I have to say that this week was a good week – it saw the final episode of ‘How to lose a stone in 21 days’ being aired!
Good riddance is all I can say but not without leaving a trail of damage and confusion behind.
Again, it demonised food.
Again, it encouraged further emotional attachments to food.
Again, it confused and misinformed the UK population.
Again, it interfered with precious family moments – moments that can never be regained.
There were so many claims and statements being made that seemed to have been cherry-picked for sensationalisation rather than being backed by strong evidence.
As with all the other programmes, I could say ALOT but I will try and focus on the aspects that I think require clarification.
It is just not healthy.
First of all, as I have said previously, the approach the show takes is NOT healthy no matter how it is dressed up.
It is a crash diet and it is just not possible for most people to survive on such a diet let alone keep the weight off.
The participants’ talk of dizzy spells, food obsession, lethargy….no matter how nutritious the food they eat in the programme is, 800 calories of it will NEVER be enough to give them what their bodies need.
It is irresponsible, even cringe-worthy, for professional doctors to be promoting it and with such an enticing promise or huge weight loss.
I was literally hopping up and down within the first 10 minutes when a Professor stated quite adamantly that diets work! She then went on to say that 75% of people regain all of the weight within 5 years!
Yep-she actually said that!
So if you knew you were going to regain all the weight, and more, would you really torture yourself? Would you really see it as a diet that worked?
75% of people regain any weight lost within 5 years.
It is merely a fantasy that is fuelling diet culture.
Effectively, she was promoting weight cycling – losing and regaining weight over and over.
This is known to have adverse physical and mental effects.
Not only is weight cycling linked to death rates, morbidity and heart disease, it also encourages binge eating and MORE weight gain.
Women who weight cycle also tend to lose more lean muscle mass than fat when compared with people who lose weight and managed to keep it off.
Furthermore, it increases the risk of osteoporosis, high blood pressure, chronic inflammation and even some cancers. Ironically, all of the conditions that the show claims to be helping participants reverse or reduce risk of.
As if that wasn’t enough, Michael himself went on to say that initial rapid weight loss is the key to long term success.
Erm, I would like to know where he plucked that bold statement out of the air from.
The real key to long term weight loss explained.
Robust studies have in fact shown that those who maintain weight loss, in the long run, don’t demonise food, they deemphasis it in their lives, they make small, personal goals and tailor their approach.
NONE OF WHICH WAS EVIDENT IN THIS SHOW!!!!
Relapsers, on the other hand, restrict, eliminate, obsess about food – ALL OF WHICH WAS EVIDENT IN THIS SHOW!!
For more on the effective ways to maintain weight loss, visit my previous blog here.
The only bit that I actually liked about the programme was the small focus on mindfulness. The participants carried out the raisin activity which gets you to slow down and really think, feel and reflect on the food you are eating.
He spoke about how so many of us eat distracted the majority of the time these days and this leads to overeating and lack of attunement with our bodies.
Of course, this was all undone when in the next scene, eating chocolate was seen as shameful and a young mother spoke of the guilt and fear of failure if she allowed herself to eat her children’s pancakes!!
The show went on to suggest that weight loss must all come down to will power and discipline.
I particularly liked (feel my sarcasm….) the interview with the man who would only eat out if there was something he was ‘allowed’ to eat!
Come on!!!! What kind of message is this portraying?
Negative messages were littered throughout.
He said that he would scour the food choices before going out for food and would actually just avoid eating if there wasn’t anything his strict diet permitted!
He went on to say how he would occasionally only allow himself ONE glass of wine on a social occassion – two at a push but that is it.
There was no consideration for what he actually may feel like in the moment – just diet rule after diet rule!
Not healthy at all. And certainly not something to aspire to yet anyone watching is prone to feeling like a failure if they can’t exert such self-control.
And this is where the vicious cycle begins – the black and white mentality that leads to the inherent belief that one has failed and one is not good enough!
The real tragedy in the programme, and the hardest part to stomach, was when one of the poor men was filmed at his son’s birthday party saying he could not have a slice of birthday cake and would have to stick to water or a black coffee.
That family will never get that day back. Nice one Dr Moseley!
Ironically, the same man boasted about the bottle of red wine that was waiting for him after the 21 days was over.
This is a key characteristic of someone who will regain the weight – they see it as a short term fix, a means to an end after which they can reward themselves.
In order to keep any weight loss off, you have to focus on building long term habits – look at the bigger picture. Despite paying lip service to this, I did not see any evidence of this even being remotely considered!
Sustainable long term habits are essential.
This brings me on to my final point – the focus on health markers at the end.
Yes, in that snapshot moment it did appear that many had improved but that means zilch! Health markers have to be looked at consistently over a period of time and the weight has to stay off for these people.
It was good to see that the young mum did reverse her pre-diabetes but with such a miserable and unsustainable approach, will this stick?
The show seemed to imply that in order to reverse diabetes, you need to drastically cut carbs. This is just not the case. Research has shown over and over again that people can achieve the same effect even on a high carb diet – it ultimately comes down to energy balance (i.e. calories in/out) achieved through realistic diet and lifestyle changes.
I have said it before and I will say it again, don’t fall for promises of a ‘quick’ fix – I wonder how well that has worked for you in the past?
But this programme is something else – it has a sinister undertone that I talk more about here.