Archive for the tag - obesity

Banning Junk Food Doesn’t Decrease Obesity.

The forbidden fruit syndrome: Does banning unhealthy snacks make them more desirable?

Growing up, the shelves in my family’s pantry were stocked with soda, chips and candy. Of course, there were healthy options, too – but my friends always loved coming over to indulge in the forbidden snacks that their parents didn’t buy.

Though I was overweight for a few years during my childhood, my sister was always thin. Though the unhealthy snacks were available to us, neither of us paid them much attention. Because soda, chips and sweets weren’t considered “off limits,” there was no satisfaction – as there was for my friends – in consuming them.

A new study, published by researchers at Pennsylvania State University, calls into question the effectiveness of banning unhealthy snacks – particularly, in schools. According to the data, there was no correlation – at all – between obesity and attending a school where sweets and salty snacks were available.

Researchers tracked the body mass indexes (BMI) of 19,450 students from fifth grade through eight grade. In fifth grade, some 59% of students attended schools with unhealthy snack bans. By eight grade, 86% of students were subject to bans.

Looking at the data, correlations were examined on a number of levels. Researchers even looked at differences in BMIs for students that moved into schools with bans and vice versa. But no matter how researchers sliced the data, there were virtually no differences in BMIs. In other words, the bans don’t work.

As was experienced by my friends during childhood, it may be the forbidden fruit syndrome. The action of banning something usually has the opposite effect than what is intended. Just look how American youth compare to their European counterparts when it comes to alcohol and the drinking age. Moreover, the more we concentrate on what we can’t eat, the more we want to eat it.

But if banning unhealthy foods isn’t the answer for the astronomical obesity rates in American youth, what is? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

How to Manage Emotional Eating.

Emotional eaters reach for food not when they’re hungry, but rather in reaction to what they’re feeling. Emotional eating may be triggered by sadness, anger, anxiousness or any other feeling – and food is used as the pacifier or cooping mechanism.

When we talk about reducing mindless snacking and controlling the amount of food we eat, it’s common to hear tips about hiding unhealthy foods or storing them outside of reach. And while these tips are helpful, they’re treating the symptoms and not the actual problem.

A new study by UCSF researchers, published online in the Journal of Obesity, looks at the relationship between mindful eating, stress reduction techniques and overeating. While the study was conducted only with women, I’m sure that men can learn from the findings as well.

The participants were divided into to groups. The first group was the control. The second group underwent a series of classes to help the women better manage their stress and understand their eating habits. The women learned meditation techniques and how to be more aware of their eating by recognizing bodily sensations like hunger, fullness and taste satisfaction.

Not only did the second group of women who received the training decrease their stress (researchers were able to measure drops in the stress hormone cortisol), but they also lost the most weight.

The lead researcher reported:

In this study we were trying to cultivate people’s ability to pay attention to their sensations of hunger, fullness and taste satisfaction as a guide for limiting how much they eat. We tried to reduce eating in response to emotions or external cues that typically drive overeating behavior.

She went on to note that additional research is still needed.

But this study does point to the importance of managing the triggers that lead to overeating – rather than just trying to reduce the eating itself. It’s certainly food for thought.

Heart Attack Grill: Celebrating Gluttony?

Last night, I caught a few minutes of the nightly news. In a segment, they featured a newly-opened Las Vegas restaurant called the Heart Attack Grill. The menu is loaded with ultra-high calorie options (a meal can contain upwards of 8,000 calories) and, in an effort to be tongue-in-cheek, the building is modeled after a hospital. Even the waitresses are dressed as nurses.

The owner of Heart Attack Grill, Jon Basso, talks about the restaurant as a celebration of gluttony but maintains that it’s all in good fun. Indeed, life is a lot more enjoyable with a sense of humor – but is our obesity epidemic really a laughing matter? With 1 in 4 deaths caused by heart disease, and with 785,000 Americans having their first heart attack each year, I’m having a tough time seeing the joke.

In fact, Blair River, a 575-pound man and spokesman for one of Basso’s previous restaurants, died last march of obesity-related illness. Making a joke out of such a serious – and deadly – issue is, at best, in poor taste. And if we want to laugh at ourselves, weight issues and the obesity problem in this country, let’s do it in way that illuminates solutions rather than celebrates the problem.

In a way, making intentionally and dramatically poor nutritional choices – like the “flatliner fries” cooked in pure lard or a milkshake made with butter – is a defilement of our human bodies. Our bodies crave nourishing foods – and a “quadruple bypass burger” with four patties and eight slices of cheese is far from that.

Lest we forget that we only get one body in this experience of life, it’s important to treat it with respect, honor and love – rather than cramming four-days worth of calories down our throat and flooding our system with artery-clogging fat. As anyone who has lost a loved one to heart disease can attest, that America is dying of obesity is an epidemic – and not a joke.

Davey Wavey Was Fat.

A lot of people are surprised the hear that I was once overweight.

I casually mentioned my own fitness transformation in a recent post, and a number of people expressed interest in knowing more – and learning how I released my excess weight.

So here it goes.

As I very young child, I was healthy and active. But somewhere around second grade, I started really adding on the pounds. As many of us know, pounds have a way of adding up – and I was significantly overweight within a year.

Children can be very mean, especially if you’re an overweight gay kid. But of all the torment, it’s my mom’s teasing that I remember the most. Whenever an obese person would appear in a movie, nearby on a street or on television, my mom would say, “Look! It’s David!” I still remember that, and often still hear those words when I see someone that is significantly overweight.

Such things have a way of eroding self esteem in a young person, and so I decided to change my body in a very unhealthy way. By sixth grade, I was quickly losing weight through anorexia. Looking at pictures of myself in middle school, it’s very clear that I had an eating disorder; my face was gaunt and pale and I looked quite sickly.

As a male, it’s easy (though perhaps less so today) to get away with an eating disorder; many people associate eating disorders with women. In a single year I grew 4 inches but lost 10 pounds, and so the doctor expressed concern. “Are you eating?” he asked. “Yes,” I said. And that was that.

It wasn’t until age 15 or 16 that I finally took a much healthier route. I started exercising and adding muscle mass to my frail and malnourished body. I began to eat again and repair my relationship with food. Step by small step, I became healthier.

When I talk about the challenges of being healthy, I don’t do so theoretically. I’ve been there. It’s the driving reason that I write this blog and develop fitness products to share with you; it gives me great purpose to help others find strength to transform their bodies and their lives. There’s nothing that brings me greater fulfillment than sharing what I know to help others better themselves.

And even today, I’m still learning new things. My body and its needs continue to evolve. My fitness journey and transformation isn’t over. It never is.

Do Artificial Sweeteners Cause Weight Gain?

Back in 1987, 70 million Americans consumed products made with artificial sweeteners. By 2000, that number had skyrocketed to more than 160 million. Clearly, the allure of sweet but calorie-free eating is alive and well. But is it all too good to be true?

In a surprising study, researchers from Purdue University tell us that artificial sweeteners may, in fact, be a contributing factor to obesity.

Researchers hypothesized that the body learns a relationship between the taste and texture of foods and the number of calories those foods contain. This information is then used by the body to signal hunger, fullness and to regulate the food we consume.

Sweetness, for example, is a signal to the body that calorie-rich food is being consumed. And in a world without artificial sweeteners, this is true; sugar is high in calories. But when you drink a can of diet coke, which is devoid of calories but still very sweet, this calorie-sweetness relationship is broken. Over time, the body will learn that it can’t trust sweetness to gauge calories, and the body loses its ability to regulate food consumption.

The hypothesis was supported by research with rats:

The rats that had experienced the inconsistent relationship between sweet taste and calories were less able to compensate for the calories contained in the snack and ate more than the rats that had experienced the consistent relationship between sweetness and caloric intake.

The same is believed to happen with humans. The body is unable to keep track of the calories we consume, and thus overeating ensues.

Researchers don’t believe that the breakdown of the sweetness-calorie relationship is the cause of obesity. Indeed, the obesity epidemic is far more complicated than that – and reasons can vary from individual to individual. But for a lot of people, it’s believed that artificial sweeteners could be a piece of the puzzle.

This doesn’t mean you should switch from diet beverages or sugar-free products back to the real thing. I think the real takeaway is the importance of eating healthy and nutritional foods – at least, most of the time. Instead of selecting between diet soda and traditional soda, why not opt for some ice water with a splash of lemon?

4 Tips to Bust Your Beer Belly!

Hi Davey Wavey,

I was on your website because my dad has been trying to get fit and I thought your website would be great for him! The biggest issue he has is a beer belly. How can he get rid of it?


Hey Samantha,

Thanks for the email and for spreading word about Davey Wavey Fitness!

First things first, the term “beer belly” is a bit of a misnomer. The real issue isn’t necessarily beer so much as it is calories. Weight gain occurs when you consume more calories than you burn – and in men, those extra calories are most often stored as belly fat. It’s the first place we men gain the weight, and often the last place we lose it.

Moreover, the so called beer belly is thought to increase the likelihood of diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnea. In other words, there’s plenty of good reasons for you dad to drop the gut.

Unfortunately, you can’t target weight loss in just one area. We can’t target just the belly; instead, we can incorporate general weight loss tips that will help your dad release his extra weight, wherever it may be.

    1. Eat smarter. Sure, beer has empty calories. But so do many of the other unhealthy foods we eat. Eating smarter means shifting from fried, processed and/or sugary foods to things like nuts, berries, lean meats, fruits and veggies. High fiber foods, in particular, will help your dad feel full. But fear not – it doesn’t mean that your dad needs to be put on a dramatic diet. Even making small dietary changes add up over time. My dad, for example, replaced his nightly snack of ice cream with a handful of peanuts. He lost 10 pounds in a few month’s time. Eating smarter will help reduce the number of calories your dad takes in.
    2. Exercise. Hitting the gym – or practicing with a workout video – will help your father increase the number of calories he burns. And again, it doesn’t mean he needs to hit the gym each and every day. I’d recommend starting out with 2 – 3 days for 30 – 45 minutes each, and possibly slowly moving up from there. I’d advise that he splits his time evenly between both cardio and strength training, as each have tremendous weight loss benefits.
    3. Get active! It’s important to keep moving. Maybe your dad can incorporate nightly walks or weekend hikes into his schedule. Or maybe there is a sports league he can join. My dad, for example, plays volleyball on Monday nights through our town’s recreation department.
    4. Visit a nutritionist. Or, a physician. Sometimes we need a little extra motivation to get us on the right track. Visiting a physician and getting a check-up can be a real wake-up call, especially if elevated blood pressure or other signs of heart disease are present. And consulting with a nutritionist can be a great way to build a meal plan that works for your dad, his habits and preferences. It’s definitely a worthwhile investment; it will yield huge returns in the quality (and possibility longevity) of your father’s life.

      Samantha, good luck with your father! You can certainly give him a little kick in the butt – but ultimately it is he who must take control of his life. You can’t run on the treadmill for him – but you can help steer him in the right direction. And it sounds like you’re doing just that. Kudos!


      Dear Davey: I’m Obese – MOTIVATE ME!

      Dear Davey,

      It’s a shame, really! I am a nurse and yet I am obese. I need all the help I can get. I am 5’6″ and 110kg (242 pounds). I am asking for your motivation and advice. I hope for a reply soon.


      Dear Rowell,

      Thanks for reaching out and recognizing that you need some help and support.

      First of all, it’s not a shame that you are obese. In fact, shame is the last thing you need right now. Added negativity will do nothing but weigh you down mentally, spiritually and physiologically. In actuality, it’s inspiring and wonderful that you are taking the first step in your transformation.

      Losing weight and cultivating a healthier lifestyle is a complex process that is different for everyone. It’s not as easy as eating certain foods and doing certain exercises. If it was, we’d all be walking around with 8% body fat. Releasing weight is a much deeper issue, and it’s requires using a different perspective than the one that gained it.

      For some of us, we gain weight as a response to abuse. Some of us are afraid subconsciously to be attractive. Some of us eat to sooth ourselves or deal with stress. Overeating is almost always a symptom of something else, and so it’s important to explore the root causes. If you don’t treat the cause, the weight loss will not be sustainable.

      Rowell, you are going to need more help and support than what I am able to offer in a single blog post. I’d recommend reaching out to a professional in your area, and connecting with a local support group – or an online community like Calorie Count.

      You also asked about motivation. I could give you a pep talk about the importance of exercise, but truly the best – and most sustainable – motivation comes from within. Imagine how your life would be different at your idea weight. Visualize yourself doing all the things you’ve wanted to do. And think about all the health benefits (as a nurse, you don’t need me to remind you of those) that your new lifestyle will bring.

      We only get one body for this human life of ours. Honoring our bodies with healthy choices is really an extension of honoring that life, and so I encourage you to take the initial steps in getting the support you need. And remember, all of us are rooting for you.


      7 Powerful Fat-Loss Tips Based on Science!

      Looking at this picture long enough may also increase your heart rate and burn a few extra calories. 🙂

      I spent my morning digging through a shit-ton (it’s my blog – I can swear if I want to) of research on fat loss. There have been a whole bunch of recent studies, and they’ve provided new insights into the science of shedding fat.

      Here are 7 of the key takeaways:

      1. Meal frequency is not related to weight loss. You’ve probably heard the theory that it’s best to eat many small meals throughout the day. In fact, it was something that I was taught during my personal training certification. It seemed to make sense. The theory was that increased meal frequency prevents the body from going into starvation mode (i.e., slowing down metabolism), increases the caloric cost of digestion, suppresses hunger, etc. But when researchers at the University of Ottawa put the meal frequency theory to the test, they found that it actually doesn’t make a difference. People that ate 3 times a day vs. 5 times a day lost the same amount of weight.
      2. Green tea is a weight loss miracle. Research from Maastricht University in Holland is making me a green tea believer. Green tea promotes weight loss, weight maintenance, improved blood sugar regulation and even decreases abdominal fat! Of course, green tea doesn’t do it alone – you need to combine it with a comprehensive exercise and nutrition program.
      3. Olive oil reduces risk of obesity. There’s been a lot of recent research on the power of the Mediterranean diet, which contains lots of vegetables and unsaturated fatty acids. Olive oil, as it turns out, is a key part of that. Spanish researchers found that participants who consumed the least amount of olive oil were 2.3 times more likely to be obese. Olive oil has also been linked to reduced risk of heart disease, type II diabetes and stroke.
      4. Go nutty for nuts. Nuts are high in calories and fat – so it might seem strange that they’re a great weight loss food. But they are. Researchers from Purdue University found that nuts are high in nutrients and antioxidants, that they help prevent degenerative diseases and that they are linked to reduced body fat. Nuts prevent hunger (consume a handful before going out to eat!), and they take a long time – and lots of energy – to digest. This research is providing new support for the caveman diet – which holds that we should eat nuts, berries, vegetables, lean meats, etc. – just like our ancestors.
      5. Drink whey protein 20 minutes before a meal. Looking to reduce your calorie intake? Try drinking some whey protein 20 minutes before eating a meal. The Minnesota Applied Research Center in Minneapolis found that the protein consumption caused a much greater loss in body fat than the placebo. The whey protein maintains blood sugar levels, which decreases appetite. And, the protein provides the building blocks your body needs to recover from your exercise program.
      6. Eat foods that are low on the gylcemic index. The glycemic index measures how fast certain foods increase blood sugars. Foods like white bread are very high on the index, and foods like whole grains are ranked much lower. Those foods that are high on the index seem to trigger fat storage – though researchers aren’t quite sure why. Here’s a list of how some of the most common foods rank.
      7. Poor sleep = increased abdominal fat. Researchers from Wake Forest embarked on a multi-year study and found that too little – or too much – sleep led to increased risk of obesity and abdominal fat. 6 – 7 hours a night was found to be ideal.

      So there you have it: 7 scientifically proven fat loss tips to put into practice! What do you think? Are you surprised by any of the findings? Will you be making any changes based on the research?

      New Study Shows Obesity is Contagious.

      According to a new study by Harvard researchers, having more obese friends increases your chance of becoming obese.

      Alison Hill, the study’s lead author, said, “We find that having four obese friends doubled people’s chance of becoming obese compared to people with no obese friends.” The study goes on to say that the more obese people you come in contact with, the more likely you are to become obese.

      Why? Researchers aren’t sure. Before we shrug off responsibility for our health and point fingers at our friends, it’s important to remember that obesity isn’t like chickenpox—it’s not outwardly contagious. But maybe our eating and exercise habits are. Or maybe people make friends with like-minded individuals that enjoy similar activities, foods, etc.

      One thing is clear: Americans are getting even fatter. Obesity is defined as more than 30 pounds overweight. Currently, about 1/3 of America is obese. That number is expected to reach 42% in 40 years, and then level off, according to the researchers.

      And if our habits are contagious, it’s yet another reason to lead by example!

      What do you make of this new study? Do you find that you and your friends share similar habits?

      Should Fit People Get Discounts on Health Care?

      A recent study found that 17% of U.S. health care costs are related to obesity. Our weight problem is costing us – not just in terms of our overall health – but in our pockets, too.

      The financial burden of obesity is one that all Americans with health care must bear, regardless of fitness level, as the cost is factored into all our plans. It begs the question: Is this approach fair?

      In a country like the United States, would it make sense to offer a health care discount to anyone that could do a pull-up and push-up? Or, in a country like Canada, where the health care is universalized, would it make sense to offer a rebate for fit citizens when they efile their taxes – as they are less likely to incur health care expenses? Perhaps this financial incentive would motivate people to become healthier.

      On one hand, unlike conditions like cancer or cystic fibrosis, obesity is avoidable and easily curable. Though many factors go into obesity (it is often deeply psychological), changes can be made both on the inside and out that result in a reversal of the condition.

      But on the other hand, providing a discount or tax break to fit people would favor wealthier individuals; there is a strong link between obesity and low-income communities. Low income individuals often have greater barriers to physical activity and less access to healthy foods and supermarkets. In other words, such a discount or tax break for people would further impair the people with the least.

      So what do you think? Should the extra financial burden of obesity be carried just by the people causing it? Or should we all bear the financial impact of obesity? Does giving a discount or tax break to healthy individuals make sense, or is it a socially unjust incentive?