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A health study in the US using vending machines has found that if you are made to wait just 25 seconds then sugary chocolate treats become less desirable. So much so that you will most likely change your mind, stop craving chocolate and opt for a healthier snack instead.
Scientists installed countdown timers in vending machines, forcing people to wait for 25 seconds before the item that they selected became available. The study then made a healthier option instantly available, so that those waiting during the countdown could select that instead with no delay. Those who selected the healthier option in the first place also received their snack immediately.
Over the course of the 14 month study, the US team found that the small delay made 5% of users change their purchase to a healthier snack and stop craving chocolate, but that the delay timer did not effect the overall revenue generated by the machine.
In the UK obesity campaigners welcomed the study, and in light of the negligible effect on revenue insisted that there was no excuse for the UK government not to install the timers nationwide. 7 billion items are delivered each year through vending machines in the UK with revenue totalling over £1.5 billion.
Previous efforts in the UK have focused on removal of vending machines, but this proved tricky as organisations that used them relied on the revenue that they produced. Dr Brad Applhans of the Rush University medical centre in Chicago, who led the research said:
“Having to wait for something makes it less desirable,”
“Research shows that humans strongly prefer immediate gratification, and this preference influences choices and behaviour in daily life.
“We wanted to see if we could use this preference for immediate gratification to improve people’s vending machine snack choices.”
The study also found that imposing a 25% hike on the less healthy items or reducing the healthy items by the same amount changed people’s eating patterns for the better, but that unlike the time delay this reduced overall income. The scientists called their system the DISK – (Delays to Improve Snack Choices) and also colour coded every choice in the machine into three categories, regular, healthy and unhealthy snacks.
The UK’s National Obesity Forum said the disk system was “terrific”. They added
“It ticks all the right boxes and one wonders why no one has thought of this before. What’s more, its not just a flash-in-the-pan gimmick but it has been field-tested and proven to work. To top it all, it appears that vendors can install the system into their standard machines at a viable cost”.
“They will have no excuse not to do it.”
Although weight loss requires a calorific deficit – to lose 2lbs a week we need to eat 500 calories less than we need each day – sustainability welcomes treats here and there, as does your sanity.
There is also an element of keeping your inner chimp happy. This chimp is your Stone Age inheritance, the part of your brain that doesn’t understand supermarkets or diets. She’s an emotional being, subject to moods, but also doesn’t like being starved or deprived for long periods. Your chimp interprets these times of prolonged or extreme hunger as threat and stress, so wants to hold on to fat. There are physiological responses to restrictive diets that make this happen in humans.
So some treats here and there will keep both you and the chimp happy. Provided you are reasonably careful for the rest of the day, and eat reasonably well most of the time, these treats will keep you sane while not derailing any weight loss quest. They will also keep up hope and sustainability. The less calories that they contain the better too. So here’s 20 chocolates under 200 calories for you to have…sparingly!
It must be our most requested topic. The question asked most often. Can you give me a list of healthy foods? This may sound like an easy task, yet nutrition and what we should eat remain contradictory, confusing and complex at best. At worst the nutritional debate is liable to make you cross and hungry.
Our list of healthy foods is simple and by no means exhaustive. To include everything would be to err on the side of impracticality. For a more comprehensive guide it’s worth looking at the Glycaemic Index list of foods here. This is a measure of how quickly foods are converted into blood sugar and then stored as fat.
In order to maintain sanity and most of all sustainability we recommend that people eat the good stuff 80% of the time and the “avoid” stuff 20% of the time. So over a week of (ideally 21) main meals and 14 snacks (3 a day, 2 a day respectively) that’s 3 cheat meals and 2 cheat snacks. Obviously to lose weight you need to also eat slightly less than you need!
Starch, flour, refined sugar, fruit juices, fruit smoothies, pastries, excessive animal fats.
Good complex carbohydrate – but moderate relative to activity levels
Oats, wholegrain wheat, brown rice, wild rice, sweet potato, quinoa, buckwheat, soya beans (and derivatives), chick peas.
All berries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, oranges, guava, lemon, lime, nectarine, pear, watermelon, avocado.
Bananas, pineapples, grapes, raisins.
Artichokes, artichoke hearts, asparagus, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, daikon, eggplant, leeks, lentils, beans (green, kidney, garbanzo), greens (collard, kale, mustard, turnip), mushrooms, okra, onions, pea pods, peppers, radishes, rutabaga, squash, sugar snap peas, swiss chard, tomato, water chestnuts, watercress, zucchini, cabbage (green, bok choy, Chinese), salad greens (chicory, endive, escarole, iceberg lettuce, romaine, spinach, arugula, radicchio, watercress).
Potatoes, parsnips, corn, turnips, carrots, beet.
Good animal Protein
Salmon, fresh tuna, herring, sardines, anchovies, chicken, lean pork, eggs (particularly egg whites), beef and lamb only occasionally.
All plant oils, coconut, avocado, nuts and seeds (but high in calories so only small amounts), olives, peanut butter (but see above for nuts and seeds), cottage cheese, chia seeds.
Trans fats (cooking oil or any oil used for cooking).
Animal fats, dairy
Does low fat milk make you fat? In fact, does fat make you fat? At Diets Don’t Work PT we preach the benefits of the whole food diet wherever possible, combined with structured exercise and occasional treats to keep you sane. Much of the initial education that we offer personal training clients looks at fat, protein and carbohydrate (in particular sugar) and the effect that the latter have on blood sugar levels, insulin and fat storage. Ie the consumption of starch and sugar trigger high blood sugar levels, triggering an insulin response leading to increased fat storage. The mantra “fat doesn’t make you fat” that we love so much is again confirmed this week in a study from Canada involving 2,745 children.
The study followed children were between 2 and 6 years old, and found that whole milk drinkers were less than half as likely to be overweight as those who drank semi-skimmed or skimmed milk. They were also less than a third as likely to be really fat, or obese.
On average, the drinkers of whole milk (around 3% fat) were about 1kg lighter than those who had only skimmed milk (1% fat). The researchers speculate that the children drinking the full fat milk felt fuller for longer, so snacked less during the day on more unhealthy treats high in sugar and processed starch. Conversely, the children who drank the skimmed milk felt less full, so ate more outside of meals.
The leader of the study, Dr Jonathen Maguire, a scientist at St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto said that health authorities should consider changing their advice on milk.
In the UK the government used to recommend that children should only drink full fat milk;However in 2009 the Food Standards Agency changed its guidelines and parents were advised instead to start introducing their children to semi-skimmed milk from the age of 2.
A new study by the University of Cambridge has shown that some people are genetically wired to crave fatty foods over healthier options, putting them at more risk of obesity than others.
In the study, published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers created dishes that varied solely in fat or sugar content. The main meal on offer, chicken korma, had three variations; high, low and medium fat. Apart from this they were made to be as identical as possible in both taste and appearance. The 54 volunteers were given a small taste of each, then left to eat as much as they liked from any of the three variations.
The menu also offered dessert, with the choice of three seemingly identical portions of Eton mess, a tasty combination of merengue, strawberries and cream. In the case of the dessert, the differing factor was the sugar content, so three otherwise identical desserts with low, medium and high sugar.
In the test 14 people unwittingly ate significantly more of the high-fat korma than the others in the test. In the pudding section, the same 14 volunteers didn’t like the high sugar choice.
All of the 14 high fat eaters were found to have a mutation in their genetic code, specifically in one called MC4R. This gene controls hunger, appetite and how we burn energy. It is thought that about 1 person per 1000 carries the mutation. Mutations in this MC4R gene are the most common genetic cause of severe obesity within families that has so far been identified.
Prof Sadaf Farooqi, from the Wellcome Trust Medical Research Council Institute of Metabolic Science at the University of Cambridge, said the findings suggest that at least some of our food preferences are influenced by biology rather than free will.
“Even if you tightly control the appearance and taste of food, our brains can detect the nutrient content” she said.
“Most of the time we eat foods that are both high in fat and high in sugar. By carefully testing these nutrients separately in this study, and by testing a relatively rare group of people with the defective MC4R gene, we were able to show that specific brain pathways can modulate food preference.”
The defective gene makes the brain prefer fat over other food groups and this is connected to an evolutionary survival mechanism programmed to safeguard humans against famine. As fat contains more than twice as much energy than sugar or protein it makes sense to consume more in case of food scarcity.
“Having a pathway that tells you to eat more fat at the expense of sugar, which we can only store to a limited extent in the body, would be a very useful way of defending against starvation.” said the professor. She also added that the study did not mean that those with the mutation were helpless in the face of fat, emphasising the importance of exercise and healthy nutrition in maintaining a healthy weight.
Studies show us that over 90% of people on a diet fail to lose weight permanently. Logic dictates that if all attempts to lose weight were successful, then eventually everyone would be a happy, fit weight, and dieting or trying for weight loss would be consigned to history.
So why do our attempts to lose weight fail so often? Having been in the personal training business for over 13 years, at Diets Don’t Work PT we’ve seen pretty much every method of weight loss attempted…and then been brought in to clean up the mess! Here are the most common reasons that people fail in their attempts to lose weight and their classic weight loss mistakes
1 – Going all in. Those whose enthusiasm has overtaken their application fail. Eating fewer calories daily while cutting out all bread plus doing an hour of exercise a day while stopping caffeine might sound good, but attempting to do these all at once will lead to failure. Weight loss needs to be done in a step-by-step way. Achievable goals are the key, with a long-term plan. So try to hit just one simple target in the first few weeks – cutting out bread and drinking more water, for example. This must be the top of all weight loss mistakes.
2 – Expecting instant results. Heat magazine and Grazia would have us believe that we can undo years of weight gain in just a few weeks of the latest “wonder diet”. But we are designed in a way that makes fast weight loss counter productive. Go too far too soon and really bad things happen – loss of lean muscle mass, lowering of the metabolic rate and weakening of the heart muscle are just a few of the negative side effects.
3 – Weighing too often. Weight is a funny thing. You might have had the best eating week ever, then get on the scales only to see a slight gain. We are not machines, so are not governed purely by the law of “energy in versus energy out” (although this is still the most important factor). We are instead humans, with complex chemical systems (hormones), genetic inheritance and differing metabolic rates. So weight can fluctuate a bit regardless of eating. The classic mistake is to take a surprisingly poor weight result one week personally, allowing it to derail your efforts. Even a week in weight terms is a small amount of time. As we say to our personal training clients, a week or two is a blip, any longer is a trend. Blips are to be taken in your stride. Trends need addressing though. So only weigh once a week, on the same scales, at the same time of day, in the same clothes. Any variance on these can affect the result and not give a true reading.
4 – Believing you can’t do it. Although genetics can play a part, as do hormones, age sex and so on, ANYONE can lose weight. Those that say “I’ve tried and tried and just can’t lose weight are mistaken. Those that say “I hardly eat anything and just don’t lose weight” are mistaken. They just haven’t gone about it the correct way. YOU can lose weight You can. Honest. It might take some application, or even some professional help, but if any human went to a prison camp on limited rations they would get thin. We’re not suggesting that, but it’s just a case study to prove a point. It’s easier than prison camp.
5 – Working only on one side of the equation. The math: 2 pounds of fat = 3,500 calories. This is 500 calories a day. So if you consume 500 calories a day less than you need you will lose 2 pounds. But eating that much less will certainly take a bit of effort. Instead of this one sided approach, you could tackle the other side of the equation at the same time. So you could burn 200 calories with a bit of structured exercise. You could then get another 100 by walking to the station, using a basket not a trolley (at the supermarket) and taking the stairs. Now you only have to eat 200 calories less a day. Easy!
So take these points in. Apply them. But remember it’s much easier to avoid classic weight loss mistakes if you enlist professional help…in the form of a personal trainer, friend, hypnotherapist, nutritionist…whatever you need to make it happen. For further great reading on how to lose weight quickly (and permanently) have a look at DDW recommended site Health Ambition.
A new report points to massive under-reporting of calorie intake by Britons, explaining why obesity levels are rising despite surveys showing that we are eating less. The study by the Behavioural Insights Team calculated that although official data suggests most people eat around 2,000 calories per day, the actual number was closer to 3,000. National spending figures also show that how much we spend on food does not correlate to how much we report we eat. Here’s our guide to the best calorie counting apps.
The BIT is an independent company but began in 2010 as a government policy group known as the “nudge unit” because it was tasked with encouraging people into making better life choices.
Although counting calories is not fun, it can be very educational and really teaches you the value, in energy, of certain foods. Although calorie counting may not be the right choice for some over the long term, we do ask clients starting out with us to keep a detailed diary of all the energy that they take in. This “opening set of accounts” shows us exactly what is happening; only with this detailed food diary can we give the best possible nutritional advice.
So what are the best ways of counting calories? It’s not just the accuracy of counting that’s important, but ease of use, lack of stress and sustainability that’s also important, especially for those looking for long term weight loss. With those needs in mind, coupled with the fact that nearly everyone has a smart phone, the easiest way is using an app. So here are the best calories counting apps.
1 – Lose it. The app is really easy to set up and you get a great visual graph on your homepage that shows your calorie count. It also has a weekly graph so you can see how well you are doing overall. Lose it! uses the accountability that social media provides to connect with friends and show them how well you are doing. It also sends you posts about how to improve your eating
2 – Myfitnesspal. More of a complete weight loss tool, and our favourite of the best calorie counting apps, myfitnesspal incorporates a pedometer (using your phone), includes a large exercise database so you can add exercise calories and has great visual tools to help you keep track of macros, weekly progress, and the smallest details of what you’ve eaten. It syncs with all your devices so that wherever you are you have myfitnesspal to hand. There is also a great barcode scanner so food input is totally accurate.
3 – Calorie counter by calorie count. This app has a great voice activation feature, so you don’t even have to manually enter in foods. Just say “large tub of ice cream” and it’s entered into your diary. Like MFP it has a barcode scanner. It also has a neat goal setting section where you can set simple goals like “run for 20 minutes” and then tick them off when you’ve done them. It then grades you (like you’ve done an essay) at the end of the day!
4 – Fooducate. The more nerdy app here fooducate attempts to really educate users by giving pros and cons for all foods that you search for. It also has an allergen locator so is great for people with certain allergies. It’s good at giving you a full nutritional breakdown for everything that you’re eating.
Weight Watchers. This well known franchise has an app that you can use whether or not you’re actually doing the full program. Weight watchers tries to simplify calories by assigning foods points, and this carries on through the app. This can help to show clearly which foods are good value, which are poor. It assigns each user a points allowance for the day. It provides you with inspirational success stories to keep you going.
More people than ever (and their children) seem to have allergies or intolerances, from hay fever to gluten to lactose intolerance. But what is lactose intolerance and how many people actually have it?
Lactose is a natural sugar that occurs in milk. Along with fats, protein, vitamins and minerals, it makes up everything that a baby needs to thrive in the early stages of life. However, in recent times dairy has been the victim of some bad press, from making us fat to making us react in a bad way, dairy seems to have a lot to answer for.
Lactose intolerance is the body’s inability to break down and digest the sugars found in milk and other dairy derivatives. Although yoghurts can be classed as dairy, the bacteria present in them makes the lactose easy to digest, so they are less likely to produce an adverse effect.
Those with lactose intolerance do not produce a specific enzyme in the gut that breaks it down. Any dairy produce consumed has to broken down instead by the digestive system, which can cause discomfort, gas, bloating and cramps. There are, however, various degrees of intolerance; one person may still have the necessary enzyme to break down lactose, but not in sufficient quantities. These people are more “maldigesters” than actually lactose intolerant. We are all born with the enzyme needed to break down our mother’s milk, so we all come into the world fully lactose tolerant. As we grow older some of us lose that enzyme and can become intolerant. However, it’s important to know the difference between lactose intolerance and an allergy to milk. An allergy is where the immune system reacts to a certain type of food and causes symptoms like itching, wheezing and itching.
Research in the 90s shows that this number is actually large; up to 70% of the world’s population lose their lactase enzymes (the ones needed for milk digestion) after weaning. So all those lactose intolerant people might not actually be faking it.
As well as getting a bad rap for causing tummy upsets, dairy has also been targeted by dieters who believe that its high fat content contributes to weight gain. This is unlikely to be the case though. The high fat and sugar in dairy is mitigated by its protein content, so it dosen’t have a huge effect on blood sugar levels. It’s glycaemic index is moderate at around 35. So in moderate quantities it won’t make you fat. It’s rather the low fat and 0% fat milk, cheese, yoghurt, and ice cream that are the culprit for the weight gain myth. In the wake of mixed messages about the dangers of saturated fats we’ve turned to these low fat options but they are often worse as as they’re loaded with sugar and salt.
There’s no treatment for lactose intolerance, so the only treatment is the avoidance of dairy products. This avoidance though means that you may be lacking some very important vitamins and minerals, so nutritional supplements like calcium and vitamin D are advisable.
Is butter healthy, asked a new study released in the US this week? Butter and other saturated fats may not be as bad for us as previously thought; in fact, swapping them for unsaturated fats like olive oil and other plant oils may actually lead to an increase in life expectancy.
These are the surprising findings of a new study in the US that has re-analysed the data from a trial that was conducted 50 years ago, the results of which were never published in full. This data showed that although those who switched from saturated to unsaturated fats had lower levels of cholesterol, this did not translate into higher life expectancy through a reduced risk of heart disease.
In fact, the death rate was actually higher in those subjects with lower levels of cholesterol readings throughout the 5 year trial. Running from 1968 to 1973, the 40-year-old study known as the Minnesota Coronary Experiment was thought to prove the link between heart disease and coronary heart disease, but may only show a link to higher levels of cholesterol, not morbidity.
The Minnesota study, conducted from 1968 – 1973, involved some 9,000 people, mainly in a nursing home and mental hospitals. The patients’ diets were easily controlled and one group was fed foods high with saturated fats; another ate a diet with little saturated fat and replaced with lots of corn oil, an ingredient common in processed foods today.
Published in the British Medical Journal, the new analysis of the old data was done in the US by the national Institute for Health. The conclusion goes against much modern nutritional guidance:
“Available evidence from randomized controlled trials shows that replacement of saturated fat in the diet with linoleic acid (corn oil) effectively lowers serum cholesterol but does not support the hypothesis that this translates to a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease or all causes,” said the authors.
Although contentious, leading nutritionists and scientists in the US point to the subtleties in the findings, and the importance of what food was swapped for what. “For years now, we have been recommended to cut out animal fats and replace them with plant sources of fats,” said respected US dietician John Rickards. “But when you swap out bacon for a bagel in the morning – you essentially cut out fat and replace it with refined carbs – you run the risk for raising your triglycerides and lowering your HDL cholesterol – increasing your risk for heart disease.”
He added that fats should still be sourced from natural plant sources like nuts, seeds, avocados and coconut oils. The results of the study might not actually advocate lots of saturated animal fats, but rather that they should not be substituted for low fat/high sugar/high processed carbohydrate alternatives. The reinterpreted research does not claim saturated fats are good for you. It claims instead that eliminating them is not necessarily good for heart health. And that’s a crucial distinction. Remember also that many vitamins and minerals that we need are fat soluble, i.e. we need fat present to digest them. So the message is not to eliminate saturated fats, rather to include them in a healthy, whole food diet that also contains plant based fats, unrefined carbohydrates and clean sources of protein like fish and chicken. So is butter healthy? Yes, and no…like most foods.
Over Christmas the average UK adult will put on 5lbs of weight. On Christmas day itself we consume an average of 7,000 calories. This is roughly the equivalent to 6 days’ worth of calories all in one go. Not only will the weight gain take effort to shift but it will also expand your stomach and cause large swings in blood sugar levels. This in turn can also lead to you feeling hungry and getting into a vicious cycle of hunger and unhealthy eating.
Although losing weight over the festive season might not be the most realistic of goals, how about a more achievable weight maintenance program? With just a bit of timely activity and some clever food choices – both in terms of timing and content – you can have your cake and eat it.
Doing all of the above may seem like a bit of an effort, but it will be much more of an effort to try and lose 5 lbs later on down the line. Especially in depressing January.
So take these simple steps and have a happy, but slim (ish) Christmas!