Health

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The OMG! Diet

An ice-cold bath on waking, followed by two cups of black coffee without sugar and half-an-hour of exercise and then nothing more to eat until midday. It sounds like the beginning of a horror story from the Gulag, but no, this is the advice doled out by Venice A Fulton (real name Paul Khanna, a personal trainer from London) in his runaway bestselling diet book Six Weeks To OMG: Get Skinnier Than All Your Friends

It started out as an e-book on Apple’s iTunes earlier this year  and in just weeks it had sold more than 120,000 copies, five times more than the Dukan Diet

And now the book rights have been sold to US and publishers world-wide for ‘seven figure sums’

The book has cause a furore with critics saying that  the word-of-mouth hit, said to be inspired by reality TV show The Only Way Is Essex, cynically targets impressionable teenage girls

But, quite apart from that, does it work?

OMG! The basics

The main rules of the OMG! Diet are as follows:

- Sleep longer
- Skip Breakfast
- Drink black coffee before exercise
- Take cold baths
- Eat less fruit and fruit smoothies
- Eat 3 meals – Don’t snack
- Broccoli can be as bad as coca-cola

As rules go, they don’t seem very complicated. But how are they meant to help fat loss?

Sleep Longer

Sounds good, doesn’t it? A big problem for a lot of people is that their busy lives prevent them from getting adequate sleep. Without the right amount of sleep, your body releases stress hormones, which are detrimental to fat loss. So sleeping longer is a good start. So far, so good

Skip breakfast

Thee full recommendation here is to skip breakfast, and to exercise instead. While additional exercise may be beneficial, skipping breakfast may cause you to overeat at lunchtime. Breakfast has also been previously highlighted as the most important meal of the day, as eating it helps regulate your hormones when first waking up. However, several new diet plans have recently indicated a weight loss benefit when not eating for several hours after waking – it’s not scientifically proven, and your mileage may vary

Studies into intermittent fasting show it can help you lose weight, burn fat, stabilise blood sugar, 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

Drink black coffee before exercise

The theory is that caffeine gives you a boost, and enables you to work out more effectively. The downside is that too much caffeine has previously been shown to inhibit weight loss – it’s a fine balance

There is science behind this as coffee has been shown to boost your stamina during exercise. It also contains antioxidants, which are good for your overall health. If you’re sensible about your intake and stick to two or three cups a day – no more than four – this could help your metabolism

Take cold baths

The theory is that 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

In practice, ice baths have been shown to help with weight loss – in fact, just exposure to the cold generally can help. However, the OMG! Diet recommends baths at a temperature below 20C – which is clearly nowhere near an ice bath! Whilst the basis of immersion in a cold bath is scientifically sound, the temperature recommendations are not

Eat less fruit

Some diets recommend eating lots of fruit, while some recommend none. OMG! recommends ‘less’, making the claim that fruit increases your appetite

Fruit contains a naturally-occurring sugar called fructose, which, Fulton believes, stops leptin from switching off our appetite. He also says that ‘fruit calories slip under your radar’ and that smoothies in particular can be fattening because you drink more fructose than you realise, meaning you forget about all those liquid calories

It’s actually true that liquid calories aren’t as filling, so what our body considers a drink, our waistline considers a meal, so Fulton has a point. However, whole fruit is full of fibre to fill you and nutrients to keep you healthy, so it’s easy to disagree with the premise that whole fruit makes you hungry

Eat 3 meals – don’t snack

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 ‘old fashioned’ view that three quality, home-cooked meals a day is the best way to eat, is coming back into fashion. ‘Grazing’ (eating small amounts of food 6-8 times a day) is fine in theory as it keeps your metabolism going all day, but most of us don’t have the discipline to eat smaller amounts and healthy food. We tend to end up eating ‘bad’ foods such as crisps, biscuits and sugary snacks

Broccoli can be as bad as coke

‘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

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

While there are clearly aspects of OMG! that make sense, there’s an equal amount to worry about. Take the title ‘Six Weeks To OMG : Get Skinnier Than All Your Friends’. It’s a catchy slogan that attracts the Facebook generation, 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 is it a book that’s encouraging you to focus on being skinny rather than healthy?

Then there’s the claim that you can lose up to 20lb in six weeks

Most dietitians and nutritionists say that a healthy weight loss is one to two pounds a week once you start a diet, eventually slowing down to one pound a week, and that a 20lb weight loss in six weeks isn’t healthy. Not only will you struggle to keep it off if you lose it that quickly, but when you put it back on as you ‘yo-yo’, you’ll end up with more weight, and more fat, than when you started

In summary some experts support the science behind the diet, others regard it nutritional blasphemy: Understand this before you get the book and adhere to its principles, and make sure to consult your GP before you start

And, like, good luck or whatever!

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