Sunday, November 23, 2008

#1 Way to Stick to Your Diet

The #1 way to stick to your diet is going to sound strange, but all I can say is trust me on this one.

There's a popular new "social networking" website that I've started using called, At first glance, it looks as dumb as it sounds, but after spending a bit of time on it, I realized this could be the best way to help my clients stay accountable to others, and that's the key when it comes to the #1 way to stick to your diet.

No one likes to disappoint others, or look bad in their eyes. So when we say we're going to stick to a diet, AND we're going to post every meal that we eat on the Internet, it makes us accountable and motivates us to stick to our goals.

Personally, I use to post all of my meals, snacks, and nutrition tips over the course of the day, and I encourage all of my clients to do the same.

It's really simple. You just sign up for an account, and then you can post whatever you want, but you are limited to 140 characters. Some folks call this micro-blogging, and most folks on use it for business networking, but we're going to use it for social support for fat loss by being held accountable for our dietary decisions.

To get started, simply go to and sign up for your free account. Then you can search for people to "follow" to see their updates and other people will "follow" you to see your updates.

Of course, you don't need twitter to be accountable to someone. You can write down your daily food journal for your trainer, post your meals on a weight loss message board, or simply buddy-up with a friend and check in every day. But is a quick way to do it online.

If you promise others that you are going to lose weight, and you promise to report the contents of every meal, then you'll think twice about cheating on your diet if you know you have to tell the world about your meals.

What started out as me sharing my diet for my reader's interest has turned into an excellent way to help me avoid cheating on my diet. Frankly, I can get away with straying from my diet more than the average person can, but if I know I have to tell my readers what I had for lunch, I've found that I'm improving my diet even more.

For many people, being ACCOUNTABLE to others is their #1 way to stay motivated and on-track with their diet and exercise program.

That's the #1 way to stick to your diet,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Click here to lose fat

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How Often Should You Weigh Yourself?

I know you hate to look at the scale, and some trainers even suggest throwing out the scale, but the truth is, keeping an eye on your weight helps. Plus, I have 3 other measures you should take on a regular basis that are even more important.

But first, when researchers reviewed the studies on self-weighing (i.e. checking your bodyweight on the scale), to see if it helped or hindered weight loss. Some folks say it can have a negative effect causing you to get discouraged.

However, 11 of the 12 studies reviewed indicated that more frequent self-weighing was associated with greater weight loss or weight gain prevention.

Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2008 Nov 4;5(1):54. The Impact of Regular Self-weighing on Weight Management: A Systematic Literature Review.

In fact, folks who did weekly or daily weighing over at least several months tended to lose more weight than folks who didn't do regular self-weighing.

The researchers admit the studies weren't perfect, but there doesn't seem to be anything bad about weighing yourself frequently, and through my experience with clients, we've found that weighing yourself every couple of days does help keep you on track for fat loss and for keeping the weight off.

However, you need to understand that your weight can fluctuate up or down from time to time based on the salt content of the foods you eat, the phase of a woman's menstrual cycle, and previous day's food and activity habits. So don't hit the panic button if your weight jumps up one day. Just make sure the general trend is downward.

And to compliment your weighing, you should also have your body fat estimated along with taking your limb, hip and waist circumferences every four weeks. Plus, sometimes there's nothing better than looking in the mirror to guage your results.

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shocking Social Support for Weight Loss Study

I like being right. And one of the tips I give over and over and over again that always gets supported by research is the need to have social support when you're trying to lose weight.

But today, I have a study that flips the results of social support, proving that it is even MORE powerful than I previously thought.

Researchers from Connecticut, Rhode Island, Ohio, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania teamed up to study the effects of an intense weight loss program on not only hundreds of diabetic subjects, but also on their spouses who were not officially enrolled in the research trial.

International Journal of Obesity (2008) 32, 1678–1684. Weight loss treatment influences untreated spouses and the home environment: evidence of a ripple effect

The doctors wanted to see if a weight loss program delivered to one spouse could be "taken home" and have beneficial effects for the untreated spouse as well.

Three hundred and fifty seven diabetic participants and spouses were treated for 1 year.

Subjects were divided into two groups, with one group receiving usual diabetes care while the other group received intensive lifestyle intervention (ILI) help.

The spouses of the ILI group lost 4.9 pounds over the 1 year study, even though they had no contact with the researchers. The spouses of participants receiving normal care lost only 0.51 pounds over the year. In addition, more ILI spouses lost 5% of their body weight than normal care spouses (26 vs 9%, P<0.001).

One of the big reasons for the ILI spouse weight loss was nutrition. These folks significantly decreased their daily energy intake and ate less fat than the normal care spouses.

And not surprisingly, spouse weight loss was associated with participant weight loss. That means if your wife was in the study and she lost weight, that means you had a greater chance of losing weight as well.

That doesn't mean you should just count on your wife to lose weight though! I reported on a similar study last year showing that if you workout with someone who is losing weight, you have a better chance of losing weight as well. So workout with her, or workout with a friend, and you'll get more results.

The bottom line is this:

You must get social support if you want to lose weight. In person support is best, but online weight loss forums will also help you change your eating and exercise habits to lose fat permanently.

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Fat Loss Social Support

Saturday, November 15, 2008

High protein vs high carboydrate diet study for weight loss

Here comes another high protein vs high carboydrate diet study for weight loss...but first, a short story about why it interests me...

When I was in college, I remember going to a party at the home of four girls. While standing around in the kitchen, I realized they almost had as much cereal in their house as the local convenience store.

When I askeD them about it, they said they often eat cereal for all three meals of the day because they thought a high carbohydrate diet was good for fat loss. Yet three out of the four girls struggled with body fat.

Unfortunately, they bought into the popular notion promoted by dieticians in the 1990's that we all need to eat high-carbohydrate diets for fat loss. However, every year more and more research (not to mention experience) shows this to be untrue.

The latest study, from the journal, Nutrition and Metabolism, compared a moderate carbohydrate, moderate protein diet against a high carbohydrate diet for weight loss and choleseterol levels.

Nutr Metab (Lond). 2008 Nov 7;5(1):30. Moderate carbohydrate, moderate protein weight loss diet reduces cardiovascular disease risk compared to high carbohydrate, low protein diet in obese adults: A randomized clinical trial. Walker Lasker DA, Evans EM, Layman DK.

Fifty overweight adults ate a diet that was 500 calories lower than they needed to maintain their weight, and were put into one of two groups for this 4 month weight loss study.

The moderate carbohydrate, moderate protein group ate 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight (approximately 112 grams of protein for a 154 pound person) and less than 170 grams of carbohydrate per day.

The high- carbohydrate group ate only 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight (56 grams of protein for a 154 pound person) and less than 220 grams of carbohydrate per day.

At the end of four months, the higher protein diet group lost more body fat (8.7% vs. 5.7%) than the high carbohydrate group, and the higher protein group had greater reductions in triglycerides (a 34% decrease compared to a 14% decrease) and greater improvements in the good HDL cholesterol (a 5% increase compared to a 3% decrease).

This study shows that you don't need to make radical changes in your protein intake to get more fat loss and better blood lipid levels. Simply cut out 2 slices of bread and substitute two 20 gram protein shakes in your diet each day, and you'll lose more body fat.

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Review About the Ab Slide Infomercial Gadget

Believe it or not, one of my favorite ab exercises includes one of those cheap infomercial gadgets, "the ab wheel". You can pick one up at Walmart for under 20 bucks, and it works your abs hard without crunches.

But do other ab gadgets hold up?

Researchers (from the Mayo Clinic, of all places) tested the "Ab-Slide" device and compared it to the ab crunch, the supine double leg thrust (seated knee tuck-in), and side plank.

J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Nov;22(6):1939-46.
An electromyographic analysis of the Ab-Slide exercise, abdominal crunch, supine double leg thrust, and side bridge in healthy young adults: implications for rehabilitation professionals.Youdas JW, et al.

Ten young men and twelve young women did all the exercises. The tests showed that the Ab-Slide, a contraption fairly similar to the Ab Wheel, worked the abs the hardest. On the other hand, the seated knee tuck-in required a lot of hip flexion, and the doctors believed it could cause low back problems in people prone to low back injury.

Personally, I'm going to stick with the Ab Wheel, but as usual, I'm going to keep crunches out of my program, and add the Seated Knee Tuck-in to my list of ab exercises to avoid.

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Turbulence Training for Abs

3 Reasons to Avoid Elliptical Machines

The latest Men's Health magazine comes down on elliptical machines hard. I know elliptical machines are often the only option for people with bad knees, but if your knees are healthy, think twice before using the elliptical machine for these three reasons.

First, on page 52 of the December, 2008 issue, Men's Health warns, "Never trust elliptical machines". They quote a study that found elliptical machines over-estimated the number of calories burned in a workout by 31%!


So if your "elliptical cardio workout" burned 400 calories, the truth is you really burned closer to only 300 calories.

Second, later in the Dec. issue, Men's Health magazine interviewed Biggest Loser contestant Ed Brantley. Ed lost 73 pounds on the show, but had this to say about elliptical machines, "I hated the elliptical. It was too easy, I didn't feel like I was doing anything."

Exactly. I couldn't have said it better myself.

But that's EXACTLY why elliptical machines are so popular... You see, the third reason elliptical machines are inferior for fat loss is because they fail my "human nature" test.

Put it this way... Take 100 people and put them in a gym with 100 treadmills and 100 elliptical machines. Tell them they have to exercise for 30 minutes at a hard pace, and they have the choice to use either the treadmill or the elliptical.

Guess where 90% of folks are going?

The elliptical!

Why? Because it is human nature to take the EASY WAY out. And that is why elliptical machines are so busy at the gym and you rarely see anyone doing intervals on a treadmill or bodyweight circuits in the corner of the gym.

Often I see folks using the elliptical machine only to say they "worked out", but without getting any REAL work done. So if you are stuck at a fat loss plateau, and you've been counting on the elliptical machine to help you out, then forget it.

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Turbulence Training

3 Reasons to Eat Breakfast

I don't believe that breakfast "boosts your metabolism" (I just don't get how that would happen), but here are three arguments for eating breakfast.

1) Bill Phillips, author of Body For Life, believes that if you don't start your day with a good breakfast, then your mind starts down that dreaded path of, "Oh well, i've already blown it, I may as well keep eating whatever I want."So get up on time. Eat the breakfast that is on your meal plan. And you'll have a better chance of sticking to your daily plan.

2) According to research, folks who eat breakfast tend to maintain their weight loss better than folks who don't. The researchers never give a good reason, but hey, it must be helping.

3) Researchers from Toronto have found that eating a high-fiber breakfast helps reduce food intake in following meals. They call it the "first meal effect".

So again, start your day right, and the rest of the day will be easier.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

How to Maintain Your Weight Loss

Oprah's TV show recently featured some former contestants from the "Biggest Loser". Unfortunately, some of these folks had regained up to 100 pounds since their weight loss on the show. If you want to know how to maintain your weight loss and avoid the same fate, here are some tips.

While losing weight is hard, not enough attention is given to the equally difficult process of maintaining weight loss. Plus, what most people don't realize is that the method of weight loss also helps determine how difficult weight maintenance will be.

Researchers from the City University of New York studied folks who were successful at losing weight and then maintaining the weight loss.

Reference: Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008 Aug 14. [Epub ahead of print]Related Articles Successful Weight-loss Maintenance in Relation to Method of Weight Loss. Marinilli Pinto A, Gorin AA, Raynor HA, Tate DF, Fava JL, Wing RR.

Subjects were entered into a study if they had lost 10% of their body weight in the last year, and were separated into three groups. Group one lost the weight with a very-low calorie diet (VLCD), group two lost the weight with a commercial weight loss program, and the third group lost the weight all by themselves.

Researchers found that although the VLCD group initially had a greater weight loss (24% of bodyweight) compared to the two other groups (17%), it was the VLCD group that quickly regained the most weight.

On the other hand, those folks who lost the weight on their own - using lifestyle changes - were able to maintain their weight loss for 18 months.

So besides not being a contestant on the Biggest Loser, what can you learn here?

Well, it's like many weight loss experts keep saying, you must make simple, easy-to-stick-to lifestyle changes if you want to lose weight and keep it off.

Crash diets and excessive exercise programs might work for a while, but they won't help you in the long run.

Start your long-term weight loss program today by finding a form of exercise you enjoy, a diet that suits your personality, and by surrounding yourself with social support - people who are generally interested in seeing you succeed.

Get help to lose weight and maintain your weight loss,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Author, Just Say NO To Cardio

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Fasting for Weight Loss

In Michael Masterson' recent RFA newsletter, he mentioned that Dr. Sear's regularly uses fasting for weight loss. As shocking as that might seem, more and more nutrition experts are starting to use fasting in their weight loss programs.

When most people first hear about this practice, they have a lot of questions, and don't believe it would be possible to make it through a day without food.

However, researchers from the US Army recently tested 2 days of near fasting on cognitive function.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 88, No. 3, 667-676, September 2008 A double-blind, placebo-controlled test of 2 d of calorie deprivation: effects on cognition, activity, sleep, and interstitial glucose concentrations1,2,3,4

Twenty-seven healthy young subjects were studied for 48 hours, and tested on reaction time, learning, and other mental skills. On one occasion, subjects received only 313 calories over 48 hours, while on another occasion they ate 2300 calories.

Not surprisingly, subjects reported more hunger on the near-fasted trial, but there were no effects of calorie restriction on mental performance, mood, or sleep.

Fasting for weight loss experts, such as Brad Pilon, author of Eat Stop Eat, recommend fasting 1-2 times per week, and eating normally on the remaining days, as an easy way to fast for weight loss.

For example, I've used his program to fast on the weekend, finishing dinner at 8pm on Friday, and fasting through to 8pm on Saturday evening. During the day, I consumed only water and Green Tea.

Do this once per week if you only have a small amount of weight to lose.

Not only will this help you cut calories from your diet, but you'll also be amazed at how much you can get done when you aren't preparing for or cleaning up from 6 meals per day, as is suggested on most weight loss plans.

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS