Category Archives: Diet – History

Dieting – what a tangled web – pt.2

In 2007, North Americans spent an estimated $64 billion on weight-loss products & services. This works out to an average of $810 per dieter.

2007 North American population = 334,000,000 x Approx 25% of the population participating in the weight-loss industry = 79,000,000 dieters in North America.
$64,000,000,000 spent in 2007 / 79,000,000 dieters = $810 per person

So what did the typical North American dieter get for their $810?

Not a whole lot of success considering that obesity rates keep increasing year after year.

So keep your $810 in your pocket and pay attention.

In Part 1 of this post, I began by dividing all of the different methods of weight-loss into two camps

Eat Less and Burn More

I then gave an introductory explanation of the methods that fell into the Eat Less camp

Today I will cover the Burn More camp.

Burn More

By itself or in conjunction with one or more of the Eat Less methods, burning extra calories can be an effective way to lose weight. In addition, some of the Burn More methods will do more for your health than just melting away body-fat.

One of the most obvious and time tested ways of burning more calories is exercise.

Exercise

Along with eating less food, exercise is the original cure for excess body-fat. Get outside, move around and you WILL lose body-fat.

Simple, right?

Not in 2008. Weight-loss is a huge business. If you owned a business that earned just 1% of the weight-loss industry sales, you would have grossed $580 million dollars last year. Sounds pretty good to me.

However, if you are going to earn $580 mill, you had better be offering something more complicated than:

  • Walk 30 minutes per day at a brisk pace
  • Stretch every night before bed for 20 minutes
  • Perform 30 minutes of body weight exercises / calisthenics 3 times per week
  • 15 minutes of deep breathing exercises or guided meditation per day

This plan, when combined with a meal plan focused around fresh vegetables, fruit, lean protein (animal or vegetable) and minimal grains will result in a leaner, fitter, healthier & more relaxed you…GUARANTEED

This plan is simple and effective. However, simple and effective will not achieve $580 million in sales.

$580 million in sales requires that the exercise gurus make things complicated. For example, one of the major fitness centres in the U.S. is offering 341 different fitness classes. Three Hundred and Forty One.

CRAZY

Let’s simplify.

Even with 341 fitness classes, fitness training actually has very few goals.

  1. Make your heart & lungs work better
  2. Make your muscles stronger
  3. Keep your joints & muscles at optimum flexibility/stability
  4. Improve your co-ordination – balance, agility, etc…

These 4 four fitness goals are designed to help you live longer & live better.

I will cover this topic in more detail @ Synergy Mind and Body.

Fat Burners / Thermogenics

Fat Burners or Thermogenics are dietary supplements or synthetic drugs designed to speed up the metabolism of body-fat. Take a pill and see the fat melt away.

Thermogenics have been around in one form or another for a long time. In the 1800s, digitalis was used as a fat-burner due to the assumption that its ability to increase the heart rate would result in fat loss. At that time, digitalis was also known as Dead Man’s Bells and Witches’ Gloves due to its toxicity.

In the 1900s, thyroid pills became popular.

In the 1960s & 1970s, amphetamines were all the rage. This continues today with Phentermine et al. Amphetamines are supposed to work by speeding up the metabolism & suppressing appetite. Sounds great until you get to their contraindications. Dependence, increased blood pressure & heart rate, insomnia…

In the 1980s/1990s, the Ephedrine/Caffeine/Aspirin (E.C.A) fat burner stack was very popular.

A distinct thermogenic effect was noticed by most who tried this fat burner. However, in most people, the effect was short lived and the product had to be cycled on and off as the effects wore off. People would lose weight while on, and then gain it back while off the stack. As well, there were numerous potential side effects.

The legal status of Ephedrine is currently up in the air. Supplement companies are currently unable to market ephedrine products as weight loss or bodybuilding supplements. The connection of pseudoephedrine to crystal meth makes further clouds the status of ephedrine as a marketable thermogenic.

When supplement manufacturers were banned from using ephedrine for their thermogenic products, they turned to other “natural” compounds such as citrus aurantium, guarana and yerba mate.

Hormonal Supplements

Another method of achieving weight loss involves the control of the body’s storage hormones. In particular, insulin and cortisol.

Insulin resistance, which may be caused / accelerated by the typical North American diet of fast acting carbohydrates, has numerous symptoms. One of those is weight gain; particularly fat around the abdominal region.

In the 1800s, Lord Byron popularized the use of apple cider vinegar as a method of controlling insulin and keeping body-fat at bay. Strangely enough, apple cider vinegar is currently experiencing a re-birth as a weight-loss supplement.

More recently, supplements such as chromium, alpha lipoic acid, vanadium, magnesium, taurine, zinc, gymnema sylvestre and banaba leaf extract/ colosolic acid have been promoted as insulin controlling weight-loss supplements.

Another hormonal approach to weight loss involves cortisol. It is cortisol’s ability to elevate blood sugar levels that has made it a target of dieters and supplement companies.

Phosphatidylserine found in white kidney bean extract as well as various adaptogenic herbs are being marketed as cortisol blockers effective at fighting stress induced weight gain.

Like the insulin focused supplements, the effectiveness ofcortisol focused products is still up for debate.

Liposuction / Abdominoplasty

While I may be stretching things a bit by including surgical methods of weight loss in the “Burn More” category; it fits here better than the “Eat Less” category, and I didn’t want to write a separate post. So there. Sue me.

Abdominoplasty is also known as a “tummy tuck”. Excess fat and skin is cut away from the body, the abdominal wall tightened and like Humpty Dumpty, is all put back together again.

Another method of surgically removing body-fat is liposuction. While there are various different methods of liposuction, the basic concept is the removal of body-fat by the insertion of a hollow narrow tube (think of a drinking straw) which is connected to a vacuum or suction machine. The fat is sucked out of your body through the tube.

It must be noted that like any surgery, both procedures involve risk.

Well, that’s it for today. In future posts, I will be looking at individual methods of weight loss. While I will focus mainly on the “eating less” side of the equation, I would be happy to answer anyone’s questions concerning any of the other methods. If I don’t know the answer, I will find someone who will.

DR

My fitness blog

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Dieting – what a tangled web

As of April 3, 2008; a Google search of the word “diet” would return you over 179,000,000 hits.

There are thousands upon thousands of individuals & corporations who will sell you the perfect solution to your weight loss dreams. Take this pill. Use this cream. Wear this belt. Do this workout. Try this diet.

Marketdata Enterprises, Inc., a U.S. market research company estimates that the weight loss industry had sales of $58 billion in 2007. They are projecting that by 2010, the industry will be worth $68.7 billion. This projection would have been even greater if it wasn’t for the scare of a possible recession.

So where do you start?

Let’s begin by dividing all of the different weight loss methods into 2 main camps.

Eat Less and Burn More

Eat Less

Simple. Eat less food and you WILL lose weight. That will be $58 billion, please.

Not so simple. Every seasoned dieter knows that our bodies are stubborn about holding onto our fat and that unless we are willing to survive on nothing but air and sunshine, (see breatharianism) we had better become smarter about burning body-fat.

To that end, smart people throughout history have com up with smart ways to help the rest of us eat less food. Here are some of their methods.

Structured Diets

Instead of just eating less of the foods you usually eat, there have always been diet gurus willing to sell you their one of a kind, guaranteed to work, fat burning diet. Some work, some don’t. Some work for a while, but then stop working. Wikipedia lists 79 different types of diets. In future posts, I will analyze some of the diets on the market today.

I will also look at extreme diets like the VLCD diets used in hospital settings, fasting or detox diets like the “Master Cleanse” and anorexia.

Behaviour Modification Techniques

From 1895 to 1919, a man named Horace Fletcher popularized a method of eating that promised weight loss, greater health and an abundance of energy. His practice was called Fletcherizing. Practitioners of his method were called Fletcherizers. The secret of his method – chew each bite of food until it liquifies in your mouth. In 2008, a modified version of this technique is part of Paul McKenna’s “I Can Make You Thin” program.

Another behaviour modification technique comes from the field of psychology. Psychologists (see Judith Beck) are teaching cognitive behavioural therapy techniques to clients trying to lose weight.

Appetite Suppressants

Attempts to suppress appetite have been around almost forever. In the 1800s, tree sap & camphor tea were thought to suppress appetite. Ice water is purported to both suppress appetite and increase short term metabolism. Along the same lines, soup based diets (see Cabbage Soup diet) claim to suppress appetite.

Other methods of appetite suppressant include dietary fibre (see food & supplements), homeopathic & aromatherapy preparations, herbal appetite suppressants (see Hoodia Gordonii), and synthetics like fen-phen.

Diuretics & Laxatives

These two methods of weight loss have a long and undistinguished history. In the 1800s, dieters used Potassium acetate (diuretic) and chalk (laxative) for rapid yet temporary weight loss. Commonly used as a last ditch effort to lose weight FAST, laxatives and diuretics come in many forms.

While most natural diuretics, like asparagus and cranberries, have a relatively safe and gradual effect on body fluids, herbal products like ephedra, horsetail and dandelion root along with synthetic products such as lasix and aldactone have a much more powerful and potentially dangerous effect on fluid levels and your kidneys.

Like the diuretics, laxatives come in varying strengths and from both natural sources like coffee, senna leaf, and aloe vera as well as from synthetic sources like Tegaserod. Like diuretics, laxatives can have serious side effects when abused.

Fat Blockers & Carb Blockers

Fat and Carbohydrate blocking supplements are designed to stop either dietary fats or carbohydrates from being absorbed by your digestive system. The theory is that “blocked” fats and carbs pass straight through your digestive track without being used for energy or stored as body-fat.

Bulimia & Anorexia

Bulimia and Anorexia are the only methods of weight loss currently recognized in the AMA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as eating disorders. Other forms of disordered eating, such as binge eating, while not recognized as mental illnesses by the psychiatric industry, are still very serious medical conditions. To engage is these behaviours is dangerous.

Bariatric Bypass Surgery

Bariatric or Gastric Bypass surgery is the catch-all phrase for the different types of surgical procedures designed to treat obesity by altering the G.I. tract and consequently reducing the amount of food eaten and/or absorbed by the patient. As of April 2008, there are at least 8 different types of Gastric Bypass surgeries.

Like all surgeries, Gastric Bypass surgery is not without risk. On top of the surgical risk, the success of this procedure is not guaranteed. Recent research has shown a genetic component to the success of Gastric Bypass surgeries

Scientific Research

As science learns more and more about our bodies, the search for effective weight loss moves farther away from diets, behaviour modification and diet pills and towards anti-obesity vaccines targeting various hormones (leptin, ghrelin, pyy, agrp, etc…) and genetic research.

While the search for a genetic answer to obesity is very exciting, it seems like for the present, genetic research into obesity is creating more questions than answers. I will be following this research closely and will be posting as new developments come to light.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, all of the different weight loss methods available today fall into two camps, Eat Less and Burn More.

This post served as a general introduction to the “Eat Less” methods of weight loss. My next post will address the “Burn More” methods.

My fitness blog

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