It never ceases to amaze me that weight loss and fitness videos from celebrities top the DVD charts the minute they are released; this despite the fact that most of these celebrities haven’t got the first clue about nutrition or exercise. Why the busy housewife with two kids thinks the latest DVD will be the answer to her weight loss problems is a mystery to me.
Celebrity weight loss isn’t the real world
These celebrities have trainers working with them seven days a week and in many cases have chefs preparing meals for them. Additionally they can afford to eat out regularly and have no real time pressure when it comes to fitting in a daily exercise regime. They most probably have to get in shape for their latest role so losing weight is effectively part of their career path. Exactly how does this relate to the average person on the street that is buying these products and why can’t these people get their heads around this fact?
The latest DVD to top the charts is from Geordie Shore star Vicky Pattison. The DVD is called 7 days slim and Ms Pattison claims to have lost 3 stone using the video. The advertising standards agency (ASA) has just banned the advert for this DVD upholding a claim that it is misleading. The ASA statement said “Because we considered that the ad implied that weight loss similar to that reported by Vicky Pattison could be achieved in seven days through use of the 7 Day Slim product when that was not the case, we concluded that it was misleading and breached the code."
Quite frankly even if this wasn’t the case the title alone is misleading “7 days slim” implies a quick fix and for most overweight and obese people this simply does not exist. You don’t suddenly get up in the morning and think “oh where did that two stone appear from”. Weight gain tends to happen over years as a consequence of poor nutritional choices and lack of activity. The simple fact is that if you do not address both these issues with a lifestyle based approach you will be going back around the quick fix weight loss merry-go-round for the rest of your life. Each time you have a go round you will actually be doing yourself more harm than good as yo-yoing your weight is far more harmful than keeping weight stable.
I am sure this DVD will look glamorous and even sound quite convincing but within two months it will have joined all the other fitness DVD’s in your collection gathering dust on shelf. By this point you will have put a bit more weight on but the good news is that the next celebrity DVD is just around the corner. If you want to break this cycle you need to take a good hard look at your lifestyle and get this sorted out. Once you have done that you will be able to ditch all the DVD’s and get on with living a healthy and active life. If you would like more weight loss and nutrition tips why not sign-up for the FREE seven video series by completing the simple form below.
Mindfulness is a term that has been used a lot recently when considering weight loss. This is because for a lot of people eating has become a mindless activity and this has contributed to the obesity epidemic.
Weight loss is about lifestyle
Although using mindfulness is being applied to weight loss we need to apply it across our lifestyles if we are going to achieve a maintainable weight loss. It starts with food and this is where a cornerstone of the LEAN Man System comes into play – self-monitoring. By regularly recording what you eat you become more mindful of what you are putting in your mouth. In terms of weight loss it is not just about what you are eating though it is also about how much you are eating. The second stage of a mindful regime is to become aware of when you are truly hungry and more importantly when you have eaten enough; when you are satiated. Your body is very accurate at maintaining energy balance if you learn to listen to its cues, in particular satiety.
The energy you are consuming is only one side of the weight loss equation. The other side of the weight loss equation is activity and again mindfulness is important. When on the LEAN Man System you keep activity diaries and this makes you aware of your overall calorie intake. As well as using diaries, gadgets like pedometers and accelerometers are very good for setting activity targets and these are used extensively on the programme.
So now you have both sides of the equation being monitored and you are mindful of what is going on in terms of energy in and energy out. However this is of no use to you if you don’t understand what you should be doing in the first place. The final aspect of mindfulness is education because if you are not accurately informed then you don’t know what you need to be mindful of. All education about nutrition should be evidence based and this can sometimes be an issue because there is so much misinformation about nutrition and weight loss. If you are going to educate yourself about good nutrition then make sure the material you are using has been peer reviewed and is up to date and accurate.
If you want to test how mindful you are try to write down everything you ate and drank yesterday, including portion size and how everything was prepared. If this is really easy you maybe are mindful, although there is no guarantee that your recall is accurate. If you really struggle with this exercise then you are not eating mindfully.
So to summarise weight loss requires you to be consistently vigilant about what you are eating and how much you are eating. You need to learn to listen to your body’s appetite cues and most importantly act upon them. You must become aware of your levels of activity and exactly how much is required to achieve a weight loss. Use gadgets to monitor what you are doing so you don’t kid yourself that you are more active than perhaps you really are. Finally for a programme of mindfulness to work it has to include a sound educational foundation. Make sure your nutrition information is up to date, comes from peer reviewed and reliable sources.
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An article in the press recently reported a woman placing a $5 bet that she could achieve a weight loss of 4% of her body weight. She used a website called DietBet that has been set up to accommodate both private and public competitions where individuals can bet against their own weight loss. Every competition has a pre-set goal, such as a weight loss of 4% and then if competitors within the group achieve this weight loss goal they split the pot.
Contingency Contracting and Weight Loss
Contingency contracting is exactly what it says on the tin. You set up a contract that is contingent on some particular outcome, in this case weight loss. This has been used in weight loss programmes in different ways for a number of years. In my research the groups of men all agreed a sum of money they would commit to the pot. This had to be a sum of money that had value to them or the contract doesn’t work. What I mean by this is if they committed £10, but actually the loss of £10 wouldn’t make them feel too uncomfortable then that will not fulfil its purpose. However if they committed £50 this has more pull. If the client completed the twelve week LEAN Man Programme they had their £50 returned to them. If they failed to complete the programme however they lost their money. Each research group decided what would happen to the money in this circumstance. Some groups donated the money to a nominated charity, others decided to split any forfeited money between the remainder of the group. During my research the drop-out rate was very low (14%) over the twelve weeks. This could have been for a number of reasons.
First reason will have been that all the men were screened for psychological readiness before entering the LEAN Man programme. This will ensure a greater completion and success rate. The second reason may well have been the contingency contracting. As clients reached the last few weeks of the programme if there was any temptation to quit the fact that they would lose their money may have been sufficient to keep them on programme. This is an important point because my research highlighted that you need to keep subject on programme for at least eight weeks before new lifestyle habits are starting to form. Interestingly the data from the psychometric tests reflected this timescale and also feedback from the trainers who as they put it “if you can keep them in the programme for about eight weeks, they get it”. So contingency contracting should form part of your weight loss programme as it may help improve the retention rate and ultimately this will increase the chances of success of the overall programme.
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Garcinia cambogia is a very popular weight loss supplement at the moment. A recent consumer report highlights that the scientific evidence clearly shows that it doesn’t work for weight loss. Each month in America alone garcinia cambogia is googled at least one million times. People buy in to the usual marketing hype that accompanies all these types of supplements.
Weight loss and garcinia cambogia
Garcinia cambogia is a fruit that is grown in Southeast Asia, it is sometimes called tamarind. The manufacturers/marketers make a number of claims for this product. Amongst those you will find from an online search are: The body's ability to absorb fat is slowed down, it can improve your mood this in turn can suppress your drive to react to stressful situations by using food, and finally it claims to replace fat with toned muscles. So this is definitely a wonder drug, surprising that we still have an obesity epidemic in view of these effects?
So how are all these magical results brought about? It’s all due to a chemical that is found within garcinia cambogia called hydroxycitric acid (HCA) this has been shown to inhibit an enzyme called citrate lyase and interferes with fatty acid metabolism. However these effects are achieved in a petri dish in the laboratory. The former head of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., Dr. Steven Heymsfield states that "Converting that to actual weight loss in humans would take 1,000 steps beyond that". This statement tends to be true for many weight loss supplements.
The first randomised controlled weight loss trial on garcinia cambogia and weight loss was undertaken by Dr Heymsfield and published in JAMA in 1998. This study found no benefits for weight loss. Dr Heymsfield continues to research weight loss supplements and notes that at least a dozen studies, all with negative results for weight loss have been published since his first study. He highlights that marketers of garcinia cambogia have weaved a tale using obscure facts. Although each fragment may have some validity if you put the whole picture together it makes no sense at all.
The consumer report notes that “A review of 12 trials involving garcinia products published in the Journal of Obesity in 2011 came to the same conclusion. Another study by researchers at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia, and published in 2013 in the Journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that overall the evidence for garcinia cambogia was “not compelling.”
There may also be health risks as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2009 warned consumers about Hydroxycut; this is found in garcinia cambogia along with several other ingredients. The serious health problems reported include elevated liver enzymes and liver damage requiring a transplant. In one instance this resulted in death from liver failure. The FDA couldn’t establish which exact ingredients were linked to the liver injuries.
So yet again it would appear that marketing hype is outstripping the facts. These companies spend a fortune pushing these products and if the search volume is anything to go by they are quite successful. The bottom line is there is no quick fix for weight loss; you need to make some long-term fixes to your lifestyle and also accept that it may take a while before you see tangible results. After all the weight didn’t appear overnight so it’s not going to vanish much quicker either.
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The latest weight loss diet craze or FAD to come from the USA is a new book called “super shred”. This book claims that you can lose 20lbs of fat in four weeks. If that isn’t bad enough, what makes it worse is that it is written by a Dr. Ian Smith (medical doctor) who is a member of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. Now exactly what message is this sending when people who are sitting on health councils are busy promoting their own diets?
Weight Loss Diets are not the answer
Dr. Smith claims that the programme works through something called calorie disruption. You shift the amount of kcal you consume from day to day. So on some days you eat 2,500 kcal and on others as little as 700kcal. Now straightaway there are similarities here with intermittent fasting. Dr. Smith claims that “These dramatic shifts cause a constant instability in the body that can increase the amount of fat burned”. He also advocates that foods consumed later in the day be predominately plant based as these are high in fibre and tend to be lower in kcal’s. This he says has an impact because if you eat fewer kcal at the end of the day, when your metabolism is naturally slower, then this will encourage weight loss. He does state that you can only do this for four weeks as after that it becomes less effective as the body becomes used to the regime. He says “If you do the same plan all the time, the body becomes acclimated to it. It stops burning calories because it knows what's coming." Dr. Smith claims that this is a plan for "destination dieting." What he means by this is that it's ideal for someone who wants to rapidly lose weight before a vacation, high-school reunion or the start of the summer holidays.
This diet has no peer reviewed evidence to support it and is yet again offering a quick fix. Given Dr. Smith’s position I do not see how he can remain on a committee when he himself is advocating a diet that doesn’t solve the underlying problems that have caused the weight gain. What is worse it is offering a quick fix which will only leave people in a worse position once they stop this new FAD regime. We know that Yo-Yo dieting is more detrimental to health than just remaining overweight and yet still people are offering quick fixes in an attempt to make a fast buck. I am not sure this is even ethical practice given what we know about weight loss. If you would like to receive further nutrition and weight loss tips why not sign up for the FREE seven video series by completing the simple form below.
Anyone who is busy waxing lyrical about “how if you eat this it controls insulin, leptin or ghrelin, and this will help you with weight loss” most probably hasn’t got a clue about how the appetite pathway works in the body. Just look at the diagram above to appreciate its complexity. The reason I picked insulin, leptin and ghrelin is that these three are the most talked about when it comes to obesity and weight loss.
Weight loss and appetite is complex
The following is an excerpt from Obesity research (2007) 8(1):21-34. This briefly explains the role of leptin and ghrelin:
“Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones that have been recognized to have a major influence on energy balance. Leptin is a mediator of long-term regulation of energy balance, suppressing food intake and thereby inducing weight loss. Ghrelin on the other hand is a fast-acting hormone, seemingly playing a role in meal initiation. As a growing number of people suffer from obesity, understanding the mechanisms by which various hormones and neurotransmitters have influence on energy balance has been a subject of intensive research”.
I have put the most important part of this statement in italics because despite this intensive research we still haven’t solved this problem. Our understanding is better but we are a long way from “just change these foods in your diet”. The diagram at the top of the page is taken from Antiobesity Pharmacotherapy: New Drugs and Emerging Targets. I wouldn’t expect most people to understand this fully and the only reason I have included this is to demonstrate just how complex this pathway is. What is more this is a simplified diagram and doesn’t show all signals involved. If it was as simple as ‘block ghrelin or increase leptin’ do you not think the pharmacology industry would have solved this by now?
The problem with finding a weight loss drug is that a lot of these signals (not all are shown) work synergistically. In other words they work together and if you target one then others take over. Therefore your weight loss drug has to be able to work at multiple levels. Given this fact it is hardly surprising that a number of the large pharmaceutical companies have withdrawn research budgets for obesity drugs.
If it was as simple as change a food or do a certain exercise we wouldn’t have an obesity epidemic. Obesity, weight gain and weight loss are part of very complex biochemical pathways and yet I have lost count of the number of so called “experts” I have heard wax lyrical about ‘it is just a case of change this or exclude this’. So my advice would be, keep this diagram handy and the next time someone starts spouting about leptin and ghrelin ask them to at least explain how their theory fits with all the signals in this pathway. If they are able to do that then perhaps they could be on to something. The problem is that if they can do that they really should be millionaires as they have cured the obesity problem.
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There is plenty written about weight loss but just how much of it is accurate? A good majority of the information you can find on weight loss is either anecdotal evidence or based on a completely misinformed understanding of the body’s physiology and/or biochemistry. This list contains just a few home truths about weight loss.
Weight loss facts:
- Weight loss is not easy and requires a lifestyle change, both in terms of levels of activity and nutritional intake. You’ll note I did not say diet as this word has been hijacked by the multi-million pound weight loss industry.
- There is no diet that will work for you long-term. Research in to every dietary combination of macronutrient has shown that although you may achieve short-term weight loss, at five year follow-up the average weight loss amongst those that have sustained a weight loss is about one kilogram.
- You shouldn’t be bothered about weight loss as it’s fat loss that is important. If a diet achieves a weight loss of more than about one to two pounds a week you are not losing fat. It will more likely be water and lean tissue you have lost. The minute you go back to your old eating routine you will instantly regain that ‘weight’.
- If you are concerned with ‘fat loss’ make sure this is what you are measuring, scales are no use to you. Most methods of measuring body composition (body fat) have an inherent error. Dexa-scan is the gold standard; skin-fold callipers can be a good indicator but the person measuring needs to be a skilled technician (ideally ISAK qualified). Plastic callipers are OK but Harpenden callipers are far more accurate. Do not extrapolate body fat percentage from a sum of skinfolds; again, this is not that accurate. Just work on reducing the overall total sum of skinfolds.
- There is no such thing as a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ food. The minute you apply labels like this to foods it has a psychological impact on your food choices.
- Fat burners DO NOT work, there is no peer reviewed evidence that shows that any of these products are effective; do not believe the hype.
- Just because you know someone who knows someone that uses a supplement and it worked for them does not make this scientific fact. This type of anecdotal evidence is proliferated in the leisure industry every day. It is also very often supported by celebrity endorsement; again this can’t be relied on as being accurate. These celebrities get paid thousands to endorse these products. They are not scientists and no nothing about weight loss other than what they are told or what they have used in the past.
- Just because you’ve used something and you think it works this is not research either. Never underestimate the power of the placebo effect. What is more even if it did have an actual physiological effect on you there is no guarantee that this would happen with someone else.
Finally it is your lifestyle that got you fat so only changing that lifestyle will get you thinner again. If it took years to slowly accumulate the extra weight you are carrying then it may well take months and even years to get back to a healthy weight (body fat %). Weight loss isn’t easy and requires application and dedication; it also is not something you can quickly fix. If you do want to lose fat then make sure your reason for losing fat is a strong one. Goal setting is really key in weight loss and your long-term goal needs to have a strong emotional pull to keep you on track when the going gets tough. One last thing that a lot of so called weight loss experts will not tell you is “You will relapse from time to time”. You need to know this because it is actually an important part of your weight loss journey. If you are properly prepared for the relapses then these can be a positive part of the whole process.
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A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA, Jan 2014, V174, No1) studied levels of obesity and late age survival in women. More to the point they looked at the quality of life in this later life stage and how weight loss affected it.
Weight Loss and Quality of Life.
There is an old saying that considers you should think about the quality of your life and not so much the quantity. It makes a lot of sense because if the quality of your life in terms of health is good then generally it follows that the quantity tends to be greater anyway; in other words you live longer. The 36,611 women studied were aged between 66-81 years so you can see it was a large cohort which improves the power of the results. The researchers found that compared with healthy-weight women, underweight and obese women were more likely to die before 85 years of age. This highlights that it is important to be a healthy weight and under-weight carries similar risks to being overweight in this instance. Many people get so obsessed with weight loss that once they reach a healthy weight they take it a step further moving into underweight. If you want to lose weight then a registered Nutritionist (RNutr) can assess your body composition and tell you what your ideal weight should be. This will be based on fat percentage and not weight per se. Disability risk increased markedly for overweight women compared to healthy weight subjects and this risk increased steadily the more overweight subject were. An easy way to assess your risk is by measuring your ‘true waist’ circumference. The researchers found that a waist measurement greater than 88cm was associated with higher risk of earlier death, incident disease, and mobility disease. You measure your true waist at the half-way mark between your lowest rib and the top of your hip bone, not as some people do, though the umbilicus (belly button).
So if you want to live a great life and receive your telegram from the queen (I don’t know if they still do this for centurions (100 years) as I’m not sure what replaced the telegram – Email most probably). Regardless, if you want to live a great life to a ripe old age, lose weight, but not too much, eat healthily, be active and hope your parents had good genes. If you would like more nutrition tips then simply complete the simple form below and receive seven FREE videos.
A study published recently in the journal ‘Obesity’ has found that intensive lifestyle intervention (ILI) such as is used in the LEAN Man System can not only be effective for weight loss in the short-term but can remain effective up to eight years later. This type of intervention is required if you want to finally succeed in not only losing weight but more importantly keeping it off.
Long-term weight loss
The study titled ‘Eight-Year Weight Losses with an Intensive Lifestyle Intervention: The Look AHEAD Study’ (Obesity, Volume 22, Issue 1, 11 JAN 2014) followed 5,145 overweight and obese adults over an eight year period. When the study was halted in Sept 2012 ≥88% completed the 8 year outcome assessment. The mean weight loss was 4.7% and 50.3% of the ILI group lost ≥10% weight. This study has provided the largest and longest randomised evaluation to date of an ILI for weight reduction.
The important thing to highlight here, and this is reiterated in the journal is that weight loss of ≥5% confers additional health benefits. These include prevention and resolution of type II diabetes, reduction in blood pressure and lipids, amelioration of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and improvements in urinary incontinence and sexual dysfunction. This highlights the value of making lifestyle changes as opposed to short term weight loss gimmicks. What is also encouraging is that this intervention has been successful across cultures; my research has demonstrated similar findings.
Physical activity and weight loss
The ILI participants significantly increased their overall activity over the course of the study and more than doubled their activity in the first year; they also increased the numbers of weeks in which they reported exercising, reducing their calorie and fat intake, and using meal replacements. The ILI group also regularly measured their body weight weekly or more often. The importance of self-monitoring of both exercise and dietary intake is one key aspect of the LEAN Man System as a number of studies have highlighted that regular monitoring increases weight loss success as well as improves weight loss maintenance. The greatest weight loss was achieved in the first year and this is when the intervention was at its most intensive. The LEAN Man System is an intensive 12 week programme aimed at kick starting lifestyle changes that can then be maintained.
Most people that struggle with weight loss will try any number of programmes before they slowly come to the realisation that they need to do something different. Making a lifestyle change is not easy, especially if you are unsure as to what those changes should be. There is so much misinformation available about weight loss it is hardly surprising that people are generally quite confused about what to actually change. The LEAN Man System is evidence based and although it does not promise a quick fix it does promise a permanent fix. This new study highlights that you require intensive intervention at the start of a weight loss journey but if you learn these lifestyle habits then not only will you be successful, more importantly you will be able to sustain the weight loss. I highlighted earlier that the health benefits of even a five percent weight loss can be significant. The longer you can sustain this loss the greater the benefits become. If you would like to read the full study it is available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.20662/pdf
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This is a debate that rages on with the leisure industry extolling the virtues of the latest exercise regime and how this will be the most effective weight loss class you have ever undertaken. On the other side of the arena you have the commercial weight loss companies all telling us that their new diet plan is what we should be following for fast and easy weight loss – so who is right?
Weight loss – an unfair equation
The first thing that needs to be realised is that the energy balance equation (kcal in Vs kcal out) is hopelessly unbalanced. It will take you five minutes to consume a chocolate bar that will typically contain between 250 to 500kcal. If you want to burn this off with exercise it will take you between 30 to 60 minutes. From this it can be seen why it is so easy to put weight on. So given this imbalance it should be fairly obvious that diet is the key to weight loss. If you make no adjustments to your diet, which was causing you to put on weight in the first place and you are going to rely on exercise alone for weight loss, I think you are going to be disappointed.
Exercise and weight loss
Whatever exercise regime you choose it will work for you as long as you enjoy doing it and can make it part of your everyday lifestyle. If your chosen exercise regime meets both these criterion then you have some chance of achieving your weight loss goals. However if you make no dietary adjustments it is going to take a very long time before you see results. If you fail to make any dietary adjustments during this period you may not see any results from a weight loss perspective. The only thing that will improve is your fitness and that is not to be sniffed at, but as your goal was weight loss this doesn’t meet your criteria.
Diet and weight loss
It cannot be denied that dietary adjustment will achieve weight loss. There are two things that have to be understood at this point. First off you don’t want weight loss, you want fat loss. Secondly weight loss at all costs has no health benefit so you need to consider how this will be achieved. I have written many articles on different diets so I am not going to reiterate these arguments here. Suffice to say that whatever dietary regime you choose it should meet the same criterion as your exercise regime selection. That is to say “you enjoy doing it and can make it part of your everyday lifestyle”.
So the ideal weight loss programme should be a combination of enjoyable exercise and/or activities coupled to a dietary regime that is equally enjoyable and sustainable long-term e.g. for the rest of your life. Although we started out talking about weight loss I would prefer people consider fat loss as a target but this should also be coupled to a goal of having good health and a healthy lifestyle. There is absolutely no point in being thin, with poor body composition and equally poor health. So next time you embark on a weight loss programme just consider will it improve your health and fitness and help you reduce your body fat. Most importantly will you be able to do this for the rest of your life?
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