Tag Archives: fat loss

WHEN IS A DIET BOOK FICTION?

kareena-kapoor-yogaI had heard of some nutritionist who had become famous because of actress Kareena Kapoor who had lost weight and allegedly become more attractive. I had also heard that this lady had written a book on the subject of nutrition and weight loss. Even better, I thought. Then a couple of patients asked me about the book and what I thought of it. It was then that I chanced upon the book by accident at a bookstore. I bought ‘Don’t Lose your mind, Lose your weight’ by Rujuta Diwekar and proceeded to read it.

To say I was disappointed would be understating the truth. I was dismayed. Shocked. Nauseated, even. Not only was the language atrocious (the author tries to act cool by using Mumbaiya slang liberally, and gleefully discusses acts normally referred to discreetly by polite society), but the substance was horribly false and unscientific.

She adds weight to her deliberations by name dropping. Astonishingly, she credits Anil Ambani with the quote “Common Sense is Uncommon”. I was impressed by that—how shallow and hypocritical does one have to be to do that bit of name dropping and eminence-by-association? Of course, the lovable ‘Bebo’ is freely referenced. The whole credibility of the author and the book seems to rest on this one case of weight loss and health gain. 

The author makes amazingly dumb claims like “laddu can be as wholesome a breakfast as omlette”, “pasta does not make you fat” and many more. I am getting irritated to even continue this critique of this most unworthy piece of nutritional fiction. 

I thought I would point out the scientific fallacies freely thrown about in every page. I thought I would underline to the reader and show that the blanket truisms she spouts every other line as if they are beyond question are almost all fake and false at the least, and fraudulent at the worst.

However, so numerous are these, so wild and outrageous the claims that I am already tired of rebutting them one by one. 

If she really believes all she wrote, she knows no actual nutritional science. If she does know the science, she has written fiction. Let her decide what she has done.

I do understand that I need to substantiate my comments on the book. As tiresome as it is, I will merely list a few, and only a few:

* “Because alcohol raises estrogens in the body, drunk men giggle like girls”. Does this need any rebuttal, you think?

* “In the absence of carbs, fat cannot be burnt” (a more idiotic statement that this would take some doing!).

* “Bread, biscuit and alcohol are all bad carbs”. Yeah, I wonder she didn’t say beef was bad carbs, too!

* “Carbs reduce bloating and improve metabolism”. And my name is Janet Jackson.

* “If you eat sweets during your festivities without guilt, you won’t put on fat. Take your body into confidence.” Where will the calories go, you ask? Probably gets burnt off by all the smiling and shitting (her favorite word) that the guiltless binge must induce.

* “Animal proteins are difficult to digest”. Really? I thought they were easily digested, absorbed and had a high biologic value (the BV of eggs is nearly 98% or so).

* “Protein by itself leads to muscle breakdown (catabolism), irritation, constipation, etc.” Powerlifters and bodybuilders who eat proteins obsessively are clearly victims of the muscle breakdown, huh, Ms. Diwekar?

* Fasting is bad. Eat every two hours for fat burning.” Evidence? “I am Kareena’s nutritionist”, she seems to say.

Enough already. Dissecting trash is not really a good utility of one’s time.

Does this book have some plus points? It does, a few, but they are unimportant.

RANDOM THOUGHTS ON AN UNFIT AMERICA- PART II

So, as I was saying in Part I, portion sizes of food are huge in the US, and soda consumption is universal. What more?
* Gyms are full of people doing the same things I have seen in India: the obviously unfit men and women doing chronic, slow cardio and the men, sprouting big biceps, going at curls of various kinds. I was the only person deadlifting, though a couple of boys were doing barbell squats. The rest of the alpha males in the huge YMCA gym were going at the machines and the biceps curls. They probably had never heard of Pavel or known the difference between strength and conditioning. Trainers were busy with personal clients, helping them with the reps in various machines, and that was it.
Seeing all this, I admire my favorite fitness coaches for being so rational in their outlook towards training.
* Outside on the kerbs and in parks, one saw men and women jogging, the sweat tenuously held by head bands and wrist bands. Each well-cushioned foot would strike the ground by the heel, with little back drive to hit the glutes and hamstrings. Sigh.
* At certain hotels like the Sheraton , there were no barbells in the gym. Only machines! I couldn’t believe it, but rationalised that their clients were probably not fitness oriented or demanding.
* One striking feature about the country is the incredible abundance of food outlets, leading one to conclude (wrongly, as I will say soon) that with so much junk food available, people are bound to eat those and reap the dividends (obesity, diabetes, etc.). Clearly, that is happening, though the mainstream recommendation of eating a grain-based, low-fat diet has had a major contribution in this regard.
So why is it wrong to say that Americans are fat only because they are surrounded by junk food purveyors all around?
If you look around a grocery store in that country, you will see an incredible array of green vegetables, fruits, fish, meats, dairy, seeds and nuts, and with several varieties of each, like organic, free-range, etc. If someone wants to eat real food and stay healthy, there is no way he can say he did not have a choice (Trader Joe’s, Wegmans, Whole Foods, Giants, etc.).
As a commentator said, the US is all about choice. The majority of Americans are making wrong choices because of several factors:
1. Misguided mainstream nutrition advice ( to eat grains/cereals, avoid fats, especially saturated fats).
2. The addictive nature of sugars and carbs— leading to cravings that leads the victim to the nearest outlet selling junk food.
IMG_0269
(butter caramel pie- image courtesy: http://www.tasteandtellblog.com/2007/12/gooey-caramel-butter-bars.html)

I visited Starbucks thrice in a day to have their rich pecan toffee pie which, as Part I of this ramble showed, carries nearly 300 calories.
cornbread(image courtesy: http://lilveggiepatch.wordpress.com/tag/restaurants/page/3/)

Being the melting pot of global cultures, the variety and richness of foods in America is incredible. Even American food (like the incredible corn bread with maple butter at Redstone Grill) was constantly tempting, even to this discriminating tongue.
Picture 5(image courtesy: Redstone Grill site)

cornbread2
(just to show I couldn’t have enough of this delicious cornbread!
Image courtesy: http://www.cookingforseven.com/2009/05/maple-cornbread-and-a-giveaway/
)
3. Fast and stressful life: though this does not apply as a general rule, I found the typical family struggling with mortgages, credit card bills, car repair bills, child care, job stress, etc. with holidays reserved for mowing the lawn, vacuuming, and sundry chores. In such a cortisol-driven milieu, fat gain seems natural.
4. Automation: all the Americans need now is a voice-activated remote to control all the other remotes, including the garage door. (The Koreans beat them in the bathroom, though, with toilet seats that warm your ass, flush it clean, and provide sundry other minor pleasures.)
Physical activity is almost nil!

*Books: I spent decent time at two of America’s largest book stores, Barnes & Noble and Borders. I was surprised to find not one of the (fitness) books I was looking for. I wanted to buy one of Tom Venuto‘s books, Alwyn Cosgrove‘s Afterburn, Pavel‘s Enter The Kettlebell and The Naked Warrior. I finally managed to order one of the books from the B&N on 5th Avenue in New York.
Protein Power, another book I was familiar with, authored by the Drs. Eades, was available in that store, and the blurb said the book had sold 3.5 million copies. I was not surprised, as the authors write very well, and sound very sane.
Most of the books in the fitness section were crap. I did find Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding, but I wasn’t interested. After reading Pavel’s The Power To The People, I am only keen on getting better at the key lifts and improving on my strength and conditioning. For the same reason, I skipped other offerings, including The New Rules of Lifting, by Lou Schuler and Cosgrove.
On the other hand, the shelves were choking with diet books: diet for cystic fibrosis, diet for phenylketonurics, diets for celiac disease, and so on. ‘Dummies‘ books (low carb/diabetes, etc.) were also easily seen on shelves.
After three days of hunting, I understood that it is far better to order something online than hunt for it in the stores, if you have limited time. However, I love browsing in stores and taking my time till I am hungry, so I have no regrets!

*Overall (an excuse of a word to cut down an overlong post!), I found (again!) that this is a country all about individual freedom, including the freedom of self-destruction.
When I think of that, my respect for those who are American and fit is very high indeed!
* Finally (to exorcise my cornbread ghosts), each slice of cornbread is around 200 calories, at least. Add the maple butter, and several slices as starters to a meal, and you can now explain my (temporary and planned) fat gain. Have one on me, please!

CALORIES, CARBOHYDRATES, CONFUSION?

Fat loss is basically all about creating a calorie deficit, right? We have been told for years together by experts, including a recent trial published in the revered New England Journal of Medicine, that fat loss can be established with a caloric deficit, and the individual macronutrient component of the diet is immaterial. In other words, whether you do low carb or low fat, you should be fine when running an energy deficit.
Many experts in the field of nutrition, especially the whistle-blowers of traditional nutrition (like Gary Taubes, for example) disagree vehemently. According to them, this is one of the sinister myths of conventional ‘wisdom’. Obesity is not the result of overeating, but the cause of overeating. This has been memorably exemplified in the movie Fathead. Check this link.
According to this school, if you eat carbohydrates, the resultant insulin spike causes fat deposition, and further cravings for sugars that leads to overeating. Therefore, obesity causes overeating. It is synonymous that carb consumption causes obesity.
The low carb school of nutrition advocates consumption of natural fats and proteins ad libitum, and avoiding even fruits (except occasionally, perhaps). On this diet, you don’t need to count calories, and you will lose fat even if you exceed your caloric requirement. How, you ask? In the absence of carbohydrates and insulin, how does the body fuel itself? You got it–adipose tissue, aka fat (a process called gluconeogenesis).
There are lots of people who have got impressive results with a low carb lifestyle. The more extreme low carb votaries advocate a ketogenic (meaning nearly zero carb) status as a matter of permanence.
So, for the average Joe or Jane seeking to shed 10 lbs (or 100, for that matter) of blubber, should one go low carb or should one tie down calories?
If you can go low carb, go for it! If you find it difficult (I, for one, can’t forego my mangoes, litchis or jackfruits in the insanely hot Indian summers), eat carbs, but stay clear of processed sources of these. No noodles, pastas, chips, etc., if you want to eat healthy carbs/sugars from fruits or the odd Bengali sandesh (made from dairy).

In this kind of scenario, keep your caloric intake down below your requirement. Be warned, however, that cutting carbs is the easiest way to earn a caloric deficit. If your carb count climbs up, so does your caloric count!
11_mango_lg

If I don’t eat sweets or fruits like mangoes, keeping a carb intake down to less than 100 grams per day is easy. On fasting days, it is as low as 50 grams. If you want to get it even lower (to ketogenic levels) then you need to avoid dairy. For Indians and vegetarians, dairy is a major source of nutrition, especially proteins.
litchis
Even though I agree largely with the Paleo outlook, I continue to enjoy verboten foods like sugary fruits and dairy. To me, therefore, a Paleo lifestyle is a major guide, but not a religion.
I go low carb on three days a week (when I fast and my carb/calorie intake is consciously and naturally low), and high carb on the other days. However, I should repeat that high carb for me does not mean I eat processed foods or more than bare minimal amounts of grains. Even on my high carb days I don’t reach near the recommended 300 grams per day. Most of my sources of carbs are dairy and fruits.
To sum up: if you can go low carb, do so by all means. If you can’t, keep the calories down! Exercise is one way of increasing your caloric deficit, though a relatively minor one.
At the day’s end, suit your fat loss method to what you will be able to sustain for a lifetime!

LEARNING ABOUT IF

Coach Adam Steer, who teaches an incredible brand of exercise/fitness (called Circular Strength Training) was kind enough to ask me to share my thoughts on Intermittent Fasting with the readers of his blog.
You can get the post by clicking this link.

NOT MAY, BUT MUST: THE MAY CHALLENGE!

While we have been grinding through our lives, four months of the year have rolled out silently under our feet, and many of us are still nowhere in the path of progress we had chosen during the last New Year resolution.
I can’t make you rich or help you get laid, but I can help with fat loss.
I am taking up a May Challenge from tomorrow: Lose 10 pounds of fat in May! This is inspired by Vic of Gym Junkies who has really got ripped in a few weeks with his diet and training. Of course, Vic is a martial artist, and is leagues ahead of most of us in fitness. Believe me, this doesn’t make it easier for him. On the other hand, beginners have it easier in the fat loss fight. The leaner you get, the more difficult it is to shed of those last remaining ounces and pounds.
How am I going to lose 10 pounds of fat in May?
I will try to take in a caloric intake of around 11 per pound of body weight. For me, that comes to around 1850 calories. I am sure that even if I eat clean, as I usually do, I will exceed 2000 calories, going up to 2300. I won’t scrooge on that.
Here is when IF will be handy: I will use my three IF days of the week to restrict my calories. I assume that if I eat five hours on my IF days I will not exceed 1500 calories. So, a 300 calorie deficit over my allowance will compensate for my exceeding it on the other ‘eating’ days.
While we are still at nutrition, I will ensure that my protein intake will be around 1 gram/lb body weight on at least my eating days, while it would not be less than half that on my fasting days (around 75-80 grams/day). With resistance training, I don’t expect any lean mass losses.
Three days a week (on my IF days), I will go low carb (around 50 grams per day), while I will hit it up on the other four days. I will not spare myself too many mangoes, I can tell you!
I have also determined that I will take my training to a higher level this May. Some numbers:
1. I will try to exceed my Deadlift by 25 percent. I am currently lifting 1.5 times my body weight, and I will try to go up. At the least, I will raise up the reps at my current weight (a little uncertainty there in my mind).
2. I will increase my pull-ups and push-ups by 50 percent this month: the reason is I don’t do too many as it is. I have jacked up the number of pull ups to around 100 or maybe 200 per week. I will now do 250 pull ups every week. Push ups: 150 to 200 a week (I know it is not much).
3. I will do Power Cleans and exceed my best by 10-15 percent. I currently lift around a measly 110 lbs. I will try to go to 125 lbs.
4. I will sprint even harder than I do at present: I will not spare myself during my (twice weekly) sprint sessions. ‘Kill It’ will be my motto!
5. I will increase my Bench Press by 25 percent.
If I find myself unable to achieve the specific numbers, it will not be because of want of trying. I will readjust my targets if necessary and increase the intensity and volume at optimal loads.
What about me, I don’t do all this shit?!” you say?
Well, for starters, start increasing your activities and systematically charge up your workout. Make it work!
Here is how:
1. Stop taking your car to where you normally do. Walk it some way, at least. Stop taking the car to nearby places, though many of you may not be living in places that are walker-friendly.
2. Stop taking the lift. I climb six stories up and down on a routine basis, as that is the level I live in. If you can run up and down, even better. Try it, at least!
3. Stop finding excuses. Period. Just do it!
4. Concentrate on your eating: that is THE thing that will make it happen. Remember to take in a max 11 calories per pound of body weight, and stick to it. Eating clean means eating natural foods only. No sugars, processed foods, or food products at all. I would strongly suggest laying off grains and potatoes as well.
5. Kill cravings: keep your cupboard and fridge clean, and visualise yourself at the end of the 10 lb fat loss. If that doesn’t help you control your cravings, what will?
6. This month, don’t let go. Be merciless!
7. If you don’t belong to a gym, or you have never lifted, try the following exercises/activities:
* stair-climbing
* sprinting (20 seconds on, rest 10 secs, repeat till you fail- a maximum of 8 reps).
* do burpees: 10 at a time. Doesn’t matter if your form is bad, and you feel like dropping. Just do it as well as you can, and do 10. Repeat three times.
* Choose four different exercises like squats, push-ups, lunges, burpees, mountain climbers, bear walks and planks, and do 30 seconds of each without taking ANY rest. Repeat three times with a couple of minutes rest.
8. Try to incorporate more activities in your daily routine. This Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) will help burn up a few hundred calories daily. I can’t stress this enough!
9. Don’t allow yourself to fail: use any resource you can to help you from failing: try me if you want, by all means!
10. Blog about it, and make your commitment to fat loss public. This ensures accountability, something I learnt from Tom Venuto. I challenge my blog friends to post on this challenge and take it up. If you think 10 pounds is too much, take a 5 lb challenge- but take it up. This is one chance you shouldn’t let go: fat loss as a group activity is great!
Let me know what you are going to do this May!
As for me, I ‘m gonna kill it: with my six packs so close to visualisation, I am not taking failure as an option!

Postscript: If you are thinking, “Oh, I can’t do all this, Doc is being impractical”, then you gotta stay fat. Fat loss ain’t comin’ to you without commitment, short of bariatric surgery, AIDS or cancer!
Use my links (both within this post and in my blogroll) to learn more.

BALANCING CALORIC INTAKE

Yesterday, I started off my day with a solid Kickboxing workout (it burns around 750 calories in an hour). I had my post workout meal of casein, fruits and my protein shake.
After that, the rest of the day was a nutritional disaster of sorts.
Sunday lunch was a buffet at Mainland China (one of my perennial favorite restaurants). I normally don’t eat buffets, preferring to order from the a la carté menu. However, buffet it was yesterday, and it was big. It is hard to escape the instinct to eat more and maximise the price for the meal. On top of that, you eat more than one dessert, which you normally would not.
Dinner was at a neighbor’s wedding party. It was one of those ‘Big Fat Indian Weddings’ with 257 dishes, and 45 different juices. Literally. It was insane, the amount of food available, and the number of waiters serving them.
This abundance of food, especially attractive and delicious dishes, made me lose my reserve once more, and I ate more than I should have.
Have a look:
picture-2

The worst (or was it the best?) thing was my lack of remorse at the binge. I rationally examined the chart above, and I saw that I had exercised portion control even while eating processed grains (fried breads like parathas and kachoris/luchis). When I had binged, I had chosen relatively healthier options like sandesh (cottage cheese/casein dumplings). As a result, I had done not too well, but it could have been worse.
After dinner, I went on a fast. A mini-fast, really. Monday is a day I fast for 24 hours, but because I had a lot of carbohydrates yesterday, hunger bothered me today (carbs create cravings, unlike proteins and fats). I decided to break my fast at 18 hours. Good enough.
My meals were good, filling, and even included a couple of Hyderabadi cookies that I had with some macadamia nuts.
I satisfy my sweet craving by eating grapes with nuts. I was a little low on proteins, but I will make up for it tomorrow.
Have a look:
picture-3
This simple example from my journal (courtesy Fitday) underlines this simple lesson:
Eating primal along with intermittent fasting can balance your single day binge. ‘Eating primal’ means not eating processed foods, eating natural foods of all sorts, not eating grains and sugars. Of course, I do take in a sweet or two every now and then, but this helps to keep me grounded to my lifestyle. A small defeat should not prevent you from winning the bigger war: the war to live healthier and slimmer.

UNDERSTANDING HUNGER

As many of my readers are discovering, trying to bring in some semblance of control and balance in eating brings with it a sense of strain, a sense of doing something stressful and abnormal.
One of the reasons is the fact that we are largely culturally attuned to eating at regular hours and any change in that brings forth mental stress. Does that mean we are condemned to eating more and staying fat?
Hunger is a feeling that needs no definition. It is of two types: somatic hunger (the deep-rooted need for food felt when one is famished) and limbic hunger (the cravings for specific foods or an emotional food craving that occurs without starving).

the-hunger-hormone-is-it-really-that-easy-to-control-obesity-or-anorexia-2

If we recognize these two types, we can learn to pay heed to the former and ignore or downgrade the latter. In other words, recognize only true hunger, and ignore and crush those cravings which stem from some emotional disturbance or other.
Only when one does this can one eat sensibly and lose fat. Knowing when not to eat helps us to eat those treats we really cherish. If we ignore that temptation to eat a couple of slices of that cake going stale, and stay focussed on other things in life, we could actually eat a scoop of butterscotch icecream or have a Lindor truffle. We may be taking in 200 calories, but we saved ourselves more a few hours back. How? By downgrading one craving, and giving primacy to a superior one.
Once you start fasting, you begin to recognize the true signals of your body vis a vis hunger. Often, a glass of (lemon) water and a cup of liquor tea quells a hunger pang for a couple of hours. Even a chewing gum in the mouth keeps hunger at bay for some time, though sometimes it may momentarily exacerbate the hollow feeling in the belly. When the hunger pang becomes severe, it is wise not to ignore it. We are not trying to tear the mind apart in an exercise of self control. We are merely training the mind and body to behave the way we were evolutionarily designed to.
In medicine, a number of drugs have been tried to kill hunger and appetite. These anorexogenic drugs include sibutramine and the newer cannabinoid receptor blockers like rimonabant. These drugs bring a 5-10 percent fat loss but cause a lot of side effects, including suicidal ideations, clearly underlining the relationship between hunger and emotions.
Various hormones in the body act to drive hunger (and are called oroxogenic agents), chief among them being ghrelin, a hormone secreted from the stomach. Removing a large portion of the stomach in the operation called sleeve gastrectomy causes loss of appetite and major fat loss. This is one of the hottest bariatric procedures being done worldwide.
Insulin, the hormone that controls blood glucose levels, is also responsible for hunger. A large carbohydrate intake (following a meal that contains rice and potatoes, or pasta and pizza, for example) leads to an insulin surge. This brings down the blood glucose (which is largely stored in and as fat and glycogen), leading to the brain, which preferentially consumes glucose, thinking, “Oh, where is the glucose? I am starving!” This leads to a fresh pang of hunger, leading to more caloric intake. It is for this reason that cutting carbs may be the best way out in a fat loss program for a lot of people. However, for those people who are insulin sensitive, this may not be true.
Other hormones that play a role include leptin, Peptide YY, incretins, obestatin, amongst many others.
On a later date, I will outline how this may be of benefit in clinical fat loss programs.