OMG! This gimmicky diet might just work: Bizarrely, there IS solid science behind the controversial new slimming book inspired by the TOWIE girls
The OMG diet is a global phenomenon. The book that promises to help you drop 20 lb in just six weeks has outsold the Dukan Diet.
Written by personal trainer Paul Khanna (under the pen name Venice A. Fulton) and inspired by TV show The Only Way Is Essex, Six Weeks To OMG: Get Skinnier Than All Your Friends has been dismissed by many doctors as gimmicky at best, and dangerous at worst. The advice, which includes skipping breakfast and going easy on the broccoli, might be bizarre, but it has sold 120,000 copies.
Most bizarre of all, it has some scientific basis. MARIANNE POWER and ALICE SMELLIE spoke to experts and found what to do and what to ditch.
AIM TO BE THE SKINNIEST
THE CLAIM The book’s title is inspired by the stars of The Only Way Is Essex and their obsession with competitive dieting. Author Venice A. Fulton urges readers to ‘be skinnier than all your friends’.
THE SCIENCE A British study of 2,000 women aged 18 to 45 found that 54 per cent said the first thing they noticed about another woman was her weight – and they then compared themselves with her. So playing on this competitive aspect is clever of Fulton. A US study in 2011 said our food choices are affected by our friends and if we hang out with ‘skinny’ women, we are more likely to be slim too.
EXPERT SAYS ‘Six Weeks To OMG is a catchy slogan that attracts the Facebook generation,’ says Donovan Pyle, cognitive behavioural therapist at The Insight Network. ‘The quirky advice has a novelty factor and the six weeks angle appeals to our love of a quick fix. The competition of “Get Skinnier than all your friends” can be motivating but I’d hate to think the book encourages girls to focus on being skinny rather than healthy.’
VERDICT: DITCH IT
BROCCOLI CAN BE AS BAD AS COKE
THE CLAIM ‘No carbs before Marbs,’ as they say in TOWIE. Fulton claims that if you want to be slim, you must aim for no more than 120 grams of carbohydrate a day. It makes no difference if you get all of your carbs from cans of coke or plates of broccoli, says the book.
You'll have a hard time getting as many carbs from broccoli as you do from a can of Coke
THE SCIENCE Despite the sensational comparison of broccoli to Coke, Fulton is not saying broccoli is bad – just that we need to limit our carbohydrate intake and make every meal half-protein if we want to stay slim. A 2008 study involving more than 1,000 overweight adults found those on high protein and low glycaemic index (slow-burning carbs) diets had more successful maintenance of weight loss than those on low-fat, low-calorie diets. Another study in Seattle showed an increase in protein resulted in rapid loss of weight and body fat.
EXPERT VIEW ‘People handle carbs differently. Serial dieters will store carbs as fat more readily than someone who doesn’t diet,’ says Dr Carel le Roux, obesity specialist at Imperial College London. ‘But I would always encourage people to eat plenty of vegetables.’
VERDICT: DITCH IT
STAY AWAY FROM SMOOTHIES
Smoothies: They look healthy, but watch out for fructose content
THE CLAIM Fruit is good for its fibre and nutrients but it also contains fructose, which stops leptin from switching off your appetite, so you won’t feel full after you’ve eaten it. Smoothies and juices are dangerous, says Fulton, because you can drink more fructose than you can eat, which means calories go unnoticed.
THE SCIENCE A review in 2011 said liquid carbohydrates fill you up less than solids and that there is likely to be an increase in total long-term energy intake. On the most basic level, a smoothie isn’t going to fill you up.
EXPERT VIEW ‘I’ve seen patients who can’t understand their obesity because they eat healthily. Then it turns out they are eating too much fruit or drinking fruit smoothies, downing 300 calories in a couple of minutes,’ says Dr le Roux. ‘Some smoothies have more calories than a McDonald’s milkshake. Fruit is great, but if you are trying to lose weight, limit yourself to one piece a day.’
VERDICT: DO IT
DRINK BLACK COFFEE
Black Coffee: Two cups will hike up your basal metabolic rate
THE CLAIM Two cups of black coffee boosts the nervous system and when you have it on an empty stomach, it tells your body to burn fat faster. The effects last for four to five hours, according to Fulton.
THE SCIENCE Studies show that caffeine speeds up the metabolism by ten per cent. It increases the heart rate and the flow of blood. A 2011 study concluded that coffee assists fat loss. As soon as coffee is digested, it stimulates the release of fats into the blood, which then become the body’s primary energy source before it reverts to using its limited stores of carbohydrate for fuel.
EXPERT VIEW ‘Two cups of coffee will increase your basal metabolic rate by five to ten per cent for two hours,’ says Dr Nicola Lowe, senior lecturer in nutrition at the University of Central Lancashire.
‘The mechanism isn’t clear but caffeine is a stimulant so perhaps it increases nervous activity, making the body move more. New studies show it helps the body use carbohydrates more effectively. Caffeine also reduces our feeling of pain and effort so it can boost performance if you drink before exercise.’
</b>VERDICT: DO IT</b>
DON'T EAT BREAKFAST
Breakfast: Not the day's most important meal, experts say
THE CLAIM Breakfast isn’t the most important meal of the day, says Fulton, who argues that if you skip it and do early-morning exercise on an empty tummy, you’ll kickstart the body into burning fat.
THE SCIENCE Studies into intermittent fasting show it can help you lose weight, burn fat, stabilise bloodsugar, and reduce blood-pressure and cholesterol. Skipping breakfast is one way. Other approaches include fasting on alternate days, or very low-calorie diets two days a week. But other research connects skipping breakfast with obesity and low concentration and anyone with diabetes or low blood-sugar should ask a doctor first.
EXPERT VIEW ‘We’ve been brought up to think breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but research is challenging this,’ says Dr le Roux. ‘Exercising on an empty stomach is not going to make
you feel unwell and you will burn fat. Some are naturally not hungry in the morning but eat breakfast anyway, consuming 500 calories for no reason.’
VERDICT: DO IT
EAT MEALS, DON'T SNACK
Snacking: A big no no
THE CLAIM Rather than ‘grazing’, Fulton says eating three meals a day – lunch, mid-afternoon and early evening – controls your appetite as it releases leptin (a chemical that tells our brain we’re full). Having longer gaps between meals encourages the body to burn fat.
THE SCIENCE A study in the US found that those who ate three low-calorie, high-protein meals daily felt more satisfied and less hungry.
EXPERT VIEW ‘Three quality, home-cooked meals a day is the best way to eat,’ says Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow. ‘On a more practical level, people who graze tend to eat bad foods (crisps, snacks). It could be that grazing food through the day means your brain never gets the signals that say you are full, as Fulton says, but so many chemical reactions occur when we eat food, it’s hard to be certain.’
VERDICT: DO IT
TAKE COLD BATHS
Cold baths: 'You might just be subjecting your body to a massive insult every morning,' says Professor Tom Barber
THE CLAIM Taking a cool bath between 15C and 20C every morning encourages your body to burn stored fat as it tries to keep warm. It will boost metabolism for up to 15 hours, says Fulton, as cold activates ‘good’ brown fat, burning calories to keep warm.
THE SCIENCE Some scientists think brown fat is the magic key to weight loss. A Canadian study chilled a group of men and found their metabolic rates increased by 80 per cent. The brown fat burned 250 calories in three hours. Obesity has even been linked to central heating.
EXPERT VIEW ‘Sitting in an icecold bath will burn extra calories and raise metabolism, but I’m not sure how long the effect would last,’ says Tom Barber, professor of endocrinology at the University of Warwick. ‘You might just be subjecting your body to a massive insult every morning.’
VERDICT: DITCH IT