By Craig Weatherby
Today's New York Times covered a study that scrutinized conventional weight loss wisdom.
A team led by obesity researcher David B. Allison of the University of Alabama found “seven myths and six unsubstantiated presumptions about obesity”.
Discouragingly, they cite the ample evidence that standard diets rarely succeed in the long run.
But their probe did determine that some approaches enjoy pretty good clinical evidence of efficacy.
Here's a summary of claims they say the evidence proves, supports, or refutes:
Likely true (substantial clinical evidence)
  • Heredity is important but is not destiny.
  • Exercise helps with weight maintenance.
  • Weight loss is greater with programs that provide meals.
  • Some prescription drugs help with weight loss and maintenance.
  • Weight-loss surgery in appropriate patients can lead to long-term weight loss, less diabetes and a lower death rate.
Uncertain (substantial non-clinical evidence / insufficient clinical data)
  • Yo-yo diets lead to increased death rates.
  • People who snack gain weight and get fat.
  • Diet and exercise habits in childhood set the stage for the rest of life.
  • Add lots of fruits and vegetables to your diet to lose weight or not gain as much.
  • If you add bike paths, jogging trails, sidewalks and parks, people will not be as fat.
Myths (could be true, but there's little or no good evidence)
  • Set a realistic goal to lose a modest amount.
  • Walking a mile a day can shed 50 pounds over five years.
  • People who are too ambitious will get frustrated and give up.
  • You have to be mentally ready to diet or you will never succeed.
  • Slow and steady is the way. If you lose weight too fast you'll lose less over time.
We'll take this opportunity to take note of three new books about weight loss and control … each of which takes a very different approach:
The Virgin Diet, by JJ Virgin, CNS, CHFS
The Science of Skinny, by Dee McCaffrey, CDC
Fat Loss: The Truth, by Dr. John Fitzgerald, DC
The Virgin Diet
By JJ Virgin, CNS, CHFS
In The Virgin Diet, bestselling nutrition and fitness trainer JJ Virgin explores a controversial explanation for weight gain.
JJ hosts Discovery Health's Transformation Diaries, co-stars in TLC's Freaky Eaters, and authored Six Weeks to Sleeveless & Sexy.
She describes her diet's premise this way:
“It's not calories, carbs or fat grams. It's food intolerance. A negative reaction to certain foods like dairy or gluten can sabotage your health by triggering inflammation and … stubborn weight gain.”
The Virgin Diet calls for a diet of whole, healing, anti-inflammatory foods designed to enable optimal health and reset the metabolism. It excludes the seven foods most likely to cause food intolerance.
At JJ's request, we created a special Virgin Diet pack featuring foods from our selection, picked by her to fit perfectly into her clever modular meal plans.
JJ Virgin says that people who follow the diet can drop up to seven pounds in seven days, while losing belly bloat, gaining energy, damping inflammation and looking and feeling years younger.
Evidence that food intolerance is a substantial cause of weight gain seems elusive … but a growing number of cell and animal studies support the idea that food intolerances (and manmade environmental toxins) affect metabolism negatively.
The Virgin Diet focuses on filling, nutrient-dense, whole foods – other than dairy and eggs – that are also free of gluten, soy, corn, peanuts, or added sugars.
Naturally, JJ Virgin urges readers to perform an “elimination” diet to start, to reveal which (if any) foods provoke negative reactions (emotional or physical) when dropped from your diet and then reintroduced.
She also provides a clever, practical “meal assembly” guide based on combining foods from each of four groups: lean protein, high-fiber/low-GI carbs, healthy fats, and non-starchy vegetables.
The Virgin Diet enjoys endorsements from holistic health luminaries, including Vital Choice allies like Daniel Amen, M.D., Mark Hyman, M.D., Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., and Frank Lipman, M.D.
The Science of Skinny
By Dee McCaffrey, CDC
Dee McCaffrey is an organic chemist and nutritionist who says she overcame a decades-long battle with obesity by eliminating processed foods from her diet.
As she describes in The Science of Skinny, the result was a 100-pound weight loss, which she's sustained for 20 years.
Dee discovered that pesticides, preservatives, flavorings, colorings, and refined carbohydrates affect body chemistry and metabolism negatively.
After her weight loss, she dove deeply into research on the specific health properties of various kinds of food.
McCaffrey also spent months creating healthier versions of favorite comfort foods, and discovered a passion for helping others use a natural, whole-food, tradition-inspired diet for better health.
As she says, “We are so far removed from foods in their natural state that we now call them ‘health foods' … a sad admission that we've compromised our health for the sake of convenience.”
The Science of Skinny includes kick-start plans, guidelines for family- and kid-friendly meals, quick menus and recipes, shopping lists and eating-on-the-go tips, easy fitness routines, and more.
We admire her approach, which combines science and time-tested tradition to yield a delicious, healthful, vibrant diet … and thereby increase the odds of sustained weight control.
Fat Loss: The Truth
By John Fitzgerald, DC
Chiropractor John Fitzgerald – consultant to top athletes and author of Fat Loss: The Truth – got serious about nutrition after his father's cancer diagnosis.
He eventually connected with Dr. Harry Eidener Jr., who identified “optimal” blood levels of myriad hormones and nutrients by conducting a multi-year study in more than 10,000 subjects.
In 1994, Dr. Fitzgerald started treating patients with nutrition, and by 1998 he was the team doctor for the Carolina Hurricanes, a team in the former minor league of the NFL.
Since then he's worked with college and professional athletes involved with many sports including tennis, power lifting, wrestling, and top mixed martial arts pros.
Fitzgerald – who's known as Blood Doc John to pro athletes – works with top MMA stars such as Randy Couture, Martin Kampmann,and (Vital Choice customer) Gray Maynard.
He analyzes client's blood in a sophisticated, science-based way, and then prescribes foods and supplements to bring professional athletes into perfect hormonal, biochemical, and nutritional balance.
John is a plain-spoken, open spokesman for an overlooked approach to weight loss and control … fasting.
In Fat Loss: The Truth, he presents compelling evidence that fasting works better than any other self-help method … as opposed to commercial, meals-provided programs, which have clinical evidence for modest long-term success.
By “fasting”, John means any of three plans:
  • Daily fasting: Skip one meal every day, and eat nothing between meals or after dinner
  • Fasting one to three times a week: Eat nothing for 22 to 24 hours
  • Combination of both
According to Fitzgerald, research shows that people get the most weight loss benefit from the first 12 to 24 hours of fasting.
And studies show that moderate fasting – such as in John's flexible plan – tunes your hormones and biochemistry to beneficially modulate the hormones that control appetite, blood sugar, calorie storage/burning, and more.
Dr. Fitzgerald's direct, heart-felt style in Fat Loss: The Truth feels very refreshing … and it seems near-futile to argue with his carefully marshaled facts.
Kolata G. Myths of Weight Loss Are Plentiful, Researcher Says. The new York Times. January 30, 2013. Accessed at