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Monday, July 28, 2014

Say What? Who is Really an Expert?


Good morning! It may be Monday, it may be rainy, but at least its not too hot and humid!  It was also a great weekend and a very fun party here last night.  I heard from Adam and he and the girls are having a great time at Great Wolf Lodge too.

So, today I want to talk a bit about many so-called celebrity health experts and the claims they make.

I know I talk a lot about the plethora of bogus health information out there.  Sometimes even seemingly credible sources like MDs can spew bogus info (you must have heard by now that Dr. Oz has been lambasted for proclaiming various weight loss supplements as "miracles").

Sometimes facts are skewed because of someone's economic interests (i.e. they have shares in a particular supplement or product).  Sometimes the problem is that a fact is poorly articulated by a person or media.

A good example of this is the column written by Tracy Anderson for Health Magazine.  By the way, I think this magazine sucks.  The only reason I get it is the girls' school has a fundraiser each year where you have to subscribe to a magazine, and I already subscribe to the ones I like.  I didn't know much about this one, but it's pretty much the same as Shape and Self magazines, which is to say, almost all about weight loss with skinny, perfect-looking models with the odd article about how your should really accept yourself as you are.  Yeah, total bogus shit.

No offence to you Americans, but we Canadians have much better magazines aimed at women.  I also got Best Health Canada through the girls' fundraiser, and think its much better.

Anyways, back to Tracy Anderson.  In case you don't know of her, she is a fitness trainer to the stars and entrepreneur who has several studios in the U.S. as well as countless fitness DVDs, etc.  I have heard many good things about her workouts and would like to check one out at some point.  My problem is not with her workouts, per se, but with the health information she shares in this magazine column.

In one issue, the headline for her column was, "This healthy food could be making you fat."  When you get to her column you find that she is referring to avocado.  She warns people that even though they are healthy, they are high in calories and most people can't limit portion size, so they should just be avoided.  WTF?  Last time I checked, we weren't all laboratory mice.  We do possess executive thinking skills!  This is a ridiculous recommendation to make without qualifying it.  You can gain weight or fail to lose weight if you are eating too many calories from ANY food.  I would only take her advice if you have a weight problem and you regularly find yourself eating large quantities of avocado or guacamole and are completely incapable of controlling your portion size.  For everyone else, eat on...

In another issue, that touts her workout method (high reps of exercises using light weights or body weight), she recommends avoiding heavy weight lifting, or even cardio activities like spinning because they will bulk you up.  Grr, this type of bullshit makes me so mad!!!!  Okay, there may be a SMALL minority of women (and I mean small!) that are able to add muscle mass very quickly and easy, but this is not true for most of us.  We just don't have enough testosterone.  Also, there are various types of heavy lifting, which you can choose depending on your goals.  I am really into lifting heavy right now (achieving muscle failure by 6-8 reps), and I still fit into all my clothes.  The only difference is I find I have to eat MORE just to maintain my weight because muscle mass is more metabolically active tissue than is fat.  And as for cardio activities creating bulk?  That's just hogwash.  Oh, and by the way, it is absolutely impossible for muscle to turn into fat.  So that is a complete myth that if you lift weights and then stop, you'll be bigger simply because the muscle turns into fat.  You might get bigger, but only if you put on additional body fat!

Here's the thing.  Anderson is a fitness professional with a dance background.  I couldn't find any evidence that she has any actual credentials (she may, but I can't find reference to them).  I seriously doubt that even if she is a certified instructor/personal trainer, she doesn't have a university degree that has taught her how to analyze research and scientific data.  So even though she may be considered an 'expert', I would hazard a guess that she is full of misinformation.

Apparently she puts clients on crazy low calorie diets, that alone will make most people shed fat, in the short term.  But also keep in mind that the celebrity clients doing her muscle endurance routines, are not - like most of us - sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day, getting lunch at the food court, and then going out for drinks after work.  I can guarantee that if that is your lifestyle, doing her 100 leg lifts a few times a week, won't make you look like Gwyneth Paltrow.  If, however, like such lithe stars, you have a personal chef who cooks you macrobiotic meals, a personal trainer who puts you through several gruelling workouts every week, and a career that depends on you looking a certain way, then sure, adding in a few of Anderson's workouts to this already extreme lifestyle might be just the thing to give you the lean, toned, rather than butch-y look that most female celebrities covet. 

So, my friends, when you are considering health information, it pays to examine the source.  Do they benefit in some way from the information they are sharing?  Do they have the credentials to know what they are talking about?  Is there information evidence based?

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