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Supermarkets are offering too many promotions for fatty or sugary foods and so pushing us to eat them, campaigners say. The National Consumer Council went into all eight major chains and found over half of promotions were for unhealthy foods – double the level seen in 2006. It said the increase showed how far supermarkets would go to attract customers during the credit crunch. They presume that we are at our most vulnerable during times of economic woe, and take advantage by trying to make us binge! Remember, as all our personal trainers will try to advise you, you don’t have to be an angel all the time, just try to live by the 80/20 rule – eat well (wholefoods, unprocessed cereals, lean meats and fish, vegetables etc) for 80% of the time so that you can be bad for 20% of the time.
But the British Retail Consortium said the snapshot survey carried out in March was unrepresentative. The NCC went into Asda, Co-op, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Somerfield, Tesco and Waitrose stores in Sheffield and assessed how much they were doing to help their customers eat healthily. It rated each on promotions, the salt content of own-brand foods, nutrition labelling, the prevalence of sweets at check-outs and the healthy eating information and advice available.
The number of promotions, such as two-for-one deals, had risen to 4,300, up 17% since the NCC’s 2006 report. But only 12% for were for fruit and vegetables, far below the 33% the NCC recommends. It also says health advice suggests just 7% of a person’s diet should be made up of unhealthy foods, compared to the 54% found. Morrisons were deemed the worst offenders, with 63% of their promotions featuring sugary and fatty foods, up from 39% from 2006. Sainsbury’s came top overall for the second time in a row, gaining praise for its progress on labelling and nutrition, and scoring highly on customer information. Tesco, despite having the biggest share of the market, was ranked joint fifth place, while Morrisons comes last for the fourth time in a row. Lucy Yates, who compiled the NCC report, said: “The volume of in-house promotions for fatty and sugary foods the supermarkets are all offering is staggering”.
“We expected to see evidence of big improvements since our last investigation, but we’ve been sadly disappointed. With so many of us buying our food in these supermarkets, their collective behaviour can heavily influence the nation’s eating habits. Despite their claims, the supermarkets all still have a long way to go to help customers choose and enjoy a healthier diet.”
All supermarkets had made good progress on reducing the salt content of their own foods. The Co-op, Tesco and Waitrose were praised for not having sweets at the check-out – but M&S scored zero for displaying a wide range of sweets and snacks at checkouts, although it says it intends to remove confectionery by January next year.
Some insider personal trainer tips here are: don’t go shopping when you are hungry, try to keep a positive approach to eating, plan ahead as much as you can, if the fridge and cupboards are full of good things you will be much less likely to eat bad ones as this will involve the effort of going out to get it first.
Have a look also on our “the knowledge” page for further nutritional help.
Reports show that knee and hip replacements are wearing out in some cases. Thousands of patients having hip or knee replacements on the NHS may find that their new joints do not last more than a few years. A study of joint replacements in England has found that the latest surgical techniques of hip resurfacing or partial knee replacement have a lower success rate than older, more established methods, which replace the entire joint. Despite success in most cases, one in seventy five patients requires a revision of the joint replacement within three years of the original operation, the study by the Royal College of Surgeons found. The researchers said that newer surgical joints, which are designed to offer greater mobility and quicker recovery times, could be twice as likely to fail than standard ones.
Hip and knee replacements are among the most common operations done on the NHS, with about 160,000 carried out in England and Wales in 2006, mainly on sufferers of osteoarthritis. Many patients need to have second or even third operations because plastic, ceramic or metal prosthetic joints can wear out after 10 to 15 years. But the study, which is published in the journal PLoS Medicine, found that some patients – particularly those who had hip resurfacing and so-called unicondylar knee replacements – needed to have their operations redone much sooner.
At Diets Don’t Work our advice is to really try to go for prevention rather that cure. Good all round nutrition will help, especially a diet rich in oily fish. If you are or have been for some time into any form of impact sports or have a family history of knee/hip problems, then we aso recommend you start to take glocosamine sulphate (wth chondritin) which will help protect your joints.Some say it does nothing, but in the field we have lots of experience with clients (and me!) who it has really helped. Also vital is strength maintenance of your leg muscles, especially the quads and particularly the vastus medialis, the tear drop shaped muscle on the inner part of the top of the thigh. Flexibility work is also vital as it will prevent the leg muscles adapting and shortening which will force the patella (kneecap) down and put pressure on the femoral groove-this is the bit that your kneecap sits in and slides up and down. Also vitally important is staying active! If you stop doing any exercise at all then the condition will very likely get worse. Our personal trainer reccomendations are to use a rowig machine if you don’t feel any discomfort while doing it, and to try some recumbant leg presses in the gym, as well as some leg extensions, especially the outer range just before your leg straightens. I’ll do a more specialist blog on knees very soon!
Today we are going to have a look at the commonly injured knee. Although the knee joint may look like a simple joint, it is one of the most complex. Moreover, as all the weight of the body (or multiples of this if you are doing explosive and/or twisting sports) goes through it, the knee is more likely to be injured than any other joint in the body. We tend to ignore our knees until something happens to them that causes pain. As the saying goes, however, prevention rather than cure is a much better way to approach your only and hard to replace means of transport. If we take good care of our knees now, before there is a problem, we can really help ourselves. In addition, if some problems with the knees develop, an exercise program can be extremely beneficial. At Diets Don’t Work we have lots of clients with knee problems, but through corrective exercises, strengthening of the surrounding musculature and in many cases lifestyle changes that lead to weight loss your knees can really feel better, be stronger and less likely to become problematic through sports or age related degeneration.
The knee is essentially made up of four bones. The femur, which is the large bone in your thigh, attaches by ligaments and a capsule to your tibia. Just below and next to the tibia is the fibula, which runs parallel to the tibia. The patella, or what we call the knee cap, rides on the knee joint as the knee bends.
When the knee moves, it does not just bend and straighten, or, as it is medically termed, flex and extend. There is also a slight rotational component in this motion. This component was recognized only within the last 50 years, which may be part of the reason people have so many unknown injuries. The knee muscles which go across the knee joint are the quadriceps and the hamstrings. The quadriceps muscles are on the front of the knee, and the hamstrings are on the back of the knee. The ligaments are equally important in the knee joint because they hold the joint together. You may have heard of people who have had ligament tears. Problems with ligaments are common. In review, the bones support the knee and provide the rigid structure of the joint, the muscles move the joint, and the ligaments stabilize the joint.
The knee joint also has a structure made of cartilage, which is called the meniscus or meniscal cartilage. The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of tissue which fits into the joint between the tibia and the femur. It helps to protect the joint and allows the bones to slide freely on each other. There is also a bursa around the knee joint. A bursa is a little fluid sac that helps the muscles and tendons slide freely as the knee moves.
To function well, a person needs to have strong and flexible muscles. In addition, the meniscal cartilage, articular cartilage and ligaments must be smooth and strong. Problems occur when any of these parts of the knee joint are damaged or irritated. Unfortunately, although this cartilage is incredibly strong and resilient (like a thick slimy plastic) it does wear away, movement at the knee wearing it down just like stones on a river bed. It follows therefore, that the more weight going through the knee joint, the faster if will wear away – every stone overweight you are is an extra 7lbs (or 3.17kg) for each poor little knee. The muscles in the knee (especially the quads, those big ones on the top of the thigh) provide support and help take pressure away from this vital meniscus and the cartilage on the end of the femur (thigh bone) so strong legs, no excess weight and good nutrition are all essential. Also very beneficial is the supplement Glucosamine and Chondroitin, which can help the knee maintain the cartilage. Much debate rages about the effectiveness of these supplements but going on personal and client experience they really do work.
Arthritis is a very common medical condition, estimated to affect around seven million people in the UK. However, it is not a single disease, but comes in around 200 different forms. The term essentially means an inflammation of the joints. This inflammation makes the joints painful, stiff, and swollen, and in severe cases can significantly restrict movement.
Surprisingly, even with all the advances of modern science and medicine we are still not entirely sure what causes osteoarthritis, but here’s what we know. Not to be confused with rheumatoid arthritis, which is a result of a malfunctioning auto immune system and can happen to people of a younger age, osteoarthritis is more commonly associated with wearing out of the joints and connective tissue that occur with the ravages of time (as we at Diets Don’t Work like to call it!). With aging, the water content of the cartilage increases, and the protein makeup of cartilage degenerates. Eventually, cartilage begins to degenerate by flaking or forming tiny crevasses. In advanced cases, there is a total loss of cartilage cushion between the bones of the joints. Repetitive use of the worn joints over the years can irritate and inflame the cartilage, causing joint pain and swelling. Loss of the cartilage cushion causes friction between the bones, leading to pain and limitation of joint mobility. Inflammation of the cartilage can also stimulate new bone outgrowths (spurs, also referred to as osteophytes) to form around the joints. Osteoarthritis occasionally can develop in multiple members of the same family, implying a hereditary (genetic) basis for this condition.
Now the good news: there is lots you can do to prevent the onset and/or live with the condition if you already have it. One of the most important things is to be as light as you can (that’s a polite way of saying don’t be overweight). For every pound you are overweight that’s 0.5 of a pound extra that each knee is having to lug around. It does not sound like much but go to the supermarket and feel how much 1/2 a pound of potatoes weighs – it’s a lot! This extra weight will wear down the smooth hard cartilage on which your knee hinges faster that it otherwise would. Secondly try to eat as balanced a diet as possible – only when your body is getting enough nutrients and water will it be able to maintain this all important connective tissue.
At Diets Don’t Work we also recommend taking glucosamine sulphate with chondroitin if you think you are beginning to get osteoarthritis. Exercise is also very very important. Not only will some structured weight-bearing exercise improve your overall health but it will help support your joints and encourage adaptive regeneration of connective tissue. Resistance training to keep the muscles of the upper leg (quads, in particular the vastus medialis) strong will also keep the patella in line and prevent excessive wear and tear. Some of the symptoms are stiffness in the joints, especially weight bearing ones (ankles/knees/hips) and especially after a period of inactivity, inflammation, or a dull to painful ache in the joints. Look out for the extremities also (fingers/toes). At Diets Don’t Work all our trainers are qualified to REPS level 3 and so are able to train special population groups including osteo and rheumatoid arthritis. Many of our personal training clients suffer from these conditions to a lesser or greater degree but with specialist tailor made programmes our trainers can really help keep you active, fit, thinner and mobile!
Adverts for unhealthy foods are still appearing during TV programmes seen by children, despite curbs introduced in January, a consumer watchdog has said.
Which? said the five programmes with the most child viewers and only four of the top 20 most popular children’s shows were covered by Ofcom’s rules. These state that ads for “less healthy” foods are not allowed in or around programmes which “appeal” to under-16s. But advertisers said Which’s list included shows “not aimed” at children. A programme is defined as being of particular appeal to children if the proportion of those under 16 watching a programme is 20% higher than the general viewing population. This means shows like The Simpsons and SpongeBob SquarePants are covered, while shows like Beat the Star, Animals Do The Funniest Things and Emmerdale are not, even though they are watched by thousands more children. A two-week analysis by Which? found that ads for products including Coca-Cola, Oreos and Kellogg’s Coco Pops were broadcast during programmes popular with children but not covered by the restrictions. It said ITV’s Beat the Star attracted more than half a million child viewers during the monitoring period, but had contained ads for Coca-Cola, Dairylea Dunkers, Nachos and Sprite.
Which? food campaigner Clare Corbett said: “The ad restrictions may look good on paper but the reality is that the programmes most popular with children are slipping through the net. “If these rules are going to be effective, then they have to apply to the programmes that children watch in the greatest numbers.” She added: “We’re not anti-advertising, we’re just against the fact that most of the ads children see are for unhealthy products, rather than the healthier foods they should be eating more of.” But the Advertising Association said Which? seemed to want to unfairly restrict companies’ ability to deliver commercial messages. Chief Executive Baroness Peta Buscombe called its report “sensationalist, unconstructive and missing the point” and said the advertising industry took a “responsible approach” to food advertising. She added: “Their list includes programmes clearly not aimed at children and films screened after 10pm. “There clearly has to be an element of parental responsibility on which programmes they allow their children to view.”
At Diets Don’t Work we of course believe in a moderate and healthy approach to nutrition, whether it be the nutrition of children or adults. It’s perhaps more important that the parents who have more control over what their children want to eat than TV, know the value of instilling a healthy approach to food from an early age. Banning certain ads from children’s TV is not really going to work when their parents are taking them to McDonalds on a regular basis! The government and Ofcom might want to think about “nudging” rather than telling people what to do-this means that social norms are manipulated and people are led to believe that by eating junk food they are in a shunned minority. Look how sucessful drink driving campaigns have been in creating a new social standard so that driving under the influence is now looked down on by most people’s peers and social groups. Show us the positive too – i.e use marketing that can emphasise the positive gains to be had by eating healthily and encouraging children to do so too! If you need help, remember that we provide personal trainers who are qualified in nutrition and that all block bookings include nutritional help and assessment.
Women who try to remain too trim by dieting during pregnancy could be condemning their children to a lifetime of weight problems reports the Daily Mail. Researchers believe that if a baby is deprived of food in the womb, its fat cells develop abnormally, with the result that it gains weight more rapidly during childhood. “Whether we become obese is often established before and soon after we are born, and is influenced by both the eating habits of our mothers and by the nutrition we received as babies in the months after birth”, says Dr Helen Budge of the University Hospital in Nottingham. Processes set up early on in our lives can have life long effects.
At Diets Don’t Work our trainers are trained in pre and post natal health and fitness-during the pre natal period training sessions focus on a healthy and well rounded nutrition plan, keeping cardo-vascular fitness and maintaining lean muscle mass for a quicker and safer birth. It also has the added benefit of making the return to your pre-pregnancy weight smoother and quicker. We also target proprioception and balance based exercise to help keep clients physicaly and posturally balnced during the physiolagical changes that occur in pregnancy.
Exposure to pollution could be making us fat, a new study from Spain shows. For a study published in the Acta Paediatrica scientists measured levels of a pesticide called hexachlorobenzine (HCB) in the umbilical cords of 403 children born on the island of Menorca. The children were then examined aged 6. The results showed that those with the highest levels of HCB were twice as likely to be obese. HCB has been banned since thse tests, but it remains in the environment. In any case, other man made chemicals may have a similar effect: research on animals has indicated a link between obesity and Bisphenol A (which is used in baby bottles); organotins (which is found in anti-fouling paints on ships and now present in fish; and phthalates (found in various cosmetics). Dubbed “obesogens” these chemicals are now so widespread that nearly everyone has them in their bodies.
Don’t worry, this is just another motivation to eat as naturally as you can,get some effective exercise and take care of your body – the only one you’ve got. If you can’t quite gee yourself up then we of course suggest some fab personal training, even if it’s just once a week. We can also help to sort out your nutrition and so counter the effects of these nasty chemicals!
“To shed pounds take pictures” says the New Scientist this month. Slimmers sticking to conventional diets should invest in a camera; a study has shown that people who take photographs of everything they eat are more likely to stick to their diets. Apparently, the prospect of having pictorial evidence of their gluttony shames people into eating less and also encourages them to eat more healthily. “I Had to think more carefully about what I was going to eat because I had to take a picture of it” said one of the 43 volunteers who took part in the research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. ” I was less likely to have a jumbo bag of M&Ms. It curbed my choices.” Another volunteer claims it helped him to see which foods were missing from his diet. ” I noticed there weren’t too many greens, which means that I should try to eat more vegetables and fruit”. The volunteers also kept a written record of their meals. These were also shown to help but proved less powerful than photos as a reminder of the size and quality of what they had eaten.
At Diets Don’t Work we include nutritional assessment and advice with all block bookings of six or more personal training sessions and, as standard procedure, get clients to keep a written food diary. As part of our overall lifestyle change policy this works well but I love the idea of the photo – the camera doesn’t lie!! From now on wherever possible we will get clients to keep a food diary this way, and I’m sure the results will be effective and interesting. Watch this space for further results on what happened!
The first rule of fashion – that vertical stripes flatter the figure – is a myth, according to a study conducted by scientists at York University. Women who avoid wearing clothes with horizontal stripes in the belief that it makes their bum look larger should be reassured by a scientific study showing quite the opposite. It found that horizontal stripes actually make people look slimmer. It is a common misconception that dresses or tops with horizontal stripes appear to broaden a person’s figure, according to Peter Thompson, a psychologist at York University, who is probably the first scientist to investigate a well-known optical illusion in relation to high street fashion. The illusion was described in the 19th century by the great German physicist and physiologist, Hermann von Helmholtz. Dr Thompson applied the principle to women’s clothes and found that a dress with vertical stripes made a women appear about 6 per cent wider than an equivalent-sized dress with horizontal stripes. “Helmholtz said that the horizontal stripes look taller and narrower than the vertical lines. That made me think that horizontal stripes are going to make things look taller and narrower according to this illusion,” Dr Thompson said.
“That seemed to fly in the face of another well-known belief that we have, that horizontal stripes make us look fat. So I decided to see if there was truth in that,” he told the British Association’s science festival at Liverpool University.
He carried out a study on about 20 people, who were asked to assess the relative size of different dresses in either horizontal or vertical stripes. The supremacy of horizontal stripes in the “big bum” debate was clear-cut, he said. “Horizontal stripes don’t make you look fat. It’s a subtle effect, but in fact people wearing vertical stripes look wider than the ones who are wearing horizontal stripes,” Dr Thompson said. “Indeed, horizontal stripes, if anything, actually make you look thinner. Helmholtz actually said that women wear horizontal stripes to make themselves look taller. So, in the 19th century, wearing horizontal stripes had a completely different belief attached to it than it does now,” he said.
Dr Thompson said that he did not know when the idea that horizontal stripes made women look fat came to prominence, and he also cannot explain why vertical stripes should make someone look less slim and shorter than someone wearing horizontal stripes.
“I don’t know why the effect works, and I don’t know whether there has been any good explanation for the [optical] illusion in the first place,” he told the science festival. He originally became interested in the subject when he was visiting some ancient Greek temples on holiday, which had columns that bulged out slightly in the middle. This is described in guide books as “entasis”, which is widely understood as a way of countering the optical effect of columns with parallel sides – which are supposed to appear to be thinner in the middle. However, Dr Thompson investigated this idea and found no evidence to support it. “I carried out some experiments to see if there is an illusion that columns appear to be wasted in the middle if the sides are parallel, and the answer is no, they don’t. Parallel-sided columns look parallel, or straight,” he said.
This led him to look at the other well-known visual illusion of horizontal stripes, and he again found that there was little or no evidence to support the idea that horizontal stripes make people look fat. “So these are just two illusions from everyday life where I think we’ve got it wrong,” Dr Thompson said. But are there any clothes that do help people to look slim? “Wearing black is a good thing. We know that works because we know that a black circle on a white background looks smaller than a white circle on a black background,” he said. “Wearing plain black is what you want to do – with a few horizontal stripes,” he added.
Adding fish to a child’s diet before the age of nine months could lessen the chances of developing eczema.
The rate of this painful skin condition has risen in Western countries in recent years, and scientists believe diet may be partly to blame.
Swedish scientists tracked the health of children in 5,000 families, and said that early introduction of fish cut the risk by a quarter. The research was published in Archives of Disease in Childhood. The children were all part of an ongoing health study looking at almost 17,000 infants born in 2003 in western Sweden. Some of the families involved agreed to fill in questionnaires about diet and home environment when the child was six months and 12 months old. Any evidence of eczema was also recorded, and the results analysed. At six months old, 13% of the families said their child had already developed eczema, and this rose to 20% by their first birthday. Genes appeared have the most powerful effect – children with a sibling or mother with eczema were almost twice as likely to be affected by 12 months. Breast feeding, the age at which dairy products were introduced, and the presence of a furry pet in the home had no detectable influence on eczema.
However, the introduction of fish before nine months cut the risk by 25%. The additional good news is that fish, as I’m sure you know by now, is extremely good for you; it helps maintain a smooth action in your joints (important so you can do loads more squats and lunges); it provides an excellent source of lean protein so you can build up some lean muscle and stay functionally fit as well as slim; it lowers your chances of getting cancer. As both personal triainers and nutritional advisors, we encourage our clients to eat as much oily fish as they can, even if in reality and within lifestyle constraints this may only be 2-3 times a week. So go for it, buy some salmon, it’s excellent not just for you but for the little nippers too!