Monday, May 30, 2011

Are reality weight-loss shows helping obesity in America?

Diana Bierman

Medical experts divulge why or why not weight-loss shows help in the struggle against obesity

Most of the time you channel search, there is a good chance that a reality show pertaining to weight loss is on the air. Whether it’s MTV’s I Used to Be Fat or A&E’s Heavy, they are becoming more and more popular.

But are they really helping America understand the importance of good nutrition and actually losing weight?

The Canadian Press reports that America's obesity rate is currently the highest of any industrialized nation, and some agree that these shows aren’t necessarily making that statistic decrease.

Bariatric surgeon Ted Khalili was quoted as saying, “Obesity is an epidemic and these shows are trivializing it.”

That's not to say that these shows glamorize overweight people, but he believes they typically portray unrealistic diets for television purposes. Although he agrees there are some things obese people can learn, he believes most if it is too extreme.

Nevertheless, where there’s a will there’s a way. J.D. Roth, executive producer of Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition and The Biggest Loser, thinks that these types of shows make people more aware of the mistakes they are making.

“The first step to changing some systemic problem in society is awareness and I think (weight) awareness is at an all-time high," he declared.

And then there are those who are in the middle. Terry Shaack, another medical expert, believes we will eventually see change – perhaps in eight to 10 years, just not right away.

His reasons for this thinking seem fair, as he noted the U.S. was informed to quit smoking for its terminal results in 1967, but change wasn’t seen until 15 or 20 years later.

“It takes that long,” he stated.


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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Creative Approach to Dealing with Childhood Obesity

New York, NY (PRWEB) May 23, 2011
Healthcare professionals have been calling childhood obesity a national epidemic for years, but only recently has the extent of the problem become a part of the national conversation. Some statistics just can't be ignored. 15 percent of American children, ages 6 to 11, are considered seriously overweight, a number that has tripled over the past thirty years. Obesity puts children at high risk for health problems including type II diabetes, hypertension and heart disease and for becoming obese adults.
There is another harmful aspect to this problem that is less discussed - the emotional toll obesity takes on children.
Dr. Ben Michaelis, a therapist who specializes in helping patients achieve mental health and well-being through creative expression, says that "overweight children are prone to low self-esteem, negative body image, depression and anxiety. These children are often ignored or ostracized by their peers and turn to more food for comfort." The unhealthy pattern of isolation and poor eating habits can lead to devastating long-term physical and emotional problems.
"Although it is natural to self-isolate when one is feeling sad or depressed, this behavior only exacerbates existing problems. In addition to eating more, overweight kids exercise less and become less involved in the world around them. This pattern perpetuates feelings of shame, hopelessness, and helplessness that can develop into full-blown clinical depression if untreated."
Dr. Michaelis believes that to break this negative cycle it is important to introduce these children to the joys of using their creativity as an alternative to overeating and isolation. "Guiding children to use their imagination and natural creativity will provide them with the tools to express their feelings and emotions in healthy and productive ways. I call this process The Creative Imperative."
Using creativity helps eradicate feelings of emptiness and depression while creating positive change. For obese children this is especially important because how they see themselves and others at this point in their development will leave a lasting imprint on how they live the rest of their lives.
Dr. Michaelis suggests:
  • Find your child's creative language - Every person has a natural way of expressing him or herself. As a parent you have to find your child's creative language. Is your child more of a painter? A writer? Does he or she like to take pictures? Does she build models or plant flowers? Encourage your child to use that language to develop a project and then share this creation with others. This form of self-expression allows children to share their feelings in a safe and positive way, especially if talking about low self-esteem directly is too difficult for them.
  • Share a creative project - by sharing what they create, children learn to express themselves without the immediate gratification of consuming empty calories. This can improve self-esteem and self-awareness and creates pathways for establishing relationships with others.
Getting kids to follow their natural creative instincts is not hard. Giving kids the tools to develop their own creative language will give their self-esteem a boost and make them far more resilient when life throws them the inevitable curve ball. Kids that have active imaginations build the skills to turn their dreams into action and will be far less likely to feel stuck with their negative feelings
To read the full article click here. To watch Dr. Michaelis on the nationally syndicated television show, Daytime, click here.
Dr. Ben Michaelis is a clinical psychologist who specializes in helping patients achieve mental health and well being through creative expression. His clients include New York Times bestselling authors, musicians, and a wide range of artists and professionals. He is an adjunct professor of psychology at Columbia University and on the medical faculty at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. Dr. Michaelis is the co-founder of the Downtown Clinicians Collective, one of New York City's largest networking organizations for mental health professionals. The author of numerous scholarly articles and studies, he has been featured as an expert on creativity and relationships in articles on, and in Parenting ,Entertainment Weekly, and The New York Times. He has been a guest on Martha Steward Living Radio on Sirius/XM and on the nationally syndicated television program, Daytime. Dr. Michaelis lives and creates with his wife and two children in New York City.
For more information or questions for Dr. Michaelis, email him at Ben(at)DrBenMichaelis(dot)com
and visit him at

Fat gene theory dispelled

May 24, 2011 - 12:29PM

Biggest Loser proves genes don't control weight, says Michelle Bridges.

From Sunday Life

I am not a scientist. However, I can't help being fascinated by what is going on in the research world as it relates to obesity and weight management. One of the things scientists are focusing their attention on is the field of epigenetics, which explores how every gene a person has inherited ends up expressing itself in their physical and neurological characteristics. This subject is even more interesting now that science has unravelled the human genome sequence.

In the past, we've looked to our parents and grandparents for the determinants of the way we look, or for our propensity for disease or obesity. What epigenetic research tells us is that our genes themselves are not wholly responsible for our physical characteristics.

Let me explain. Epigenetics is the study of changes in our physical characteristics that are caused by mechanisms over and above our underlying DNA sequence. Our epigenomes sit on top of our genes, and effectively tell our genes which genetic characteristics to switch on and which to switch off. The action is better described as a dimmer switch, as epigenomes also control to what extent our genes determine our physical characteristics.

It's important to remember that our DNA sequence itself doesn't change. We can't change our genetic sequence because it's hard-wired into our system - but we can change the way our genes express themselves.

Obviously, if we can switch off the genes that give us a propensity to develop cancer or become obese, or at least "dim" them, we stand to benefit enormously. And here's more amazing news: the way to change our epigenomes, and thereby our genetic expression (our propensity to disease, obesity, even the way we look), is by changing our diet, our exercise habits and our environment. In other words, it's not the genetic cards you've been dealt, but rather how you play them that determines much about your physical health and well-being.

This research also dispels the fat-gene theory, which suggests that some of us have the fat gene and are therefore incapable of losing weight. We now know that all of us can control our weight to some degree - if we treat our epigenomes carefully through exercise, nutrition and our environment.

The common denominator of all the contestants on The Biggest Loser is that they all claim to have "tried everything, but nothing worked" in their quest for a healthy weight. Yet we trainers manage to get weight off all of them, without exception. Did they leave their fat genes at the front door? No. Has their DNA sequence changed? No. They just altered its genetic expression. And you can, too.

Michelle's tip

When you change your diet, exercise and environment, the change to your epigenomes - and therefore your genetic expression - is immediate. Never think the changes you've made to your lifestyle haven't made a difference; they have. The difference took place at a cellular level the moment you made the change.

Michelle Bridges is an author land a trainer on The Biggest Loser.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Doctors Want to Oust Ronald McDonald

McDonald’s shareholders opt to keep iconic clown

Updated: Thursday, 19 May 2011, 11:21 PM CDT
Published : Thursday, 19 May 2011, 11:21 PM CDT

by Tom Lyden / FOX 9 News

For better or worse, Ronald McDonald has been a part of many childhoods. His name is attached to fast food and charity, but now a lot of doctors want him to be history.

As America struggles with a childhood obesity epidemic, many pediatricians said they believe the iconic clown is part of the problem. With 17 percent of all children considered obese, the doctors argue that Ronald McDonald gets them hooked early on fast food.

In a Thursday night meeting in Chicago, McDonald’s shareholders rejected that idea, and the CEO announced that the clown will stick around.

Though he is the face of the brand, customers would have to look long and hard to find the clown at a McDonald’s location -- and even the kids say he’s been missing in action. Health professionals say the reason his face is hidden is because of the shame that follows encouraging kids to load up on junk food.

A Happy Meal with fries and McNuggets tallies in at 420 calories and includes 23 grams of fat and 560 mg of sodium. That’s why health advocates -- including 43 from Minnesota -- said they are asking the company to fire it’s figurehead after 48 years.

Yet, there is one place where Ronald is still a revered star: The Ronald McDonald House, which helps 4,000 sick children and their families annually.

A percentage of each Happy Meal ends up at the charity, which relies on local franchises for a quarter of its budget.

Studies have suggested the real culprit behind childhood obesity isn’t just fast food -- it’s poverty. Where else can a child be fed for under $3?

McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner said the decision to keep the clown stems from the personal and individual right to choose.

McDonald’s has been on a business roll lately, with shares up 12 percent. On Thursday, they closed at a record high.

Read more: Doctors Want to Oust Ronald McDonald

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Friday, May 6, 2011

'Night owls' eat more and eat worse, study finds News Staff

Date: Thursday May. 5, 2011 12:25 PM ET

Regularly staying up late at night and sleeping in the next day could put you at risk for gaining weight.

A new study finds that "late sleepers" tend to eat more, weigh more, and eat more low-quality food – even if they get roughly the same amount of sleep as people who hit the hay at a more normal time.

For the small study, which appears in the journal Obesity, scientists from Northwestern University looked at 51 adults: 23 late sleepers and 28 normal sleepers.

The participants recorded their eating and sleep habits in logs for at least seven days. They also wore a wrist actigraph, which monitors sleep and activity cycles.

Late sleepers went to sleep at an average time of 3:45 a.m. and woke up by 10:45 a.m. They ate breakfast at noon, lunch at 2:30 p.m., and dinner at 8:15 p.m. They also ate a "final meal" at 10 p.m.

Normal sleepers on average were up by 8 a.m., ate breakfast by 9 a.m., lunch at 1 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m., a late snack at 8:30 p.m. and were asleep by 12:30 a.m.

Both groups got roughly the same amount of sleep: 7 hours in the late sleep group, and 7.5 in the regular sleepers.

The researchers found that late sleepers took in 248 more calories a day, twice as much fast food and half as many fruits and vegetables as those with earlier sleep times. They also drank more full-calorie soft drinks.

Co-lead author Kelly Glazer Baron, a health psychologist and a neurology instructor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, suggested those extra 248 calories can add up over time.

"The extra daily calories can mean a significant amount of weight gain – two pounds per month – if they are not balanced by more physical activity," she said in a news release.

Indeed, the late sleepers had an average higher body mass index, or BMI, than normal sleepers.

The study authors say that the calories that were taken in after dinner were the most problematic.

"Calories consumed after 8:00 p.m. predicted BMI after controlling for sleep timing and duration," they write.

Senior author Dr. Phyllis Zee, a professor of neurology and director of the Sleep and Circadian Rhythms Research Program at Feinberg and medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Feinberg and Northwestern Memorial Hospital says eating when the body expects to be sleeping may disturb our circadian rhythms.

"Human circadian rhythms in sleep and metabolism are synchronized to the daily rotation of the earth, so that when the sun goes down you are supposed to be sleeping, not eating," Zee said.

"When sleep and eating are not aligned with the body's internal clock, it can lead to changes in appetite and metabolism, which could lead to weight gain."

The research findings could be relevant to people who have trouble losing weight, suggesting that going to bed early could prevent overeating at night.

The findings also have relevance for night-shift workers, who eat at the "wrong" time of day related to their bodies' circadian rhythms.

"It's midnight, but they're eating lunch," Zee said. "Their risk for obesity as well as cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and gastrointestinal disorders is higher."

Northwestern researchers are now planning more studies to test the findings in a larger group. They also want to try to understand the biological mechanisms that link the relationship between circadian rhythms, sleep timing and metabolism.

The research was supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.


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