Saturday, October 18, 2008

Friday, July 27, 2007

I'm Half My Size! - Weight Loss Success Stories

Good Housekeeping has an article, "I'm Half My Size," about several women who successfully lost a great deal of weight (they all lost over 100 pounds) and kept it off. These women didn't do it quickly either; it took a year or more to lose all that weight.

Each story includes a Worst Moment and a Turning Point, making them very poignant. Some interesting points:

  • Several women used formal diet plans, such as Weight Watchers, Weigh Down (a Christian organization), Nutrisystem, and Slim-Fast. I wouldn't actually recommend all of these, but this shows how rules can help you lose weight. Almost any rational diet plan would work, but having everything laid out for you, with specific do's and don't's, is helpful.
  • Several women mentioned the value of re-directing attention, avoiding TV and other times when it's hard to avoid eating, and so on. Avoiding food (and even the thought of it) can be a good way to avoid overeating.
  • Exercise was important to several of the women-- in addition to modifying the diet. A couple mentioned running. However, not everyone mentioned it.
  • Paying attention to your body was a recurring theme -- eating only when your body tells you you're hungry.
  • Several mentioned, in the Turning Point section, being told that they were borderline diabetic or had other health problems due to their weight. I've mentioned before how fear can be a motivator.
Here are Shelley Napier's Favorite Tricks: "I carry around protein bars, because if I don't, my hunger takes over and I end up in line at a bakery. When I'm cooking, I splash Tabasco sauce on everything — the spicy kick makes me eat slower, so I don't consume as much. Another trick: If I have time on the weekend, I'll grill up six chicken breasts, steam some veggies, portion everything into containers, and pop the food into the freezer. Then on weeknights, when I come home from work hungry, I can have a healthy dinner in minutes. During the holidays, when I'm hosting big family dinners, I insist that my guests take all the leftovers."

Obesity is Contagious

Not via a microbe, but via social norms. The study showed that if you have a friend who becomes obese, you're much more likely to become obese.

The researchers hypothesize that the same should hold true of losing weight. That is, if you have a friend who loses weight, you're more likely to lose weight. Thus, it helps to lose weight with friends who are doing the same. Trying to be the only one in your social circle who is losing weight will be very difficult.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Addicted to food?

Time's article, "The Science of Addiction," has a brief paragraph on addiction to food. It says that as many as 4 million adults in the U.S. may be addicted to food and that the problem is "strongly linked to depression. About 15% of mildly obese people are compulsive eaters."

Hmmm, what about strongly obese people?

What about the other 85%? They have slow metabolisms? Or they don't know what they should be eating? Or they just eat too much, but not compulsively? The figure seems low to me, but does highlight what I've been saying, that people are overweight for different reasons.

Monday, June 25, 2007

How to curb your appetite

One more post on Time magazine's cover story on appetite. One section lists 4 ways to stop cravings:

  • Eat fiber: Unrefined foods stimulate appetite-suppressing hormones and make you feel full. They show a picture of fresh oranges.
  • Brush your teeth: The flavor change helps you resist eating more. I think just getting up from the table also helps. And we all know how bad certain foods (like orange juice!) taste after brushing your teeth.
  • Be consistent: Eat at regularly scheduled times to keep hormone levels steady and "quash" hunger pangs.
  • Slow down: It takes time for the brain to realize that the stomach is stretching. So if you eat slowly, that gives the brain time to catch on. Well, if you're a compulsive eater, this one is hard, but worth the try. Here's a technique: put down your fork between every mouthful.

I've never understood this idea that the brain takes time to realize the stomach is full. If I put my attention on my stomach, I immediately know how full it is. I think that people just aren't used to paying attention to their stomach.

An excellent technique is simply to feel your stomach (with your mind, your attention) every 5 minutes while you eat. You'll soon get acquainted with it. Eating while reading or watching TV is especially harmful in this regard.

What makes you eat?

Time magazine's cover article on appetite included a little piece, "What Makes Us Eat More." Here are the points:

  • Time of day: Routine conditions us to get hungry at the same time each day. Solution: regular eating habits help! It's OK to be hungry at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But if you eat at odd times, you may find yourself hungry at odd times. Routine, routine, routine.
  • Sight: The sight of food that you like affects the brain. Your mouth starts watering. That's why avoiding food is so effective. (Avoiding food is one of my solutions to compulsive eating.)
  • Variety: Even when you're full, you make room for dessert. This might be a "sight" issue, too, but you can help curb the craving for variety, by adding variety to your main meal. They suggest a bit of fruit in a salad, for example. Ayurveda, India's traditional medicine, suggests that each meal should contain all 6 tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. A variety of colors is also nice.
  • Smell: Smell also is a cue to eat. Smell can trigger the insulin secretion that makes you think you're hungry.
  • Alcohol: There's no scientific proof that it stimulates appetite, but it impairs judgment.
  • Temperature: Colder temperatures stimulate you to eat more. Guess what? Restaurants keep the thermostat low for this reason.
  • Refined carbs: After spaghetti, you may want to eat again in a couple of hours. That's because refined carbohydrates cause the blood sugar to drop, so you think you're hungry.
Here's a technique to try with a friend: After a meal, when you know you're not hungry, have your friend present you with a sweet treat, with the understanding that you won't eat it. Look at the food and pay attention to what you experience in your body. Do you suddenly feel the urge to eat? Probably. Where in your body is that urge? Close your eyes and see if it subsides. Open them again and feel the change as the sight of the food stimulates your desire. Learn to be aware of these signs and whether they're real or not. Notice that your stomach hasn't gotten any emptier, even when you wanted to eat the treat.

Time magazine's article on appetite

Time's cover article (June 11) on "The Science of Appetite" included a series of articles on appetite, diet, weight-loss, how people eat around the world, and more.

For me, the most interesting article was, "A New Diet Equation." This article talked about how different diets work differently for different people, specifically people who are high-insulin secreters and those that aren't. It fits in well with my idea that a solution to being overweight needs to be customized.

Here are some main points:
  • People who quickly spike insulin after eating a little bit of sugar tend to be apple-shaped, that is, they put their fat around their middle
  • People who don't tend to be pear-shaped; they put their fat around their hips.

In other words, some people (apples) have problems digesting sugar. Although this wasn't completely clear from the research, the suggestion was that pears probably have more difficulty with fats.

Apples lost 13 pounds over 6 months on a low-glycemic diet (low on sugar and processed carbohydrates that convert quickly to sugar in the body), but just 5 pounds on a low-fat diet.

Pears lost about 10 pounds either way.

But here's the interesting part. After 18 months, pears gained back half of the weight they lost on either diet. But while apples gained back 3 of the 5 (measly) pounds they lost of the low-fat diet, they kept off all the weight they lost on the low-glycemic diet!

Wow! Who has heard such a success story? This appears to be a real solution for apples. If you're an apple, cut down on the sugar and white flour. It's also good for your health, since if you have problems processing sugar, you're at risk for diabetes. And cutting fats won't do very much for you. That's not the reason that you're overweight. You can check with your doctor to get a blood test to evaluate insulin levels. This can help you decide.

Unfortunately, no one really knows the mechanism that relates insulin levels and body shape. In fact, scientists don't know very much about why certain digestion problems occur and how they manifest in the body. How do the fat cells know where to appear on your body?

But now we have some simple guidelines. If you're an apple, check with your doctor. If you're a high-insulin secretor, try a low-sugar diet. Good luck!