The status-quo is broken…We need a new model for burning fat and getting fit

For decades, we have listened to the nation’s health experts tell us:

  • what to eat,
  • what not to eat,
  • how much to eat,
  • how much exercise we need,
  • what type of exercise we need….

And, after all of that advice, we have become a nation world afflicted with runaway obesity, diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, cancer, etc…

And yet, when we want to improve our health or reduce our waistlines, we still turn to the experts.


Everyday I meet people who are trying to get into shape. For years, they have been trying to follow the rules laid down by the experts.

  • They followed the food pyramid
  • They cut the fat out of their diets
  • They did their 20 minutes of fat-burning cardio
  • They choked down their egg white omelettes
  • They ate their fiber

And they watched their backsides get wider and their blood pressure rise higher and higher.

  • It’s time for a change.
  • The status quo is broken.
  • The top-down approach doesn’t work.

But with the technology available today, we don’t need to rely solely on that expert advice from up above. We can connect those people who are desperate to transform their bodies with those people willing to help. We can create a tribe of people devoted to health, fitness and each other.

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  1. This has taken on new urgency for me, because I just discovered that the dress I’m supposed to wear for my friend’s wedding is really tight. So unless I can get them to exchange it, or order me a size bigger (which I don’t know if they’ll have time for), I have a month to lose possible a dress size.

    Not sure how this is going to happen. :-/

  2. I totally agree. I was reading some articles in the NY Times written by so-called experts and all I could think is that what they were saying was total codswallop. Yet still people listen to them and still they get fatter. It is so depressing.
    So, what is the best way to get our message out and drown out these so-called experts?

  3. I think that one way to drown out the experts is to use social media to connect the people interested in improving their health with those people who have something to offer.

    The experts have served as the middle man for too long. They take scientific research, blend it with political rhetoric & modify it to suit various lobby groups and then present it to the public as a fait accomplit.

    Social media could allow us to eliminate the middle man and bring together health researcher, grassroots health/fitness professional & those people who want to be healthier.

    Obviously, as one of those health & fitness professionals, I am biased. But, at least I am willing to admit it.

  4. One website that almost gets it right is SparkPeople.

    My main complaint with SparkPeople is that it still operates with a top-down type of structure.

    The gurus at sparkpeople tell their users what to do. I think that a better model would involve a conversation between interested parties instead of a lecture

  5. DR, you are right that the system is broken and that too many people at the top are simply informing people rather than creating an environment where people feel motivated and incentivized to be more healthy. One approach Switch2Health is trying out is rewarding individuals for physical activity.

  6. I often wonder if enforcing strict regulations on the use of cars would solve several problems we face today — obesity, oil crises, inflation, global warming. just sayin’

  7. I agree that the ‘experts’ are ridiculous.
    I worked in a group home for people who had mobility issues (among others) and we HAD TO follow the Canadian Food Guide, as per portion sizes for active people.
    Guess what happened?
    They all got fat. Suprise! That is what 8 servings of carbs will do to a person sitting around all day.
    It was such a joke.

  8. I’ve been paleo about 4/5 weeks now and never felt better. Everything I’ve read makes so much sense to me, and yet, everyone who asks about my eating habits sneers and balks at the thought of no bread or noodles or… You name it!

    I only wish the good food was more available on the go. If I could order a grass fed, med rare, yummy-delicious steak and a side of broccoli from a drive through, I’d be in heaven!

  9. I agree wholly that social media is the key to getting the message our and creating empowered, active participants who publicly communicate about these issues. We all know (or are) people with every book out there, and at some point it stops being about knowledge and starts being about experience.

    I will add this though, I’ve been a member of Jillian Michaels’ website-save your eye rolling- it’s quite a good site for a novice who needs an affordable, simple support system. Definitely beats weight watchers et al. They have a discussion forum which is moderated but is mostly open to anyone- you can post Qs about workouts, food, emotions, anything. My sense was that most members were by and large uneducated about food and fitness and operated under antiquated fitness myths (low-fat yogurt, popcorn as a snack, etc, card before lifting,etc). Many were moderately committed or wavering in their commitment and seeking motivation beyond just support from others, though we know only we can force ourselves to do the work. A few wanted to hear that they were metabolically doomed and excused from trying. Fewer still were truly committed and did inspire the rest. I fear that with a “collective,” that has such an appetite for fast food and such high obesity rates, might it be naive to expect more from a public online social forum unless *some* top-down methods are implemented? Not a criticism of your idea, which I like very much, just a genuine personal fear

  10. I am a realist. I think the only diet that works is the diet that works for you. I think the same is true with a fitness program. This whole one-size fits all approach is useless. In my opinion, people jump from one bandwagon to the next…and that is a big part of the problem. As far as the experts, I think the experts are there to give us the best summary of what “we” know based on the current science. But I really think we need to take the “research” and the “science” with a grain of salt. Most nutritional research is severely flawed. It is extremely hard to conduct and extremely hard to interpret.

    In that sense…it ain’t perfect, but it’s what we’ve got. I do think social media can be a positive force…but I think it can also be a negative one. Just read a blog post by a doctor…essentially commenting on a study that looked at a certain heart defect in two groups…one group that included marathon runners. The guy completely butchered the study, drawing conclusions about all cardio exercise, based on a 100 participant study that looked specifically at repeat marathon runners. You just can’t do that. That’s not science, and I am not sure that is helpful.

    It is very tempting to make judgements based on one study. Things like the 2010 dietary guidelines, might not be perfect, but there is a lot of input that goes into these recommendations. And if you have a tendency to criticize the experts…you should actually read the new guidelines for free online. There is a ton of good info there, even if you don’t personally agree with every point. (Note these are guidelines…not hard and fast rules) I tend to believe the message isn’t the problem, but the distortion of the message.

    Experts aren’t telling us to eat at McDondalds or to make sugar a staple in our diet. But the experts have admitted, the food pyramid is a failure. They realize that they have been extremely ineffective. Getting the message out there may be where social media can help. Also, it can offer a support structure that is otherwise lacking. Most importantly though, it probably gives people the option of finding a plan that works for them.

  11. Thanks for another great comment Shaun

    I agree with your “take science with a grain of salt” position…and I would also apply it to the blogosphere and social media as well. There are a lot of people selling solutions to a lot of people desperately looking for those solutions.

    And I think we both know that those solutions almost always turn out to be flawed. Nothing is perfect…and what works for you might not work for me.

    But, let’s come back to the experts….on one hand, we have the current food pyramid from the USDA – heavy on grains & dairy – low on protein & fat – BOOOOOOO!!!!! – IMHO, the pyramid is more about politics & money than it is about our health. IMHO, it stinks.

    On the other hand – we have the brand spanking new NIH Strategic Plan for Obesity Research – A Multifaceted Approach to a Multifaceted Problem – IMHO, this gives me hope – the NIH recognizes that the human metabolism and obesity is a complex issue and are directing their research as such – Of course, I was a little disappointed when I read that the main goal was to find a pharmacological solution, but when we consider that most of those future studies will be paid for by pharmaceutical companies…we shouldn’t be surprised

    Anyway, thanks for another great comment Shaun.

    And I love your blog…we should talk about getting you to write for Hive Health Media.

  12. Doc

    I agree with you 100%. The food pyramid is and has always been the achilles heel of nutrition professionals. Is this really the best we can come up with? It is absolutely useless and meaningless to the average person, so they revamp it. Really?. Wonder Bread isn’t a real food people…lol :-). Now what’s so hard about that?

    I do get a little defensive when people start poo-pooing the experts because I do think they have a lot to offer. For instance, the ADA is loaded with some great position papers about organic and free-range farming, but we don’t hear about that stuff. The 2010 guidelines also has a lot of reliable and practical info as well. Yet none of this makes it centerstage…or if it does it has been significantly morphed. That is a combined failure of experts and policy makers alike.

    That being said, I agree with the overall ineffectiveness of the message. Look at the fat recommendations. We know fats aren’t “bad”, yet still the current recommendations are presented in such a way that they have limited usefulness. The Harvard School of Public Health put it like this, they make steamed brocoli drizzled with olive oil sound like a bad food.

    And yes, the dairy industry has a huge influence on policy. Sure, Americans still aren’t getting enough calcium, but milk is not the only source of calcium nor is it the most concentrated source of calcium. The fact that it is fortified with vitamin D has played a factor and that may change as more foods are fortified…although I am not sure fortified orange juice is a solution.

    Unfortunately politics always seems to get in the way of getting good info out there. Why, I don’t know. And perhaps that is where, as you have suggested, that social media fits in.

    And thanks for checking out my blog. I am a novice blogger but obviously have a lot to say. I would also love to write for Hive Health Media or any other source that will let me continue my rants :-). In case you haven’t noticed I am extremely passionate about this stuff and have been for the past..oh..25 years. In fact, I was up at 2 o’clock in the morning writing my first response. How’s that for commitment.

  13. Hi! I am one of those desperate people, as you say above, that jumps from bandwagon to bandwagon trying to lose weight, but also gain muscle. Been a hard gainer my whole life, and these programs that I keep trying here and there, seem to work for a short period of time (if at all) and then it’s gone. Though this article seems to be directed more towards those that help preach this message (btw, what IS the message?), of which I would gladly do, if I could first help myself… My wife and I eat fairly clean most of the time. Very rarely eat carbs at dinner, gluten free/organic/vegan protein shakes for breakfast with fruit mixed in, salads and protein bars here and there. Doesn’t seem to make a sting when I drop it and eat half a pizza and a gallon of ice cream (that’s on the food pyramid, isn’t it? Haha.). Always take the stairs at work, workout 5-6 times a week. Tried multiple diets (even weight watchers), pills, drinks, etc. Nothing seems to work for us. Where can WE go to get this special guidance to get the fat gone? Thanks!

    P.s. Love Jamie Oliver and everything I’ve learned on his show!

  14. Does anyone have any suggestions…?

    I have been struggling to lose weight now for a few months. I eat a calorie reduced diet- around 1300-1500kcals per day and occasionally when I slip up 1600kcals. (I slip up once or twice a week as I find I am always very hungry). I exercise by running mainly but also cycling and using gym cross trainers/stairmasters for 5-6 hours during the week as well as normal walking and cycling (and public transport) to get from place to place as I don’t drive.

    I eat as well as I can given my financial constraints.!
    Apart from my breakfast which is whole 40g rolled oats mixed with water (and a pinch of salt) I don’t eat refined or white carbs. I do eat quite a bit of vegetables (tomatos, pepper, cucumber, carrots and green beans/broccoli and cauliflower) but do limit what fruit I eat (apples, pears, occasionally oranges and grapefruit, plums and apricots) and do count the calories on both fruit and veg.

    Protein wise I eat meat but not lamb or beef (so fish, sea-food, chicken/turkey and ham-though reduced on the ham side) I also eat quorn and veggie meat. I eat the actual meat and not the re-constructed meat.

    Despite everything, I am gaining weight. I have just had to lose many pairs of leggings and gym pants just this last week because my legs have gotten too large this last month alone. Today a ring which fitted me a month ago will not go onto my finger, even with hand cream first- it used to be easy to take off, now its impossible to even wear it!

    I am also battling with osteoarthritis in my knees and back which means after exercise (and even during really) things ache and ache some more, its not getting any easier yet I still pull myself through it because I see it as a way to help my weight loss via cardio and as I add resistance I’m hoping will build some muscle.
    It would appear though, that I am not building muscle at al. My waist has increased in size, my thighs now don’t fit my gym leggings, calves are too wide for normal trousers, even my fingers have gotten bigger! I can’t see how that would be muscle gain as its not defined and has not gotten me any more strength (in fact I feel more tired). Something I’m doing must be making things worse- I just don’t know what it is 😦

    What am I doing wrong here? Reduced calorie, no carbs, more protein and plenty of fiber yet I am now bigger, more fatigued, achey and feel depressed, all my efforts are making me larger and I don’t know what to do!

  15. Keeping in mind that I am not a doctor, this sounds hormonal to me. I have a friend who kept gaining weight after cutting calories quite low, cutting out everything except protein, veg & small amounts of fruit and exercising (cardio, weights & martial arts) over 2 hrs per day. After doing some blood tests, his doc found that his hormone levels were out of whack.

    It’s taken some time and effort, but things are back on track and his body has been radically transformed – muscle up, fat down & athletic ability through the roof

    Make an appt with your doc to get hormone levels checked – before you go, put together a food diary as the doc will assume you’re eating poorly.

  16. Food Guide was always a joke. For years I have struggled with Crohn’s Disease, Anemia …reflux…blah blah. I’ve tried everything to control it as best I can. Living on rice and applesauce.. fun times. Those did NOT support an active lifestyle. Zero fuel! Several stints of steroids destroyed my body ..metabolism mostly. Hit age 30. Was introduced to The Challengr MRP program …got energy back..Got back to the gym… Now I still do them breakfast, lunch & post workout…in combination with that we have adopted a Clean eating lifestyle. We feel amazing. I’ll never put another wheat, grain or GF wanna-be-bread in my mouth again! I finally get to eat again! And at 30 feel the best I ever have! Take that pyramid!

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