Oprah's dilemma

January 05, 2009

Take a look at this.

It's a story about a well-meaning personal trainer from Canada, Jessica Zapata, who is trying to appeal to Oprah to try her way of training to lose the weight she has regained. Kudos to her for giving it a shot. But Oprah already has a top, expert, veteran trainer by her side named Bob Greene. It is doubtful Bob doesn't know everything Jessica knows and then some.

The interesting thing is though Ms. Zapata is correct that a busy person like Oprah needs to keep her workouts simple and focus on strength training (pretty much like anyone else), her recommendations are anything but simple. In fact, the workouts Zapata recommends are overly complicated, hugely cumbersome and way overkill. If you haven't clicked on the article yet please do so and take a look. Clearly she means well, but I would cut the volume of exercise she suggests in half - at least.

I watch Oprah from time to time. The unfortunate thing for Oprah is that she, like Jessica Zapata and many others, believe that exercise is part of the cure for obesity. It's not and literally has almost nothing to do with it. Sure, be active. Run, skip jump all you like. But it won't do much at all for losing fat. That's a fact. Inactivity is not how we become fat in the first place. We all know lean, inactive people and over fat active people.

So how do we become over fat? I'm going to bold the answer for emphasis:

We become fat mainly because we eat too many carbohydrates.

Fat loss (and gain) is a hormonal game, not a calorie game. And the specific hormone is insulin.

Some people are more susceptible to fat gain due to having a less robust hormonal tone. But ALL people function the same in that eating carbohydrate increases the hormone insulin. One of the main jobs of insulin is to store body fat. In fact, without insulin, you can eat anything you want and you will remain lean.

Of course, without insulin you'll be dead too. But before you die you won't store a molecule of fat.

If Oprah really wants to lose fat and keep it off forever, she needs to eat foods that will not allow her insulin levels to rise too high. And restricting carbohydrate is the key to keeping her insulin levels low. A previous show revealed an eating plan that science would suggest included too many total carbs. Though her choices were smart for being lower on the glycemic scale, she still had far too many total carbs on her menu.

It's this simple. It really is. And again it's science, not my opinion. If she eats the menu she talked about on her show, she's going to have a tough fat loss road ahead. It's not that it can't work the way she is approaching it mind you, but it will be harder to achieve - all the while with a loss of lean mass (muscle and bone) to boot. Her diet is too low in fat and protein to maintain her current lean mass.

Again, this is not my personal opinion - what I am saying is rooted in science. 'Don't shoot me - I'm only the messenger!' as it were. Anyone reading this who disagrees with me and perhaps is getting slightly ticked off by my words I urge you to delve deeper into the current research on the issue. Go here to start your journey.

Call it Atkins. Call it Protein Power. What both these eating plans have in common is science. We've known that restricting carbs is the way to leanness and better health for a century or more. It's nothing new. These two diets are not fad diets at all. The fad diet is actually the current food pyramid which suggests that almost 80% of our calories come from carbohydrates. No wonder there is an obesity/diabetes epidemic!

I hope Oprah succeeds. More than likely she will. But it is far tougher to go the route she is going to travel than the one science suggests she should. We must all be willing to step outside ourselves - our opinions - and take a fresh look at many of the ideas and tenets we hold onto especially when it's painless to do so. Heck, you never know what you might find out.

"Science as a candle in the dark." - Carl Sagan