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2011 December

From the monthly archives:

December 2011

Here’s a useful article from the India Times about popular weight loss myths and the truth, or not, behind them.

From controlling your weight by going on a detox diet to using sauna belt waist slimming machines, endless tricks guarantee weight loss.

But are they effective? Which one’s the best and which ones should you trash? Tough to draw a thin line between fact vs. fiction? Worry not! Today, we have compiled a list of top 10 diet and fitness myth busters to give your weight management plans that extra edge. Do your friends a favour and click that share button, now…Dieting

Myth #1: Munching on chips at night is unhealthier than munching on chips in the day time. Truth: The basic rule of eating is – that eating anything up and above your caloric requirement (which is based on your current age, weight and body type) will lead to fat gain and hence, weight gain. Nutritionists tell you to keep away from food at night because that’s when your body temperature tends to dip (due to lack of activity), hence your body requires little food at night in order to function properly. Besides, sleeping right after eating doesn’t work well for digestion since your body, at rest, is not active enough.

Myth #2: The weighing scale is my ultimate fitness meter. Truth: No! This is hardly the case. The weighing scale is important as far as the approximation of your body weight is concerned. Relying on a weighing scale to judge whether you’re ‘fit’ or ‘fat’, is like judging a book by its cover. Body weight is a sum total of your body fat and lean body mass, which includes muscles. In order to understand your exact fat mass, you must understand the composition of your body.

Myth #3: A gluten-free diet is not healthy. Truth: A gluten-free diet limits our choices to a great extent as per variety of food intake. If not careful, it leaves a person suffering from many nutritional deficiencies. Thus it is important to plan a gluten-free diet in such a way that the maximum number of variety enters one’s menu while limiting or canceling out gluten intake. One must make sure to have a lot of fruits and salads as these keep the intestines healthy. Remember that even after following such a diet one can live a healthy and carefree life and enjoy it to the fullest.

Myth #4: I can lose weight by following the celebrity lemon diet. Truth: People who have observed the diet tend to swear by it as it leads to instant weight loss, fewer junk food cravings and glowing skin (we seriously doubt this skin glow). The diet comes with side effects too. One may experience recurring headaches as the extreme fasting takes a toll on the body. And in order to maintain the lost weight, one has to continue measuring their calorie intake closely. Regular exercise becomes a must in order to maintain the lost water weight. Also, one needs to check their salt intake as high levels of sodium, if consumed after following this diet, can lead to instant weight gain.

Myth #5: Potatoes are the biggest diet disasters. Truth: Unlike the general perception of high glycemic index food, potatoes have a medium glycemic index and they do not raise the blood sugar levels to crazy. Their glycemic index is a decent 56. However, the forms in which they are consumed make them fattening such as deep fried, shallow fried and so on. The moderate amount recommended is 1 medium-sized potato a day. 1 large potato (260gms) will have 278 calories and 63 grams i.e. 21% of carbohydrate. Calories from potatoes result in weight gain only if taken regularly in large amounts.

Myth #6: A detox diet is the ultimate diet plan for me. Truth: If you have had repeated night outs week after week or if you are bored of eating too much junk food and artificial additives, and losing weight is on your mind, then a well-balanced ‘detox’ diet might do the trick for you. But keep in mind, that by ‘well-balanced detox diet’ we do not mean the meagre, juice, master cleanse, water etc kind of debilitating detox diets. Here we’re talking about a diet that is balanced in terms of all essential food groups, devoid of processed foods that are high in unnecessary sugar and transfats, and is well portioned and distributed through the day.

Myth #7: Bananas can never be a part of healthy weight loss. Truth: Bananas are part of a healthy diet, and should also be part of a fat loss diet, however no food by itself helps one to lose weight. To lose weight one has to create a caloric deficit i.e to burn more calories than what they consume in a day. For most cases a caloric deficit of 10-15% works best and ones that create a greater caloric deficit generally causes more muscle loss rather than fat loss.

Myth #8: Does more protein build more muscle? Truth. Health experts say that as far as body building is concerned, protein recommendations for strength training are 1.2 to 1.4 for increasing strength and 1.5 to 1.7 for muscle hypertrophy. Therefore, while extra protein might work for those exercising to optimal levels, it won’t do much for those involved in low to moderate intensity workouts and will lead to weight gain.

Myth #9: Warm ups and cool downs are unnecessary. Truth: Without warming up you are pretty much asking your body to work before the extra oxygen and blood flow reaches the muscles, thus increasing the danger of muscle injury. Spending 5 to 10 minutes on a good warm up helps raise your body temperature from inside out – something your muscles need for adequate performance. Cool downs work in a similar manner, when it comes to taking care to avoid workout injuries. If you skip cool downs, you put your muscles at risk of soreness as you haven’t flushed the lactic acid out of your system. It helps in lowering your heart rate back to normal and keeps you energised all day long.

Myth #10: It is safe to take nutritional supplements if I want to lose weight? Truth: It is not recommended to take nutritional supplements to lose weight. Firstly most weight losssupplements work through increasing the frequency of our bowel movements which destroys our natural bowel movement and causes dehydration and many nutritional deficiencies as well. Secondly, some supplements work through eliminating all fat in our diet by excreting it in our feces and this is not recommended as we lose many fatty acids which are essential for our good health.


Here’s a good article from New Zealand with some common sense and down to earth advice:

The images taunt us from women’s mags, TV, the movies: svelte Hollywood celebs posing in impossibly tight dresses, not a bra-strap bulge, muffin or paunch in sight. How do they do it? Is it the cabbage-soup diet, lemon detox, high protein, low carb or simply not eating?

EXPANDVictoria Beckham´s Catwalk

Actress Nicole Richie is a size-zero mum. Less than eight weeks after giving birth, Victoria Beckham squeezed back into a pair of size-zero skinny pants and tottered off on skyscraper heels to shop in Los Angeles.

If Victoria has a secret, she’s not telling. Neither are Nicole Richie or Katie Holmes, nor any of the other celebs who appear to pop back to size zero days after giving birth. In Hollywood, surplus fat is about as welcome as a cockroach in a cupcake.

In the real world, plenty of mortals struggle with weight gain and everyone has their pet weight-loss method, from forking out for pricey gym memberships or signing up with a diet company to swilling down litres of water, swapping butter for olive oil or eating a big bowl of cereal for breakfast instead of eggs.

But Auckland nutritionist MaryRose Spence, the author of Size Does Matter, says many people’s weight-loss efforts are derailed by common myths. People keep hearing the same old messages about weight loss and, in some cases, they are the wrong messages.

“People think food for general healthy eating is the same as food for weight loss, and it’s not.”

With more than 65 per cent of New Zealanders overweight or obese, the messages need to change, she says.


People trying to lose weight may be doing themselves a disservice by starting the day with breakfast cereal. Because cereal is a carbohydrate, it does not give lasting energy, Spence says, prompting snacking later, particularly for people with a high muscle mass who process carbohydrates quickly. Toasted muesli is high in sugar and oils and loaded with kilojoules.

Most cereals are promoted in a way that makes people think they are the perfect food, she says.

“They can be high in fibre and low in fat, but do they keep you feeling full for long enough?”

Spence recommends adding protein, such as baked beans or eggs, to the first meal of the day. “You will get much better appetite satisfaction if you include protein.”

And everyone should eat breakfast. “If you wake up and you are not hungry, you have eaten too much from 4pm the day before.”


Most people should drink 1.5 litres of water a day minimum during summer and a litre during winter, Spence says. “But over-drinking won’t do you any good. It just results in additional trips to the toilet, and possibly a loss of water-soluble vitamins.”

AUT University Professor Elaine Rush agrees there is evidence of people drinking too much water. “Advertising does work. There are all the myths that go with bottled water.” Rush says people can gauge whether they’re drinking enough fluid by the colour of their urine.

Carbohydrates and protein

Restricting carbohydrates in meals is not sustainable, Spence says. “There are people who never have potato at night but you find the meat portion just gets a bit bigger, and that actually contains more calories.”

Anyone who drops carbohydrates from two meals a day will notice they are tired by the end of a week on the diet, she says. “It doesn’t meet enough needs nutritionally.”

While eating more protein is good, Spence says recent studies show a small increase in the amount of protein noticeably reduces the number of calories eaten overall, but too much protein quickly leads to weight gain.

A good rule is to eat half a plate of vegetables, a quarter of carbohydrates and a quarter of protein, says Rush. Protein shakes and meal replacements also get the thumbs down. “There’s a strong relationship between chewing your food and increased appetite satisfaction,” Spence says.

Rush says eating plans should be about quality of life. “It doesn’t matter how good the quality of the petrol you put in the tank is, it’s getting it away from the kerb that matters. You need to be able to function.”

The gym

Slogging away for hours at the gym is unlikely to make a lot of difference to weight-loss efforts, Spence says.

“You can do a lot of exercise, but unless you get the food right, nothing will happen.” Once people are carrying extra body fat, exercise is not as effective as many think. Ideally, people should go for a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day.

“Any longer than 35 minutes a day may just make you hungry.”

Dr Geraldine Poynter, who refers clients to Spence, says people find the idea of a half-hour walk more palatable. “A short, brisk walk is so achievable.”

Good fats

In terms of weight loss, it doesn’t matter if they are “good” or “bad” fats – it’s all bad if you eat too much.

Says Spence: “When you look at fresh salmon, seeds, avocado, overweight people think this is good for them but they are loaded with calories.” Poynter says the information she learned from Spence was a surprise.

“I thought we were meant to have a lot of Omega-3, so I was eating salmon. She says it is better to eat canned salmon because it is not so fatty. At medical school we got so little nutrition information.”

Low GI

The glycaemic index has been a buzzword in weight loss in recent years, as it indicates how long it takes food to be broken down and start affecting blood sugar levels.

But Spence warns that people should not think that a low-GI diet, said to make you feel full longer, is a fast track to weight loss.

“There is certainly no harm in choosing low-glycaemic index foods. However, they are not a strong factor in successful weight loss.”

People still need to ensure they eat appropriate portion sizes. While low-GI food might give a more sustained release of energy throughout the day, it can be calorie-dense.

Rush says: “Usually things with low GI are good for you because they contain things such as fibre, but it depends on the combination they are eaten in.”

One size does not fit all

People who are serious about weight loss should find out exactly how much body fat and muscle mass they are carrying. “Find out the truth about who you are feeding.” Spence uses a high-tech machine to assess muscle and fat mass, and metabolic rate to assess dietary needs. Versions of the machine are available at chemists.

No two bodies are the same – even two men of the same height and weight can be different, she says. Put an All Black and an overweight man on the same diet and one will lose weight and the other will gain.


Always be very wary of celebrities endorsing any kind of diet products, especially as there are no need for any of them.

Here’s a classic example:

Kelly Preston is heaping praise for her post-birth weight loss on Bff Kirstie Alley’s new diet plan. But Alley’s Organic Liaison products have the earmarks of a diet scam and a curious connection to the Church of Scientology.

The Church of Scientology, to which both Alley and Preston belong, appears to have an interest in the products.

The company’s Florida address is shared by the firm’s accountant, Saul B Lipson, a known Scientologist. His company is approved by the church and based near its headquarters in Clearwater, Fla.

Preston says she’s lost 39 pounds since giving birth to her third child, Benjamin, in November last year, overcoming concern whether her body would bounce back after getting pregnant at age 48.

“I was so excited when my best friend created Rescue Me…It’s pretty much the most genius thing ever,” she told People, crediting Kirstie’s Organic Liaison weight loss plan.

While the products Alley is pushing are too new to have undergone extensive testing, early reports have raised red flags about the effectiveness of the products.

The Organic Liaison site has no references to any scientific research that can prove this plan is beneficial to weight loss, although it claims the products are “USDA certified” organic.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) not the Department of Agriculture typically oversees diet products and food supplements.

The expensive supplements do not list ingredients. The program also requires automatic monthly billing. Both are diet industry red flags.

The complete monthly plan, which includes an online component plus the supplements costs $119 a month after an initial payment of $139.

The kit contains three supplements, “Rescue Me,” a detox and appetite suppresser, “Release Me,” a “relaxant” and “Nightingale,’ asleep aid.

Cheaper plans are offered, but the cost does not include the supplements, according to the site.

Like most sketchy diet products, Alley claims her plan can curb “cravings and boosts natural energy.”

The ingredients in the organic elixir “gently cleanse your body and replenish key nutrients naturally while you lose weight” the product claims.

Likely the real success to Kelly’s weight loss was her extensive workout routine. She says she exercised up to two hours a day.

Most nutrionists say a balance diet, reasonable portions and regular exercise are the best way to lose weight.

Preston and husband John Travolta tragically lost their son Jett, 16, two years ago after he suffered a fatal seizure during a family holiday in the Bahamas.

Kelly praised Scientology for helping her cope with the ordeal, so you know where her head is at.

Alley has become a wight-loss phenom after losing 100 pounds. But it’s a shame to see her use her name to promote questionable products.

And she really needs to explain the Scientology connection.


Here’s a good article about why keeping a food diary may be a good idea. I’ve never kept one myself but I do make a mental note of the calories I’ve consumed throughout the day, which is effectively the same thing.

There’s no denying that something’s afoot with Nigella Lawson. Gone are her pneumatic curves, and in their place is a newly streamlined figure. The brunette certainly cuts a dramatically different figure to her former self, last seen sporting an unflattering burkini on an Australian beach in April.

“There are times when I want to lose weight. I suppose the difference is I don’t want to be as thin. Greed always outweighs my vanity,” she is quoted as saying earlier this year. But, for now, Nigella is keeping schtum on the secret of her disappearing act. Yet how does someone with a well-publicised love of food go about losing weight?


We’ve seen Nigella go weak in the presence of a deep-fried Mars bar so what new diet lets the gourmands of this world have their cake and eat it?

The new weight-loss weapon being touted by the experts is a deceptively simple one. It’s thought that the mere act of putting pen to paper and keeping a food journal helps curb calorie intake.

A study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, followed almost 1,700 overweight people. For six months, they kept food diaries and were encouraged to eat a healthy diet and be physically active. After six months, participants had shed almost 13 pounds, on average. However, those who kept food records six days a week — jotting down everything they ate and drank on those days — lost about twice as much weight as those who kept food records one day a week or less. At the behest of a personal trainer earlier this year, I started to keep my own food diary. No mouthful would go undocumented. The good, the bad and the deep-fried was to be written down, with no exceptions. The trainer said the journal would help the scales fall from my eyes . . . and boy, was he right.


Admitting to a 2am post-club blowout in Eddie Rockets in black and white was, well, a shock to my senses. The pen would wobble in shame as I wrote down “1-3am: 4 glasses of Merlot”. I was shocked at how many innocent grazes made up my daily regime. But there is something about being honest in a food diary that makes you a little more honest with yourself.

“People eat on the go and forget many of the things they’ve eaten,” suggests nutritionist Orla Walsh. “Ask most people and they’ll tell you they eat lots of fruit and vegetables, but you can’t kid yourself when it’s all been written down and you’ve only had two portions a day.”

Apart from pinpointing where extra calories were coming from, there is also the issue of accountability. Showing your food diary to someone gives you an incentive to keep your bib relatively clean. This is why the diet tool Tweet What You Eat — whereby you keep an online food diary on Twitter — is such a resounding success. With nowhere to hide in big bad cyberspace, users are forced to think about what they put in their mouths. Sounds drastic, but if you’re serious about weight loss, often drastic measures are needed.

So far so good. However, within weeks of food journaling, the novelty began to wear off and the halo began to slip. I’d leave off innocent entries (so what if I’d had half of his banoffi pie on a date? I won’t be seeing him again, so it’s a once-off!), while three glasses of wine became two in print. And, as any seasoned dieter will tell you, denial isn’t just a great big river; it’s the first pit-stop on the way back to size 16.


At the Dublin Nutrition Centre, Orla recommends food diaries to clients in a bid to pinpoint conditions such as IBS and to monitor blood sugar levels. But between the lines, says Orla, you will find out more about your eating habits than you could ever believe.

“Write down whether you are hungry when you start eating, how full you are when you’re finished, and whether you ate fast, or ate because you’re upset or bored,” she suggests.

Esther Blum, author of Eat, Drink & Be Gorgeous, has pinpointed another good reason to keep a food journal; to see how certain foods make you feel.

“If you’ve never really believed that food can affect your energy levels and mental acuity, try keeping a food log in which you record how you feel before and after each meal.” she writes. “Writing it down will help you eat mindfully and make the connections among food, mood and energy levels. Be as honest as you can; remember, it’s just to give you a perspective on how certain foods help or hinder your energy levels.”

If the alternative is a life of sit-ups and spinach, I think honesty and self-reflection might be a little easier to swallow in the quest for a new lease of life.