Sunday, March 25, 2007

How to Win the Fat War

3,900 - This is the amount of food calories produced every day for each American citizen.

Think about this number for a minute. 3,900 calories is well over a thousand more calories than almost any of us will ever need in a day- but they are being produced so someone has to eat them.

This is what I like to call the North American paradox. Food companies and food producers need us to consume more and more calories to keep their profits coming, yet we want to consume less and less calories to maintain our health.

This is why it is not an exaggeration when I say it is a battle to try and eat less food and to make sure that the foods we do eat are healthy foods.

The best way to win this battle? Always remember that the foods you see in convenience stores and gas stations are there because someone wants you to buy them and has figured out what colors, names, and sizes will make you notice their products.

So the way to win this battle is by not being a "good little consumer".

Try your best to buy only planned foods - The foods you plan to buy during your grocery run.
Resist all unplanned purchases...gas stations, convenience stores, vending machines and checkout lines...these are all examples of places where we typically make unplanned impulse food buys.

Make this one adjustment to your typical daily routine and you are on your way to winning the fat war.


Fasting Diet, Circuit Training

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Monday, March 19, 2007

3 "Magic" Fat Loss Ingredients

Every morning I go through the exact same routine.

I get up. I make some oatmeal. Clean the kitchen. Go up stairs. Brush my teeth. Turn on my computer. Check my email. Then I laugh (or sometimes cry) while reading all of the new stories about the latest and greatest "fat loss" ingredients.

It is an absolute mystery to me why, after over 20 years of failed promises, we still turn to magic ingredients and magic foods for fat loss.

What shocks me even more is that we are still hoping to find something we can eat that will cause us to lose fat. It is almost becoming an oxymoron.

We are looking for something to consume that will make us consume less!

Here are just some examples of magic foods and ingredients in the new today:

Recent research (performed in a test tube) suggests that extract from Chilli peppers may stop fat growth. According to this research Chilli extract may hold the key to preventing immature fat cells from developing into mature fat cells.

In a different study, it was suggested that spearmint tea can not only lower a man's sex drive but can also decrease the amount of hair on a women's body. (Admittedly, this isn't fat loss research but if you think the body builders in your gym smell bad now, wait till they read this research and stop brushing their teeth for fear that they may be lowering their T levels!)

Finally, more research shows that dairy calcium (but not calcium supplements) can cause a decrease in the amount of fat in your blood after a meal.

I can't really tell you too much about this study because I stopped reading after the first page that mentioned that the study was funded by the Danish Dairy Research Foundation and the Dutch Dairy Association!

A Dairy Foundation and a Dairy Association funded the study, and the study found that dairy calcium, but not calcium supplements had weight loss benefits? Please.

Now honestly, there is some merit to this research. Eating more spices on your food is definitely a good idea. Eating foods that contain calcium is also a good idea.

However, thinking that taking chilli extract pills or consuming 3 bowls of ice-cream per day will make you lose weight IS NOT what you should be taking away from this research. (Nor is skipping your morning tooth brushing!)

If you want to lose weight there are only three things you need to do, and you don't need to read any research to do them.

Firstly, find a nutrition plan that works for you.

Secondly, get active. And I don't mean walk on the elliptical for half an hour every other day, I mean get a real work-out program and challenge yourself.

The third and last thing you need to do is to stop (or don't start) falling for the media's version of the latest and greatest fat loss research. It will only lead to disappointment and is usually a very poor and hyped up version of what the research was really telling us.

These are the real 3 "magic" fat loss ingredients!


Eat Stop Eat

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Monday, March 12, 2007

The Newest Diet Study - What does it really tell us?

By now, you have probably heard about the latest study – You know the one that “proves” that the Atkins diet is superior for weight loss?

So let me just clear this up right now. The results of this study prove one thing and one thing only – diets work.

In fact, after reviewing this study, and all of the commentary, posturing, crying and bickering that it has caused, I have come to the conclusion that this study proves that the very best thing you can do for weight loss is:

Eat less, but enjoy the foods you eat. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and lots of herbs and spices. And maybe most importantly, spend less time stressing over the types of food you are eating

In other words - Cut your calories in a way that works for you. ( It might take a bit of trial and error, but it will be worth it.)

Now here are the facts from the study…

311 overweight, pre-menopausal women were divided into four groups and were asked to follow one of the following dietary programs: The Atkins diet, the Zone diet, the LEARN diet or the Ornish diet.

Each woman was put in one of these groups and received a copy of one of the popular weight loss books. Each woman then met with a registered dietitian once per week for 8 weeks learning “the ins and outs” of their assigned diet.

After these classes the subjects were “set free” to follow the diet for 12 months, with the exception of a couple of visits to the lab and some unannounced phone calls where the researchers asked the subjects to recall what they had eaten in the last 24 hours.

What happened?

As expected, all 4 groups ate fewer calories during the study than they were eating before the study – so all diets “worked” to help cut calories.

And each group lost weight with most weight loss happening in the first 2 months. (After this point for all diets, the weight loss tended to slow or even creep back up).

The Atkins style diet had the best weight loss during the first 2 months and over the 6-month study. That’s why you see Atkins being crowned the king of weight loss diets.

However, by end of the 12-month study, the results tended to “even out”. And by the end of the study, the Atkins diet was really only better than the Zone Diet (which isn’t a bad diet on it’s own).

And you know what? The total weight loss wasn’t that impressive – with the Atkins dieters losing 12.5 lbs in 6 months. That’s 0.5 lbs per week. Good, but not eye-popping results.

But here’s the kicker. It’s hard for me to understand how overweight woman (averaging 180 pounds and over 40% bodyfat) can eat less than 1400 calories per day for 6-months and lose only lose 12 and a half pounds. There is something very wrong here.

Looking at the data, I noticed that all of the diets saw a small slow increase in their calorie intake over the year. And honestly, this was probably due to huge errors in dietary recall. Most people can’t accurately describe what they had for lunch, so this measure isn’t worth the paper it was written on.

Dietary recall is a scientific method for measuring caloric intake that has been under a large amount of scrutiny in the past years.

Imagine having someone call you on the phone and ask you to describe all of the foods you had eaten over the day. Imagine the types of mistakes in sizes and types of food that could be made in this type of interpretation and then imagine the kind of effects that this could have in a scientific study.

Now also imagine that you SIGNED UP for a weight loss study, so you are already motivated to eat less and you are also insecure about the amounts and types of food you eat.

For true research, diet recalls are a horrible tool. Plain and simple.

I also noticed that none of the diets were true to their form.

Take a look at the “high protein Atkins style diet”. After 2 months the subjects reported a protein intake of 95 grams. But at 12 months it was down to 82 grams. How is this high protein? It’s not even 0.5 grams per pound of bodyweight!

And check out the “Ornish Low fat diet”. At 2 months fat made up 21% of their caloric intake, at 12 months it made up 29.8% of their calories. This is a far cry from the 10% that Dr. Ornish advocates.

Because the subjects had such a hard time sticking to the diet plans, I don’t think that this trial proved that any one diet was better than the other. It did prove that the diet with the lowest carbohydrates had the quickest weight loss. And it did show that diets high in fat can still have health benefits. Most likely, the health benefits are the result of the reduced calories and the associated weight loss as all the diets were associated with health improvements.

Of course, proponents of each diet are all crying foul. They’re complaining about the study design, the subjects, the poor compliance to the diet plans…but most importantly they’re complaining because they make money by selling you their programs!

Its funny…Dr. Ornish said that the study was flawed because most participants couldn’t follow the Ornish diet. That doesn’t make the study flawed - its makes the diet flawed.

And that’s exactly what this study proves…it is very difficult to follow these prescribed diets. These people don’t know you. They don’t know what you like to eat or what you do for a living. They simply design a diet that makes a lot of sense on paper, and prescribe it as a cure all.

The bottom line is…this study still not help end the debate over which diet works best because there IS NO DEBATE. Eating less works! End of story. The rest of it is just people making simple diet advice into confusing pseudo-science so they can sell you their programs.

Eat less, but enjoy the foods you eat. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and lots of herbs and spices. And maybe most importantly, spend less time stressing over the types of food you are eating.


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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Why French women don't get fat

As part of my responsibilities as a nutrition critic, I read a lot of diet and nutrition books.

Admittedly, there are so many diet books out there it is almost impossible for me to read ALL of them, but every so often, when one hits the the best sellers list, it's time for me to visit my local book store and get my read on.

Last week was one of those times. After over hearing some very positive conversation at my local coffee shop I realized I needed to get my hands on a copy of "French women don't get fat" by Mireille Guiliano.

After a weekend of reading, I've finished the book, and have this review to offer.
I found this book to be unlike most of the other diet books I have reviewed lately. There is no hokey psuedo-science, no clearly-defined plan, and no lists of "magical foods" that you have to avoid or have to eat.

The premise behind the book is fairly simple. According to the author, French women are not fat - Therefore we should eat like the French.

Now, if you remove all of the stories about life in France, some useful recipes and some sporadic uses of the French language, then you are left with one easy message:

"Eat less, but enjoy the foods you eat. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and lots of herbs and spices. And maybe most importantly, spend less time stressing over the types of food you are eating."

Sound familiar? This is close to exactly the message that I have been promoting on this blog and in my articles for

Now you may be thinking that this is this some coincidence, or that maybe I have met Mireille Guiliano, and I can tell you that neither of these are true.

I have never met Mireille (However, I would like too), but the similarity in these messages is not a coincidence.

The reason that our messages are almost identical is because they work.

Your absolute best tool for creating a great nutritional diet is eating less but enjoying the foods you eat. Follow this by eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and lots of herbs and spices and you are well on your way to a diet that is near perfection. And once you stop stressing over the types of food you are eating, well at this point you are golden.


Fasting for Weight Loss

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Is it time to give up on Low-fat foods?

We are surrounded by low-fat foods.

Nearly 10 billion dollars a year are spent advertising low-fat foods - Trying to convince us that we should buy them because they are "good for our health".

It was in the early 1980's when our government suggested that we cut back on our fat intake. Since then food companies have been in "product-development overdrive" churning out low-fat foods.

From low-fat cookies and brownies, to low-fat cheese and yoghurt, you can find a low-fat version of every one of your favorite foods in your local grocery store.

However, before we accept the "low-fat equals good healt message", there are a couple of important things we should think about when it comes to the effectiveness of low-fat foods:

1) If you take the fat out of food, you have to replace it with something. Binders, emulsifiers, bulking agents, and yes sugars like high fructose corn syrup are all used to replace fat. What's more, the foods that traditionally have higher fat, like cheese and yogurt, are the ones that need the most additives once the fat is removed.

2) The low-fat food trend is only 25 years old. And in the last 25 years, as low-fat foods dominated our grocery stores, obesity, diabetes and cancer have all been on the rise. The idea that simply switching to low-fat foods will help us maintain a healthy weight has failed miserably.

3) A recent study examining the lifestyle habits of 18,555 women found that women who ate at least one serving of high fat dairy every day appeared to reduce their risk of ovulatory infertility. While this is only one study, it does have a very large subject group and does lead to the idea that fats may not be as bad for you as once thought. Indeed, even saturated fats may actually have some health benefits.

4) The scientific evidence behind the idea that low-fat eating is healthy is actually pretty weak. It was in the 1950's that a small group of people began to popularize the idea that low-fat eating was healthy eating. Since then hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on research trying to prove the idea was correct. The results of this research have been so surprisingly weak that it is starting to make many scientists skeptical of the supposed damaging health effects of fat.

5) The "fat is bad" message is very oversimplified. Take butter for instance. Yes it is a source of saturated fat, but it is also almost 25% monounsaturated fats, of which almost 80% is oleic acid, the same type of fat found in olive oil. There are many foods out there that have been wrongly accused of being simply saturated fat.

Bottom line - We need to stop trying blame obesity on the fat in our foods.

As a simple guideline- Eat less, but enjoy the foods you eat. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and lots of herbs and spices. And maybe most importantly, spend less time stressing over the types of food you are eating. These are probably the best thing you could do for your health.


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