When it comes to health and fitness (or even just looking good) the most popular goal is weight loss. Whether this is a result of relentless marketing by the nutrition industry, or ideas of ideal body image perpetrated by popular media or by actual public health messaging is a matter of debate. However, one thing that is clearly evident is that the number of products promising weight loss are increasingly flooding the market shelves and our social media feeds. From green teas to apple cider vinegar to nutrition supplements and heat and vibration belts, promises weight loss are never far away.
Recently, a popular brand ran ads claiming that drinking their green tea will lead to weight loss. Then a sports nutrition company promoted its L-Carnitine supplement with a picture of a woman’s slim waistline. To be sure, almost all green tea and sports nutrition companies make similar tall claims. But do these things actually burn fat?
But f slimming teas, fat burner supplements and heat belts were the silver bullet to decimate excess body fat, we wouldn’t have a grown obesity, says Sandeep Sachdev coach, nutritionist and co-founder of Easy Human fitness studio and cafe in Mumbai. “Basically, people want to lose weight but most of them want to take the easy way out and turn to quick fixes. That’s why they fall for even less harmful foods and beverages that make these improbable claims and give them a try," he says.
Bhakti Samant, chief dietician at the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Mumbai, isn’t convinced by such claims either. “The marketing claims of rapid fat burning through supplements and teas should be viewed with caution and scepticism," she says. Fat burners are natural or artificial supplements that are marketed as an aid in weight loss. These are typically a combination of various ingredients like green tea extract, caffeine or other compounds that are believed to help in fat loss. However, a lot more scientific data is required to test the effectiveness of these supplements, says Samant. “Most of these fat burners are portrayed as magic pills and powders that will miraculously reduce one’s weight without much effort from your end."
Beyond fat burners and slimming teas, there are vibration and heat belts that claim spot fat reduction. These used to be really popular once upon a time, but some people still fall for them. Shalini Garwin Bliss, executive dietician at Manipal Hospital in Gurugram says that tummy trimmer heat or vibration belts may temporarily stimulate muscles but do not directly burn fat.
Spot reduction is a misconception because the body burns fat uniformly throughout, adds Chandni Haldurai, head of nutrition at Cult.fit. “Heat or vibration belts don't miraculously melt or burn fat. A comprehensive strategy and consistency are essential for getting long-lasting outcomes. Concentrate on a balanced diet, consistent exercise, and core-strengthening exercises to get a smaller waistline," says Haldurai.
Similarly, when it comes to apple cider vinegar, Bliss says that having some daily is unlikely to lead to significant weight loss without a balanced diet and exercise. “Apple cider vinegar is believed to have several potential health benefits, including aiding digestion and potentially assisting with weight loss due to its acetic acid content. However, there is no magic bullet for weight loss, and results can vary widely among individuals," she adds.
Our collective obsession with fat and weight can be attributed to social media influence, societal beauty standards, and so-called fitness and nutrition gurus, says Samant. “Looking slim and trim for social media is the top-most concern for the younger generation while appearing younger than your colleagues or family members is the older generations. However, a healthy fat loss is generally overlooked and people are looking for the fastest way out to reach their desired weight," she says.
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In the real world, a balanced diet and exercise go hand-in-hand for achieving weight and fat loss. Eating the correct quality and quantity of food along with a mixture of strength and cardio exercise is the way to go, say fitness coaches and nutritionists. Regular physical activity helps increase calorie expenditure and builds muscle, which in turn assists in fat loss.
However, targeted fat loss is not possible using dietary supplements or modifications. “When the body loses fat, you don’t get to choose or prioritise the area of fat loss. There is always an overall loss in the body fat mass with the help of diet modifications and regular exercise. This leads to gradual fat loss from the problematic areas," says Samant.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.
- FIRST PUBLISHED19.10.2023 | 08:00 AM IST