Thursday, January 27, 2005

Nonsense for the Diet Season

Nonsense for the Diet Season
By Sandy Szwarc
Published 01/26/2005

After ringing in the New Year, the party's over. The diet season has begun and so do our resolutions to diet and exercise, quit smoking and begin a new life. "Yup, it'll be All Bran all the time in 2005," said food writer Gwyneth Doland.

Just in time to accompany the weight loss advertisements that beset us every year at this time, a new report claims to provide the evidence that dieting and attaining a trim figure are imperative. Women must be "toned and trim," we're told, because no amount of exercise can offset the risks of dying prematurely when overweight. The bearers of those gloomy tidings are researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, in a report published in the New England Journal Medicine. They claim to have studied 116,564 women for 24 years and found that even exercising 3 1/2 hours a week, fat women have a 91% greater risk of premature death as compared to lean women.

This veritable death threat left women feeling angry and hopeless that their fat was going to kill them regardless of what they did. The latest comprehensive review of the nation's top ten diets by University of Pennsylvania researchers confirmed, yet again, that there is no diet that offers "more than glossy ads and dramatic testimonials when it comes to promising long-term results."

But despite this Harvard study's claim we must shed body fat or else, closer examination reveals that it deserves nothing more than a good belly laugh and to be tossed out with all the fad diets.


Green Ribbon campaign

Eating Disorders Awareness Week begins
Green Ribbon campaign declares beauty comes in all colours, shapes and sizes
S T O R Y - By Stacey Bowman, Assistant News Editor

Never mind tipping the scale, some people are taunted about the length of their legs, according to Vivian Lee, ArtSci '06.

Lee decided to showcase her petite frame on posters promoting positive body image as part of the Green Ribbon Campaign, which kicked off on Monday.

"I'm really short and people make fun of that," Lee said. "I feel like everyone always concentrates on people who are overweight, but people get it on the other extreme too,some because they're too skinny or too short.

"It happens to every body type," she said.

The posters are a new addition to the annual campaign. They were born out of a desire to make the message of acceptance and celebration of diverse body shapes and weights more visible and immediate for students.

"We've run our Green Ribbon campaign for a number of years, and last year we thought about how do we make it more personal and visible," said Diane Nolting of health counseling and disability services, which runs their campaign during Eating Disorders Awareness Week, taking place this Monday through Friday.


Friday, January 21, 2005

Lose Weight with these Products? Slim Chance!

The "Worst" of 2004 weight loss products cop 16th Annual Slim Chance Awards

Green tea continues to cast an aura of Oriental slimness. This year’s worst diet gimmick takes it one step farther – not only do you drink this tea, but you attach a green tea patch to the thigh, and miracles begin to happen. Or so the advertiser claims. The worst diet pills of 2004 take narrow aim at specific targets: people with abdominal fat, low-carb dieters, and women experiencing menopausal weight gain.

These are just a few of the weight loss schemes highlighted by Frances M. Berg, chair of the Weight Loss Abuse Task Force for the National Council on Health Fraud, in announcing the 16th annual Slim Chance Awards. "These products and countless others promise quick weight loss with no effort," she says. "They need to be exposed as foolish scams that lighten your wallet but not your body. Diets don’t work. Neither do pills or potions."

It’s not just adults who fall prey to these scams. "Children and adolescents, especially teenage girls, are buying all sorts of weight loss products," says Berg. "This is especially disturbing because many are harmful to their health."

Berg, whose new book Underage & Overweight includes a 7-point plan for raising healthy weight children, offers this advice to parents who fear their child may be trying to lose weight in dangerous ways. "The key to raising a healthy weight child is leading by example," she says. "What works is to model a sound, healthy lifestyle that allows excess weight to come off naturally, as a by-product. It’s the healthy and lasting way to lose weight."

Berg’s organization, the Healthy Weight Network, started the Slim Chance Awards 16 years ago as a reaction to the glut of unsafe products on the market. They are part of the lead-up to "Rid the World of Fad Diets and Gimmicks Day" during Healthy Weight Week, January 16 to 22.

"We want to shift our national focus to health and wellness, to acceptance, respect, and an appreciation of diversity," says Berg. "It’s time to move on from the war so many Americans are waging against their own bodies. The obsession with thinness is causing tragic problems for both children and adults."

Here are the Slim Chance Awards from the "worst" of the 2004 crop:

* Worst Gimmick: Green Tea300 patches. This scheme includes not just Green Tea Patches of "high potency extract" to attach to your skin, but also green tea drinking. In fact four patches come free when you buy $59.99 worth of tea. It’s a combination claimed to burn fat, suppress appetite, increase thermogenesis, and speed the metaboic rate, all without increasing hypertension or heart rate. Can you believe you’ll benefit from "Asian wisdom … lose 5-27 pounds … 30 times more potent than regular green tea"? Advertised online through email spam.

* Most Outrageous: EstrinD. Billed as the first and only diet pill for menopausal and pre-menopausal weight gain, EstrinD hits a market of baby boomers. Targeted are "a whole generation of women … [who are] redefining age, beauty and sexuality, proving that life doesn’t end at 40." Touted to increase metabolic rate, reduce calorie intake, stop binge eating, provide energy, control mood swings, and give a sense of well being, EstrinD costs $59.00 for 30-day supply (and "as demand continues to outpace supply, don’t be surprised if you see the price go up"). Promoted with nearly full-page ad in USA WEEKEND.

* Worst Product: CortiSlim. The gimmick here falsely claims that reducing cortisol, the stress hormone, with CortiSlim will reduce abdominal and other fat. Nationally aired infomercials that began in August 2003 state that continually elevated levels of cortisol are the underlying cause of weight gain, especially abdominal obesity, and that CortiSlim causes rapid weight loss of 10 to 50 pounds from the abdomen, stomach and thighs by reducing these levels. In October 2004 the Federal Trade Commission charged the marketers of CortiSllim with false claims, and with using deceptive format in their TV infomercials, which appear to be episodes of a talk show called Breakthroughs, with the two marketers posing as host and guest, and without required "paid advertising" disclaimers. Sold through widely aired infomercials and short TV commercials, radio and print ads and Internet web sites.

* Worst Claim: Carboburn. Keying in to the waning popularity of tiresome low-carb diets, Carboburn promoters assure dieters who are still believers that cutting carbs from the diet is no longer necessary. "It doesn’t matter if you eat pizza, pasta, baked potatoes, or potato chips. CarboBurn will neutralize the carbohydrates in those foods or most any other…guaranteeing you become thinner, leaner, and maintain a good-looking youthful shape." Furthermore, it will "block the storage of fat before it attaches to your stomach, waist, thighs, buns and other trouble areas … and it doesn’t matter if you hate exercise, or can’t exercise … CarboBurn will chisel your fat away and let lean muscle shine through." Just $39.00 for one bottle of pills or three for $79.99. Advertised online through email spam.

Hospitals, health centers and educational groups across the country observe Healthy Weight Week as a welcome antidote to the unhealthy dieting and bingeing that typically begin the New Year. They encourage active healthy lifestyles through mall displays, health fairs, seminars, recreational events, radio and TV shows, and internet chat lines, says Berg.

In addition to the Slim Chance Awards, co-sponsored by Healthy Weight Network and the National Council Against Health Fraud, the week features the Women’s Diversity Awards, which honor businesses that portray an appreciation of size diversity.

For more information or for handouts and posters visit (click Healthy Weight Week).

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Please Pass the Cake

Please Pass the Cake

By Sandy Szwarc
Published 01/18/2005

"You'll have to stop this now. It's getting altogether too silly." --- comedian Graham Chapman (1941-1989)

As incredible as it sounds, nutrition is no longer the priority for the government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The new guidelines put the entire nation on a diet and its key message is "eat less and exercise more to lose weight." This certainly isn't an unprecedented idea, but decades of following this advice has also shown it doesn't work. Tragically, the unsupportable and erroneous information about weight and nutrition in these new guidelines isn't just innocuous, but will likely have harmful consequences far beyond any good it might do, especially threatening our children and elderly.

When food guides were begun over 100 years ago, the government was tasked to make recommendations on the minimum number of servings of various food groups to ensure the general population could meet the recommended dietary allowances of nutrients. People were free to choose what additional foods they wanted to enjoy to make up their energy needs. That changed in 1977 when politicians got involved and its focus became outlining the goals for federal food programs, and hence what foods would receive government funding. From then on, as a glut of special interests sought to get their piece of the money pie, it has moved further from sound science. And not surprisingly, it's become increasingly questioned among nutrition scientists and health care professionals.

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines became untenable the instant they abandoned the long-term pledge to promote better health for all Americans and instead made everything about weight. "Weight" appears 150 times in the 84-page document. We're told that being thin is more important than being healthy and that good nutrition isn't just eating a healthful balance of nutritious foods. Our focus must become counting calories, restricting what we eat, eating low-fat or fat-free foods, and what size pants we wear.

While plenty rush to capitalize on these guidelines, others want to abolish our freedom to enjoy a variety of foods of our own choosing and are using these guidelines as their grounds. Already, there are calls for the government to take more aggressive action to enforce the guidelines. A press release by the Center for Science in the Public Interest wants vigorous governmental efforts made to publicize them, increased funding for programs that promote them, laws passed to require "calorie labeling on menus at chain restaurants," and regulatory agencies to require the food industry to implement them and eliminate the use of bad fats and lower the current limits on fat and salt.