how he says that you need to be doing the things "you should be doing already." I assume that means eating a sensible diet and exercising.  Why is it that all weight-loss pills or fitness products say you must combine them with diet and exercise for results?

pill

Oh yeah, it's because it's diet and exercise that get you results, not the product.

Senator McCaskill: "Well, I'm going to give time to my colleagues now, and hopefully I'll have a chance to be able to visit with the other witnesses in the next round.

I will just tell you...I know that you feel you are a victim.  But sometimes conduct invites being a victim.  And I think if you would be more careful, maybe you wouldn't be victimized quite as frequently."

Dr. Oz: "Senator McCaskill, those topics you mentioned are over two years old.  I have not been talking about products in that way for two years, and it has not changed at all what I am seeing on the internet, and frankly it is getting worse.  So I completely heed your commentary, and I realize - to my colleagues at the FTC - that I have made their jobs more difficult.  That's why I came today.

I'm cheerleading for this process.  I want to do anything I can to help, but taking away those words doesn't change the problem that's already happened."

As we've shown above, Dr. Oz is still talking about products with 'flowery' and exaggerated language.  He hasn't changed, but recognizes the problem is still occurring.

So Dr. Oz recognizes that it's bad for his name when other companies claim that he has personally endorsed their products, but doesn't want to have to change his actions so that doesn't happen.

He wants to continue peddling ineffective products on his show for...ratings...or money...or whatever, but without suffering the backlash and negative consequences of doing so.

I agree that advertisers should not be allowed to fake Dr. Oz's endorsement.  But honestly, to me that's a different issue.

Dr. Oz should not be allowed to lie to and deceive his audience - which he above has admitted to doing.

Now, I get that there will never be a regulation that doesn't allow him to say whatever he wants on his show.  The real solution then lies in educating his audience.

How we do that is another subject entirely.  But hopefully by showing them something like the analysis above, they can at least recognize he has faults and has given them bad advice at least once.

And if he's done it once...maybe he's done it twice.  And maybe he could do so again.  And maybe his word isn't gold...

4 Comments

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.

5 Comments

You started seeing them pop up a few weeks ago.  It was probably slow at first - maybe just one Facebook advertisment or one little post on Pinterest:

21Days2

Abs everywhereeee

But now that Memorial Day and the end of the school year are getting closer and closer, you're reminded that your body is just so not ready for the beach more often than Hallmark reminded you to buy a card for Mother's Day:

21Days

Oh look, more faceless abs!

But let's get real here for a moment.

Yeah, it's nice to think that you can look like that model in 21 days, and the juxtaposition of her abs next to "21 Days" is 100% to make you feel like that's what you'll get...even though both you and the advertiser know you know better.

Unfortunately, deep down, your emotional brain doesn't give a damn what your logical brain has to say on the matter.  It wants to be sexually appealing and comfortable NOW dammit!

But as you've read in my Bullshit Detector ebook, you know it's my mission to give you the information to better arm your logical brain.  So let's ask the only actually relevant question about 21 day weight loss challenges:

How much can you really change in 21 days?

Is 21 days enough time to make any actual visual change?  Can you look better in your swimsuit in a mere three weeks?

Anecdotes won't help us here.  When you're trying to logically judge whether you should believe in a certain idea or purchase a product, the last place you want to get your information is from the person promoting it.

Think of it this way, have you ever applied to a job, and they ask you the question "what's your biggest weakness?"  Your answer and your parent's or former employer's answers are probably quite a bit different:

  • You: My biggest weakness is that I'm a perfectionist. (Nice 'humble-brag' answer, good job!)
  • Your Mom: Her biggest weakness is that she takes 3 hours to do her hair in the morning and always makes us late.
  • Former Employer: Her biggest weakness is that it takes her 3 weeks to do a project that should only take 3 days.

My biggest weakness is that I'm a workaholic. No, I mean that I just care too much about customers...actually it's that I have a hard time maintaining a good work / life balance because I work sooo hard. Or umm...actually it's that I have mild OCD when it comes to expense reports and logging my hours. IT'S ALL OF THE ABOVE!!

See how the message sounds quite a bit different depending on the perspectives and motivations of the person telling it?  This is one of many reasons you can't just Google "21 Day Weight Loss Challenge Results" and expect to get an unbiased opinion.

Where can you get an unbiased opinion?  Glad you asked!

Scientific Studies!!

So let's run the gamut of ways you could try to change your physique in 21 days by looking at studies on various diet plans, starting with the most drastic:

Complete Fasts

What better way to understand how much you can actually change yourself in 21 days than at its most extreme - abstaining from all food for 3 weeks?

There aren't a ton of studies done on normal, healthy people fasting for extended periods of time...it's probably not always the easiest to squeak by the ethics committee.

But, you'll most certainly lose a ton of weight.  How much depends on what size you start out at, but it's going to be a combination of:

  • Water
  • Muscle Tissue
  • Fat
  • Lack of anything solid in your system (aka no poop. Yeah, it registers on the scale)

But if you're a healthy, ~120-130 pound,  21-25 year old female, you might lose about 17 pounds of a combination of the above substances. (1)

A few studies (2, 3) seem to indicate that you can expect about half of weight loss to be due to water.  (As well, you can reasonably expect to gain all the weight back later. (4) )

At the same time, you run the risk of significantly increasing your cortisol levels, becoming emotionally distraught, and fairly irritable...so you'll maybe look a little better in a bikini but you won't give a crap.  On top of that, can you imagine how miserable and bloated you'd feel after breaking your 3-week fast on some chili cheese fries?!

Could look hot on outside, but feel miserable inside.

(To be fair, this study only had 5 subjects and most of them did just fine emotionally during the 3-week fast.  However, they were basically secluded during the research and not given options to consume food.  If you increased the sample size and tempted them with food at every turn - like the real world does - what would the outcome have been?) 

Alternate-Day Fasting

So let's say you want to do something more "reasonable", like say, only fast for 1 day at a time rather than 3 weeks all at once.

This is accomplished by people who do a particular version of "alternate-day fasting" where the idea is that you won't eat for 1 day, then you'll get to feast the next.  Most people don't eat quite double the amount of food on the feast day, so weight loss occurs.

In one study, patients participating in alternate-day fasting for 3 weeks:

  • Lost about 2% of their original bodyweight. (5) (So, if you were 130 pounds, about 2.6 pounds)
  • About 1.1% of that was fat.  (1.4 pounds for our 130 pound example)
  • Around 0.9% was muscle and/or water. (1.2 pounds)

I know, I know after 17 pounds lost in complete fasting, 2.6 pounds sounds measly.  But keep in mind that you'll

  • Have more energy for exercise and life in general
  • Won't lose as much muscle
  • Are still in a completely reasonable and good realm of weight loss.

...Unfortunately, some participants were still hangry and irritable on their fasting days.  Go figure! So this does not appear to be a diet that could be maintained for a significant period of time by yourself.

So how about you eat a little something everyday, but cut your intake by half?  That's like the best of both worlds, right?

Low Calorie Diets

Usually these kinds of interventions (along with their sibling, the VERY Low Calorie Diet) are reserved for the super-obese who need to lose about 50 pounds of pressure off their heart and lungs now, and are in a hospital setting.  But you need to look hot in a bikini.  So that's like, comparable in urgency, right?

Well, in an old but very well-known and interesting study, a group of men were put on a diet that involved 1/2 of their daily calories needs, and were also expected to walk 22 miles each week.  (6)

One of the study participants - during the Starvation Cycle on the left and going through the Recovery Phase on the right.

This study is so well-known because of the harrowing pictures of the men after 6 months of this and their extreme emotional duress and depression during the process.  One man had to be eliminated from the experiment after just a few weeks for emotional instability.

Just how few calories were these men on to induce such dramatic weight loss and mental problems - surely something crazy like 600 per day, right?

It was ~1,600 calories per day.

To be fair, this "diet" extended over 6 months time, much longer than any 21 Day Weight Loss Challenge.  As well, the diet was mostly carbohydrates and basically no protein to prevent muscle wasting, described as:

...starvation diet reflecting that experienced in the war-torn areas of Europe, i.e., potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, dark bread, and macaroni.

Tasty.  Anyway, a summary of this experiment is:

  • Participants ate a little less than half of their maintenance calories for 6 months.
  • Diet was a high-carbohydrate, low-fat and low-protein diet.
  • Participants walked 22 miles per week.
  • Weight loss came out to an average of 1.5 pounds per week for 6 months.

...Doesn't this actually sound kinda familiar?

This diet sounds like an exaggeration of what many of us do to lose weight:

  • Eat a low-calorie, low-fat, high-carb diet.
  • Log in the miles via walking / running / cycling
  • Do so for an extended period of time - possibly indefinitely

I'm not trying to say that you're going to end up looking like the man in the above picture - health problems and mental issues and all - by following the above regimen.  If it was up to you, your body wouldn't let you get to that point assuming you didn't have an eating disorder.

What I am trying to say is if you ever beat yourself up about "falling off the wagon" after "being so good" for 5 days...think about that in a new light.  Your body doesn't like running 3 miles a day on 1,200 calories of Special K with skim milk for weeks on end.  For most of us, your body will overpower your mind.  That's probably for the best.

Hey, at least they're bucking the trend of this article and going for a 14-Day Challenge instead!

Summary: So what can you accomplish in 21 Days?

Complete Fast: ~17 pounds if you're a young, normal-weight female.  Half of this will likely be water.  The rest will be a combination of muscle tissue and fat, depending on your activity.

Alternate-Day Fasting: ~2% of your bodyweight for healthy, normal-weight people, half of it being fat.

Low Calorie Diets (~50% of daily needs): The men in the study started at ~150 pounds and lost on average 1.5 pounds per week over 6 months.

If you eat a similarly high-carb diet, you can probably expect this or a little bit more over 21 Days as weight loss is typically greater during the first few weeks.

If you eat a low-carb diet of similar calorie levels, you can expect to lose more due to losses in water weight.  Note that this won't affect your appearance much.

Overrall: In all studies, subjects gained back all, or close to all, their weight back afterwards.  Some even ended up heavier. Across the board were reports of irritability and distracting hunger, though this wasn't the case for all participants.

Moral

Look, I know the quick fix is always tempting, especially when you want to look good for a particular event.  Marketers PREY on that.  Just read Harper's Jumpstart to Skinny book (essentially a 21-Day Diet) - he repeats over and over how much you know you want to look hot for the beach / reunion / wedding!

And I'll be real with you: it's not that you're likely to kill yourself on these diets. (Though there is seriously a reason why all the participants on these diets, especially complete starvation, were under constant medical surveillance.) They're short-term, and the negative physiological consequences tend to go away after a couple days of re-feeding.  (Though the mental ones can last much longer, which is my main concern) You'll probably even lose a fair amount of fat, an amount that you might even notice.

But now it's time for you to be real with me and with yourself: will it really make you that much happier to lose at most around 5-8 pounds of fat?  Do you want to exchange 3 weeks of stress and misery for maybe 1 good day at the beach, only to have to repeat the cycle every year because you'll likely gain the weight back from the crash diet?

WorthIt

6 pound difference - 160 on the left, 154 on the right. Worth it? Only you can answer that question.  (Also not covering my face out of anonymity, it was because I was making embarrassing faces in both pictures!)

Why not make this year the one that you do something permanent about your weight-loss goals by making small changes that add up over 365 days instead of huge changes that crumble after 21 days and leave you right where you started?

Maybe you have an iron will and you'll be really strict during your 21-Day calorie restricted diet, be really strict after, and keep the results.  But if that was the case...wouldn't it be likely you'd be at a weight you're happy with already?

If you made it this far, thanks for staying with me.  Leave a comment below, or share this with your weight-loss-hopeful friends and family if you enjoyed it!

P.S. While researching this article I came across this book on fasting.  I only read Chapter 4 about fasting for medical interventions, but it looks like a good resource on the use of fasting for various reasons throughout human history!

P.P.S. I realize that many of the studies I posted are old, or I only used 1 study where it would be better to use at least 3.  Many of them have small sample sizes...unfortunately finding 3-week long starvation or semi-starvation studies on healthy, non-obese individuals was really, really tough.  So I worked with what I could find. 

Just as good as homeopathy, psychic surgery and faith healing.

While reading through one of the books I recommend at the end of the BS-Detection guide, (Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, seriously amazing read.  If you enjoy my work at all you'll love this book) I came across an interesting study on placebos.

(He even made a note saying that if you had a possible explanation for the results of this study, that you should write a blog post.  So...here we are!)

This is a good study to try and read into a little bit, even if you're not a statistician.  We may not be able to decide if their statistical analysis is any good (considering my 'C' grade in high school statistics, I'm gonna go ahead and put myself in the 'not expert' category on that one), but most of the study is in language any lay-person can understand.

Can the placebo effect improve the benefits of exercise?

Let's go over the structure of this study real quick:

What is the study trying to show?

In the first few paragraphs of this study, below the bolded abstract, the authors give us some interesting background on the surprising effects of placebos.  Their definition of 'the placebo effect' is:

The placebo effect is any effect that is not attributed to an actual pharmaceutical drug or remedy, but rather is attributed to the individual’s mind-set.

And that's a very accurate definition.  Let's expand on that a bit with an entertaining example from the wonderfully crude TV show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

In the episode "Manhunters," two of the main characters (Dee and Charlie) are persuaded by Dee's father, Frank, that they've accidentally eaten human flesh.  Over the course of the episode, Dee and Charlie experience increasing cravings for human flesh, culminating in them kidnapping a homeless man to bring back to their apartment and eat.

Thankfully, Frank informs them in time that it was actually raccoon meat, and he was just fucking with them the whole time.

This example was just an excuse to post this youtube clip.

But Dee and Charlie feel the cravings for human flesh so intensely, they are convinced Frank is lying, and go on to attempt to eat him instead.

So, placebo effect is thinking you've eaten human flesh, causing the effect of craving human flesh, even though you only ate raccoon meat.

Where were we?  Ah, right, so the researchers were trying to determine:

...the role of the placebo effect (the moderating role of mind-set) in the relationship between exercise and health. We hypothesized that the placebo effect plays a role in the health benefits of exercise: that one’s mind-set mediates the connection between exercise and one’s health.

In other words, does simply telling people about the benefits of their current exercise increase the benefits of said exercise without changing anything else about their lives?

How did they conduct the study?

Researchers took 84 maids from 7 different hotels.  About half went into a 'control' group, and the other half were referred to as the 'informed' group.

The paper details exactly how they picked the maids and how they controlled for confounding factors like age, ethnicity, socioeconomic standing, etc.  As well, they made sure that the maids from different groups didn't talk to eachother, to ensure the placebo effect didn't spread to the 'control' group.

A control group is standard in most all experiments.  A control group basically exists as a reference for the changes made in the experiment group.

For instance, in this study, if we had no control group, we would have no way of knowing whether any changes that occurred in the experiment group had anything to do with the actual experiment changes, or changes in say, the weather, or any other natural fluctuations.

What were they measuring?

Researchers measured:

  • How much exercise the women believed they got
  • How much of their job they thought counted as 'exercise'
  • Weight, body fat percentage (via one of these), and waist-to-hip ratio
  • Blood Pressure

They measured the first two bullet points by just surveying the workers.  This would give insight into how their mind-set changed over the course of the experiment.  The second two bullet points showed actual objective data to see if those changes in mind-set actually affected their measurable health levels.

What were the differences between the 'informed' group and the 'experiment' group?

Both groups were educated on their daily recommended amount of exercise, based on the Surgeon General's recommendations; about 200 calories worth per day.  They were given handouts and posters were put up in their work lounges to remind them.

However, the 'informed' group was told that their jobs more than fulfilled said recommendations.  The 'control' group was not told this.

So basically, the only difference was that the informed group had the peace of mind and satisfaction of knowing that they were surpassing the amount of exercise recommended for them to obtain and maintain good health, while the control group did not.

What were the results?

Four weeks later, the informed group had:

  • Much higher perceived amount of regular exercise
  • Regarded their job as contributing much more towards their exercise
  • Lower systolic (the first number in blood pressure readings) blood pressure by 10 points
  • Lost an average of 2 pounds
  • Lowered waist-to-hip ratio and body fat

These changes were not seen in the control group.  In fact, they felt that their jobs counted less as exercise than before the experiment!

Ever watch Hoarders? Cleaning up that mess definitely counts as exercise.

So can the placebo effect help me to lose weight?

Possibly.  But don't get too excited about the results yet.  First of all, the body fat and weight loss results could be erroneous.  The scale they used to measure body fat is highly inaccurate and very susceptible to changes from water content in the body.  As well, many people experience weight fluctuations of 2+ pounds on a day to day basis regularly.

However, it's harder to mess up a blood pressure reading.  With an average decrease of 10 points, something was definitely going on to improve the health of the ladies in the informed group.

The researchers stated that it doesn't appear that the ladies in the study changed their dietary habits.  Nor did they report exercising more.  So, did being informed that they were doing exercise magically cause these improvements in health?

I think what's probably going on here is some combination and waterfall effect of:

  • Realizing that they're not lazy people, and healthier than they thought
  • Figuring that maybe they've got a little bit more of their shit together than they realized
  • Perhaps having a little more fun with the job, potentially increasing their physical exertion without consciously registering it
  • Decrease in stress
  • Increase in duration and quality of sleep
  • Decrease in caloric intake due to stress reduction and increase in sleep, as well as because they think of themselves as healthier, fitter people than before.

These changes wouldn't have been a conscious decision by the ladies, so they wouldn't have reported any changes in their habits.

It's a bit of a stretch, I admit.  But it seems more likely than a simple change in mindset decreasing one's waist-to-hip ratio.  Those kinds of direct physical changes don't seem to be in the realm of placebo, kind of like how placebo can't re-grow limbs or alleviate paralysis.

What's the take-home?

Realize that exercise is ANY KIND of physical exertion.  If you work a physical job like walking dogs, construction, teaching, cleaning, whatever, then you are getting exercise.  If you enjoy playing frisbee with your dog, you are getting exercise. Exercise does not have to happen in a gym or even as a conscious effort.

As well, recognize the awesome power of a positive mind-set.  Trust me, I know that this is easier said than done.  I have not in any way accomplished this yet in my own life.  But just feeling like you're just a little more in control of your life, eliminating just one source of stress, or maybe thinking of yourself as a bit of a healthier person can have huge effects on your actions and motivations.

Interested in learning more about how awesome and interesting the placebo effect is?  Pick up Bad Science by Ben Goldacre.  Seriously.  This book is amazing.

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In my BS Detector guidebook, I have a "BS Checklist" - Things to look out for during a commercial, in a book or on the cover of a magazine. One of the items on that list is an authority claiming to have a "secret" in regards to gaining muscle, losing fat, or whatever.

SuperSecretSecret

The only secret is that there are no secrets.

So when you see the line:

"...I'm about to share with you the secret to weight loss."

followed by an extremely simplistic solution:

"The key to weight loss is avoiding and overcoming food intolerance."

Then your BS detector alarm needs to start ringing.  

Just think about that statement - she is saying that for the millions of people who struggle to lose weight and keep it off, the answer isn't that they're eating too much.  It's not that they move too little.  It's not that the food environment encourages over-consumption, it's not that long work hours and high amounts of stress are not conducive to home-cooked meals or taking walks.  

It's not the fact that people are notoriously terrible at reporting their food intake, even when they're taught how.  

It's not agricultural subsidies or that adults who don't cook raise children who never learn how.  It's not even the plethora of diet and exercise books out there with contradictory information, slashing your favorite foods left and right, and leaving you completely confused of how to proceed.  

It's having digestive issues with a certain food or foods.  

Does this sound right to you?  

Now I'm not discounting the discomfort that can occur from ingesting a food you don't handle well.  Let me tell you about the time I ate two protein bars totaling 22g in sugar alcohol before a 3 hour long seminar.  (Actually, I'm going to pass on that story.  Just read these reviews for sugar-alcohol gummy bears instead.) 

THE WARNING IS NOT JOKING.

But to say that intolerance is the sole cause of weight gain and difficulty in weight loss is asinine.  And to be clear, that is what she just stated above and what this whole book is about.  

"...if you weigh more than you like and look older than you'd prefer, you are most likely struggling with food intolerance." 

So if I'm 57 but would prefer to look 25, I have food intolerance?  Got it.

Here is a checklist given for how to tell if you have food intolerance: 

  • Have you tried unsuccessfully to lose weight?
  • Is what you used to do to lose weight no longer working?
  • Are you a yo-yo dieter?
  • Do you frequently experience discomfort after eating, such as bloating, gas or indigestion?
  • Can you only lose weight by starving yourself or exercising like a maniac - or possibly not even then?
  • Are you feeling and looking older than you should? 

She then states if you fit even one of those bullet points, you're likely eating foods you're intolerant too.  Doesn't that seem like a bit of a stretch? (Especially when the bolded point is the only real one that indicates any sort of digestive issue!) 

So you, like almost everyone else on the planet, want to lose weight and look younger.  Ergo, you have a food intolerance.  What are the foods you're probably intolerant to?

The 7 "High Food-Intolerance" Foods

  • Gluten
  • Eggs
  • Soy
  • Corn
  • Dairy
  • Peanuts
  • Sugar & Artificial Sweeteners 

Where did this list come from?  Well, it appears that parts of it came from the eight foods that comprise 90% of all food allergies, (soy, dairy, eggs, peanuts) part of it from hot topics of the day (sugar & artificial sweeteners, gluten) and one I'm not really sure of the origin of (corn). 

While this diet protocol has you re-introduce these foods after a 3-week washout period, she states that she would like for you to leave out sugar, artificial sweeteners, corn, and peanuts forever.  Why?  

Peanuts 

"Peanuts have a high risk for aflatoxin mold, which is toxic and provokes a lot of allergies.

Peanuts are also high in phytic acid and lectins..."

Corn

"[corn is] one of the worst of all the grains because it tends to be allergenic, is high on the glycemic index and has a pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid profile."

She also notes that it is high in lectins and that "almost all U.S. corn is genetically modified." 

Sugar & Artificial Sweeteners 

There is quite a long list of reasons given to avoid sugar, everything from saying it "disrupts your insulin metabolism," to "sugar depletes nutrients."  Yikes.  

Artificial sweeteners are stated to be horrible for the same reasons as sugar, on top of it being a "neurotoxin."  And then, aspartame turns into formaldehyde when "it's raised over a certain temperature"!  Doesn't that sound terrifying?!

Apples - just one of many foods that contain formaldehyde naturally. (taken from ameribestprayers.com)

Once we get to the actual chapter-by-chapter review of this book, we'll go over what's true and false about those statements.  For now, just know that you really don't have to be this scared of food.  It's certainly not the instrument of impending death and illness it's made out to be above.

What happens when you eat a food you are intolerant to?

This can be a difficult thing to ascertain, because it's difficult enough to just figure out who is intolerant to a particular food or component of food as we mentioned in Part I.  But we can get an idea by looking at lactose-intolerance, which tends to be better understood.

With lactose-intolerance, your body doesn't have (or have many of) the proper enzyme (lactase, to be specific) to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products.  Therefore, it doesn't get digested properly in your small intestine.

When the lactose shows up only partially broken-down in your large intestines, bacteria ferments it, which causes gas and bloating.  This is also often followed by diarrhea, as the lactose doesn't get fully absorbed or broken down before passing through.

While the mechanisms for other types of food intolerance are not well understood, we'll pretend it is something similar to the above.  One prevailing idea of why food allergies and intolerance are on the rise the the "hygiene hypothesis."

Because of modern society's obsession with cleanliness, the hypothesis goes, we're depriving ourselves of the helpful bacteria that have helped us with a multitude of functions, including digestion.  For instance, the human body only produces 20 enzymes that break down carbohydrates.  But a group of just one kind of bacteria has over 260 such enzymes.  It seems logical to me that depriving ourselves of helpful bacteria with a hand-sanitizer obsession could lead to an increase of food intolerance.

Must rid ourselves of evillll germmmmssss

(But again, this is just a hypothesis)

This leads back to the prevailing theme of our book...

So, is food intolerance really the "secret" to why so many of us can't lose weight?  Let's review what we've gone over about food intolerance:

  • Food allergies are on the rise, with some estimates saying 4% or more of the U.S. population having at least one.
  • Food intolerance could be rising as well, but with such difficulty in diagnosis, it is hard to say and impossible to give an accurate figure.
  • Food intolerance is characterized by an inability to digest a certain food or food component. (Malabsorption)

So we have no idea how many people have food intolerance, but for those that do it means digestive upset due to an inability to break down and absorb the food properly.

Think about that - the nutrition from the food item cannot be absorbed.  That's unabsorbed vitamins, minerals...and calories.

As well, it's uncertain how many people suffer from an intolerance.  How could anyone be confident enough to say that EVERYONE who struggles with weight loss has an intolerance?  There is no evidence to back up that assertion at all.

But that doesn't mean this whole book is worthless.

Yeah, it's shitty to make big, bold claims that can't be proven.  But for someone who does suffer from extreme bloating and misery after meals, this diet could be helpful.  Elimination diets can absolutely help you figure out if you have 'problem foods' (provided you do one correctly), and help you to find relief.  It may not be 100% accurate and you may not know the exact component that is causing you distress, but you'll likely feel better.

Just don't expect it to solve all of your weight-loss woes.

Next up: the up-and-coming buzzword of inflammation and how it relates to food intolerance / sensitivity.  How exciting!!

As always, leave me any questions, comments or suggestions below!

4 Comments

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

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

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

Get Gwyneth Paltrow's Legs

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

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

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

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

Such bulk.  Much muscle.  Wow.

Such bulk. Much muscle. Wow.

And an endurance cyclist for good measure:

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

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

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

Secret Move #1 - The Frog Cross Leg Lift

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

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

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

Gym / Fridge Friend

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

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

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

"High-fibre foods boost metabolism..."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looks about the same to me.

Looks about the same to me.

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

Paltrow

Shakira became a client more recently:

Shakira

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

Conclusion

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

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

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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!

Get the whole review of Jumpstart to Skinny in one easy location under the 'book reviews' tab at the top.

---------------------------------------------------

I'll go ahead and preface this post by saying I don't have a lot of disagreements with Harper's exercise instruction.  It's better than I've seen from a lot of other trainers for sure.  I like to think that pre-The Biggest Loser, Harper was a wonderful trainer with integrity.  I suppose I can see how easy it is to compromise your morals when millions of dollars are on the line and it doesn't really seem like you're hurting anyone - even more so when hundreds of thousands of people tell you daily what a wonderful thing you're doing.

While I have few problems with his technique instruction or his form (only problem I have is with his kettlebell swing instruction), I do disagree with what he's asking of people on 800 calorie per day diets.

I much prefer people to do Russian swings over American (pictured above).

Your only goal on so little fuel should be to maintain your muscle mass - not to try and burn off what little fumes you may have left.  He provides 7 different workouts, some of which I like more than others.

Workout 1: 

  • 20 sit-ups
  • 15 squats
  • 10 push-ups
  • AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) in 20 minutes

This workout is decent - but I fear that 10 push-ups may not be feasible for many of the people reading this book, especially any beginner women.  As well, 20 minute AMRAPs for beginners is usually pretty tough.

But, I understand he is trying to make a semi-difficult workout for a wide variety of skill levels with minimum equipment.  That's a tall order.  AMRAPs are one way to try and take care of that problem - people who are less experienced would just go more slowly and complete fewer rounds than more seasoned workout veterans.

Unfortunately, there are going to be plenty of readers who can't do a proper squat or push-up - what about them?  I think it would have been a good idea to provide alternatives to commonly problematic exercises.  Maybe something like:

Workout 1 - Advanced Level

  • 15 Reverse Crunches (bring hips off floor)
  • 10 squats (3-8-x) Meaning, take 3 seconds to lower yourself to the bottom of the squat, hold for 8 seconds and come back up.
  • 10 push-ups
  • 3-5 rounds

Workout 2 - Beginner Level

  • 10 Reverse Crunches (keep hips on floor)
  • 10 chair squats
  • 3 push-up negatives
  • 3-5 rounds

Anyway, I appreciate that it is difficult to write programs suitable for whatever number of people is required to have your book become a New York Times bestseller.  But with just a tad more content, the most obvious problems can be rectified.  I'm sure Harper is a good enough trainer to know that, so I'm not sure why it's not included.

There are some workouts that I really have to question the intent of, however:

Workout 4:

  • 20 medicine ball push-ups
  • 20 medicine ball sit-ups
  • 20 medicine ball squats
  • 20 no-wall balls
  • 20 medicine ball burpees
  • One round for time

Now, I get that it's only one round, but just imagine: it's day 16 in a row of eating 800 calories.  You've already done 12 exhausting workouts and you're sore, famished and completely exhausted.  It's all you can do to walk up the stairs without getting light-headed.  What would be the best thing to do?  Apparently push-ups and burpees on an unstable surface!  Brilliant!

Not the training effect we're going for

Not to mention this workout is very unsuitable for a beginner.  It's unsuitable even for people with a couple months of basic training under their belts.  To be fair, he does state on the burpees and push-ups that if it's too difficult to do with a medicine ball you can go without.  I think that this would be another good time for an Advanced / Beginner split.

Burpees are hard.  Burpees are really hard when you're light-headed from only eating 800 calories per day.  Burpees are really really hard when you're only eating 800 calories a day and you just did a bunch of other exercises that make the blood rush to your head.  (Push-ups / Squats / Wall balls (involve squatting))

Moral:  Generally the main gripe I have is just that it's unrealistic and miserable for a half-starved person to be given high-intensity crossfit-esque workouts.  You need the proper fuel to even get anything out of it.

Again, the best you should hope for on this steep of a deficit is to maintain your muscle mass if you want this to be a little bit less of an awful experience.

Review

Again, you can find all the segments of Jumpstart to Skinny's review under the "book reviews" tab at the top.  You'll find all the segments of The Skinny Rules there as well.

As far as a final word on this book, I have to say that I'm greatly saddened by what's in here.  I'm sad because so many people read this book and think that quick weight loss is something attainable, normal and even desirable.  I'm sad because there is not a single peep from Harper about the drawbacks to following a crash diet.  I'm sad because there are probably thousands of people who bought this book with high hopes only to find themselves facing failure after being unable to keep up with unreasonable restrictions and rules.

This book, and The Skinny Rules, will give the impression to people who try it that weight loss simply must not be for them.  If these rules are non-negotiable and necessary to lose weight, while at the same time being unsustainable, then what's the point?  Why even try?

If you tried to follow the rules in this book and came up short, it's not your fault.  Harper mentions his 'expert' status several times in this book - no true expert in healthy weight loss would give out these suggestions.  You are being misled.

If you want to lose weight, here's a more realistic plan:

  1. Manage your expectations.  You do not need to lose 20 pounds in 3 weeks to have a good time at your reunion, wedding or vacation.  If you want to lose weight, recognize that to do so and keep it off it necessitates a long, slow process.
  2. Maintain a small deficit.  If you're counting calories, try something small and barely noticeable, like 200-300 calories.  If you're not counting, try just eating 80% of what you're eating now.  One less spoonful of potatoes at dinner.  Half of a normal piece of toast at breakfast.  Manageable stuff.
  3. Strength train in a way that makes you happy to maintain your muscle mass.  This could be doing bodyweight exercises, training with weights, hiking, pole dancing, whatever.

When you're just starting out, that is seriously all you need.  Could you do more?  Sure.  But if you've been hopping from one diet to the next for years with no lasting results, why not try something a little more manageable?