By Rosemary Counter - Monday, January 21, 2013 - 0 Comments
The social network can help you lose weight, but are you willing to be honest with your followers?
If you’ve been lucky enough never to find yourself at a Weight Watchers meeting, it goes something like this: a dozen dieters, mostly women, sit in a circle. In turn, but only if they want to, they share their weekly progress. “I lost 0.4 lb.,” someone might say. The rest of the room claps.
To encourage an appearance the next week, peppy leaders reiterate one staple statistic of the 50-year-old program: people who attend meetings regularly lose three times the weight as those who do not. Nonetheless, just two years after its last relaunch, Weight Watchers is revamping again (with its online 360° program) in an effort to keep up with the times.
Some dieters are already a tweet ahead. “I love a good meeting, but there wasn’t always a meeting when I needed it,” says 43-year-old Rebecca Regnier, a television reporter from Ohio. For her—and 58 per cent of Canadians who Weight Watchers says tried to lose weight in the last year—Twitter is always there. “When it’s 2 a.m. and I’m fighting a snack craving, it’s not 2 a.m. in Australia. I have friends there to talk me out of it.”
To her ever-expanding network, Regnier’s tweets include healthy humblebrags (“An apple handled some pre-lunch cravings for me today. Yay apple!”), support for her followers (“Don’t quit! Restart”), and admissions of gluttony (“I had a candy-bar-in-the-car moment”).
Despite periodic transgressions, all documented on @LaughItOff to almost 9,000 followers, Regnier lost 20 lb. How she did it—in short, choose any diet that works for you, follow experts in the field, connect with followers for support—became the ebook Your Twitter Diet, one of many that marries dieting with social-media oversharing.
Web options include Tweet What You Eat and Tweet Your Weight. GQ correspondent Drew Magary, down 60 lb., tweets his weight every morning in what he calls the “public humiliation diet.” With just the push of a button, an endless series of websites (Lose It, FitDay, SparkPeople) and apps (My Diet Coach, Thin Cam, the Eatery) can broadcast every bite into cyberspace.
Doing so isn’t always as easy as it seems. Meegan Dowe, a 33-year-old education coordinator from Halifax, who used to blog about her weight struggles anonymously, used the MyFitnessPal app to track her 90-lb. loss. “It tweets both the food I eat and the calories I burn,” she explains.
Though she hates to admit it, Dowe doesn’t think she could have lost the weight without Twitter. “It gave me a community I didn’t have; people at a similar weight as me and with the same frustrations,” she says. While people are almost always positive, sometimes they’re nasty. “I’ve heard things like, ‘You only burned 300 calories in 60 minutes? I could do it in 20.’ ”
Unlike Weight Watchers, Twitter is far from a private place. For those who thrive on aggressive competition, like GQ’s Magary, this might be “its own incentive anyway,” he wrote.
Others, not so much, says Weight Watchers’ chief scientist, Karen Miller-Kovach. “Social dieting is probably great for some and terrible for others.” The research is mixed, she says. It’s generally accepted that obesity is socially contagious, and that more and better support is associated with long-term weight loss. If social media are part of your support system, reported the Archives of Internal Medicine in December, then they can certainly help your progress. But they can’t be your only trick. “You’re not going to tweet yourself to thinness, but if you’re following a program and also tweeting about it, you may see more success,” says Miller-Kovach.
If a public weigh-in feels akin to modern torture, the Twitter diet could be detrimental. “It can reinforce shame. It can be embarrassing, humiliating and not at all helpful,” she says.
Regnier admits to feeling the shame “just a little bit.” For binge eaters like her, food sessions are often solitary and shameful, and a midnight Twitter confession forces an accountability she might otherwise not have. “But seriously,” she asks, “if you’re not willing to share with someone what you’re eating, then why are you eating it?”
By Alex Ballingall - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 11:47 AM - 0 Comments
Who would have thought that a little lizard spit could help dieters with self-control?
One of the most challenging aspects of dieting is self-control—you simply want what you can’t have. But new evidence out of Sweden suggests a way around that. A substance called exendin-4, which is a peptide found—oddly enough—in the saliva of North America’s only venomous lizard, the Gila monster, may be able to stop those pesky cravings for snacks both savoury and sweet.
Researchers at the University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy decided to look into exendin-4 after they noticed patients receiving it for treatment of Type 2 diabetes tended to lose weight (previous research had shown it helped control blood-sugar levels). Working with lab rats, assistant professor Karolina Skibicka and her colleagues found exendin-4 effectively dispelled rodents’ cravings for chocolate and sugar. Given the mechanism that causes cravings—the release of dopamine in the brain—is the same in rats and humans, their hope is that exendin-4 can be used to chemically reduce the urge to overeat. “With the Western world obesity epidemic ballooning, any help to reduce food intake and body weight can have enormous health potential,” says Skibicka.
The results of their study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, have caused speculation that the substance might also hamper alcohol addiction, since the dopamine circuitry of the brain is also involved in the desire to drink.
By Tom Henheffer - Monday, July 11, 2011 at 9:40 AM - 0 Comments
Canadian researchers are looking to change the way things are measured
As with so many yo-yo dieters, the weight of a kilogram is constantly in flux—at least at an atomic level. But Ottawa researchers are hoping to get the kilo’s waistline permanently in check by changing how it’s measured.
The kilogram is currently defined by the International Prototype Kilogram, a golf-ball-sized cylindrical weight made out of platinum alloy. Because a kilogram is a physical object, it constantly releases and collects atomic particles, meaning its mass—and the mass of all kilograms—is always changing. ““If [the IPK] moves up or down the others have to follow,” says Barry Wood of the National Research Council in Ottawa. “It’s totally artificial.”
Wood and his team are heading up a movement to measure kilograms against the charge of an electron, a natural constant, using a type of specialized motor called the watt balance. “You can lift mass with a motor,” he says. “If I know how much current I’m putting into the motor, that tells me details about how much I’ve lifted.” Since the NRC purchased the watt balance (pictured below) from the British government two years ago, Wood has been using the room-sized metal machine to determine exactly how much current is needed to lift a kilogram. The data, which has so far cost $2.5 million to collect, is compared to two other watt balances in the U.S. and Switzerland, and used to calibrate the devices to make their results consistent.
By Barbara Amiel - Thursday, March 18, 2010 at 11:00 AM - 27 Comments
Barbara Amiel: “We are probably in the middle of an aesthetic change”
Who will make her Oscar dress, I asked myself, as I suspect countless plus-sized people must have been asking. (I’m not a plus-sized person myself but have wish-fantasies of being one—in the right places, that is.) All you saw for the first pre-Oscar hour were skinny white person after skinny white person, like me only decades younger, and all just so incredibly thrilled to be here on the red carpet mantra-ing, “I never dreamt of this when I was growing up…,” not before the age of four anyway. The men wore Tom Ford and Burberry, the women Chanel, Versace, and Valentino with their wrists like Masai tribeswomen all tunnelled up with bangles courtesy of Chopard—which is funny when you remember that the Kenya Masai live with their bangles in huts made of dried merde. But which designer was going to get the starring dress of the night, the super-plus of all pluses?
Meanwhile, you couldn’t but wonder how it is possible for stomachs to be so absolutely flat. God, I know how difficult it is even when you starve for 36 hours to get into the special dress (and then at dinner reach for a piece of bread, which, as one New York stick-person reprimanded me, “is not the staff of life, Barbara.” So no bread that evening). Sandra Bullock, looking as whippet-narrow as a human can be, told the interviewer that after the ceremonies she was going to go out “and have a cheeseburger, deep-fried fries and a milkshake.” Oh yes, and visit the emergency room with a volvulus if she did half of that—there can’t be room in her intestines for a sorbet.
I digress. Along came the much-anticipated dress: the outsized Marchesa dress wearing Gabourey Sidibe. Draped chiffon, sapphire blue like the name of the author of the novel Precious, with sparkly bits around the neckline and hips. A size beyond 26, the same designer that Sandra Bullock, size zero, was wearing. “You look good, girl,” said the interviewer, using the lingua franca of African-Americans.
By Anne Kingston - Tuesday, August 18, 2009 at 3:04 PM - 5 Comments
‘Looking great isn’t only about the weight,’ advises the author of a subversive new book
If only they awarded Nobel Prizes for self-help books, British journalist Mimi Spencer, the author of 101 Things to Do Before You Diet: Because Looking Great Isn’t Only About the Weight, would rightfully be taking her place on stage in Stockholm next year. And if the plentiful tips in her primer are any indication, she’d look like a cover girl—her best features played up, Spanx sucking in her “soft tummy,” her posture perfect, her heels slimmingly high, her cheekbones perfectly contoured.
The Daily Mail style columnist certainly deserves some kind of award for brilliantly deploying self-help conventions to take on its cash cow: the fad diet book. The fact her “not-a-diet” primer will end up in the diet-book section when it arrives in bookstores next month is richly ironic, given its central message that the obsessive focus on diets of the grapefruit and Zone variety is the problem behind yo-yo weight gain, not the solution to it. The first of her 101 things “to do”: “Don’t read diet books.” Continue…