As a New York City commuter, I am privy to a whole host of crappy advertisements that plaster the subways and buses of our public transportation system. Inevitably, this includes ads that try to entice me to buy all manner of junk food, watch a ton of terrible television, and buy the latest pop-health book. Speaking of which: In the past few weeks, I began to see ads for a book called Six Weeks to OMG: Get Skinnier Than All Your Friends, by a guy named Venice A. Fulton.
The title alone does nothing but promote the competitive “Let’s all compare our bodies to one another and rank ourselves based on who is skinniest” mindset that crushes our self-esteem and can actually really cripple people emotionally. But I thought this sounded familiar (Someone at Jezebel snapped this shot as well). I went home and Googled the book, and yep — I had recently seen this author promoting his absurd philosophy on the Today show. Take a look here.
STOP. No. Just, no. Dude, you are not a doctor. You are not a nutritionist. (Full disclosure: He does have a degree in Sports Science. People who study Sports Science are not nutritionists or physicians, and those people who undertake this course of study do a lot of great things, but they tend to not be focused on major randomized control trials with rigorous methods that lead to firm conclusions about the way people burn calories, maintain weight loss, and are motivated to change.)
While I believe he may have conducted some (selective) extracurricular reading to find small pieces of “evidence” that supports his “facts,” I feel pretty strongly that he needs to be called out on his shtick. Sir, having clients that have lost weight does not mean that you have designed a healthy and sustainable diet plan.
Have some coffee. Don’t have breakfast. Take a freezing bath. Total amount of carbs is what makes the difference, so have a Coke instead of broccoli!
I also have to say, I don’t think a book written by a guy who actually had the gall to give it a title with “OMG” in it can take any kind of precedence over the research of physicians, nutritionists, and metabolic specialists that has been going on for, oh, I don’t know, DECADES. Eating breakfast, as the Today show interviewer pointed out, regulates appetite and prevents people from bingeing on food later in the day. It does, in fact, regulate metabolism.
Fulton says, amazingly, that all the years of research that have proven this are just… false! He knows better! How can that research be correct if we still have fat people in America!? (This is where it’s acceptable for me to say that despite his taking a few months to read a lot about diet and weight loss, I think he has a very flimsy grasp on the research process.)
He claims in the video that he cites the Mayo Clinic and the New England Journal of Medicine; however, specific studies that show one of the particular behaviors he champions — for example, cold water helps burn calories — are not meant to be used as guidelines for the way people should behave. One of the Today interviewers tacitly mentioned that the researchers who did the footwork themselves say that his claims go beyond what they would conclude.
Taking ice-cold showers can in fact speed up your metabolism a bit, but undertaking that miserable task every day to shed pounds seems fairly punishing when there are far more enjoyable ways to get active if losing weight is something you actually need to do. Also, let’s just remember that taking a cold shower every day is by no means going to send you to the top of the “Skinniest of All!” list that the readers of this book would seem to constantly be calculating in their head. This constant calculation is what Fulton is counting on, since his dismissal of broccoli in favor of Coke can hardly be considered health-conscious.
How awesome do you think you’ll feel after a month and a half of coffee, Coke, and freezing showers? I definitely think Six Weeks to OMG: Get Skinnier Than All Your Friends could have a more appropriate title. Something like… Six Weeks to OMG I AM SO HUNGRY, TIRED, AND COLD.
Larkin Callaghan is an epidemiology and health communication fellow at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, where she also received her doctorate in Health Behavior and Education. She blogs regularly at her own site, I’m Not Tired Yet, about women’s and adolescent health issues.