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Atkins and other low carb fad diets are capitalizing on obesity like maggots on a wound, yet despite these diets popularity, our population continues to get fatter every year.

Every year new statistics are released from somewhere showing how active/ inactive and how fat we are as a population. A recent report from Health Canada again confirms that in 2003 almost half the population was overweight (48.2%), and that more of us are overweight than when the prior survey was done in 2002. This report from JAMA shows that obesity is not decreasing, but in fact is increasing in the US. Surprised? We shouldn't be. We're adapting to being overweight and unhealthy instead of doing something about it. Airlines are being pushed to make larger seats to accommodate very overweight people, special interest groups are cropping up with mantras that suggest people should shut up and accept obesity, there are fashion shows that are tailored to obese persons. Should a person be forced to wear clothes that look like a curtain just because clothing designers ignore those who are obese? I say no. I also say we shouldn't be obese in the first place because obesity is both preventable and reversible. On one hand to discriminate against someone because they are obese is 100% the same and just as deplorable as any and all discrimination that we humans can inflict on one another, on the other hand, becoming complacent with obesity is down right deadly (literally) because obesity kills.

High protein low carb diets and other fat loss gimmicks are custom tailored for a population that is overweight and largely inactive and who want to sustain their current eating and lifestyle habits. The Atkins and other popular diets throw us a bone occasionally and mention that eating veggies and exercising is good for us. However, it almost seems as though these tiny references were placed by a PR team in anticipation of defending the now common attack that fad diets are too one-sided and don't place enough emphasis on balanced eating and regular exercise. On the whole, popular diets push hard to sell their so-claimed "special formulas"; the only way to eat, with some threatening disease or failure if the special formula - not available from anywhere else - isn't followed exactly.

Many diet companies employ conspiracy theory scare tactics claiming that big brother is out to get us by not telling us about certain defects in our food supply, and low and behold the diet company has the only viable answer to save our lives that are apparently damned. Yes we do sentence ourselves to health damnation by eating too much, and we do have occasional problems in our food supply with Mad Cow, Avian flu and other serious concerns, but it sure as hell isn't going to be the fad diet and supplement companies that solve these issues. But if you want to give them your money, they'll be happy to take it.

Here's a report from Reuters that explains charges by the US Federal Trade Commission against supplement companies that made unsupported claims for the effects of supplements purported to cause weight loss in children. Since childhood obesity is on the rise (15% of US children are overweight or obese) it only makes sense that children will become the next big target for fad diets and useless supplements with false claims. More from the FTC shows action against companies such as "special" gel solutions applied to the skin to lose fat that don't work, and a fad diet called the "1-2-3 Diet Kit" aimed at the Hispanic population also does not work.

When I say that low carb diets and other gimmicks are tailored for the overweight - inactive population, I don't mean that the gimmicks are meant to help this population, I mean the gimmicks are meant to profit from this population. Although I believe that some of these diet and pill pushers actually believe they really do have "the answer", the truth is diets don't work.

There are more "diets" than ever before, we're also fatter than ever before

It's almost a 'waist' of time to describe how these diets don't work because it's been done so many times. Yet the North American, in fact the entire worlds population, continues to become fatter every year at the same time these "diet solutions" capture more and more market share. Hello? Is it just me who sees this conflict? Clearly the millions of people that are claimed to be "losing weight" on these diets are not making any dent in the obesity statistics. Could this be because these diets focus on the short term quick-fix and are so imbalanced they could not possibly be followed long term? You bet.

The most invasive and dramatic "quick fix" for fat loss, liposuction, has just been shown to have no effect on reducing blood pressure, cholesterol levels, or risk of heart disease. The study from the New England Journal of Medicine concludes that diet and exercise provide better results than liposuction. - One more quick fix bites the dust.

Low-carb is making an impact. Both in showing the gullibility and desperation of those who follow the kooky concept, and in the bottom line of many businesses. Many restaurants and food seller's are shamelessly capitalizing on this silly fad. Take "Carb Options™" peanut butter for example. I was looking for my favorite brand of peanut butter (Adams) in the grocery store isle and spotted "Carb Options™" Skippy peanut butter. This immediately set off my spider senses because I know that peanut butter contains only a small amount of carbohydrate anyway. So looking at the nutrient labels I compared the "low carb" Skippy to the non-low carb Skippy - they are exactly the same- carbs and all. In fact there was no big difference between the "low carb" Skippy and virtually all other brands of peanut butter on the shelf, they all contained the same amount of carbohydrate - around 4.5 - 4.7g, some up to 7g, for two tablespoons of peanut butter. The low carb Skippy added sucralose, an artificial sweetener. So what about the carbs in my personal favorite, Adams peanut butter? 4g of carbohydrate per 2 tablespoons - Less than Skippy's apparently specially blended "low carb" peanut butter. All Skippy had to do was make an all-natural peanut butter and they would have had an even lower carb product than their "Carb Options™" product.

I know what some of you might be thinking, "sure your "natural" peanut butter is low in carbs, but I bet it's high in fat". My favorite wins again! Adams peanut butter has 16.2g of fat with 1.2g being saturated per two tablespoons, whereas Carb Options™ Skippy has 17g of fat with 3.5g being saturated for the same two tablespoon serving.

Adams natural peanut butter has less carbs and half the saturated fat of the low carb Skippy. Read the labels people, don't be so quick to be sold on what is hyped to be better for you, the best foods are natural. Of course, doing the low carb thing is a dumb decision, you would not eat peanut butter because it is low carb, you would eat it because it is a good source of poly and monounsaturated fats, and protein... but I thought it interesting to point out with this product comparison how the low carb craze is about a marketing gimmick rather than a concern for your health. Click here (Essential Nutrition .org) for an article on this subject.

Switching a label around with insignificant changes to the product is all about being misleading. I have an older Honda. I'm going to put a Porsche emblem on it. Anybody want to buy my "Porsche"?

While this slight of hand marketing is selling product, it's also supporting the low carb dementia afflicting North Americans who are now buying less of the healthy foods that happen to contain carbohydrates, so sellers of wholesome foods like potatoes are experiencing a loss. Everyone gets fatter on low carb diets; low-carb pushers get fatter wallets and the majority of the population continues to get fatter waistlines. Yes, this all has to do with how fat we are. If the majority of the population were not so overweight there would not be such a large demand for fat loss gimmicks. The low carb craze would not have spawned its tentacles, and I wouldn't be writing this article.

Researchers, politicians, and special interest groups lament that we are in the middle of an obesity epidemic that needs more research so we can find a solution to this troubling trend. Drug companies are promising new drugs to reduce body fat, diet companies are spreading like bad weeds, many touting "natural" and "herbal" remedies to this confounding problem of increasing obesity that apparently caught us with our pants down and has us struggling to find out why it's happening.

Case in point: This report from JAMA concludes that overweight children who overeat and who don't balance their total food intake, are more likely to gain fat than non-overweight children who do balance their total food intake. Do we really need this study to tell us this? I'm all for scientific research and completely respect JAMA, and I'm the first to say, "if you're not measuring, you must be guessing", but are we really so baffled by fat gain that we have no confidence in what we already know?

I'm going to barf if I'm force fed one more ridiculous study that proposes to find the hidden cause of obesity or provides "shocking evidence" that over half the population is overweight. We can tell this by looking at people when we go outside; most are overweight, We don't need a study to confirm this. When a person eats more food than they need, they get fat. I should receive a few million dollars in research money so I can do another study on obesity. Just kidding. The fact is humans have known since the beginning of time that those who are overweight eat too much, those who are underweight don't eat enough, and those who are overweight and eat less and exercise more lose the excess weight.

Many would have us believe that we need one more study, one more committee report, one more academic money pit, in order to discover how to solve the worlds obesity problem. How about doing the actions that cause fat loss instead of engaging in a Monty Python style of confused apathy. Instead of "health authorities" blindingly bumping into each other trying to get a seat at the special committee table or the media microphone, why not eat less and exercise more? Ok, ok, we need professionals telling it like it is at the media microphone, but lets get more action orientated reports out there like are found here (USDA web page) and a little less of the "were really confused with this problem" statements.

Obesity is not a complicated problem

Eat less exercise more. It is this simple. The problem with this answer is there is little opportunity for opportunists. Opportunists need to sell special solutions to complicated problems, so opportunists use convincing arguments that losing fat is terribly difficult, but they can make it easy. Obesity is not a complicated problem. With the exception of very rare metabolic disorders, virtually all persons who are overweight are overweight because they eat too much and have little physical activity. That's it. There is nothing else to it. Inactivity contributes greatly to obesity because few calories are expended during the day. However, even with a low level of physical activity, if a person eats only what they need, they will not become overweight.

Daily physical activity and healthy eating are part of what should be a normal lifestyle. Instead we view lazy leisure time and 10 ounce steaks as rewards for our hard work. Lazy leisure time and 10 ounce steaks are the hallmarks of a masochistic lifestyle. When a person chooses to do something that causes them harm, those actions are masochistic.

Purposefully eating too much causes obesity. Obesity is associated with type two diabetes, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, sleep apnea, heart attack, and other health problems. Most overweight people have trouble breathing walking up a few flights of stairs. Wow, sign me up for all these "rewards" associated with lazy leisure and "fine dining". No thanks; I'm not the masochistic type.

An all you can eat buffet is not a "good deal", it's one foot in the grave

Eating healthily and becoming more fit are true physiological rewards. People can and do have trouble with the decision to stop putting food in their mouth when they know they shouldn't, and others simply don't know how much they are eating or how much they need to eat. Professional help should be available for those who seek it or need it, but the biggest step comes from the individuals themselves. We don't need a herb or a pill to combat obesity; the overweight population needs to change their lifestyle. The more we look for pills, potions, and special diets, the further we get from the actual actions that will solve the societal problem of increasing obesity. The actions are physically consuming less food and engaging in daily physical activity. The mental actions are accepting that eating extra food could never be a reward, that in fact eating extra food hurts us. Extra cheese on a pizza is not a culinary reward, it's an artery clogging heart attack causer. An all you can eat buffet is not a "good deal", it's one foot in the grave. Is being fat a reward? No? Then how can the actions that cause fat-gain be a reward?

There is an obesity epidemic and it is terribly serious, causing disease, early death, and costing our health care system billions. However there is no "problem" with finding the answer to losing fat: People need to take responsibility for their own actions by eating less and exercising more.

For those who are having trouble adapting a healthy lifestyle:

"Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our mind" - Bob Marley

- Cris LaBossiere

2004 Cris LaBossiere Rhino Fitness www.rhinofitness.ca



Copyright 2004 Rhino Fitness. All rights reserved.
For more information contact: clabossiere@rhinofitness.ca