Last night The Truth About Obesity was on BBC 1 which follows on from the truth about exercise a couple of months ago which I wrote about back then. It was the usual mix of TV friendly experiments to show the points they were making.
The show started out with the fairly normal sized host finding out he is obese on the BMI scale. This regularly happens because overweight has become normal. What is average now, was overweight/obese 30 years ago and the BMI stats show this.
As ever the BMI does have limitations for people who are muscular so they did a ‘dangerous fat test’. This involved using string to measure your height, then folding it in half and seeing if you can get it around your midsection like wearing a belt. If you cannot then you have fat around your organs which is known to greatly increase the dangers of obesity.
Visceral fat is body fat in and around the organs while subcutaneous fat is that at surface level. Almost everyone worries about the latter because it is what you can see. I have to remind people when they are losing fat yet not seeing the changes in the areas they want that you could be losing visceral fat which is great for the body but maybe not so much for the mirror.
They then looked at the issue of food intake estimation which I am often mentioning here. As usual people are underestimating what they eat by 50-100%. The show suggested ways to counter this –
– Do not have nice foods in obvious line of sight / or in house
– Have half of any plate filled with fruit and veg as that fills you up
– Choose Lesser calorie “bad” foods over high calorie ones.
They met with a genetic researcher who said there are around 100 factors that affect the likelihood of someone being obese. This includes genes influencing hunger, how much food you will want to eat, the types of food that appeal to you, your metabolic rate, how you store fat and more. This means it is harder for some people to get in shape than others. As someone who has worked with hundreds of people this is obvious. However, you cannot change what you have been given in this context.
Genes are only a bit of the story though as obesity has tripled in 30 years yet your genes would not have changed in that time period.
To investigate this they looked at take away fast food restaurants. In the last three years there has been an increase from 10-30% in fast food outlets across all parts of the country.
I write this from Wales as I am here for the weekend and have seen here in LLangollen new kebab shops and the like open up recently. The presenter walked a mile in Camden and found 1 outlet every 100m. This proximity is a big problem. Studies show simply living or working near fast food outlets results in people being more overweight. The average person has 3 take outs a week of high calorie foods.
In another test they tried to out exercise a take out meal. The volunteers did an hour of exercise. All of them said they worked much harder than if there wasn’t a TV camera on them :). They burnt between 500-750 calories. Yet their fast food treat meals of choice ranged from 1000-1600 cals. This point I always stress when working with people, the calories intake game is stacked against you in terms of exercise vs food.
Along these lines they looked into the calorie burn of a gym weights session vs being more active in general life through house work/gardening etc. This showed that general life activity burnt twice the amount of calories to a gym session. This point I also spend my whole life stressing. Do the exercise yes but you have to move in general life or you simply wont be able to create a huge energy deficit.
My favourite segment was looking at neural connections around eating. Anyone who I work with will know that much of my focus is on retraining this. They used a app that will soon be released that using a game of good/bad food images can retrain your reactions to eating. Early days on the apps effectiveness but a really important area to look at as your brain is at the core of all your results.
They also looked at time of day and eating. The experiment investigated how the body responded to eating the same meal at night compared to the morning. The results showed that the meal didn’t act the same way. The show suggested you do not have your biggest meal at night.
This was a rather weak experiment to be honest but the theory behind this you see in bodybuilding world where you do not eat carbs at night to allow growth hormone to maximise when sleeping. This later expanded to normal health world and the myth of carbs at night make you fat.
The final point from the show was a return to looking at gut microbes and body fat. Repeated studies have shown that people who are overweight have a worse gut flora profile (variety/types/amounts) than thinner people. To counter this they suggest eating a high fibre diet.
Your gut and digestive system affects your hormone profile. Along these lines they looked at bariatric stomach surgery and the reasons it works being traced back to hormone profile changes over the actual smaller stomach. They touched on a new injection which could replicate these hormonal changes without surgery. Another interesting area and one that was covered in Brain Over Binge Book I reviewed a month or so ago.
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