Fun Gadgets To Help You Lose Weight

You look at yourself in the mirror one morning and don’t like what you see.  You constantly need new clothes because the old ones are so tight they show all of your bulges. Members of the opposite sex no longer seem to notice you. And the bathroom scales obviously need replacing because you could not possibly be that heavy.

Whatever the trigger is, something causes you to see the truth.

You have let yourself go. You need to do something about it. But you have been here before. You know that diets don’t seem to keep the weight off. Not only that but diets are hard work and mean months and months of struggle.

There really is only one problem to solve and that is maintaining motivation over the long haul. Slow weight loss is the only way to make it permanent, but what you really need is a coach – someone to look over your shoulder and keep on with the encouragement even when those pounds do not seem to be shifting. But a coach is going to be expensive, so how else can you get that encouragement?

Well, it seems that there are a lot of websites out there that help you keep track of your weight loss and fitness goals. They make it so much easier for you to keep track of progress and maintain your determination to not only reach your realistic target weight, but also to maintain it.

MyFitnessPal is a handy free service that helps you keep track of goals. If you like to count calories it has a database full of foods and a calculator that will give you a pretty good idea of how many calories you are eating. If you tell it how much exercise you do it calculates how many calories you are using and lets you know how much you need to eat to lose weight at a healthy rate. It also has an app that shares your details with your smartphone/tablet so you can keep on track.

Talking of apps there’s a great bathroom scale available now, the Withings WiFi Body Scale. It keeps track of weight, body fat, and BMI and talks to either your web browser or an app on your smartphone/tablet.

Add to that a heart rate monitor so that you get the maximum calorie burn when you exercise and you have given yourself a well-deserved gift that will help to motivate and encourage you long-term.

If you add to that mix a copy of my book How to Lose Weight Easily you will have the perfect weight loss kit. My book, by the way, has loads of useful hints and tips on how to lose weight without suffering as well as a 10-step guide to successful, lasting, weight loss.

Successful weight loss is all about motivating yourself to keep going until you reach your target. So surround yourself with whatever tools, or equipment,  that you need in order to be successful. Take advantage of everything that you need to support yourself. No one else will do it for you and you do not need any one else’s permission to look after yourself the best way you know how.

Remember, it is how far you have come, not how far you travelled yesterday, that matters.


The links above are for European readers. If you live in the US please use these:

Withings Body Fat Scale

Heart rate monitor

How to Lose Weight Easily


As Long As You Do It Regularly – You Can Eat As Much Fat As You Want

At least that’s a rough translation of the research by Dr Hadas Sherman et al at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Although the research has only been done using mice as subjects, if it translates to human behaviour, then this is really good news for people who want to lose weight.

The numbers of overweight and obese individuals have only reached epidemic proportions in the last few decades. So this research correlates nicely with a major change in eating patterns that has taken place in that time – snacking.

In my childhood, food was eaten at mealtimes and there were three of those a day, plus a snack for supper at nine every evening. Every day food was eaten around the same time. I was never hungry, and I ate a full meal at lunchtime as well as in the evening. I grew up slim, fit and healthy.

Nowadays people seem to graze, rather like cattle, eating constantly. They eat walking down the street, they eat in coffee bars, and they eat in pubs. They eat in the cinema even though the bucket of popcorn is ten times the volume of their stomach and they had an evening meal a couple of hours earlier. They eat at their desk, and they fill their supermarket trolley with crisps, biscuits, snacks, and chocolate bars so they can continue to graze all evening in front of the tv. But, and this seems to be the problem, there is no regularity to any of this. Breakfasts, lunches and dinners are missed, or eaten early or late, to fit around other activities.  Snacks are used to bridge the space between these irregular meals.

Now, it seems that regularity is one of the ways that the body’s intelligence knows that the food supply is plentiful. When food arrives in the stomach at the same time each day, the body adjusts metabolism accordingly. If it had a voice it would say something like – “ I know that food always turns up at the same times each day, therefore, I know food is plentiful, therefore, I don’t need to store any fat for emergencies. Even if an occasional meal is missed, as long as the next one is on time I know there is no problem.” Food is converted to energy for immediate use or eliminated.

The Hebrew University research found that mice who ate a high-fat diet consisting of regular meals weighed less after 18 weeks than mice who consumed either a high fat diet with irregular feeding, or a low fat diet with irregular feeding. Unfortunately, all the mice, even the ones on a low-fat regular diet ended up heavier than they were. But the interesting thing here is that every single mouse consumed exactly the same number of calories each day.

So, as I suggested some time ago in my article Calories are not Created Equal your weight isn’t just about the Calories that you consume. It seems that you can offset some of the damage by eating meals regularly and cutting out on the snacking. So become a champion for the family mealtime sitting around a table with the tv off, at the same time each evening. Eat breakfast and lunch at the same time each day and forget about all the rest – regardless of what everyone around you is doing.

This, according to the researchers, is going to reset your metabolic clock to a much healthier state. Knowing what times each day you are going to eat and not eating at any other time will leave you fully satisfied – once you develop the new habit – you will almost certainly start to lose weight and the really good news is that you still get to eat whatever you want.

If you would like some more hints and tips on How to Lose Weight Easily get hold of a copy of my book of the same title. It’s available from Amazon in Kindle and paperback at an almost giveaway price.



Coffee Bean That Melts Fat?

That was the subject line of an email in my Inbox this morning. I almost deleted it straight away because it was SPAM from some company I’d never asked to send me stuff, but I thought no, let’s have a look. So I opened it up and was greeted by a scantily clad, skinny lady – rather like the one on the cover of my book How to Lose Weight Easily – and emblazoned across her very attractive bosom in giant writing were the words.

Weight Loss Experts

I couldn’t believe it.

They were absolutely right.

I am a weight loss expert and I can’t believe it.

Having come this far, I thought I’d better check this out, after all it might make for something interesting to write about today. My intention being to quickly discover that it was a load of rubbish and then tell you why and what was wrong with the research.

You might think it’s quite easy to track down a piece of research these days with the internet being what it is. But, truth be told, Google is a bit rubbish when you want to find out specific and accurate information. What tends to happen is that you trawl through twenty, thirty, forty promising looking sites only to find out that they are all rehashing the same information which originated in the same press release. Occasionally there is a snippet of fresh information that leads, like a trail of breadcrumbs either to the goal, or to a giving up on the search.

It really is important to locate the original research paper because, quite often, distortions creep into the reporting of what the results mean. Especially when the reporting is done by a company whose product sales are going to benefit.

For instance one site reported

“16 overweight young adults”


“The 16 people were obese or overweight and between the age of 22 and 26.”

The study actually used 16 people between the ages of 22 and 46.

The key author of the study is cited as Dr Joe A Vinson, a chemist at the University of Scranton, PA, but the study was conducted in Bangalore, India. Dr Vinson’s research was funded by Applied Food Sciences. Applied Food Sciences are the company that supplied the Green Coffee Bean Extract (GCA – Green Coffee Antioxidant) that the research was testing!!!!

Looking at Dr Vinson’s list of publications on the University website it seems he is a leading light in researching natural products that produce health benefits. But I am nevertheless suspicious when the guy who is paying the bills is also the guy whose products you are testing to see if they do what they say.

Back to the research: 16 people is such a small sample that no statistically significant conclusions can be drawn – which makes me wonder why bother. That said, the results are certainly interesting. The study ran for 22 weeks. Participants had a period with a low dose green coffee extract, a period with a higher dose, and a period with a placebo. There was a two week recovery period between each test. Over that time the subjects showed an average weight loss of 18lbs. 10 subjects had 10% loss of body weight, and 5 of the other 6 lost 5% of their body weight. Average heart rate slowed by 2 beats a minute – this doesn’t sound much but is significant for heart health. There are also indications, but nothing statistically significant, that there might be beneficial effects on blood pressure.

It is important to note here that Green Coffee Extract is low in caffeine. The caffeine comes when the beans are roasted. The extract used is primarily chlorogenic acid which is removed from the green beans, but is destroyed in the roasting process so drinking more coffee isn’t going to do you any good.

You’ll find elsewhere on this site my comments about two drugs, Belviq and Qsymia that the FDA recently approved for use with weight loss – both of which look like they could have very serious long-term side effects. A 22 week trial isn’t going to identify long-term side effects, but no short-term side effects were reported in this coffee bean trial.

It looks to me as though this trial was created specifically to provide scientific evidence and backing to promote the sale of Applied Food Science’s GCA. It is too small to be of any use for anything other than to provide quotable results from a clinical trial in order to convince customers of the product’s efficacy. However, the results are interesting, so I cannot say, as I was hoping to, that this is just more junk. If you are desperate for a solution in a pill – this might help you. If you decide to take it then please let me know how you get on.



If you want to check it out yourself you can find the report here:


Frying Pans Make Your Children Fat

Well not just frying pans. Any pan with a non-stick coating, according to recent research, has the power to impact the way your child’s body metabolises fat in later life. Now I have to say that the research has not yet established cause and effect beyond any doubt, but there is a significant correlation with the levels of PFCs (polyfluoroalkyl compounds) found in the blood of pregnant women and the weight of their children. PFCs get into pregnant women via non-stick pan coatings.

The study looked at medical information from around 450 women who were pregnant in the early 90’s. What they discovered was that the women with the highest levels of PFC in their blood had babies that, on average, weighed 5 ozs less at birth. However, by the age of 20 months these same babies weighed, on average, 1.3lbs heavier than the children of mothers with the lowest levels of PFC.

This confirms the results of a Danish study revealing that girls exposed to PFCs in the womb were much more likely to be overweight by the time they reached the end of their teens.

PFCs are endemic and most people already have them floating around in their bloodstream, though they are not as prevalent in the environment now as they were 20 years ago when those blood samples were taken.

Still, this research does make you wonder. There is a ‘fat’ epidemic, and while a lot of it is caused by eating much more food than is needed, this epidemic does match the rise in the use of non-stick cookware. I had a quick look around my local hardware store today and although there was an extensive selection of pans there was no shiny metal anywhere. Every single pan had a non-stick coating.

Non-stick pan coatings are a source of PFCs. Now I know from personal experience (largely because I use pans until the handles fall off) that non-stick coatings don’t stay on the pans.  I had a set of pans for around 30 years and they started off non-stick and ended up aluminium. What that means is that some particles of the non-stick coating must come off into the food every time the pan is used. The coating just got thinner and thinner. So I ate it and my family ate it.

Now I know the amounts are miniscule but these chemicals interfere with hormones and hormones operate at microscopic concentrations.

After realising that I’d probably eaten the pan coatings, my next set of pans were plain stainless steel. Interestingly I find that I don’t miss the non-stickness at all and rarely have a problem with sticking food. I remember reading somewhere that non-stick coatings were a by-product of the space programme and probably something we all ended up using because of clever marketing rather than any real need.

Now if it was just pans all it would mean was a little more work with the scourer, but PFCs are used to coat all sorts of things – many of which are food related. Our bodies, nowadays, ingest a huge amount of PFCs from the plastic containers and films that cover food – particularly those designed for microwave heating.

So it might just be time for another revolution – one that means a little more work. Using things like glass or ceramic containers to heat up food, rather than the packaging they come in. I know that’s too much effort, but if you consider the amount of energy you exert into going on diets and trying to lose weight, then using shiny metal pans and dispensing with packaging before microwaving is probably a lot less. Not only that but you get to do without all the guilt and suffering too.

Now if you want to lose a little more weight than non-stick pans will give you, and you’d like to make it really easy and not have to bother with all that dieting stuff,  then get hold of a copy of my book How to Lose Weight Easily and Free Yourself from Diets Forever.



Is Fasting an Easier Way to Lose Weight than Dieting?

A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend at a meditation group and he was telling me all about this programme he’d seen a couple of nights earlier. The programme was about the benefits of fasting. He was buzzing and already on his fast. I didn’t really take a great deal of notice because the minute he mentioned fasting I thought that sounds like effort, real hunger, and going without things I like.

Anyway, I listened with a level of interest that was curious about how it had inspired my friend, but without any intention of doing anything with that information. My friend, by the way is young, fit, healthy, and a keen mountain biker to whom a 40 mile cycle ride is taking it easy.

The following morning I was going for a day out with my daughter and she started to tell me about this same programme and how she was going to start a 48 hour fast at the weekend. At this point I started to take notice. The Universe was trying to tell me something here.

So I got out my iPad that evening and watched the programme on the BBC’s iPlayer.

It’s on again in the early hours of tomorrow (Wednesday 5th Sept) morning if you want to catch/record/make a note to watch on iPlayer.

By the time it was finished, I was hooked too.

This was science, as opposed to New Age weird stuff, and Michael Mosley, the presenter, was talking to some of the world’s leading experts on body fat. Each of these experts had come up with different fasting techniques, but each also agreed that much more research is needed. Among the benefits discovered are the reduction of visceral fat, increased cardio-vascular health, longer life, and weight loss.

Michael Mosley went on a four day fast and managed to survive. In the programme he talked about alternate day fasting whereby you eat what you want one day, then the next day you restrict yourself to 600 Calories (men) or 500 Calories (women) and repeat this forever. Apparently with this regime you can eat what you want on the eat anything day. This produces weight loss and increased health benefits.

There was so much more in the programme that I encourage you to watch it. I don’t want to make this just a review of something you can watch for yourself.

What I wanted to tell you about was why it is having such a powerful impact on the people who watch it.

If you are a regular reader of my words, or if you’ve read my book How to Lose Weight Easily, you will know that I am not a fan of diets or dieting – for reasons that I explore at length in my book. Fasting, however, fits in very well with my approach to weight loss and gives it a boost.

I’ll tell you why.

Other than the fasting period itself, there is no control over what you eat the rest of the time.

I wanted to experiment with this in a way that would be beneficial not only to myself but to others as well. So I had a think about this.

What could I cope with? Four days without eating would be difficult for me. Two days I could manage, but I probably wouldn’t want to repeat it too often.  One day, yes I could do that. I don’t think I’ve gone a whole day without food in my life, but I figured I could manage that.

Now, there was nothing in this programme to suggest that one day of fasting would achieve anything at all, but I wanted to experiment and understand the thoughts and sensations that go along with not eating.  I also decided to not eat anything rather than the 600 calories that was suggested. I thought it would be easier to have nothing rather than be worrying about how filling I could make my allowance.

So I picked a Sunday when I had no plans, got home late after being out with some friends to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower and had a big slice of apple pie around 1:00 am. Then I ate nothing until breakfast on Monday morning around 8:00 am, so it was a little over 24 hours.

The most interesting thing was that I didn’t really feel anything I could call hunger until about 9:00 in the evening, at which point it was so close to bedtime that it was almost over. All I consumed that day was green tea without milk or sugar. This is my normal beverage not something I chose especially for the experiment. I wanted to drink something calorie-free that was a little tastier than water. Interestingly I wasn’t especially hungry when I woke up on Monday morning and could easily have gone another day without food.

When I weighed myself Monday morning I was 3lbs lighter, but a week later I was back to my normal weight.

Two weeks later I did the same again only this time my last food was around 6:00pm on Saturday.

A week later I repeated the experiment once more.

There has been no change in my weight,  other than the 3lbs I lose the day I don’t eat, but I have noticed several things.

My days are focused around meal times. When I take food out of the equation there is a bit of a sense of the loss of a milestone, or an anchor in the day with which to measure progress. I was finding that I had to find more interesting things to do than I normally do. But I stuck to having just a pot of tea instead of food at mealtimes.

While I was on the fast day I never really experienced anything other than transient feelings of hunger until late in the evening. I did think about food, but only when my mind wasn’t occupied with something interesting. The decision to eat nothing for a day made it easy not to eat and to ignore food thoughts.

The week following the day of fasting leaves me feeling hungrier than I normally am, and fuller than I normally feel when I eat. I’m finding that I’m still eating my normal quantities of food but feeling much fuller afterwards. It seems that the fast has put me back in touch with those feelings of hunger and fullness that we seem to lose contact with when we regularly eat more than we need.

Unfortunately I’m still stuck in the old habit and cooking what I used to cook, But I’m starting to reduce what I eat, getting back to throwing more away and being more sensitive to full feelings until I establish the new habit. What I’m realising is how little food I need to eat to stay fit and healthy.

But the strangest thing of all, and this has nothing to do with weight, is that I feel more alive, more alert and have more energy – more bounce.

This for me is the biggest benefit.

I don’t think a one off fast will achieve anything lasting at all. But I think if it is built into your routine, like me, maybe one day a week, or the day on, day off, with a restricted calorie intake on alternate days – then I see the potential for huge benefits and really easy weight loss.



Successful Weight Loss Is A Mental, Not A Physical Process

Does that mean that if you want to lose weight all you have to do is meditate, or sit and think yourself thin? No, I’m afraid it’s not that easy. But successful weight loss is not easy and imagining that it is, is the reason so many people fail at it.

Education is geared around examinations, but no one expects to pass an exam with just a few weeks work. The training for examinations is measured in years. The reward for the effort that goes into passing an exam comes in the years that follow.

Losing weight is about attitude, understanding your body, and most importantly, understanding your mind. It is about learning new skills, and undergoing training too.

If you are serious about changing your body shape and size then you need to take the whole thing seriously and, rather than jumping on the latest celebrity diet bandwagon, recognise that what you need is a lifestyle change. It’s a bit like going to live in another country. They have different social rules and expectations, there is a different language to learn, and it will take a while before you feel part of it.

When you don’t allow yourself the luxury of taking time to learn the new rules that will ensure your success – then you will fail. When you want it all over in two months – you will fail to keep the weight off.

There is no way round this.

The vast majority of people who diet regain all of the weight they lost, plus more, within twelve months of reaching their target. Around half of people who diet give up within a couple of months of starting.

The reason for this huge failure rate is twofold:

  1. There is a multi-billion dollar diet industry that needs you to keep on failing in order for It to survive.
  2. Unless you take the time to understand your body and your mind, you will never, ever keep the weight off for any length of time.

The diet industry needs your money. It is a huge business. The only way it continues to make money is by ensuring you fail. It cannot sell you a new diet every year, if you haven’t regained the weight you lost from the last diet. It can’t sell you club memberships over and over again, unless you keep failing. It can’t sell you a magical new piece of hi-tech home gym equipment, unless the last bit of kit has been abandoned.

You are fighting this constantly. This industry bombards you with messages that cause you to feel uncomfortable about your body shape, and promises magical solutions that promise the world and do nothing. But you keep on buying into the diet thing, and the exercise machine thing, and the weight club thing because they tell you that that is the only way you can have the body you want.

It is a lie.

My book How to Lose Weight Easily – and Free Yourself from Diets Forever is the first step you need to take in order to begin that process of understanding your body and how you can work with it to lose the weight you need to lose.



Do You Find It Easier To Lose Weight Than To Keep It Off?

Losing weight on a diet is easy at first. In fact the more strict the diet the easier it is to lose a lot of weight quite quickly. You might want to lose weight beacuse you have had a health scare; there’s a new year starting; thoughts about summer holidays; seeing beautiful clothes in the shops but never in your size; or just seeing yourself in a full length mirror. It doesn’t matter what the trigger is but there will be something that causes you to stop thinking “I must lose weight” and to actually take action.

The action most people take is to start a diet.

Diets involve a total change of eating patterns; keeping track of what you eat; and counting whatever the diet wants you to count in order to track your food intake. The diet itself is immaterial. If you look at the research it shows quite clearly that whatever diet you use you will lose weight. That’s because all diets change your eating patterns and reduce calorie intake. They dress them up in different forms so they have something to sell – whether that be a book, a course, or a club to join. But they get you to cut down on what you eat.

And it’s great for a while. You lose some pounds – usually the biggest losses come right at the beginning. This positive feedback of weight loss encourages you and you keep going, doing exactly what you did to gain your big success, but at the next weigh-in you haven’t lost nearly as much. The one after that no loss at all… Then you put a couple of pounds back on…

And it was all going so well.

This starts to make you question your sacrifices and doing without all of your favourite foods, so you have a relapse, go over your allowance one day, and then think oh! Well! Today’s a bust, might as well just eat what I want and start the diet again tomorrow. That’s when the binge starts and you enjoy some of those delicious delights you’ve been denied for the last few weeks and undo all the sacrifices you have made over the past few days.

From then on it’s a bit of a roller coaster, a bit up a bit down. Enthusiastic then demoralised. Until eventually you either abandon the whole thing – until next year, or manage to reach your target weight.

The real problem starts when you reach your target weight because then all of your struggle is rewarded. You can now fit in to the clothes you want, the diet is at an end and so you need to reward yourself. The reward is always, always, always sweet, fattening, food.

Once the target is reached, the pressure is off. But there is nowhere to go now, no drive to keep you to your limited food intake. So eating gradually returns to normal and the weight comes back. Dieters generally end up even fatter than before they dieted. If you want to know the reasons get hold of a copy of my book How to Lose Weight Easily – and Free Yourself from Diets Forever.

Diets are a waste of time and energy. They lead to long-term misery and weight that becomes harder and harder to shift.

If you’d like to know a bit more about this, then check out my free video series which goes into this in much more detail.



Snacks, Weight Loss, and Catching Dinner.

The trouble with good-looking food is that it just wants to be eaten, and it’s such a shame to disappoint it. And why shouldn’t you eat it? I mean if you are fit, healthy, getting plenty of exercise and your BMI is in the healthy range there is absolutely no reason you shouldn’t eat anything you fancy.

There is only a problem when you want to eat it; you are overweight; exercise is picking up the tv remote; and you really want to be slim, but not until right after you’ve eaten that luscious big heap of gooey, sweet cream cake, and washed it down with several pints of sugar-filled soda.

This is a serious problem. How to continue to consume without any of the negative side-effects – like fat?

I’ve not found a way to do it, but I have found ways to cut down on the consumption without suffering and without feeling hungry.

The problem is not the food, it’s our bodies. Our bodies evolved to eat a large variety of food, but they evolved without supermarkets. Food had to be picked, dug, or chased and caught. Sometimes there wasn’t too much of it around, so we evolved a way to keep us alive when it was in short supply. We evolved the conversion of fats and sugars into body fat that would be stored in case of shortage. But because body-fat is the last resort in the survival game it’s also the last energy source to be consumed. Muscle goes first when we experience famine.

This is how we developed a taste for sweet and fat, and why our regulation mechanisms come a bit unstuck when we eat sugars and fats. Our bodies don’t know about supermarkets and the fact that we don’t really have a food supply problem any more. It’s not the whole story by any means, but it’s certainly a significant part of it. Mind you when food was in short supply, exercise would be increased in the search for it. So a balance was struck. Plenty was never so plentiful that there was a problem. Food was never within easy arms reach and so always required energy expenditure in the search for it.

So, unless you want to go back to flint tools and running down the road after some meat, we have to find another solution. We can’t really change the way our body works – but we can start to treat it with the respect it deserves, and we can also use our intelligence to make losing weight just that little bit easier.

Snacks are one of the biggest sources of excess calories in the diet. When we open the packet we tend to eat all of it no matter how much it contains, or how much we want. The quantity of food supplied in snack packs and snack bars is designed with only one purpose in mind. That purpose is to sell you more. Profit is the only thing that motivates the food industry. You can be their pawn, or choose to make your own choices.

Buy food and dispense into your own bags to take to work, so you take just what you want with you. This way you’ll save money. Stop seeing the packet it comes in as the portion size. It isn’t. What satisfies you is the portion size.

Tell yourself that you’ll have some later. Research has proven that this technique is brilliant and removes craving.

Intend to eat only at meal times, but don’t beat yourself up on the odd occasion when you give in to the urge.

Rather than buying ready packaged snacks, make your own. An apple will last all day in your bag and if you end up not eating it, it isn’t wasted. Mix up some dried fruit and nuts and take that with you. This is a good energy boost, but the sugars are not instantly available so they will satisfy you for much longer than a chocolate bar or biscuit. Because you only need to eat a handful, you’ll find that your calorie intake will drop because while they leave you feeling satisfied there is none of the desire to continue grazing that you get with high fat and sugary snacks and beverages.

Look around for other enjoyable, but healthy, alternatives. Foods that don’t give up their energy instantly are what you want. It’s that instant blood sugar high from things like sweet beverages and chocolate that causes the craving. When you keep your blood sugar levels stable you don’t get the cravings, so you don’t eat as much. That way you lose weight without really trying.

Always monitor your internal sensations and stop eating either the minute you feel full, or when the pleasure is gone i.e. taste buds are saturated. If you are eating for enjoyment and pleasure rather than for nourishment and fuel then it makes sense to monitor your enjoyment levels. You will probably find that the pleasure disappears after a mouthful or two. Focus totally on the taste sensations with no distractions next time you eat some chocolate and you will see what I mean.

If you want to be slimmer then you need to eat a little less and exercise a little more. Small changes are easy and sustainable. Diets don’t work. Make weight loss easy by taking it easy.



Weigh Loss and the Real World

I read a lot of studies and reports about weight loss. A quick browse through this blog will find my comments on some of them. What happens when a new weight loss study is announced is that the media jump on it and you get headlines like:

How to lose weight while chowing down at work

Team sports help teens stay fit

The secret to weight loss? Pen and Paper

Weight-loss keys: Food journals, eating in, not skipping meals

Artificial sweeteners no silver bullet for losing weight

And the whole thing, whether or not it’s valuable information, is hyped up and made into something much more than it really is. I’ve also noticed that much of the research merely provides evidence for what I’ve known and been teaching for many years now, so I’m not often surprised by the findings.

But let me tell you why this study information sometimes needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

There are four main areas that we need to be concerned with for weight loss:

  1. Non-pharmaceutical weight loss products
  2. Pharmaceutical weight loss products
  3. Behaviour i.e. eating patterns & activity
  4. Fat clubs e.g. Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig…

Non-pharmaceutical Weight loss products

This is the likes of Acai, Hoodia, teas, slimming drinks, patches, and all of the incredibly expensive products provided for people who think the solution to eating too much and not exercising enough is a tablet or a magic drink. This is the territory of the Health-Food shop/web site. Now I have to say I have absolutely no experience with any of these products, so if you’ve had good results using them, and you’ve kept the weight off, then let me know below. My gut feeling is that they are a waste of money and sales owe more to the skill of the advertisers than to any efficacy they possess.

Pharmaceutical weight loss products

There are not a lot of pharmaceutical weight loss products around but two are about to receive FDA approval: Belviq and Qnexa. They are both, in my opinion, attempts by the manufacturers to make $ billions rather than any serious attempt at providing a safe weight loss product. The stock of both the manufacturing companies went up through the roof as soon as they passed the first stage of FDA approval. Qnexa was originally rejected by the FDA two years ago, but I understand that the manufacturer spent a lot of money to convince the FDA panel that they should reconsider.

Both drugs contain components from an earlier weight loss drug that was withdrawn for safety reasons, and so they should be causing serious concern about the side-effects. But it seems the FDA is happy for the long-term safety trials to take place after approval. The benefit of using the drugs (in terms of weight lost) is so small when compared with known safe methods that they are just not worth the risk. Nevertheless as soon as they pass the final FDA hurdle (which they undoubtedly will) they will be prescribed in their billions by overworked doctors who will be grateful that they can spend two minutes printing a prescription, rather than providing counselling, education, and advice; alongside real help, support and encouragement.


Behaviour is the area of interest of most of the studies. Psychological studies (and that’s what they are) require volunteers. Volunteers need to be informed about the subject area of the study. So you know you are signing up for a weight loss study. In order to do that you have probably given up trying to lose weight without help, and you are probably quite motivated because they are going to ask you to do stuff and you are going to have to comply – because that’s what you agree with when you sign up. You are also in it with quite a few other people. You get the attention of the researchers. You get to feel that you are doing something worthwhile and helping others.

All of these things are motivational.

They are also not normal and not found in the real world of people struggling desperately to lose weight.

So, in part, studies are always studying themselves.

They create some circumstances and then test them out.

When you are given a diet plan and told to stick to it for 16 weeks as part of a study – most people will succeed. But give 100 people that same diet plan and never plan to contact them again and you’ll find almost no one stuck to the diet for the full 16 weeks, because that’s human nature. We behave differently when we know no one is watching and no one is checking up on us.

It doesn’t matter what is being studied, we behave differently when we know we are being watched. The most interesting studies are when the participants are lied to. For instance one study pretended to be about testing the flavour of different cookies and that’s what the participants thought they were doing, but they were actually being tested on how much they ate based on a drink they’d been given earlier to fill them up. Participants on a diet ate more cookies than those who were eating normally.

The real question that needs to be asked is ‘does this work in the real world’.

What seems to work in the real world is eating a little less, exercising a little more, and re-learning to listen to your body.

Fat Clubs

Fat clubs are the socially acceptable places where you go when you want company in your attempts to lose weight. They provide a social environment. Everyone has the same problem. They give you solutions. If you follow their guidelines you lose weight. But I get a lot of clients who’ve tried these places and they still come to me for help. Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Slimming World and the like do help you lose weight, but they use a dieting model, and dieting just doesn’t work long-term. You don’t sign up to these places for life. You sign up and stay until you either get fed-up with the classes, or reach your goal weight. Then you revert to your old-style eating patterns and before very long you are overweight again – only this time it’s much harder to shift the weight.

If you really want to know why it’s so much harder to shift the weight regained after a diet, and how you can lose it then read my book How to Lose Weight Easily and Free Yourself from Diets Forever to find out.



If You Really Want To Count Calories Then This Will Help

I know that counting calories is a popular way to lose weight – even though I don’t agree with it. What I do agree with is actually cutting down on the number of calories you eat. Now that might seem like the same thing but it isn’t and I’ll get to why it’s different in a little while, because I want to tell you about some interesting news first.

Anne McTiernan from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre ran a 12-month study, with over 120 women, looking at what helped participants to lose more weight. What she found was that women, who kept a food diary over the period of the trial, lost about 6lbs more than people who didn’t. Skipping meals was also a significant factor. Those women who skipped meals ended up 8lbs heavier than those who ate regularly. This fits in quite nicely with what I was saying in my article It’s True… You Can Eat Cake For Breakfast And Still Lose Weight  a few days ago.

Those who went out for lunch just once a week ended up 5lbs heavier than those who didn’t. The more you eat out the heavier you get – even when you are on a calorie controlled diet. But this is because of the I’ve Eaten Too Much – So I’d Better Eat Some More factor.

“For individuals who are trying to lose weight, the No. 1 piece of advice based on these study results would be to keep a food journal to help meet daily calorie goals”

Anne McTiernan, director of the Hutchinson Centre.

Of course keeping a Food Diary only works when you are honest and record everything you eat. So you need to carry it with you. I’ve designed a Food Diary page you can download for free and either print copies or use as a basis to design your own.

So their advice is pretty much: vigilant self-monitoring of what you eat; cook all your own food; and eat regular meals. That’s good advice, but I need to get back to why counting calories and cutting down on calorie intake are not the same thing.

When you count calories you have a daily limit so you have to monitor absolutely everything you eat. You need to obsess over food labels. You need to engage in a constant battle with yourself over whether or not to have something delicious, that you really fancy, but which is high in calories, or lots and lots of much lower calorie stuff. Hunger is a frequent accompaniment to this process, along with a perpetual thinking about food and the next meal. Willpower, that is mental force, is what is essential to succeed and willpower never works when you are tired, fed-up, emotionally exhausted, or just plain feeling sorry for yourself. So this method is bound to fail – or at least take very much longer to attain the target weight. Around half of people give up on their diet in less than 12 months.

 “You can initially lose 5 to 10% of your weight on any number of diets, but then the weight comes back.”

Traci Mann, Psychologist, University of California, Los Angeles

Cutting down on calories, at least if you follow the guidelines laid out in my book, is very different. You get to enjoy whatever you fancy, but that’s not a recipe for crazy eating, nor a suggestion that you can binge constantly and lose weight. It’s a suggestion that shifts the focus away from food so the obsessive thoughts and cravings have no reason to be there.

It’s a way to lose weight and enjoy life at the same time. I mean, if you can have what you want how can you crave it? Knowing you can have it actually reduces the desire for it, so although you still have it, you eat less of it. In my book How to Lose Weight Easily and Free Yourself from Diets Forever I also show you other ways to consume less while still having what you want. I know it sounds contradictory, but it works and is all based on sound research and my own years of experience with weight loss clients.