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Archive for category weight loss/overweight
I discovered this series of brief animations that explain all kinds of questions, from how an orgasm works to how our brains are fooled. You can see many of them right here.
Today’s Gail Collins’ always-humorous essay, titled “Fitness for Office,” touches on the relationship between politicians’ weight, fitness and their governing record. Lots of smiles. Here are some of the best excerpts.
Governor Chris Christie (who is obese) says he’s very healthy and that “there is a plan” for losing weight. But there is also a plan for totally funding the state employee pension system. I wouldn’t hold your breath.
There’s a national accord that thin is generally better than fat. However, it’s hardly the biggest issue when you’re picking a governor. There are citizens all over the country who would trade their more compact leaders for Christie in a second. Just ask somebody in Pennsylvania. Or Illinois. The guy in Florida has the physique of a greyhound and the state is totally miserable.
In 2006, New Yorkers elected Eliot Spitzer, a man who could not possibly have looked fitter. We probably had the best B.M.I. in the National Governors Association. Just over a year later, he was gone in a sex scandal. You had to wonder if exceptional leanness might occasionally be accompanied by exceptional friskiness. As we all know, a governor in South Carolina once vanished for what his staff claimed were body-toning hikes on the Appalachian Trail when he was actually committing adultery in Argentina.
I met Amy Serfass at a Tough Mudder obstacle course she was traversing and wrote about her abs. Now it’s Amy’s turn to write about her views on fitness, diet and health and especially her group training program for women.
Ladies—Make group training your new gym membership and avoid becoming an overweight statistic.
Two thirds of women are trying to lose weight at any given time, but 64% of women are still overweight and unhappy, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention). Even if you’re not in the fitness industry, the average female acknowledges obesity is on the rise and, in-fact; more women (35%) are obese compared to men (32%). This had me thinking. What is truly keeping women from working out? I polled fellow females and found these common reasons:
1. I don’t have time – #1 reason!!!
2. I don’t have anyone to exercise with
3. I don’t feel comfortable working out at a traditional box gym
4. I don’t know where to begin or what to do
5. I don’t have any motivation or energy
I got into this industry and became a certified personal trainer because I wanted to help women from becoming an overweight statistic. I wanted to motivate them to exercise while making them feel better about themselves and their bodies. That’s why I decided to specialize in women and weight loss and create group training experiences specifically for females.
Group training for women provides a platform to meet other females with similar health and fitness goals. In a group setting, you find the energy and motivation that one-on-one training can’t always provide. It eliminates the need to know where to begin or what to do, because you’re following a professional that has your best interests in mind. Group training also reduces the risk of boredom, helps you avoid exercise plateaus, and provides much needed exercise variety to keep you coming back.
Most importantly, you are part of a positive community, creating lifelong friendships, and accomplishing goals you never thought possible. I have had clients complete their first 5k together, their first mud/obstacle run, organize marathon parties, or attend social events as a unit. All of these events have been accomplished from meeting other females at a group fitness program dedicated just for women.
Achieving or maintaining a healthy weight is not just about fitness. Weight loss is at least 80% nutrition, 20% fitness. With my group training program, known as Amy’s Booty Camp, I focus on nutrition by providing guidance from a certified nutritionist. Members are also required to log their food, which keeps them accountable and disciplined. One rule of thumb is cutting carbohydrates past 3pm. It’s necessary to have good carbohydrates in your diet, such as whole grains, because they act as your immediate source of energy for the body. Your brain uses about 450 calories of carbohydrates every day. However, if eaten in excessive amounts, the body changes them into fats and stores them in that form. By eating good carbohydrates before 3pm you allow your body more time to burn them off, so they are less likely to be stored as fat.
Offering nutrition expertise while working out at least 2 days per week has led one female to lose 27 lbs and 14.5 total inches in just 2 months with Amy’s Booty Camp!
Many of us feel that we don’t have time to work out. The women in Booty Camp MAKE the time to commit because they are unable to get the results on their own. Booty Camp also provides personal time away from work, family, and the daily stresses of life. By making the class fun, friendly, and full of variety, I am able to keep members continually enrolled. Booty Camp is also for the early risers. We train two days per week for 5 weeks at 6:15 am for an hour. Statistics show that 90% of people who work out in the morning stick to their exercise routines.
After each 5-week Booty Camp program, we take no more than one week off before starting the program over again. I stay in touch with the ladies via email and Facebook during their week off, continually offering them healthy tips and guidance to stay connected and keep them motivated. The program runs exclusively in the Upper East Side area of New York City at a studio on 67th Street & 3rd Avenue.
For more information on my growing Booty Camp program please visit my web site.
NASM Certified (National Academy of Sports Medicine)
Master Trainer at Australian Institute of Fitness
Sari Max is just melting away, and it’s having a huge effect. She wrote earlier in March about how she’d lost over 60 pounds. Now she has dropped another 15! And she has brought fitness and athletics into her life. She is biking for the first time in maybe 15 years, kayaking, which she hadn’t done in at least 20 years, and sometimes adding running spurts to her fast walking.
She is a changed woman, with her new hair style and a bit of color. “I am full of vigor, she tells me proudly.”
I know it takes a lot of discipline to exercise when you haven’t been. But Sari is even doing floor exercises at home, including push ups and 25 sit ups at a time. Way to go, Sari!
David Brooks wrote a very upsetting column last week suggesting that if you had as a child many of 10 pretty common traumas, then you may be doomed for life to suffer bad stuff, including health and weight issues. Traumas like being abused, having divorced parents, or family members who’d been incarcerated or declared mentally ill. Coincidentally I saw a movie about Freud and Jung, in which the former just wanted to identify the source of the problems, while Jung also wanted to help heal or cure the problem. Hard for me to understand why Dr. Freud wouldn’t want to heal the patients as well. Here are some excerpts from the Brooks article.
They gave the 17000 adults interviewed what came to be known as ACE scores, depending on how many of the 10 experiences they had endured. The link between childhood trauma and adult outcomes was striking. People with an ACE score of 4 were seven times more likely to be alcoholics as adults than people with an ACE score of 0. They were six times more likely to have had sex before age 15, twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer, four times as likely to suffer emphysema. People with an ACE score above 6 were 30 times more likely to have attempted suicide.
Later research suggested that only 3 percent of students with an ACE score of 0 had learning or behavioral problems in school. Among students with an ACE score of 4 or higher, 51 percent had those problems.
Schools are now casting about, trying to find psychological programs that will help students work on resilience, equanimity and self-control. Some schools give two sets of grades—one for academic work and one for deportment.
And it’s not just schools that are veering deeper into the psychological realms. Health care systems are going the same way, tracing obesity and self-destructive habits back to social breakdown and stress.
Here is a story about a woman who works out 2-3 times a week, runs in triathlons and 5k races, and is still overweight, called fat, and measures as obese. Her husband said it’s due to a thyroid condition.
But Jennifer Livingston is also a TV morning show news anchor who received a letter criticizing her as a poor role model for the community. She fought back by reading the letter on air and damning the writer’s insensitive bullying. Her actions went viral and national, so here is an ABC segment in which she is quoted and interviewed.
One person who commented on line and defended the letter writer had this to say: “…don’t hide behind bullying, this man is not bullying you, he is just asking you to do something about your excess weight. GIVE UP A FEW BURGERS AND CUT THE CHEESE. START MOVING JENNIFER!”
Oh how confusing life is. How it looks so different to people watching from various angles. I have to admit that I believe one can lose weight by eating less. Exercise can help burn off calories as well. But that doesn’t mean the exercise doesn’t also increase your appetite, and that for some people it’s seemingly impossible to not have the cheese and to skip the dessert. What do you think?
Shocking! This can’t bode well for health-care costs. A new report released by Trust for America’s Health projects that by 2030 more than half of the people in a majority of the United States will be obese. Mississippi, which is currently America’s fattest state, is expected to nearly double its obesity rate from 35 percent to 67 percent. The new report’s predictions of overall obesity even surpass government forecasts, estimating that every state will have rates of obesity above 44 percent by 2030. The numbers are reportedly based on state-by-state surveys taken by the Centers for Disease Control from 1999 to 2010.
So right now one-third of Americans are obese and another one-third are overweight. Does this mean that everyone in some states is going to be gigantic if the third of obese people doubles to two thirds and then there will be others who are “just” overweight people as well? There have to be some thinnies still holding out from becoming fatties, don’t you think? No wonder my ability to avoid fattening foods is so obnoxious to those who are heavy and resent my fitness. Maybe I need to avoid those “friends.”
Attorneys for Ronald Post, a 480-pound death row inmate in Ohio, say their client is too overweight to be put to death. I can’t help wondering why a prisoner being fed by the government receives so much food that he can gain and retain all that poundage. Hell of a way to escape punishment. Smart!
“Indeed, given his unique physical and medical condition there is a substantial risk that any attempt to execute him will result in serious physical and psychological pain to him, as well as an execution involving a torturous and lingering death,” reads the filing made on behalf of Ronald Post, 53, who was convicted of shooting to death hotel clerk Helen Vantz 29 years ago.
Post, who is set to be executed by lethal injection on January 16, 2013, says that his executioners would encounter several problems, including difficulty finding a viable vein for injection and the likelihood that with his unusual weight he would break any gurney used in the process.
The Ohio prison system relies on lethal injection in cases resulting in execution.
Ohio is tied nationally with Kansas for the 13th highest obesity rate in the country, with 29.6 percent of its residents listed as overweight.
The Associated Press reports that this is not the first case in which a death row inmate has attempted to use his weight to escape execution.
In 1994, a federal judge in Washington State ruled that 400-pound Mitchell Rupe was too heavy to be hanged and instead was eventually sentenced to life in prison. Rupe died in confinement in 2006.
However, other heavyset inmates have not fared so well in their pleas, such as in the cases of Richard Cooey in 2008 and Christopher Newton in 2007. Still, both of those men each weighed 200 pounds less than Post.
Newton, who was also from Ohio, had his execution delayed for two hours while prison staff struggled to find a vein to administer his lethal injection.
The U.S. and 20 of the world’s 198 countries officially sanction the death penalty, according to Amnesty International. The group reports that the U.S. executed 43 individuals in 2011. Of those, five executions were carried out in Ohio.
China is believed to have executed the largest number of individuals, though exact figures are not known.
The picture shows plus-sized model Katya Zharkova on the right and a normal fashion model on the left. Ten years ago, plus-sized meant dress size 12-18. Now it means 6-14, according to Plus Model Magazine . “Plus-size” looks like a fairly average body type (actually, given the country’s propensity for over-eating, she probably falls well under the median weight).
I bumped into this picture, when I was learning more about the obesity trend in America, which I will write about later. Isn’t it interesting that as the models become skinnier, the readers become fatter! What is that about?
Here are the statistics that accompany the photo spread in Plus Model Magazine:
# Twenty years ago the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, she weighs 23% less.
# Ten years ago plus-size models averaged between size 12 and 18. Today the need for size diversity within the plus-size modeling industry continues to be questioned. The majority of plus-size models on agency boards are between a size 6 and 14, while the customers continue to express their dissatisfaction.
# Most runway models meet the Body Mass Index physical criteria for Anorexia.
# 50% of women wear a size 14 or larger, but most standard clothing outlets cater to sizes 14 or smaller.
You can see more photos of Katya in this article .
He’s got a pretty good set of abs and body in general…right? But there is something very unusual about him. His name is Jeff Life, and he is a 72-year-old doctor. See him working out below, something he does at least six times a week in the gym.
In an LA Times article , it says his regimen includes hard cardio, heavy weights pushed to the max, martial arts, Pilates, a strict low-glycemic carb diet and lots of supplements. It has also, for the last seven years, been hormonally enhanced by a program that includes testosterone and human growth hormone—a therapy Life views as entirely appropriate, even necessary despite the medical evidence questioning both its effectiveness and safety…
Like most people, Life didn’t give a thought to his testosterone level, his HGH or his fitness as he built his career as a family practice doctor in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. A lapsed Masters swimmer who became inactive in his mid 40s, the father of five became fat and borderline diabetic—”a typical stressed-out middle-aged doctor who ate, drank and didn’t practice what he preached. It was years and years of sloth.”
That changed the day Life, then 60, picked up Muscle Media magazine and read about “the Challenge,” a 12-week, before-and-after fitness contest. His competitive fires lighted, Life sent in his before photo and hit the gym.
Three months later, he’d dropped 25 pounds, cut his body fat from 28% to 10%, got genuinely ripped and was named one of the contest’s 1999 “Body for Life” 10 grand champions…
But by age 64, Life found himself shrinking.
His muscles didn’t respond to workouts like they did a few years before. Abdominal fat started piling up. He began feeling mildly depressed. And he wasn’t waking with an erection as often as he used to.
It was a condition he would soon know as andropause, the insidious creep of declining testosterone.
It was time for his second epiphany—and the photo that would change everything…
In June 2003, Life became a Cenegenics patient, ultimately taking daily shots of HGH along with once-a-week testosterone shots, a regimen he still maintains.
“I could feel the difference quickly. Clarity of thought, a new, sharper focus, increased sexual function, bigger muscles.” He was so impressed that he packed up, moved to Las Vegas and joined the company.
After six months of seeing clients, Life had an idea to keep them motivated: Show them his body.
“They needed to know that I walked the walk.”
That might have been the end of the story—until a year later, when a writer from GQ magazine, in to do an anti-aging story, walked by Life’s office. His eyes bugged out at the sight of the glossy 8 by 11 of the buffed, bald, jeans-wearing guy hanging on the wall.
The shot ended up in his article in the January 2006 issue of GQ….Now it’s been seen by millions. An old, bald head on the young beefcake body. The claim is that this is not digitally modified. Whats your reaction?
Just bumped into a slide show (at bottom of the page of this link) of 90 people who lost weight, showing the before and after pictures. Amazing. Also included are the stories of how they gained and lost weight and what it took to finally start dropping the pounds. Pretty inspirational. Check ‘em out And here are photos from one of the stories by an ex-marine who lost 74 pounds when his buddies forced him to prepare for a Tough Mudder obstacle course challenge that I have mentioned in an earlier post .
Was talking to the owner of the B&B I stayed at in Newport. A slightly overweight guy who cooks and serves guests Eggs Benedict and pancakes with fruit in them made with strange flours. He admits that he loves to eat (“look at all the great food here”) and that he can’t stop himself. His stomach seems to have no “I’m Full” feeling. And there I was eating leftovers for breakfast I couldn’t finish from my dinner the night before.
As long as we were talking about eating, I brought up all the people we’d been seeing in the streets and tennis stands who were grossly overweight. I’d been talking with friends about how people should take some responsibility for their obesity, especially when they don’t buy health insurance, use the emergency rooms for free, and raise the premiums of those who do buy insurance.
The innkeeper was reasonable. “People like me should pay higher taxes or premiums. We need new laws. Even constitutional amendments.” But that will take decades, I told him. He said it’s in the new health care law. Not sure he is right. But one good thing about going bankrupt…it forces you to change your spending habits for sure. If you are a good driver, you get a premium discount. Same if you don’t smoke. So shouldn’t fit and healthy people pay less than those who abuse their bodies and ignore good health?
Food for thought!
Here is a really inspiring story about a kid who weighed 405 and finally decided to lose some weight. I always wonder what clicks to get someone to overcome their inertia—whether weight loss, healthy living, starting a new career—and choose a new routine. His father had died of a heart attack, but that didn’t prevent the son from gaining all that weight.
J. Roundtree, 21, from Lancaster, Ohio, lost 200 pounds in 19 months in order to join the Army, the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette reports. In November, he will begin basic training at Ft. Benning in Georgia, and he eventually wants to become a police officer.
So how’d he go from 405 pounds to 205? Roundtree started with P90X and then stuck to a strict 1,500 calorie-a-day diet and adopted an active lifestyle—spending his time jogging, playing basketball, swimming and using home workout DVDs. When hand and foot injuries threatened to hinder his progress, Roundtree persevered.
“There’s going to be days where you’re like, ‘Oh I don’t want to do it’, but you gotta keep doing it,” Roundtree told the station.
As a child, Roundtree played football, baseball and basketball, but eventually picked up video games as a hobby and began to gain weight due to lack of exercise. He went on to play in gaming tournaments when he was in high school.
Roundtree comes from a family of servicemen and women. His father, mother, and sister all served in the Army, according to the news outlet. But while he always had his sights set on serving himself, Roundtree found his poor health seemed to pose an insurmountable problem.
“I never would have imagined that he would do that,” Roundtree’s mother explained. “But when J. sets his mind to something, don’t tell him he can’t do it…because he’ll prove you wrong.”
And this attitude is exactly what has led him to where he is today. “I want to be better than I was today,” he said. “I wanna look the best I can. I wanna feel the best I can. I wanna run the farthest or the fastest.”
Just spent four days in Newport, RI watching an ATP tennis tournament and the people there. You are greeted as you cross the bridge to town by the bay’s deep blue waters supporting hundreds of slim white sails. At the Newport Casino, one enjoys the green of grass courts played on generally by fit athletes in thin tennis whites.
But the fans and tourists are more diverse. The affluents who live in the costly houses and condos for a month or two each summer are there for the social scene and to be seen. They are also thin as a species and wear intense, solid colors from the animal kingdom: flamingo pinks, hot canary yellows, and startling-salmon-flavored rusty-oranges.
There are other visitors who prowl the T-shirt shops and other touristy stores on Thames Street in paler, less eye-attracting costumes that drape enormous bodies enlarged by years of over eating. We watched a huge woman down a large apple crisp with two scoops of vanilla BEFORE starting to eat her dinner! Breathtaking.
My visit there stimulates numerous stories that I will recount over the next few days. Just let me tease you with wondering how I ended up unexpectedly on center court at the conclusion of the sold-out final in front of 3700 fans shaking the hand of the winner, John Isner, whom I have written about earlier.
Here are excerpts from a story about a fitness trainer who gained 70 pounds on purpose (then lost it) to better understand what his clients go through. His journey allowed him to empathize more with his clients and suggest new ways to become fit.
Always a fitness junkie, staying in shape comes naturally for Drew Manning. He’s that guy at the gym the rest of us love to hate. But his wife says he was a “judgmental” trainer who would look at someone who was overweight and say, ‘They must really be lazy.’ ”
In order to better understand the struggles his clients were facing, he had to face them himself. He gave up the gym and started consuming junk food, fast food and soda. In just six months, he went from 193 pounds with a 34-inch waist to 265 pounds with a 48-inch waist.
Manning says he didn’t realize the effects of his weight gain would be more than physical. It altered his relationships and his self-confidence. The fact that he had to do push-ups on his knees was almost humiliating.
Manning suffered through soda deprivation headaches and food cravings on his way back to fit. The journey was easier for him than for most, he’ll admit, but he’s eager now to provide tips for others to follow in his footsteps.
“The biggest thing [I learned] is that it’s not just about the physical. It’s not just about the meal plan and the workouts and those things. The key is the mental and the emotional issues. I realized those issues are real.”
Here is a NYTimes video about HIIT (high intensity interval training), which suggests that a 20-minute workout at a time for three days a week can be very efficient for improving cardio and building muscles. You go really fast on a stationary bike for one minute and then slow down for another minute. Or do the same with swimming, stair climbing, etc.
I can relate to this, because I have two abs workouts that are short: a 5-minute DVD and an 8-minute video that are definitely developing some abs muscles. It was just too much to spend 30 minutes or so at a time doing crunches, even though I wasn’t taking long breaks.
If you are like me, with little time or interest in exercise, try the HIIT program…by the way, there is also the reminder that it’s easier to lose weight by limiting what goes into your mouth than by burning calories once the fat is part of your body.
There was an interesting article the other day explaining why so many black women are overweight or just plain fat: they want to be. It’s a cultural thing. White girls want to be skinny. Many black women never want to go below 200 pounds, partly because their husbands and boy friends won’t like it. Or so claims Alice Randall as she states candidly, “My goal is to be the last fat black woman in my family.”
She is hoping for a revolution against this desirable large-bodied stereotype, because one in four middle-aged black women has diabetes, which with obesity are causing more cancer deaths in America than smoking. And blacks have 51 percent higher obesity rates than whites do.
A few days later, the Times quoted a Washington Post study that concluded heavier black women have much higher self-esteem than average-sized white women. Fitness instructor, Michelle Gibson, who teaches 10 aerobics classes a week, says “I’m a full-figured woman who would run circles around the average person, and I know it.”
The Times also printed eight short opinions about this whole issue of overweight black women. Here are some excerpts:
“We are all dealt various hands in life through our genes. Some may be more fit than others, and some may have an inherently better self-image. I would suggest it’s how we play the hand we’re dealt that’s important.”
“While there is a greater acceptance of a curvaceous body in the black community, that holds true for other cultures as well — Latino, Armenian, Italian and Greek, to name a few.”
“To say that “black women are fat” because they “choose to be,” as Alice Randall says in her Op-Ed, could not be further from the truth…I agree with Randall that Josephine Baker “embodied a curvier form of an ideal black woman.” Similar to Marilyn Monroe, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce, Josephine Baker is considered “thick.” But there’s a difference between thick and fat.”
“According to Alice Randall, not dieting is a bad idea. But here’s what current data show:
· Pretty much everyone who loses weight gains it back within a few years. Some regain more.
· Yo-yo dieting is linked to poor health and shortened life.
· Exercise is good for health, not for weight loss. (Fat people who exercise regularly are healthier than thin people who don’t.)
· Nutrition is good for health.”
I recently heard that the average American eats 150 pounds of sugar a year, which is 22 teaspoons of sugar a day. In just one can of coke, there are NINE TEASPOONS OF SUGAR. And sugar is one of the major causes of obesity, which leads to diabetes. In fact more people globally are dying of diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes than from infectious diseases.
There have been quite a few articles and broadcasts recently about how harmful—even poisonous—sugar is for our bodies. I bumped into this article by Mark Bittman this week, and then heard him on the radio being interviewed along with Dr. Robert Lustig, an expert on causes of obesity who has been called the number one enemy of the sugar lobby. Lustig and others just published an article in Nature magazine that the media are picking up on. I can’t link to it, but you can read it by downloading it from this site . It’s titled Nature: the Toxic Truth About Sugar, and it is just above the video.
Anyway there is now talk of sugar being regulated like tobacco, alcohol and drugs. The illness from too much sugar is not only making people obese, it is also costing our societies billions of dollars in hospital and health care treatments. Watch the video above (seen by 3 1/2 million people) for startling facts about how even one-year-olds are being given soft drinks by uninformed parents.
The 15-minute video interview below of Lustig explains in very complex, medical jargon why people gain weight EVEN if they eat less and exercise more. Basically too much insulin promotes further food intake and converts sugar into fat. To reduce insulin, you have to have a low carb diet and one that avoids sugar AND JUICES as much as possible. If you go right to 13:30, you can understand a little of what Lustig is saying.
Here are excerpts from a webMD article :
Some people eat so much sugar that it adds up to half their daily calorie limit for maintaining weight.
A good first step for anyone trying to reduce sugar is to cut back on or cut out sugary drinks.
Models used to regulate alcohol and tobacco could work for sugar, Lustig says.
* Tax sugary foods. (The soda tax is already being considered, he notes. To work, he says the tax must be hefty, such as a $1 tax on a $1 can of soda.)
* Limit availability. Licensing requirements on vending machines could be stricter.
* Set an age limit for the purchase of sugary drinks and foods.
Reminds me of seat belts, how the government has to help people save themselves from death and illness…otherwise society pays the costs. What do you think?
I know this site is mainly about athletic achievements and challenges. But without good health and fitness, you can’t perform at top level. If you’re overweight, you may not even function at bottom level. You may not be able to do anything. So I include weight and diet discussions on the site. Especially when two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese! I know someone who can’t stand being around fat people. She thinks they are disgusting to be near, that they are slobs for not caring about their appearance, and that they should just be better disciplined and stop eating so much.
As someone who has never had to lose significant weight to stay fit, it’s hard for me to appreciate the strain and frustration of people who must constantly watch what they eat to stay slim or not-fat. On the other hand, when friends and family brought food for the holiday celebrations, I felt that I shouldn’t be eating the delicious cheeses, salamis, cakes, pies, cream dishes, meats, quiches, etc, and was not comfortable drinking all the wines offered as pathways to relaxedness and joviality. Jeez. There was almost nothing I could eat (without feeling a tad guilty) as everyone told me that I should not be so strict during the holidays). But I ate their offerings anyway…to enjoy the tastes and put my guests at ease. I am now happily back to my normal, healthier diet and routine.
Tara Parker-Pope wrote that “Of all the issues I have written about during my past 12 years as a health writer, I think the topic of weight consistently generates the most interest among readers.
“I think most of the time we talk about weight, the focus is on what the individual is eating or not eating. I think the more important discussion is about how biology and heredity influence why people get fat in the first place, the widespread variation in how individuals respond to food and why pretty much EVERY DIET PLAN HAS VIRTUALLY THE SAME FAILURE RATE (my caps). People who have been unsuccessful at permanent weight loss are very hard on themselves, and I think it’s important to tell people that while it’s certainly possible to lose weight, a number of biological factors that have nothing to do with character or willpower can make it extraordinarily difficult.
“I get so tired of people who say, ‘‘It’s simple, just eat less and move more.” It may be technically true, but it’s not simple, and the point is that some people need to eat a lot less and move a lot more than most people just to maintain a normal weight.”
Ahh the joys of the holiday season: food, fun, drinking, friends, family…and lots of stuffing and desserts and cookies and Christmas candy. Sometimes I eat three or four different slices of cake and pies at a time—very thin slices, of course. And with all the company in the house and tennis buddies taking off for warm climes or out-of-state relatives, my tennis games—and all that calorie-burning cardio—evaporate. So I gain my usual 3-5 pounds in a week.
But this year I had already put on five pounds to not look too thin and gaunt and old. So when the scale started to approach 180 pounds, up from 170 a few months ago, I freaked out. That’s just over the top for me. As soon as the visitors let up, I stopped eating those desserts and all the carbohydrates. And the pounds are starting to melt away. I am down to 175-176 again. A real relief.
Then I read this long article in the New York Times by Tara Parker-Pope that describes really fat people who might lose weight, but then regain it all back over time. It suggests from a very limited study of just 34 obese people that their bodies just want to be fat, and almost nothing can prevent it. It’s in their genes. So they have a great and rational excuse…if they want to use it.
But a few have been able to keep off the shed pounds…through intense calorie-counting, hours of daily exercise 5-6 days a week, and defying their body’s constant craving for, and focus on, food. Here are some excerpts.
Anyone who has ever dieted knows that lost pounds often return, and most of us assume the reason is a lack of discipline or a failure of willpower.
For years, the advice to the overweight and obese has been that we simply need to eat less and exercise more. While there is truth to this guidance, it fails to take into account that the human body continues to fight against weight loss long after dieting has stopped. This translates into a sobering reality: once we become fat, most of us, despite our best efforts, will probably stay fat.
The National Weight Control Registry tracks 10,000 people who have lost weight and have kept it off…Anyone who has lost 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year is eligible to join the study, though the average member has lost 70 pounds and remained at that weight for six years.
Wing says that she agrees that physiological changes probably do occur that make permanent weight loss difficult, but she says the larger problem is environmental, and that people struggle to keep weight off because they are surrounded by food, inundated with food messages and constantly presented with opportunities to eat. “We live in an environment with food cues all the time,” Wing says. “We’ve taught ourselves over the years that one of the ways to reward yourself is with food. It’s hard to change the environment and the behavior.”
There is no consistent pattern to how people in the registry lost weight — some did it on Weight Watchers, others with Jenny Craig, some by cutting carbs on the Atkins diet and a very small number lost weight through surgery. But their eating and exercise habits appear to reflect what researchers find in the lab: to lose weight and keep it off, a person must eat fewer calories and exercise far more than a person who maintains the same weight naturally. Read the rest of this entry »
I spoke with a marketing expert who specializes in social psychology after my dinner with the overweight pu pu platter eaters (See December 3rd article ). “How come,” I asked, “heavy people aren’t influenced or inspired to shed pounds by all the models in the ads, actors in the movies, and cable infomercials selling weight loss and fitness products?”
After all, in addition to thin models and actors, heavy people see that some other overweight people do lose weight—you see their before and after photos in the TV and print promotional ads for zumba, diet programs and exercise equipment.
Now I realize that a lot of poor people have to eat cheap carbs in fast food restaurants, because they can’t afford healthier protein.
I accept that some large folks aren’t aware that certain foods are full of calories (soft drinks, ice cream sundaes, etc), so they have no idea why they have gained weight.
And I also know that many people don’t care if they gain pounds that might mess up their health in the future, because they are living in the moment, can’t worry about tomorrow, and don’t mind if they die earlier after many years of pigging out on tasty foods and feeling good from too many beers.
I also suspect that some cultures (even in America) may subconsciously associate overweight with survival from future food shortages, or that heaviness in earlier times indicated enough affluence to be able to overeat. Or that all their friends are overweight, and that body type is more common. Maybe heaviness is even desirable to be accepted as one of that group.
But my social psychologist friend has an explanation I hadn’t considered: some fat people don’t even think it is possible for them to ever look like the thinner/fitter people the media is constantly holding up as the ideal shape. Whether it be a model’s super svelteness or a normal person’s size. These overweight or obese individuals regard themselves as outside the society’s norms and are often surrounded by others in the same weight class. They accept that they are in the heavy end of the human weight range and don’t relate at all to those humans who are thin. It’s as if they regard themselves as part of another species. Who’d of thunk it? Not me…
I drove a friend to a dog show and fell in love with the afghans. Elegant dogs that reminded me of fashion models on the runway or in hair ads. You can compare how the hair moves on the afghan and then the women. Just check out a few seconds of the models’ hair moving in the runway video below to see what I am talking about. And then you can watch the hair product ad below it.
Next I noticed how thin the dogs’ heads are underneath all their long hair. I learned that these show dogs are bred that way, because it supposedly looks good, wins prizes, is what the judges want to see in champions.
Then I flashed back to all the models I ever knew or heard about who are supposed to be ultra thin to make the clothes hang just right…how those models watch every calorie they eat, count them, are always hungry, because their livelihoods depend on it.
I had just bumped into a photo of a 19-year-old model who has been in the biz for eight years. One article said she is too thin now. Another fashion critic was having difficulty adjusting to seeing a formerly cute teenager posing nude. Karlie Kloss says she is “numb to the nudity. It’s just part of the job.” Do you think she is too thin, just right, or overweight (for a model of course)?
I also thought of three affluent, up-scale women I know who all thought they became a little heavy, started counting calories and lost 10-35 pounds. Thin is good. Thin is desirable. Thin is beautiful. To lose weight, they weigh everything they eat, look up how many calories are in each food item. Make sure they don’t consume more than a predetermined number of total calories per day. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline. Especially if you love to eat.
Then my friend and I went for dinner at a Chinese restaurant near the dog show in upstate Massachusetts in a town of 40,000. The people were heavy…fat…obese. Even many of the kids. The contrast with the afghans and models was mindblowing. It was incredibly upsetting. As we sat down, I saw two people just starting to eat a pu pu platter for two. They also had a big bowl of fried rice. Hopefully it was the whole meal, and not just the starter. Did you ever eat a pu pu platter? It might include an egg roll, spare ribs, chicken wings, chicken fingers, beef teriyaki, skewered beef, fried wontons, crab rangoon, fried shrimp, among other items, accompanied with a small hibachi grill. Here is what it looks like for two people. Can you believe this is just the appetizer for many hungry eaters?
So two people eat all of this as a warm up. But then I saw a huge man walk by the table. He was like a walrus. On the way I out, I noticed that he was sitting by himself beginning his own pu pu for two…plus the bowl of fried rice. HOW CAN THESE PEOPLE EAT SO MUCH! No wonder there is an overweight/obesity epidemic.
What I couldn’t figure out is why so many people are ok about being fat, when all the ads and movies show thin models, TV commercials promote fitness and thinness, and it appears clearly that thin—or at least not being fat—is a desired body type in American culture. What am I missing?
I will tell you in another post what one marketing expert told me recently.
Here is a very insightful article about decision fatigue. Too many choices wear out your brain. Difficulties in compromising—like shopping among many possibilities, when you have limited money to buy your preferred item—also make you punchy. So guess what happens next? Your brain craves sugar, the real thing, glucose…no artificial sweetener. The result is additional calories. Who’d have thought it? And there are many other consequences as well, unrelated to diet, but affecting judicial sentences, your lack of willpower to keep exercising or reject other temptations (your neighbor’s wife?), your ability to keep on working. Check it out after looking over some of these excerpts.
No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue—you’re not consciously aware of being tired—but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain…
These experiments demonstrated that there is a finite store of mental energy for exerting self-control. When people fended off the temptation to scarf down M&M’s or freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies, they were then less able to resist other temptations. Willpower really was a form of mental energy that could be exhausted. The experiments confirmed the 19th-century notion of willpower being like a muscle that was fatigued with use, a force that could be conserved by avoiding temptation. When you shop till you drop, your willpower drops, too.
The brain, like the rest of the body, derives energy from glucose, the simple sugar manufactured from all kinds of foods. The sugar restored willpower, but the artificial sweetener had no effect. The restored willpower improved people’s self-control as well as the quality of their decisions:
Your brain does not stop working when glucose is low. It stops doing some things and starts doing others. It responds more strongly to immediate rewards and pays less attention to long-term prospects.
The discoveries about glucose help explain why dieting is a uniquely difficult test of self-control—and why even people with phenomenally strong willpower in the rest of their lives can have such a hard time losing weight. They start out the day with virtuous intentions, resisting croissants at breakfast and dessert at lunch, but each act of resistance further lowers their willpower. As their willpower weakens late in the day, they need to replenish it. But to resupply that energy, they need to give the body glucose. They’re trapped in a nutritional catch-22:
1. In order not to eat, a dieter needs willpower.
2. In order to have willpower, a dieter needs to eat.
As the body uses up glucose, it looks for a quick way to replenish the fuel, leading to a craving for sugar. Read the rest of this entry »
My “large women” story yesterday led me to Kirstie Alley, a very famous sit com star who I knew almost nothing about and have never seen on TV (can you believe it?). So I learned a few amazing things about this formerly overweight personality who had a show called “Fat Actress” and still has a reality series documenting her weight loss called “Big Life.”
In a year she has lost 100 pounds. Some people have trouble losing 10 pounds, but Kirstie’s weight goes up and down like a yo-yo.
In a February 2010 trailer for her weight loss reality show, she said:
“I was thin my whole life, til I gained 75 pounds,” she says. “Then I lost 75 pounds, then I gained 75 pounds.”
The point of the show is to lose it again, and cameras will be there every step of the way along with her kids and staff. She says she hopes that this is the last time she goes through the process and is looking forward to being the skinny booty call instead of the fat booty call.
“I think it’s stupid to say you’re full figured,” she says. “Fuck you, you’re fucking fat!”
The actress and former “Dancing with the Stars” contestant, 60, revealed to “Entertainment Tonight” this week that she had bought the same dress in a variety of sizes, from 14 to 4, and made a deal with herself to keep shedding pounds until she fit into the smallest size.
Early in 2010 Kirstie admitted she recently tipped the scales at 230 pounds. She weighed just 143 when she appeared on Oprah in a bikini in 2006.
For years I have noticed that people gain weight over time, but just a couple of pounds a year…that adds up to 40 pounds after two decades. And more after 30 years! There is now an epidemic in America: one third of people are overweight, and another third are obese. Leads to all kinds of health issues.
Too bad everyone doesn’t have Kirstie’s ability to be on TV and have the world watching your weight-loss success (or failure) for reinforcement. All that peer pressure. But maybe just telling your friends what you aim to do—and putting yourself on the spot—might be enough. Of course most people are afraid to fail, and certainly not publicly. So we keep our goals to ourselves, especially when it comes to losing weight. Plus…who wants to give up all that good-tasting food, alcohol and milk shakes!