Since I've knocked off nearly 30 pounds of excess poundage in the last 4 months, I'm going to do a quick 101 on dieting. I'm stunned when reading stuff like ivenus.com and irishhealth forums, how much ignorance there is about weight loss, especially amongst women. I think what has happened is that the last few years of aggressive marketing by those selling cosmetic treatments and pseudosurgical "solutions", as well as the now huge diet supplement industry, have managed to brainwash huge numbers of the (particularly female) population into believing their armchair weight loss bullshit.
There are two myths I constantly see:
1. Weight loss pills can solve your weight problem, regardless of diet, exercise and lifestyle.
2. Cosmetic surgery and pseudo-medical treatments can solve your weight problem, regardless of diet, exercise and lifestyle.
Both are utterly wrong, and expensive mistakes to make. Bake in the 1980s I remember my mother going to a beautician for Slendertone treatments. She did become lovely and toned, however she did it alongside a diet, so its hard to establish what was down to the treatment, and what was down to the diet. The reality is, that a lot of apparent non-diet "succeses" are due to the fact that the person was actually dieting at the same time. Take this example from one of the online forums:
Note the words of wisdom from poster "Johnsta" a male personal trainer, who immediately spots the flaws in the picture. The original poster decribes her sister as the "knowledgeable" personal trainer - yet in a later post we learn that this was a 19 year old girl who shouldn't have had the procedure done at all because it is only normally offered to the over 25s. The poster then lets on that the practitioner "Just seems like he was more interested in the money than proper care and advice" which seems to be revealing the truth about this practice. Secondly, to be a "personal trainer" in Ireland all you need is €1860 and 18 weekends free to do a course run by NCEHS. On the website for one of their courses it does suggest that the course is properly accredited, but far more time is given to money matters than course requirements - in fact, there seems to be no course requirements. In fact the website itself actually mentions that "you can be confident and assured that you will achieve the highest primary qualification level in fitness instruction available in Ireland as there is currently no such course available at Level 4 or 5." So you can be happy to achieve this basic qualification, because nothing higher is offered. So basically a 18 year old whose main experience of sport could be quite limited can do this course and emerge as a "personal trainer" despite obvious immaturity and lack of experience. In fact, no competent personal trainer would have such a procedure done quite simply because they would understand the spot-reduction myth. The reality is that this girls sister is believing her crap judgement - that she needs to have medical intervention to get the excess weight off one part of her body because she is a "qualified" personal trainer. The fact that she's obviously very little experience and only a basic qualification (if at all), and hasn't the maturity to know and understand things that every competitive bodybuilder can tell you shows how much of a danger she is to her trainees. The only way to reduce hard to move fat is to reduce overall fat levels. That takes exercise, dieting and most of all, time. A 19 year old quite obviously hasn't given herself the time to get off that fat. It may take a couple of years. In another post we learn that she lost 4 stone through dieting and exercise alone. The picture I am getting of this person is somebody who dieted and exercised from obesity to a normal weight, who subsequently took an opportunity to perhaps do some kind of PT course and now works in the industry (possibly?) Considering her age, however, she can't have been doing this for very long. She is, as I pointed out earlier, dangerous to trainees if she even considers cosmetic surgery to move fat.
So what is the spot reduction myth? Basically its the idea that by continually exercising a particular muscle group you can lower fat levels in that part of the body - usually the abdominal area. This has been rubbished so many times its not worth mentioning. This would explain why, for example, when I was 17 and a nice trim 119 pounds with a 26 inch waist I felt "fat" because of my disproportionate hips and thighs. Thanks to genetics on my mothers side no doubt. Of course instead of 14 years of steady weight gain I could have embarked on a diet and kicked off enough overall fat to finally take the excess off my legs. But you can't just knock fat off one part of the body - its an overall process. The sad reality is that this silly young woman who is selling herself as a "personal trainer" to other gullible people is stupid enough to not know about spot reduction being a myth and has fallen for the slick marketing of the cosmetic surgery industry. However as many people show everyday, it is possble to control your weight. All it takes is willpower and work.
As it happens I discovered one of the websites for this procedure in Dublin. I won't be promoting their deceit by posting the address here. I was very curious to notice that there is pages and pages of mumbo-jumbo about how "injections initiate a process during which fat is melted away and then eliminated from the body via normal metabolic process." How can fat be "melted away"? (Well actually it can apparently, but you don't want to go incinerating your patients). There is just one page dedicated to the professional integrity of well, just one staff member. He seems rather well qualified, however I couldn't help noticing the number of photos of himself with various celebrities (celebrity endorsement is de rigeur for the cosmetic industry in general).
Well I'd now like to introduce you to two websites worth reading if you think I'm just cynical. Neither are commercial. They are accounts by two ordinary though admittedly highly intelligent individuals who sorted out ordinary weight problems by a combination of diet and strength training.
This is an excellent website by a Canadian lady who found her way through weight lifting and healthy eating. She has a particularly interesting page on nutrition which is well worth reading. Her exercises on good form for squats and deadlifts enabled me to learn to squat and deadlift properly without doing myself an injury and was particularly helpful for eliminating problems associated with height. Check out especially Krista's excellent "crap list" which tells you what to avoid - well really just bin all the marketing gumpf about supplements, those nighttime cable ads for abdo trainers etc and Krista's particular hate - pink dumbells. I really like Kristas writing style - she's a highly intelligent person and every ounce of advice on her site is scientific and rock solid.
This guy John is seriously funny. And seriously good in his general description of how he lost 100 pounds over a year. He basically exercised, dieted and took an ECA stack. (Ufortunately for us here in Ireland, the main component of the ECA stack, ephedrine or ma huang, is a controlled substance so you can't get it over the counter). Now I'm actually in favour of the ECA stack if its taken in the context of bodybuilding or to accelerate weight loss as part of a diet and exercise plan thats already working. But the big problem with thermogenic fat burners is that if you're not on a diet when you start taking them, whatever you are eating is going to be way too much to maintain the weight loss, so you're either stuck on them (which is expensive at about €40-60 a bottle that will last 4-6 weeks) or you pile the weight back on as quick as it came off.
You need to read this right to the end, because John corrects some of his incorrect instructions on exercise (basically the numbers of reps and exercises done) at the very end. Its not as good as Krista's advice, but the general idea is right: you can go from being horribly overweight to gorgeously cut up in a year. And you can do it primarily through diet and exercise.
So here are my tips. Basically I started out at 193 pounds in mid March. And now I'm 165 pounds. Still overweight - but my BMI is now down from 37.7 to 32.2 - a full 5 points. I'm still technically obese, but only need to lose 12 more pounds to end being clinically obese. If I can lose the same amount of weight again, I'll be 137 pounds and have a BMI of 26 - just slightly overweight. I see it as a perfectly realistic goal to get down to 120 pounds or less. It sounds like an enormous task, but if I can shed 28 pounds, I can do it.
1. Eliminate the following: all "diet" foods, all drinks except water and freshly squeezed fruit juice, full fat diary, butter and all diary spreads, white bread, processed foods, take aways, pizza, anything with a breadcrumb coating, very rfined carbohydrates and sugar. It goes without saying that snacks, crisps, chocolates, sweets etc are a big no no.
2. Take up exercise. If you are older or have joint trouble brisk walking is good. Strength training is critical and will maintain muscle mass. For €30 you can get 2 dumbells, a barbell and 26kg worth of weights in Argos. This will give you a pretty decent workout. A lot of companies have gyms, but you'll get the best workouts from running in the open air or cycling. No amount of magnetic resistance can replicate the experience of cycling uphill against the wind. I like the crosstrainer. I find it challenging without the sensation of imminent collapse that I get from jogging, though its actually tougher. Maybe its the programme on the Pulse model we have at work. Make sure yiour exercise is appropriate for your age and physical condition. If you have arthritis don't do anything with a heavy impact.
3. Cut alcohol to the minimum. I only drink maybe once a month. A lot of newer drinks especially alcopops have huge levels of sugar. The disgusting binge drinking practice of downing more than 7 pints at a sitting is probably taking in almost enough calories to keep you going for a whole day. Also you'll get dehydrated, which doesn't help. Also the kind of poundage that you get from alcohol apparently is more likely to travel to the abdomen, which is recipe for health risks. I notice a lot of hard drinking young women in Ireland with beer bellies. Its not very attractive. Do yourself a favour and think of your abs.
4. Drink water. Lots of it. 2 litres a day is good.
5. Visit a nutritionist or medically designed weight loss clinic. Aside from the clinic in Dublin for obesity, the only medically designed programmes in Ireland that I know of are the "Motivation Clinics". These are based on a Canadian doctors programmes. You can see the idea at his website. The idea is to permanently change your relationship to food so you no longer over eat. This and a high protein, low fat and sugar diet. The only flaw with motivation is that it emphasizes exercise without giving good guidelines on what to do. For example walking was just crap for me. Also they sell you imported protein supplements (which are actually more varied than what I see on most websites and in health stores) which are more expensive than other programmes. Altogether you are realistically looking at €1,000 euro for a 20 week programme, which should shift 30-60 pounds. Having said that they do brainwash you into disliking fatty foods, which cannot be a bad thing. But the programme is a lot of work. However it has one of the best long term success rates around.
Avoid short term fad/crash diets. These just don't work. You lose water and probably lean tissue indiscriminately and will probably end up putting it all back on again.
Atkins is ok, but its not 100% clear why it works and what the long term side effects are. My personal theory on Atkins is that it works because it removes highly refined carbs from the diet which are probably a large part of any fat persons problem.
Weightwatchers never fails to amaze me. I know dozens of men and women who've gone to them and shed sometimes massive amounts of weight, only in almost every case to pile it all back on. I have to say I am highly suspicious of any weight loss programme that has a line of food products, it encourages eating prepackaged foods which is a bad habit. It doesn't have a good record for permanent weight loss which is why I say avoid.
Same goes for Jenny Craig, Unislim, Slimming World etc. Basically anything that endorses products is highly suspect.
The GI diet on the other hand, is excellent. It refines the Atkins refined startch concept by dividing up foodstuffs depending on how sugar are absorbed into the bloodstream.
If you can't afford to go anywhere get your hands on a book by Richard Mackarness called "Eat Fat and Grow Slim." You'll probably find loads in any second hand bookshop. It was written in the 1950s, but has is broadly like the Atkins diet - 20 years before Atkins! It basically was one of the first books to advocate a high protein diet and to reduce refined carbs. Of course the problem in the 1950s was nowhere as bad as today. Mackarness was the first to suggest that some people had problems metabolising foods - now known as "syndrome X."
Its only very recently that health promotion experts have started to question the validity of the traditional food pyramid, which promoted 6-11 servings per day of carbohydrate laden foods. Part of this is due to changes in food production and part of it is cultural change. It was fine to eat lots of carbs in the day when most workers did hard labour and long hours, but its no use if you're stuck in an office 8 hours a day. Also foods are so much more refined than they were even 25 years ago.
6. No excuses. Don't try to invent reasons why you are overweight. Unless you have a thyroid problem you are overweight because you eat too much and/or don't exerceise enough. Don't forget that.
7. Emphasize the postive aspects, not the "self denial." Most people cannot diet or stick to dieting because they feel they are missing out. Hello? Missing out on what?
Let me tell you this story. My mother put on weight from really about the age of 40 on, by the age of 59 maxing out at 14 stones. By this time she'd arthritis, had had 4 knee operations, could barely walk, was diagnosed as diabetic, suffered also from vertigo, hypertension, glaucoma and sleep apnea. She's also problems with her feet from the diabetes and has effectively lost the sight in one eye from the glaucoma. Virtually every one of these diseases was caused by obesity.
Now let me ask you? Do you feel you are missing out on that? Would you like to have to attach yourself to a machine every night so you can get a full nights sleep without stopping breathing? Would you like to be hugely at risk of a heart attack? You have a choice. You can eat all the shit and end up like my mother (and me, having hit the same weight nearly 30 years younger, would have probably ended up with double the level of health problems at a much younger age), or you can skip the rubbishy foods and enjoy life without them.
Basically, if your choice is between cutting out crappy foods and enjoying life whilst eating healthy choices, I'd prefer to "deny myself" anyday.
8. Ignore diet sabetoeurs. People who try to push crap food on you may be well intentioned. Ignore them. Politely decline. Make it clear than no means no. They may be well intentioned, but they are not helping you. Ask them to help you by not offering you crap foods.
9. Learn from your mistakes. If its not working try to work out why. Don't get stuck into routines. Your body and metabolism will change and you have to work with it, not against it.
10. If you don't want to change your behaviour, you will not change. Diet pills won't help you. They mght give you a leg up if you're already on a diet and exercising, but they are your enemy if you are not.