Dieting doesn’t work. Of course, that doesn’t stop dieting from becoming the multi-billion-dollar marketing juggernaut that we see today. It feeds on our worries and obsessions while providing us with equal portions of hope and insecurity. A good diet may work for a short time, but is rarely sustainable. And so, the cycle continues – we seek out another revolutionary diet to cling to until the inevitable letdown comes along.
Dieting really does more harm than good
“It can be hard to accept this when we are desperate to achieve weight loss. Often, we feel that we need to diet to stay motivated, to kick-start our healthy eating plan or to start seeing results. The reality is, however, that with only five per cent of individuals being able to maintain the lost weight from dieting, it appears that diets do not work in the long term.” says Dr Cris Beer, medical practitioner and author of Healthy Habits.
In fact, most people not only end up regaining the lost kilos but pack on extra due to the change in appetite, metabolism, body fat and muscle. “We are biologically programmed to not diet as this is seen as a major threat by our bodies to our own survival,” says Dr Beer. “After all, from our body’s perspective, famine is something to be feared at all costs.
Dieting essentially tells your body that it is currently experiencing a terrible period of famine. As a result, internal body mechanisms are put into motion to prevent the weight from easily coming off.”
What, then, can you do? Simply accept your body the way it is? If you’re fit and happy with the way you look, then yes, absolutely. But if you still want to lose a few kilos, or feel like you really need to in order to be healthy, then you need to get your body working for you; find a way to take it back to its efficient, fat burning ways.
What does it need if dieting isn’t the answer? A good detox, a cold shock, perhaps some compression enhanced exercise or soothing heat?
These natural therapies – some cutting edge, some old-school – attempt to provide solutions, and achieve some surprising results.
The opposite to a traditional sauna, the cryosauna aims to bring down your body temperature, dramatically. In a very short period of time (around two minutes), using nitrogen vapor cooled to -140ºC, a cryosauna can bring down your body temperature from its comfy norm of 32ºC to less than 10ºC.
What does this achieve you ask? Quite a lot as it turns out, such as stimulating the immune system, assisting muscle recovery, enhancing relaxation, reducing fatigue, boosting energy levels, elevating wellbeing and yes, aiding weight loss. To be clear, not many claims that sitting in a cryosauna, even twice a day, will reduce weight by itself, but indirectly, when coupled with a healthy ‘non-diet’, it can get your system humming along nicely.
The biggest area of research involves pain management and recovery following athletic performance, where it – inconclusively – appears to help. It’s thought to work by stimulating a ‘fight or flight response’ in the body, thereby producing endorphins and directing oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood to the body’s vital organs and muscles.
What, another weight-loss treatment involving the cold? Maybe there’s something to this idea after all. And the ice vest is one of the simplest, most cost-effective ways to do it, barring the cheaper, but rather more uncomfortable practice of jumping into an ice bath for as long as you can stand it.
The ice vest, taken from the freezer, can be worn until it returns to your body temperature with little discomfort, as this area has fewer nerve endings (meaning less pain) than the rest of your body. But why would you wear it in the first place? Because moderate levels of cold has been proven to burn calories, without exercise playing a part. Research has shown that competitive swimmers lose more weight by spending hours in the pool than they do by actually swimming, simply due to spending so much time in water that is a lot cooler than their body temperature.
Thirty minutes of cold exposure can lead to fatty acid release to provide fuel for the production of heat, most obvious in the act of shivering. A couple of stints with an ice vest will burn around 500 calories, which is what many people burn in a 1.5-hour gym session.
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Developed in Austria in the late ’90s by Dr Norbert Egger, Hypoxi is a method of body shaping that claims to target some of those ‘trouble’ areas or ‘fat pads’ that you may be carrying on your stomach, hips, buttocks and thighs. As a bonus, Hypoxi has also become a popular treatment for cellulite and patchy complexion.
So how does it do it? By using a lot of space-age equipment, including machines called the Vacunaut, the HypoxiDermatology, the L250 and S120. These machines and the corresponding suits use vacuum and compression technology while you’re gently exercising (often walking or using a recumbent vacuum cycle machine) to stimulate blood flow and trigger fat elimination.
Does it work? The only independent study, conducted by the Medical Prevention Centre in Hamburg, found that yes, three 30-minute Hypoxi sessions resulted in significant benefits compared to a control group who exercised for the same amount of time on a treadmill only.
For best results, Hypoxi practitioners recommend committing to 12 sessions, where you can lose up to 30 centimeters from your ‘problem areas’. There’s only one rule, no exercising or carbs for the rest of the day following a session.
Developed in France over 30 years ago by renowned biochemist Olivier Fouchet, Ionithermie turns all this cooling theory on its head by using, you guessed it, heat.
A ‘cosmeceutical’ treatment performed in a traditional ‘massage’ position, Ionithermie (or ‘body melt’ as it’s sometimes called) is based on medical, therapeutic as well as aesthetic concepts. It employs a combination of algae, thermal clay and electric heat to smooth cellulite, improve skin appearance, reduce fluid retention, improve blood and lymph circulation and enhance muscle tone.
The upside to all this are the benefits of slimming and detoxification. Rudimentary studies have indicated positive effects of Ionithermie for cellulite minimization and improved skin tone, but the jury is still out on its weight loss claims, which, though hugely popular, remain largely anecdotal.
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The only heat involved in colonic irrigation – or colonic hydrotherapy – is warm water; up to 40 liters of it, pumped into the colon and flushed out, all in the aid of good health. According to practitioners, colonic irrigation can strengthen the digestive tract, cure irritable bowel, treat acne and depression, boost the immune system and, yep, stimulate weight loss.
The procedure is not as uncomfortable as it may sound and it’s not surprising that you feel a little lighter when you depart – due to the removal of all that waste and trapped gas – but does it really help you to lose weight? It’s hard to know. Yes, people often lose weight in the months after colonic irrigation, but it’s not fully understood why.
It could be that the slight reduction in weight, and increased lightness, provides a motivating ‘springboard’ to their weight-loss efforts. It could be that there’s a reduction in bloating due to the removal of toxins; or it could be that by restoring healthy digestion, absorption and elimination functions, as well as promoting the return of healthy gut bacteria, the body simply runs more efficiently.
CoolSculpting is a technology that claims to freeze the fat off you. Unlike cryosauna, which may – or may not – indirectly affect the burning of fat, CoolSculpting goes out of its way to do just that.
It was developed by scientists at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, a department of Harvard University, who observed that some children developed dimples from icy poles. A thousand theories and tests later and the FDA-approved CoolSculpting was born.
Using a hand-held cooling device to target fat cells under the skin, CoolSculpting works on the idea that the crystallized, or frozen, cells die, and given enough time (and CoolSculpting sessions), your body can learn to naturally eliminate the fat cells without the external assistance.