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Now is the time for resolutions, exercise and diets - or so we are told in just about every media outlet. But why is this so?
Walking through Barnes and Noble a year or two ago, I noticed Fat History, written by my college professor Peter N Stearns. I'd enjoyed his classes, so I bought the book. I've started and stopped reading it on light rail several times since then, and am still only about halfway through it. I'd probably do about as well dieting.
In his history courses, Stearns generally taught us how things really were then, as opposed to how we believed they were, and how we got to how things are now. One course was called Sex and Death, another Work and Leisure. "Then" was usually the years immediately before the Industrial Revolution, and Stearns would lecture about how and why our attitudes had changed since preindustrial times.
In Fat History, "then" is around 1890, or when a man or a woman could be stout or fleshy and still be considered attractive.
Between 1890 and 1910, middle-class America began its ongoing battle against body fat. Never previously an item of systematic public concern, dieting or guilt about not dieting became an increasing staple of private life, along with a surprisingly strong current of disgust directed against people labeled obese. In contrast to patterns in the nineteenth century, when body styles, particularly but not exclusively for women, shifted faddishly every few decades, the growing passion for slimness set a framework that would last for at least a century.
A few months ago I raced through tennis champion Monica Seles' ghost written autobiography, Getting a Grip, which was mostly about her long struggle to control binge eating. Seles was a world class athlete that could go toe-to-toe with Steffi Graf (a bona fide track athlete with a physique to match) but at 5'-10" tall, Seles sported a large frame, and despite all her success had low self-esteem, particularly after losing her father to cancer. Seles now seems comfortable with her body, but is dating the 70-year-old billionaire Tom Golisano, who was recently widely-quoted, "If I hear a politician use the term 'paying your fair share' one more time, I'm going to vomit." So I wonder if Golisano has developed food issues.
Days ago I finished Age Is Just A Number, perennial Olympic swimmer Dara Torres' ghost written autobiography. Lithe and streamlined as juniors, women swimmers often struggle with weight as their hips and breasts blossom. Nearly six feet tall, Torres was coached to make weight. She either weighed-in under 152 or swam extra workouts - perversely dubbed the Breakfast Club. Liking food, but not wanting to ever feel part of what she saw as "the fat group," Torres learned to vomit after meals, and struggled with bulimia in her early years. Having a professional model for a mother probably didn't help.
Nine months ago, in I'm OK, You're Fat, I mentioned that my wife's sister had adopted, and spent a small fortune on, the HCG Skinny diet. I was dubious, but six months ago, she did look significantly healthier. She had dropped from a size fourteen to a size six. Those numbers mean nothing to me, but I see from the Misses size chart that it means five inches less on the bust, waist and hips. At the family Xmas party she admitted she had fallen off the wagon, had put back on a few pounds, and planned to resume the diet for the New Year. But the more I learn, the more HCG Skinny worries me.
The HCG Skinny diet product includes expensive Macguffins such as hCG drops, B-Sweet sweetener, Skinny Coffee, Nuvo Gene Tea, BCreamy and Kangen Water. hCG is Human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone produced both in the pituitary gland and in the placenta during pregnancy. hCG can be extracted from the urine of pregnant women.
A B-Sweet website takes pains to assure us that B Sweet is not this or that, but is rather vague about what it really is, saying only, "B-Sweet™ is a completely natural fruit sweetener." Based on their website address, acaisweet, one would assume that BSweet is another manifestation of Acai (Ah-Sigh-EE) Berries, the supposed antioxidant superfruit. Acai has been associated with weight-loss scams (cough Dr Oz) before. Although the Boresha site assures us there is no high fructose corn sweetener in B Sweet, I'm guessing there is fructose from the acai.
BSkinny Coffee is touted as fat-burning coffee. Nuvo Gene Tea is also touted as fat-burning. I suppose anything with caffeine will raise your blood pressure. There's also BCreamy - fat-free, cholesterol-free, low-glycemic creamer.
Kangen is supposedly ionized water to keep your system alkaline instead of acidic. You can't ionize water, of course, but Enagic claims ionizing the trace elements in water is sufficient. Enagic was very clever - they disguised a sales pitch on a site labeled Kangen Water Scam.
ArgMatrix supposedly contains L-Arginine, an amino acid that is supposed to stimulate muscle development. The body demands L-Arginine during trauma as it promotes healing and reduces blood pressure (not a bad idea after all that coffee).
Aside from the gimmicks, the diet is ultra-low calorie (500 per day), allows small portions of meat/fish, vegetables and fruit, but eschews most carbs. The HCG Skinny website has a sample day on the diet (I've corrected a lot of spelling):
Upon arising, take all drops, wait 30 minutes and drink your Skinny Coffee with B-Sweet Sweetener and B-Creamy Creamer made with Kangan Water
In other words, don't eat breakfast. I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about breakfast. I used to often skip breakfast because my morning runs suppressed my appetite, but all sorts of agencies (and Denny's) insist that breakfast, "is the most important meal of the day!"
10:00am or so Eat a Fruit from the Fruit List. (Strawberries with B-Sweet Sweetner is awesome)
I can't argue with the fruit.
11:00ish Take hCG drops (30 minutes either side of food)
Noon- Should be your first meal of 5 oz of Meat from the list (97% Lean Hamburger, Chicken, Fish, Lean Steak) and One Vegetable from the Vegetable list.
I can't argue with a small lunch, either.
1:00ish Take drops (30 minutes either side of food)
3:00pm You may choose another fruit from the list. Strawberries sweetened with the B-Sweet are incredible. This fruit must be different from the one chosen earlier.
Seems like grazing.
4:00ish Drink Nuvo Gene Tea or Skinny Coffee (helps with hunger)
5:00pm You can eat your second meal of 5 oz of meat from the list. Be sure to chose a different selection than the one eaten earlier in the day. Again you may chose a vegetable from the list, different than the one earlier.
These instructions reminds me so much of that cabbage soup diet.
MAKE SURE ALL FOOD IS EATEN BEFORE 7PM
That's probably a good idea, too.
8:00pm Take drops (30 minutes either side of food)
You are Allowed Black Coffee, Tea. You can make lemon-aide with small amount of lemon juice or fresh lemons and sweetener. You are also allowed 2 grissini or Melba toast per day as well. You may choose to eat these as a snack during the day or with your meal.
7:00pm Drink Nuvo Gene Tea or Skinny coffee (This really helps hunger and is Thermogenic)
10:00PM You can take your ArgMatrix before going to bed. This should be taken on an empty stomach (no food, gum, or anything 2 hours before). Mix 2 scoops with 4 oz of very cold water (cold water activates the taste). You should then be to sleep in 30 minutes. This releases nitric oxide into your system, which helps with weight loss and many auto immune disorders. As well as crosses the Blood Brain Barrier to help hormonal issues when you are asleep.
OK, the L-Arginine can lead to nitric oxide, which is a vasodilator, widening your blood vessels. But about.com 's altmedicine notes:
Although L-arginine may be safe when taken in the short term, it can cause a number of side effects (including indigestion, nausea, headache, bloating, diarrhea, gout, blood abnormalities, allergies, airway inflammation, worsening of asthma, and low blood pressure).
Higher doses of L-arginine can increase stomach acid, so it may also worsen heartburn, ulcers, or digestive upset caused by medications.
The foods they list are non-controversial, although I can't see half a lemon as a snack:
FRUITS - Apple, Orange, 6 Strawberries, 1/2 Grapefruit (B-Sweet on it), 1/2 Lemon.
MEATS - Lean Steak, 95-97% Lean Hamburger, Chicken Breast (no dark meat) White Fish, Shrimp, Crab Meat, Scallops.
VEGETABLES - Greens - Spinach, Kale, Celery, Green Beans, Green Peppers, Asparagus, Cucumbers, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Cabbage, Onions, Green Onions.
CONDIMENTS - Mustard, Vinegar, Salt, Pepper, Spices that do not contain Sugar, Garlic, Cumin, Salsa (with no sugar) Stevia, B-Sweet Sweetener, (No other sweeteners are allowed)
GRAIN - 2 melba toast, or 2 Grissini or 4 Saltine Crackers.
In short, they've taken a strict, severe diet and juiced it up with proprietary snacks. It should be possible to follow a reasonable regimen without all the gimmicks, but I suspect that spending over a thousand dollars provides the motivation to stick with the diet.