26 February 2017

The First Rule Of Diet Club Is They Probably Don't Work #superslimmers (@NLi10)

Recently in the UK a program called Super Slimmers: Did they really keep it off? aired on Chanel 4. (it's available on their site for another 2 weeks to watch for free).

This followed a side of diet clubs (Weight Watchers, Slimming World amongst others) that I'd never really considered - what happens if you go back to the people that had those great losses three years later and see what happened after that.  Naturally I'd suspected that some people kept it off, and some people put it back on but what the small sample in the program showed was that only one of the people from diet clubs managed to keep the weight off.  That person was also a bit of an extreme case - Dan Wheeler now works as a fitness instructor and excersises for two hours a day - but also eats no processed food and his only vice appears to be massive bags of Haribo.

All of the other participants had reasons for falling off the wagon (so to speak) but they were varied.

"Took my eyes off the ball foodwise" "I just haven't got organised on the food aspect" 

It almost seems like to be a record slimmer that the goal was the most important thing, and not the health behind it.  This is very contradictory to what I found through investigating the Eat To Live series - there the weight loss is almost a side-effect of the food and nutrition and not really the goal.

Interestingly the three scientists involved kind of expected this - they have published papers showing that they expect people using diet clubs to regain to within 2lb of their original weight within 3 years, and only 5-10% of the participants keep it off.  This seemed staggeringly low to me - as the NHS actually pay for people to go to these clubs as an obesity solution, and it's the most socially acceptable way for people to 'get healthy' along with exercise regimes.

The scientists talked about blaming that old spectre of metabolism and that if you loose it too fast then your body will panic and store everything you eat (which has recently been proven to be very shaky reasoning).  This has caused a new wave of supplements (such as those by EvolvHealth) in America which try to change the way that your hormones react to weight loss and to push that in the right direction.  In the UK when you try to watch the show online you get adverts for over the counter 'fat-binding' pills from XLSMedical which claim to have similar effects.  There is even one you take when you get hunger cravings like nicotine replacement therapy.  I have to be skeptical though - is more medication dependancy really the answer?  What happens when you live on these pills then stop taking them?

The scientists asked really didn't think these were the answers either.  While the soundbites they used at the start made them sound a little non-expert towards the end they were allowed to express some valid and well backed up opinions, and all of them essentially said that eating more healthfully would cause a reversal of the obesity symptoms.

The one part that really brought the whole thing home was a 30st guy who has been going to Weight Watchers for 15 years (?!) and now has developed Type 2 diabetes. I tend to presume that the people with these issues are like smokers and don't really know what they are doing and aren't bothered by it, but this guy could recite exactly what diabetes was doing to his body and knew that it'd mean that he'd not only shorten his life, but that he'd be less active and spend less time with his children too. It makes me sad when we see people that are completely aware that they are destroying themselves and their family but struggling to do anything about it - even with expert advice.

So is it just that we really don't understand how our unique micro-biomes in our respective guts work and that you can't just lose weight by reducing calories and expect it to stay off without keeping them low or exercising so much that you burn it all?  Will 'Our Broken Plate' help to fix this and inadvertently did 'Eat To Live' discover a diet that causes us to terraform our gut to encourage fat burning microbes and discourage fat storage microbes?

All we know for sure is that eating whole foods, and eliminating additional SOS (salt oil and sugar) seems to cause people to shed weight.  And three years after those changes will we revisit to find people large and unhappy again? Who knows.

The scientists featured in the programs were:
Prof Traci Mann 
The health and eating lab
University of Minnesota

Dr Thomas barber
Human metabolism research unit
University hospital Coventry 

Dr Kevin Hall
Senior Investigator 
National Institute of health

Their current research can be found on PubMed via search engines and goes into much more depth about the mechanisms behind the themes featured on the show, and what medical professionals are doing to help stop the obesity epidemic.

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