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Archive Monthly Archives: January 2012

What is the Skinny on Your Weight?

With the impending New Year and the number one New Year’s resolution being weight loss, have you ever considered your weight based on the current standards set?Do you ever wonder how the standards have been set and why you may or may not be within “healthy or ideal” range?The actual terminology of “ideal body weight” was originally recognized by the life insurance industry, specifically Metropolitan Life in 1943, for the purposes of setting the standards for life insurance. The charts were created based on populations that were between the ages of 25-59, and were not specific to gender.  The numbers were revised in 1983 based on the lowest mortality rates and newly labeled “desired” standard weight.

Unfortunately, the standards of these weights do not take into consideration those who are very tall or very short. Also, it should be noted that the heights are set based on the assumption of one wearing one-inch heeled shoes and three pounds of clothing, which is not noted on the charts themselves.

However the most recognized and used standard of today is the body mass index or BMI, which was previously called the Quetelet Index, dating back to the 19th century, created by Adolphe Quetelet. He is known for developing the concept of the “average man” and established the theoretical foundations for the use of statistics in social physics or, as it is now known, sociology. Thus, he is considered by many to be the founder of modern quantitative social science. The very creation of the Quetelet index was created as a statistical analysis of the general population.

The popularity of BMI dates back to a paper published in the 1972 July edition of the Journal of Chronic Diseases by Ancel Keys. Keys indicated in his paper that BMI was “the best proxy for body fat percentage among ratios of weight and height; the interest in measuring body fat being due to obesity becoming a discernible issue in prosperous Western societies. BMI was explicitly cited by Keys as being appropriate for population studies, and inappropriate for individual diagnosis.”

The standardized usage of BMI, by the Centers for Disease Control, health professionals and the general population is due to the ease of the simple calculation, only requiring height and weight and there is no cost associated with this assessment. The usage of BMI is intended to be used as an assessment tool, as Keys stated that BMI “was appropriate for population studies, and inappropriate for individual diagnosis”.

The CDC also confirms that, “at an individual level, BMI can be used as a screening tool but is not diagnostic of the body fatness or health of an individual.” The CDC recommends seeking a trained health professional to perform appropriate health assessments in order to evaluate an individual’s health status and risks.

The CDC wants to remind individuals that the weight is calculated from both muscle and fat. In other words if an individual should have a higher percentage of overall muscle compared to fat the BMI calculations could qualify the individual as overweight based on the current BMI standards between 25 to 29.9.

However, those individuals that qualify at 30 or greater on the BMI scale are considered obese and have been found to be obese even with a higher percentage of muscle mass.

The true key to finding your desired weight should be as the CDC recommends in finding your “Healthy Weight.”  With the help of a health professional and various other assessment tools, you should set your standard based on your overall health.

If you are currently in poor health and your BMI or “ideal weight” is within range, then that should be an indication that weight is not the standard by which you set your health.  While evaluating your New Year’s weight resolution, remember to take into account your overall health as well.

New Year’s Miracle Weight Loss Drug or Not?

So the time of year has come to put your New Year’s resolutions into action, but buyer beware! There are many tempting products on the market claiming to help you achieve your goal in a quick, sustainable manner. However, beware of any claims that are too good to be true.

Do you remember back in the 80s and mid-90s all the hype about a miracle weight loss combination pill Fen-Phen, also known as fenfluramine or dexfenfluramine and phentermine?

This combination of pharmaceuticals was being prescribed by doctors who believed the drug curbed appetite and helped patients shed pounds.

However on Sept. 15, 1997, the FDA announced the withdrawal of Fen-Phen from the market, according to FDA.gov:

The Food and Drug Administration has asked the manufacturers to voluntarily withdraw both treatments for obesity from the market.

The action was based on new findings from doctors who have evaluated patients taking these two drugs with echocardiograms, a special procedure that can test the functioning of heart valves. These findings indicated that approximately 30 percent of patients who were evaluated, had abnormal echocardiograms, even though they had no symptoms. This is a much higher than expected percentage of abnormal test results.

“These findings called for prompt action,” said Michael A. Friedman, M.D., the Lead Deputy Commissioner of the FDA. “The data we have obtained indicate that fenfluramine, and the chemically closely related dexfenfluramine, present an unacceptable risk at this time to patients who take them.”

So, bring us back to present day. As of Dec. 6, the FDA issued another withdrawal of a weight loss miracle drug and this time it is for a homeopathic weight loss aid. The weight loss aid is human chorionic gonadotropin or HCG. The use of HCG was never intended for weight loss. The use of HCG or human chorionic gonadotropin was only approved for the use of infertility, fertility and as a tumor marker.

Although this drug has been believed to be a new weight loss miracle, it was first introduced to the weight loss market in the 1950s by Dr. Albert T.W. Simeon. The claims made were never proven true even after extensive clinical trials, so the usage of HCG for weight loss became less popular in the 1970s.

The reintroduction of HCG was due in part by a book written by Kevin Trudeau “The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About” and presented in the format of infomercials. This book was just a long line of misrepresentations; ironically Kevin Trudeau had a history of misrepresenting himself and was charged so by the FTC.

In 1998 Kevin Trudeau was charged with making false claims. In doing so he moved to selling his systems, such as his weight loss system through his books. Although Trudeau was not the only reason for HCG to be reintroduced, the help of his late night infomercials played a large role.

“These products are marketed with incredible claims and people think that if they’re losing weight, HCG must be working,” says Elizabeth Miller, acting director of FDA’s Division of Non-Prescription Drugs and Health Fraud. “But the data simply does not support this; any loss is from severe calorie restriction. Not from the HCG,” as stated on the FDA’s consumer page on HCG.

The HCG Diet is making remarkable claims about losing large amounts of weight in a short period of time. The claim is that your appetite is being suppressed, so you should consume only 500 calories a day in combination with HCG and you will lose plenty of weight. However, as explained by one of the FDA’s nutritionists, Shirley Blakely, “Living on 500 calories a day is not only unhealthy—it’s hazardous, according to FDA experts. Consumers on such restrictive diets are at increased risk for side effects that include gallstone formation, an imbalance of the electrolytes that keep the body’s muscles and nerves functioning properly, and an irregular heartbeat.”

They can be dangerous, she says, and potentially fatal.

Even the American Society of Bariatric Physicians has stated concerns in a position paper “On Use of HCG for the Treatment of Obesity“:

Although there were a few early studies in agreement with Simeons recommendations, a number of subsequent studies produced evidence that the HCG in the Simeons method was ineffectual and that the weight loss was entirely due to the diet. A meta-analysis review in 1995 of prior studies concluded that there is no scientific evidence that HCG is effective in the treatment of obesity. The meta-analysis found insufficient evidence supporting the claims that HCG is effective in altering fat-distribution, hunger reduction or in inducing a feeling of well-being. The authors stated ‘ …the use of HCG should be regarded as an inappropriate therapy for weight reduction.’ In the authors’ opinion, ‘Pharmacists and physicians should be alert on the use of HCG for Simeons therapy.’

According to a press release issued Dec. 6, the FDA is advising consumers to steer clear of these “homeopathic” HCG weight-loss products.

“They are sold in the form of oral drops, pellets and sprays and can be found online and in some retail stores,” the press release states. “FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have issued seven letters to companies warning them that they are selling illegal homeopathic HCG weight-loss drugs that have not been approved by FDA, and that make unsupported claims.

“FDA advises consumers who have purchased homeopathic HCG for weight loss to stop using it, throw it out, and stop following the dieting instructions. Harmful effects should be reported online toFDA’s MedWatch program or by phone at 800-FDA-1088 (800-332-1088) and to the consumer’s health care professional.”

As history would tell us about Fen-Phen, although the significant effects of HCG have not been found at this time, the FDA has chosen to remove these products due to their overwhelming surge in popularity again. So, if you are currently hoping that your New Year’s resolution can be solved by a quick fix, think again and remember that if it sounds too good to be true, you are probably right.

When it comes to health and wellness, a balanced approach of healthy eating, purposeful exercise and a healthy lifestyle are the true keys to reaching any resolution. The lasting effects of balance are truly what make your quality of life better than the potential lasting effects of a hazardous “miracle” pill.

Get Ready for The Slopes

With the colder winter season comes our winter sports, such as snow boarding and skiing.

The snow season is such a short season, it poses a problem for the unconditioned skier or snowboarder. A well-intentioned day on the slopes could be sidelined by injuries due to fatigue and lack of proper physical conditioning. Even the best athlete needs to prepare his or her body for the change of sports especially skiing and snowboarding.

Although it may look easy, a trek down a mountain slope can be physically taxing to your body. It requires you to have endurance to stay on the slopes for long runs, not to mention the need for leg strength, core muscle development to maintain your balance and upper body strength to help you utilize your poles.

While planning for your trip to the slopes, it is important to add a winter sports conditioning plan to your list of to-dos. Below, you will find a simple workout you can do at home or at your gym to help you prepare for the slopes.

You will need a set of dumbbells, stability ball and a mat. When choosing a set of dumbbells, each exercise may require a different weight; however, you should challenge yourself on all these exercises and not use a weight that is too easy.

If you are new to exercising or using dumbbells, test your strength by picking up a dumbbell and lifting your arms laterally a minimum of 10 times. This move should be challenging by rep number eight and difficult by rep number 10. As always safety is most important so choosing a weight that is too heavy can cause an unnecessary injury. However, you should be challenged in your workout so a weight that is too light will not help you improve your physical conditioning.

Always start your workout with a warm up, of dynamic moves—this will warm up your muscles as well as getting stretched. Do not stretch prior to the warm-up! Static stretching should only be done after you completed your workout or your muscles are ready and warm.

  • Jog in place, jumping jacks, add in some side to side hops, one foot at a time, then both feet together.
  • Walk forward and lift your leg to the front and reach for your toes.
  • Stop for wide leg side to side lunges.  Staying low shifting your weight from side to side.
  • Walk forward, bend forward lifting your leg behind you, one leg at a time, reach for the floor.

For an additional warm up, do these choppers:

  • Holding a medicine ball or dumbbell, squat down and swing the weight between your legs and then up overhead with arms fully extended. Repeat 10 times.
  • Holding the weight in front of your body, rotate side to side and pivot on one foot. Repeat 10 times in each direction.
  • Squat down and bring the weight down to one ankle and then swing, in a diagonal motion, over the shoulder on the opposite side of your body. Repeat 10 times in each direction.

Workout
Next, perform the following pairs of exercises with no rest in between:

1. Slow and hold skier squats: Hold a light pair of dumbbells at your sides and raise them out in front of you as you lower into a squat position. Hold the bottom of the squat for a minimum of three seconds with your arms extended and then stand up. Repeat 10 to 20 times.

2.  Push ups with hold and scissor kicks: Perform a standard push up and hold the “up” portion for a minimum of three seconds. While holding this position, alternate two straight leg raises to the rear. Complete 10 repetitions.

Side to side mogul squats: Perform a squat. As you come up from the down position “explode” and jump to the right. As soon as your feet hit the ground, repeat the motion to the left. Continue for 20 repetitions.

Single leg bent-over rows: Hold a dumbbell in the right hand and bend over at the waist while balancing on the left foot. Drive your elbow up, pulling your shoulder blades together to perform a “bent-over row” exercise. Try to stay on one foot throughout the movement. (Beginners can touch the toe to the ground for support.) Perform 15 repetitions with each arm.

Single foot lateral hops (speed skaters): Bend forward at the waist (like a speed skater), spring to the right and as soon as your foot lands, spring to the left. Try to bound sideways for distance. Repeat for 20 total repetitions.

Slow and hold side laterals: Hold a pair of dumbbells at your side. Raise them to shoulder height and hold for three seconds. Lower and repeat for 10 repetitions.

Stability ball triple set: Here’s one example of such a set. Lie on your back with your legs on a stability ball. Perform 20 abdominal crunches. Place your feet on the ball and push your hips upward 20 times. Lay your legs across the top of the ball, hand are in a push up plank position and rotate side to side bringing your knees to the floor, 10 times in each direction.

After you have completed one round you can repeat at least two or three more times. This workout can be completed at least three times a week. Be sure to move from one exercise to the next maintaining proper form, while elevating your heart rate. Be sure to do a complete cool down and stretch after you have completed your workout.

It would be recommended to include an endurance, interval workout, either on a treadmill or elliptical, either after this strength workout or two additional days during the week. An interval cardio workout should include resistance in the form of an incline and varying speeds. One day of cardio should be dedicated just to distance or time.

As with any exercise program it is important to prepare yourself to begin.  If you are planning on hitting the slopes this year be certain to prepare your body physically. Be sure that you are capable of handling these exercises before you attempt going to the slopes.

Remember to also be prepared for the changing winter conditions on the slopes.  If you have your own equipment, inspect it before you get to the slopes, also be sure to have the proper winter attire, have water available during your day and be sure to eat properly throughout your day on the slopes.

For the best conditioning getting enough rest, eating a healthy balanced diet and getting your workouts in at least five days a week is the best way to condition your body for any sport. This will help you have an enjoyable injury free winter season on the slopes either on your snow board or your skis.