Weight Loss Questions

  • I have lean arms and legs yet fat tends to gather around my belly. Is this to do with my genetic makeup or should I be focusing on certain foods and excersises that work the fat off evenly accross my body?

    Your body type is genetic; however, accumulated fat around the mid-section is usually a result of- to put it simply- a surplus of energy intake (calories) which has caused weight gain. The way in which we accumulate fat is genetic as well- we cannot control where we gain and lose fat from! 

    To cut down stomach fat, you'll need to clean up your diet and be sure that you are not over-eating. Based on your age, sex and size, you can calculate your basal metabolic rate (how many calories you need to just maintain the usual body functions). From there, you can start an exercise program which helps to burn more energy, tackling your fat. Since you gain on your stomach, it should eventually start to slim down. 

    There are no special exercises for the stomach since we cannot spot reduce. However, a full body exercice program which is intense and challenging usually does the trick if combined with a healthy, low carb diet. 

  • Kerryn, will rapid weight loss, rather than gradual weight loss, result in excess loose skin?

     

    No.  I lost "only" 20 kg over an entire year with a sensible training and meal plan and I have loose skin.

    It comes down to a lot of different factors, such as genetics and how big you got, but realistically, skin can only stretch so far. Once you go beyond a certain point you get stretch marks, which are breaks in the collagen fibres of the middle layer of skin - and those cannot be repaired. Once that layer of skin breaks, it ain't going to shrink back completely.

    So people who lose a LOT of weight, like The Biggest Loser contestants, are pretty much guaranteed to end up with baggy skin, no matter how they go about the weight loss. I know a couple of people who lost 60+ kg and did it over more than a year, following Body-for-LIFE, and both had abdominoplasties.

    Bummer, really, but being a normal weight with saggy skin is a far better choice than being obese, no matter how you look at it.

  • Jay, do you feel that the methods employed in the TV show, The Biggest Loser, are safe and effective?

    I'll begin by saying that I find The Biggest Loser to be a very inspiring show.  These people have reached a point in their life where they have had to make a very tough decision and I cannot express how much respect I have for each and every one of them as a result.  It takes guts and determination to put your whole life on display like that.  Plus, it's pretty entertaining too.  In addition to this, I also hold a great respect for Bob and Jillian in particular, who are both exceptional trainers.

    The Biggest Loser selects a number of clinically obese contestants to lose a significant amount of weight in a very quick period of time.  I am pretty sure that these contestants are all thoroughly screened by professional medical experts prior to embarking upon this challenge to avoid any unneeded risk due to possible medical complications.

    Whilst the idea is good in theory...I do not believe that this show should be treated as an educational tool (for the most part), but rather a form of entertainment.  These contestants can lose in excess of 5 kilograms per week which can be extremely dangerous to their health and wellbeing.  Such rapid weight loss can put so much stress on all of the bodily organs and cause some serious medical complications.  Take Artie from last year's Australian Biggest Loser - he was admitted to hospital with gallstones last year.  According to News.com.au, "Doctors said it was due to weight loss".  (Read the full story here in our news section).

    Whilst on the topic of the dangers of rapid weight loss, I recommend that you have a read of a very important article I published, Yo-Yo Dieting - No-No Dieting that discusses this subject in far more detail.

    Another factor to consider with this show is the strong emphasis on their body mass (due to the scale).  As a result, the contestants hydrate and dehydrate themselves in order to manipulate the figures in their favour - also a very dangerous practice.  This can place excessive strain on the kidneys in particular.

    These contestants also train four hours a day, according to the show.  Even in the initial days, they undergo four hours of very intense exercise after being sedentary for a long period in their life.  As a personal trainer myself, I cannot comprehend how this is safe practice at all.  Last night, one contestant threw up, another fainted - some very clear signs that their bodies are not nearly capable of the stress they have to endure.  Even though medics are on sight, such extreme levels of exercise are, according to many professionals (and myself), by no means safe (as demonstrated) - particularly for the untrained individual.

    One other important point to consider are, what I consider to be, their extremely restricted diets.  Yes, they eliminate unhealthy foods (disregarding these gimmick challenges they have) - and this is great.  But last night Bob mentioned that one male contestant (who I believe was over 150kg) was being restricted to only 1900 calories.  Let's put this into context.  A male, weighing over 150kg, performing 4 hours of intense exercise every single day consumes 1900 calories.  I, on the other hand, at less than half his weight (73kg), perform between 30-55 minutes of intense exercise each day and consume 2200 calories.  Admittedly, I most likely carry more muscle mass...but 1900 calories a day with 4 hours of intense exercise is, in my opinion, very, very restrictive.  Such a restrictive diet is what results in these ridiculous weight losses every week which can pose a very significant health risk.

    With regards to the long-term sustainability of such a demanding program, I do not feel that such methods will typically result in permanent weight loss.  Some very important lessons are learnt from the very demanding exercise the contestants are subjected to - mainly mental lessons such as self belief and empowerment, in addition to nutrition.  However such an aggressive approach to exercise can often lead to discouragement and lack of sustainability, particularly in the early stages of their physical development.  Plus, applying a 4 hour daily workout in "the real world" isn't really all that viable.

    So all in all, I find it to be a very entertaining, motivational and inspiring show.  But if you are seeking to lose weight in a safe manner, please be smart about it and hire a trained professional who will guide you in a way that is specific to your needs.  There are some very real risks associated with rapid weight loss which, I feel, are not discussed on this show - simply because it seems like more of a source of entertainment than an educational resource.  If you are seeking a personal trainer to help you along your way, I do offer these services and would be more than happy to assist - please click here for more information.

  • I am dieting. I am also running for an hour 3 times a week. But I am not losing any weight!

    Quite simply, if you're not losing weight, this would suggest that your caloric intake is similar to your caloric expenditure.

    If you consider calories in versus calories out, if calories in is greater (eg. through eating), expect to gain weight. If your calories out is greater (eg. through exercise, metabolic processes etc.), expect to lose weight.

    That said, two major aspects of your training would require attention:

    Number 1 - your diet. If you decrease the calories in your diet, this will decrease your caloric intake and thus assist in weight loss. Your current intake may be too much. Other tweaks may be in order, such as meal timing, meal frequency, meal sizes etc.

    Number 2 - your cardiovascular exercise. If you perform more cardio, you will increase your calories out and also assist in additional weight loss. In addition to this, have you considered high intensity interval training (HIIT) as a form of cardio? Whilst it may not be suitable for the beginner, it is definitely something worth striving for. Some studies have shown fat loss to be 9 times greater than endurance cardio. Check out the following article for more information:

    The Fat Burning Zone

    Losing weight is relatively straight forward. However, it does take some trial and error to find out how your body reacts to different training and diet programs.

  • Jay, you state that spot reduction is not possible. Yet News.com.au say The scientists found their method could spot reduce troublesome areas such as legs and buttocks. when referring to the 8 second workout. This is new research and whilst it may be contradictory to other research, should still be considered.

    Note: This is a follow-up question to The 8 second workout reported that most fat was lost from the thighs and buttocks. Does this mean you can spot reduce?

    After studying advanced science at UNSW, I am very accustomed to scowring through scientific reports and scutinising them to no end.  You are correct in saying that this was some research taken out recently.  Before I go on, whilst I have tried to find the actual litterature on this experiment, it has apparently not yet been published.  I have been to the UNSW website however which does have an overview on the experiment.

    So anyway, it is important to realise that the scientists do the study.  The journalists write up news reports.  News reports are not always reported accurately and some minor details can be easily twisted.  There are two major issues I have with the way in which this experiment has been reported:

    a) This form of interval training is a revolutionary way for everyone to lose fat quickly.  Quite simply, it isn't.  I feel that this impication is complete negligence by the media.  Sure it has the potential to be very, very effective if performed under the right circumstances.  Someone who is 50kg overweight who has never stepped into a gym before would be very unwise to attempt this form of exercise.  I cannot stress this enough - there are very serious health risks involved if not performed in a safe manner.

    b) The spot reduction aspect.  The study was not aimed at studying spot reduction.  The study was aimed at determining the effectiveness of intermittent exercise (ie. interval training) versus steady state exercise (eg. going for a constant jog).  They concluded that interval training was more effective - as has been shown in many studies before.  They did not conclude that spot reduction is possible.  Instead, their results showed that most of the fat was lost from the thigh and buttocks region.  As far as I can tell, this journalist has obviously read into these findings and assumed that they found that spot reduction is possible.

    Consider this.  A guy with a beer belly.  Little fat on his arms and legs and the most fat around his stomach.  Males tend to store the most fat in the stomach area, so this isn't an uncommon scenario.  Let's say he jumps on the bike and exercises 6 times a week.  Over a period of several months he loses 10kg.  I could say with 99% confidence that most of the fat would be lost from the stomach region, simply because there is little fat in the remainder of his body.

    Finally, I completely agree with you that many studies contradict other studies.  This is why text books go out of date so quickly.  I even remember having a 3 year old textbook in uni that was rendered obsolete due to new research.  If the scientists concluded that spot reduction was possible, then I would be reading that report (upon publication) and be very interested in their spot reduction findings.  But they didn't.  They only found that more fat was lost from the thighs and buttocks region.

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