Soak in a cold bath. Skip breakfast. Drink black coffee. Limit fruit. Blow up balloons.
Those are some of the unusual tips for shedding pounds in the newly released, and provocatively titled, Six Weeks to OMG: Get Skinnier Than All Your Friends.
British author Venice A. Fulton — a personal trainer and actor whose real name is Paul Khanna — vows to help readers lose 20 pounds of fat in six weeks if they follow his advice.
The controversial diet book is a publishing sensation. Originally self-published in January on iTunes, it quickly began outselling The Dukan Diet, a high-protein diet reportedly followed entertainer Jennifer Lopez.
Fulton’s e-book climbed the charts and by May had sold 120,000 copies in the U.K, garnering media headlines and sparking a bidding war amongst 22 British and American publishers for publishing rights. In May, Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group, won the North America rights — a deal reportedly worth seven figures.
Fulton, who has a university degree in sports science, credits the success of his book for telling it like it is and providing readers with common sense. Mainstream health publications, he says, are filled with clichés and outdated research doing little to curb increasing obesity rates.
But some critics, including nutritionists and doctors, dismiss Fulton’s book as pseudo-science, and criticize him for targeting young girls with teen text talk such as OMG (Oh My God). The writer’s colloquial tone, liberal use of exclamation marks and newly-coined terms such as “fadult” (fat adult), are clearly aimed at a younger audience, they say.
Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, assistant professor at the University of Ottawa and medical director at the Bariatric Medical Institute, says this “predatory diet book” with its “flashy title” is preying on young girls.
“This guy is targeting my poor little daughters, young girls who use acronyms like OMG and want to be skinnier than all their friends,” said Freedhoff, whose personal website Weighty Matters is ranked among the top health blogs.
“The acronym I would use in this particular case would be WTF.”
In a recent interview with the Toronto Star, Fulton denied targeting teens. (When asked about the second sentence of the book — “ Your parents might think you shouldn’t read this book” — the 39-year-old writer shrugged and noted that he, too, has parents.)
“We all say ‘Oh my God.’ It’s just an abbreviation,” said Fulton, in town promoting his book, which hit North American bookshelves last week. “I’m targeting anyone who needs to lose body fat and to get healthier.”
“My key intention behind the book is to make the reader the expert,” said Fulton, whose book contains 20 pages of sources from peer-reviewed scientific journals.
Fulton says he wanted to use a gender-neutral pen name and was inspired by California’s Venice Beach, which he calls “the Mecca of fitness.” Fulton is a community in that state, which he has also visited.
The premise of the book is that we eat too often, and too much. Instead of being entirely reliant on food, people should use the body’s own fat stores for energy.
“Skinny is almost a four-letter word. We’re afraid to use the word skinny,” said Fulton. “But in fact, being heavier than you need to be means you’re being unhealthier than you need to be. And if skinny is moving away from that, then that’s a good thing to aim for.”
According to him, breakfast isn’t key to losing weight and kick-starting the metabolism.
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day if you’re a cereal manufacturer,” said Fulton. “When you wake up in the morning, you’ve got this once-in-a-day opportunity to use your own breakfast, which is body fat.”
But Freedhoff notes breakfast can be valuable for some. A recent poll by the Colorado-based National Weight Control Registry, which tracks more than 10,000 people who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off for long periods of time, found that 78 per cent reported eating breakfast.
“Breakfast is important for the majority of people trying to manage their weight,” said Freedhoff. “But the majority doesn’t mean everybody.”
In addition to skipping breakfast, Fulton recommends starting the day with a cold bath, black coffee and exercise (or some sort of movement) — all of which burn fat and rev up the metabolism. And blowing up balloons, he says, is a great way to flatten the transversus muscle and help attain a flat-looking tummy.
But Fulton’s recommendations leave Freedhoff shaking his head. And the balloon-blowing suggestion has him outright laughing. To his knowledge, Freedhoff says there is no reputable peer-reviewed medical research on the use of coffee for weight management. And while it’s true that soaking in a cold bath does burn calories, it’s simply not a sensible way to lose weight. After all, he wonders, how many people will subject themselves to a frigid bath every day? Even if a recommendation is evidence-based, unless a person can adhere to it for a lifetime, it’s useless, says Freedhoff.
Fulton also aims to debunk what he claims to be another big diet myth: Small frequent meals are healthy. “They will frequently make you fat and you certainly won’t be small,” said Fulton, noting that snacking often leads to overeating.
Fruit can also increase your appetite, says the writer, who suggests eating as little as one piece of fruit a day because fructose (fruit sugar) can result in overeating.
But, again, Freedhoff disagrees. For some, snacking throughout the day helps keep off the weight. And fruit, which provides volume at lower calories than junk food, has been shown to benefit weight management, he says.
Ultimately, says Freedhoff, rigidly adhering to one particular weight-loss plan is a recipe for disaster. There is no one right way to lose weight. What works for one person may not work for someone else.
“The inconvenient truth of weight management is that it requires effort and there is no magic.”
From Six Weeks to OMG: Get Skinner Than All Your Friends
• Cold baths: Cold baths in the morning encourages the body to burn stored fat to stay warm, says Fulton. Taking a cold bath in water that’s between 15-20 degrees Celsius will boost metabolism for 12-15 hours. “It’s literally like being a more active person all day,” he writes.
• Skip breakfast: Skip breakfast and jumpstart the body into using stored fat. “Move the body when it has little energy floating around it, and energy will have to come from somewhere. Your body fat.”
• Drink black coffee: Caffeine boosts the central nervous system and on an empty stomach it burns fat more quickly. “Caffeine makes fat cells open up and empty their fat into your bloodstream,” he writes. “From there, fat can be transported to your muscles. Once it arrives at your muscles, they use this liquid fatty fuel to power them.” He suggests up to 200 mg of caffeine (two cups) in the morning and says the effects last for about five hours.
Exercise and move: Don’t get hung up on intensity and duration. Just move. “Moving fast makes you fit, but we’re here for fat. If you move fast, you may burn less calories overall than moving slower and going for longer.” Do exercises that use more muscles because that “equals more calories.” For instance, he suggests walking, rather than skipping, because it uses more muscles. It’s important to move in the morning, and then wait at least three hours before eating because you’ll burn fat during this time.
• Eat meals, not snacks: Eat three meals a day: mid-day, mid-afternoon and early evening. Meals control a person’s appetite because it releases leptin, which signals to the brain that it’s getting full. Snacking leads to overeating. You only burn fat during long gaps between meals. “All that ‘healthy snack’ stuff you hear” he writes, referring to foods such as dried fruit, nuts, bars, yogourts and fruit, “none of it is healthy between meals.”
• Juices and smoothies lead to overeating: Even though fruit contains vitamins, minerals and fibre, it’s high in fructose, which “can cause chaos.” Juices and smoothies “are keeping huge waddling crowds of health-conscious people fat,” he writes. “They might be full of nutrients, but there’s no such thing as an innocent smoothie.”
• Broccoli carbs can be worse than soda carbs: If you want to be skinny, eat less than 120 grams of non-vegetable carbs per day. For some, it makes no difference if they get carbs from a head of broccoli or a can of Coke, says Fulton. It’s the total daily carbs, not the type of carbs, that predict fat loss for some.