Rachel Frederickson (24) made an incredible effort when she went from 260 to 105 pounds after participating in, and winning, the TV-show “The Biggest Loser” in February.
This program has for years helped overweight Americans changing their life around. It has been a popular TV show, and it has been seen by millions since it first started in 2004 — and it’s now in it’s 16th season.
However, not everyone were cheering when the 24 year old former athlete entered the finals more than 150 lbs lighter than when she first started.
Viewers, and experts, were criticizing her dramatic weight loss. Several of them said she didn’t look healthy, and questioned her super-strict diet and hour long workouts.
Rachel Frederickson after competing in The Biggest Loser
Even her personal trainer, Bob Harper, was shocked when he saw her in the last episode. Hollywood trainer Cornelis Elander also reacted to Fredericksons weight loss, and he said he would never advice anyone to lose this amount of weight in such a short amount of time — no matter their size and shape.
After all these critical voices, the 24 year old decided to listen to the advice she was given. She has now gained 20 pounds, and says she couldn’t have felt better. She says to US Magazine that she’s found confidence, which is why she joined the program in the first place.
“I work out an hour, six days a week. I love classes like SoulCycle, I also loosely count calories, but sometimes I might eat an Oreo. It’s not the end of the world.” says Frederickson.
I’ve been getting more and more questions on The Venus Factor in my inbox. I simply can’t answer them all, I’m sorry.
However, a question I often get is this: what kind of food can I eat on the diet?
The answer is simple.
But first, let’s do a recap on what the diet is exactly (for those of you that are new here. I’ve previously covered the diet here, and answered some other question here, so we won’t go into as detailed.
The fundamental concept in the diet is the hormone leptin. “Calorie counting” (ugh, I hate that word), is also mentioned. I feel like a broken record when I write this, but there is no diet that does not involve calories to some extent. Some diets doesn’t mention it, but calories are still behind the curtain in some way or another.
Rather than focusing on exactly what to eat, when you eat, how many meals you distribute the calories over, and weighing your food with four digits, The Venus Factor uses a simpler approach. Avoid a few food products (soy, highly refined foods, white flour …) and focus on the big picture. Leptin can be your best friend or your worst enemy when you’re on a diet.
Again, the calories is the fundamental part; but neglecting leptin is like running uphill, swimming upstream or … You get the picture. It makes it all a lot harder than it has to be.
Simplified chart showing how leptin affects hunger
Without sounding like some late night fitness commercial, I will tell your right here and now: you can actually eat ….
… or drink a glass of wine on a diet.
Can you eat how much you want of this?
No, of course not. But eating it once in a while won’t matter. It’s about balance.
By taking control of your leptin levels, you won’t feel the same sugar cravings as earlier. You will be able to enjoy one piece of chocolate, a slice of pizza or a cup of soda. It won’t harm your diet. It’s like controlling a big ship: it moves slowly, and sometimes you have to steer it back in the right direction, but changes won’t happen over night.
By shifting the focus over to the bigger picture, i.e. what you eat over a week or what you ate yesterday compared to today and what you plan to eat tomorrow (and by using the clever app: The Virtual Nutritionist), you can maximize the work of leptin, and lose weight with less hassle.
Simply put: you can eat what you want, just do it in moderation, and eat healthy overall.
For many people the word fat has a negative ring to it, and more low-fat products are being marketed.
We tend to think fat in food is equal to body fat. However, this is a fallacy. Eating less fat won’t necessarily make you less fat!
No wonder people get confused.
If you’ve read my article on calories, you’ll know that fat has a higher energy density than carbohydrates and protein: 1 gram of fat is 9 kcal of energy – protein and carbohydrates are just 4 kcal. For those of you that workout, you all know how important it is to get enough carbs and proteins in your diet. Did you also know that fat is essential in order for your body to function?
In this article we’ll cover why it’s important to include fat in your diet – and I will give you some tips on some great sources of healthy fat.
Fat is more than an energy bearing molecule
Fat is important to your cells. All of our cells have a cell membrane made of lipids (fatty acids). Without eating fat, your cell membranes can get into trouble, both structurally and through influencing the enzymes that are present in the cell membrane. Nerve and muscular functions can also be influenced by lack of fat, giving the nerve cells problems sending the signals they should.
Too little fat will make it hard for fat soluble vitamins (A, K, D and E, respectively) and carotenoids to be taken up in the intestine. A lack of vitamin D will in turn lead to problems with calcium uptake and can even lead to osteomalacia. Also, too little fat can affect production of prostaglandins that regulates contractions and relaxation in our muscles, and plays an important role for our immune system.
A fatty acids which has been given a lot of bad PR is cholesterol. Cholesterol is necessary for a number of reason. It helps the fluidity of the cell membranes, inter-cellular transportation of molecules, and the signaling between cells and nerve cells. It is also important for production of gall, synthesis of vitamin D and a number of steroid hormones like estrogen, testosterone, cortisol and aldosterone – to name a few).
Impact on hormonal balance, and why low-fat is a bad idea
Without sufficient amounts of essential fat in your diet, several bio-chemical processes will suffer. Essential fatty acids are necessary to run a normal hormonal function and production. Too little fat can lead to hypogonadism – a condition where the testicles and ovaries won’t produce enough hormones, which in worst case can lead to sterility.
A low consumption of fat will lead to larger amounts of SHGB (Sex Hormone Binding Globulin). SHGB binds steroid hormones (testosterone, estrogen etc.) and prevents these from doing their job. An increased fat consumption will reduce the amount of SHGB, resulting a larger amount of free hormones (ref: Salinen et al.)
So, how much fat do we need?
This varies from whom you ask. A healthy answer is between 20-40% of your daily calorie consumption should be from fat. This is just a rule of thumb, but a good target.
What we eat varies from day to day, so some days you may get less, but think of it as an average.
Dieting and fat
What happens when most people go on a diet?
They reduce the overall amount of food (energy). A “fat burning diet” is typically structured like this: high protein intake, relatively high carbohydrate intake and almost no fat at all. The fat is what people reduce first. For some, the only fat they get through their diet is Omega-3 or similar supplements.
We mentioned a 20-40% bracket of your daily intake for fat above. What about when you’re on a diet? Should you change this? In my opinion, no. You could go down a bit towards the low end, but you should not go on a low-fat diet.
Good sources for fat
Avocados are a great source of healthy fat!
There are a number of good, and bad, sources of fat. To make life a little easier for you, I’ve gathered a list of fat rich items you should include in your diet.
Coconut milk and oil
Fatty fish (salmon and mackerel is great)
Cheese (also a great source for calcium)
Fat is important for a number of processes in your body. Therefore you should aim to get at least 20% of your daily calorie intake from fat. There are diets that go lower, and for a short amount of time it is fine – but you need to consider the long-term effects if you eat too little fat over a long period.
Eating fat, won’t make you fat (just like eating vegetables won’t make you a vegetable)!
Today, we’ll take a look at exactly what 200 calories (kcal) looks like on a plate. Though it’s always a good idea to figure out exactly what your food contains, i.e. from reading the label, it’s also great to have the visuals. If you are eating out, you can make a quick estimate of how many calories you are getting from a meal.
You may have read about a hormone called leptin, especially if you’ve looked into The Venus Factor. More and more research now confirms the significance of leptin for weight loss.
In this brief post, I’ll give you a introduction to what leptin is, why it is important, and for many of you: why you’re diet is plateauing after a while. This will further explain common diet problems, such as food cravings.
I am against experiments on animals, but this was the best illustration I could find. It’s from one of the research papers I read prior to writing this post. These two mice were being fed the same, but one was unable to produce leptin — causing it’s severe overweight.
A mouse unable to produce leptin (left), therefore storing fat, and a healthy mouse (right).
What is leptin?
Leptin is a molecule, a hormone, which is released from your fat cells (odipose tissue). We don’t know everything about it yet, but we do know that it is a key brick in the weight loss puzzle.
The amount of leptin released, is proportional to the amount of fat you have on your body. Basically: more fat equals more leptin. For practical purposes, we can think of it as a signaling hormone that tells your body “Hey, you’re overweight! Eat less!”, or “You’re too skinny, eat more”.
Blogger Mark Sisson writes:
Leptin is the lookout hormone – the gatekeeper of fat metabolism, monitoring how much energy an organism takes in. It surveys and maintains the energy balance in the body, and it regulates hunger via three pathways:
By counteracting the effects of neuropeptide Y, a potent feeding stimulant secreted by the hypothalamus and certain gut cells.
By counteracting the effects of anandamide, another feeding stimulant.
By promoting the production of a-MSH, an appetite suppressant.
Generally, overweight people should be less hungry. Higher leptin levels, signaling that they “have plenty” should leads to a lessened feeling of hunger.
Also, leptin levels respond to short-term shifts in energy balance. A severe caloric deficit, will decrease your leptin levels — signaling your body to eat. Overfeeding will do the opposite, boost leptin production, and make you feel full.
We therefore have both long-term and short-term effects on leptin production:
Long-term: More leptin will signal that you have enough fat tissue
Short term: More leptin signals that you’ve had enough food
Why don’t overweight people respond to this leptin? And why are people overfeeding, despite increased leptin production? Why is there a discrepancy between the text-book world and the real world here?
The problem is not the secretion of leptin. Studies have shown that the majority of overweight men and women who are having problems losing weight shows a leptin resistance. They are unable to get the stimulating effect of leptin. This resistance is sensed as starvation — pertinent to what you would feel if your leptin levels were low. This tells your body to increase fat stores, rather than burn them off!
So, we’re eating more than what we need, an excess of food. Still our bodies will tell us that we’re starving, and to eat more. Do you see how this can lead to weight gain? With leptin resistance, you will crave food even though your body don’t need it … It will make your diet ten times harder.
How does it affect my diet?
All diets, from low-carb and Paleo to soup and shake diets will influence leptin levels. However, most diets don’t mention it … It’s just something happening behind the curtains. Most diets are focusing on calories only; It’s easier. It breaks down weight loss to a simple 2+2=4 — But it’s not entirely correct.
Don’t mistake me: calories is the most important aspect of any diet. However, by not considering leptin you’re swimming upstream.
I will get back to you in a few days, when I have better time, to write more on leptin resistance.
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We have previously written about the Venus Factor diet in here, but I keep getting questions about the workout plan. Therefore, I figured I’d do a separate review post on the exercise plan. If you have any additional questions, please let me know in the comments field.
What’s good about The Venus Factor, is that if you follow the diet part, you will lose your unwanted, excess fat, without exercising. However, and this is key, if you’d like to tone up your body, get fitter and get the other benefits of a workout (such as better sleep, feeling more awake during the day etc.), working out along with your diet is essential.
The exercises in the plan has sped up my weight loss, strengthened my muscles and increased the quality of my life.
Now, I’m looking back and thinking: why didn’t I start working out earlier? It sounds like a cliche, but starting to work out changed my life in far more ways than just shedding the weight off.
Can you tell me more about the exercises and how the plan is organized?
I personally love the training. I started seeing noticeable result within 8–9 days of starting, which just inspired me to continue.
The plan is simple, and “to the point”. It’s made up of three strength training sessions every week, which continues throughout the 12 weeks of the program.
The workout plan is a downloadable document, which you can print out, or put on your mobile phone or tablet (I prefer to put it on my iPad, which works great). All the exercises in the manual are hyper-linked to online videos, so if you keep it on an electronic device, you can easily see how to properly do each and every exercise for the maximum effect.
A session typically lasts 20-45 minutes (depending on how many and how long breaks you take in between sets).
The workout plan is extremely flexible. There is no rule saying that you have to do the entire workout in one go. At first I started to split the workout in two, and did one in the morning and one in the evening. This made the start of the diet a bit easier for me, and then I later switched over to doing the entire workout in the morning.
You are also free to choose how many and when you’ like to take breaks.
Is it easy to do?
Short answer: yes. The exercises can be done by anyone, and you can even switch them out with other exercises if you’d like (or if you have any injuries).
Really, it’s this simple: follow the diet plan, don’t cheat and do the exercises — just execute the plan you’re given — and you will lose weight!
A video presentation of The Venus Factor (opens in new window)