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18.5 - 24.9
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A BMI of less than 19 indicates you are underweight.
A BMI between 20 and 24 is usually considered normal.
A person with a BMI of 25 to 29 is considered overweight,
and a person with a BMI of 30 or above is considered obese.

Obesity is associated with an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other life-threatening diseases.

Eating a low fat diet has long been associated with good health, weight losing, reducing risk of developing life-threatening heart diseases and multiple health issues.
A low fat diet is not a no fat diet. Some dietary fat is actually necessary. You can still enjoy dairy products and meat, simply choose lower fat or lean varieties; and sparing use of heart-healthy oils is encouraged.

Fat is not entirely evil; a certain amount of fat is critical to our bodily functions. It regulates body temperature, cushions and insulates organs and tissues. As the most concentrated source of calories (nine calories per gram of fat compared with four calories per gram for protein and carbohydrates), fat is the main form of our body’s energy storage. It also provides linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid for growth, healthy skin and metabolism, and helps absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). Furthermore, fat also does have another extremely important role (which I believe all food lovers will agree with me) – a small amount of fat in food can improve the taste of food drastically and make a world of difference!

However, one problem with fats is that they are very high in calories (i.e nine calories, as mentioned earlier). Eating more calories than your body can lead to weight gain, which increases your risk for developing health problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, gallstones, and gout. Foods that are high in fat includes dairy foods (e.g whole milk, ice cream, butter, cheese), fatty red meats, egg yolks, which are particularly high in cholesterol, processed meats (sausage, salami, hot dogs), and deep-fried foods. A low fat diet often comprises fruits, vegetables, fish, cereals, rice, pasta, nuts and seeds. However, we also need to understand that not all fats are equal. More and more studies reveal that bad fats increase the risk for certain diseases while good fats lower the risk. The idea of healthy eating and following a low fat diet is about knowing how to choose good fats over bad fats. In other words, the key is to substitute good fats for bad fats.

Bad Fats

Saturated fats:

These are mainly found in the harder fats such as the fat on meat, lard, and the fat in dairy products such as butter, full cream milk, etc. There are also fats called ‘Trans Fats’ (Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils). These are oils which come from vegetables but have been processed to make them hard and similar to saturated fats. They are often used in processed foods, and in commercially made cakes, biscuits and pastries.

We should try to limit our intake of saturated fats and trans fats as they contribute to weight gain and a raised cholesterol level.

Unsaturated fats
These mainly come from vegetables, nuts and fruits. They are divided into:

* Polyunsaturated fats such as sunflower oil, and corn oil.
* Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and rapeseed oil.
* Omega 3 fatty acids. These come mainly from oily fish such as pilchards, sardines, salmon mackerel and fresh (not tinned) tuna. Some omega 3 fatty acids are found in various plant foods and vegetable oils.

Unsaturated fats are ‘good fats’ as they are less likely to raise your cholesterol level. Omega 3 fatty acids are also thought to help prevent heart disease and may help to improve our health in other ways. There is a separate leaflet called ‘Cholesterol’ which gives more details about reducing your cholesterol level.

Trans Fats:

Trans fats are actually unsaturated fats, but they can raise total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while also lowering HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Any item that contains “hydrogenated oil” or “partially hydrogenated oil” likely contains trans fats. Hydrogenation is the chemical process that changes liquid oils into solid fats. It’s used to extend the shelf life of processed foods, typically in stick margarine, baked and fast foods such as ice cream, cakes, cookies, chips, shortening, popcorn, and French fries. Hydrogenated or trans fats are harmful to the heart and have been associated with some cancers. You probably have noticed more and more brands of potato chips are screaming “trans-fat free” on their packaging in the marketplace. Now, take note, a food can be labelled as having zero trans fats or “Trans fat Free”- even if it contains trans fats. The FDA states that if a serving of a food has 0.5 gram or less per serving of trans fats, then it can be labelled Trans Fat Free. And when you find out what constitutes a serving (e.g 5 crackers, 2 cookies, ½ cup of popcorns…), you would realise how easy it is for those who are keeping a low fat diet to be fooled and overeat trans fat. So, next time you go shopping, even if the food label claims zero trans fat, look for the words “partially-hydrogenated”, “shortening” or even “hydrogenated” – which can all mean that the food still contains trans fats.

Good Fats

Monounsaturated fats:

These are unsaturated fatty acids derived from vegetables and plants. They are liquid at room temperature but begin to solidify at cold temperatures. This type of fat is relatively healthier than other types of fat and can be found in olives, olive oil, nuts, peanut oil, canola oil and avocados. Some studies have shown that these kinds of fats can actually lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and maintain HDL (good) cholesterol.

Polyunsaturated fats:

These unsaturated fatty acids can have a beneficial effect on our health when consumed in moderation and when used to replace saturated fats or trans fats. They can help reduce the cholesterol levels in your blood and lower your risk of heart disease. Polyunsaturated fats cannot be manufactured by our bodies, and are found mostly in fish and plant oils such as safflower, corn, soybean, sunflower, and cottonseed. They exist in liquid form at room temperature.

Omega fats:

Three very important fatty acids that make up poly and monounsaturated fats are omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9; all frequently mentioned when discussing about low fat diet and choosing good fats. They can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and also boost our immune systems. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna, canola oil, soybeans, flaxseed and certain nuts (especially walnuts and almonds). They may reduce the risk of stroke, high blood pressure, and other chronic disease. Omega-6 fatty acid is found in corn, safflower, soybean, and sunflower oils, and Omega-9 fatty acid is found in olive oil and canola oil.

When following a low fat diet, you don’t have to entirely give up eating foods that are high in fat content, but there are some things we all can start doing: Eat bigger quantities of low-fat foods to accompany high-fat foods, make substitutions for high fat food. Educate yourself about foods and learn some important concepts including saturated fats and cholesterol. Learn to read food labels and be informed on the fat contents. Look for keywords like “hydrogenated”, “partially hydrogenated,” and “trans fats”, and as a general rule of thumb, liquid fats are better for you than solid fats.

Pop singer Janet Jackson, whose fluctuating weight has fascinated the tabloids for years, is co-writing a book about her journey as an “emotional eater.”
A title and publication details are expected to be announced soon, but Jackson hopes to have the book out by the end of the year.

She is collaborating on the project with her nutritionist, David Allen.

“It’s not just this sterile, weight loss and how to do it book, but my journey even from when I was a kid … being an emotional eater,” said Jackson, who is 41.

“It takes you through those moments in my life up ’til now and what worked for me. And hopefully within that, if it doesn’t work for them, maybe they’ll find something that does work for them and a nice place for them to be content with who they are.”

Jackson, who said last month on CNN’s “Larry King Live” that she liked French fries, sweets, caramel and candy apples, reportedly put on 60 pounds in 2006.

Maybe you remember this television commercial for the diet pill, alli. A blonde woman sits in front of her computer. Viewers can see her conversation about alli, a Food and Drug Administration approved, over-the-counter weight loss product, in an instant message window. Different people answer her questions and inform her of their satisfaction with the product. Her final comment, “but I still don’t understand how it works,” may explain many people’s feelings on dietary products.

How do diet pills work? Do they work? And are they safe?

Do they work?
According to the FDA, approved prescription dietary products may help obese people lose weight. Most approved prescription drugs work as appetite suppressants, except for Xenical (orlistat). Xenical, approved by the FDA in 1999, is the first in a line of drugs set to prevent obesity by decreasing fat absorption. To receive a prescription, a patient must fall into a certain category of body mass index, or must be under special circumstances such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

John VanDeVoort, director of pharmacy at Sacred Heart Hospital, 900 W. Clairemont Ave., said Xenical contains the same chemical ingredient found in the over-the-counter product, alli. The only difference is the dosage, as Xenical tablets have 120 milligrams. Alli tablets are half strength, with 60 milligrams. VanDeVoort said he believes that diet pills can be beneficiary.

“An individual will need to ultimately change his or her diet and activity levels to sustain weight loss,” he said. “Clinical studies show that patients lose weight faster when they take Xenical or alli, following a low fat diet versus dietary changes alone.”

Side effects
The two common diet pills VanDeVoort mentioned, Xenical and alli, can cause bloating, gas, stomach discomfort and diarrhea, he said. However, these symptoms depend upon diet. The more fat taken in, the greater the side effects. A low-fat diet, which is consistent with losing weight, would result in less of the side effects, VanDeVoort said.

“(It) depends on how much fat is taken in,” he said.

VanDeVoort also said the pills are generally considered to be safe.

“(They’re) the only diet aid that’s prescribed or recommended.”

Some issues in the past include amphetamines, which could be prescribed, or found over the counter, VanDeVoort said. In the late 1960s and 70s, amphetamines were used as diet pills, but were highly addictive.

A popular drug on the market that fell into this category was fen-phen. This product was shown to cause heart problems, such as heart attacks, and actually faced class action lawsuits, he said.

Other diet products from the past include stimulants such as Ephedra and caffeine, but were also pulled off the market because of concerns, VanDeVoort said.

Other problems concern unapproved diet pills. According to the FDA, it does not approve many diet supplements on the market. The producers of these products claim their products are herbal remedies, or are natural, but are untested. The FDA advises that before using diet supplements, patients visit their doctors, because some ingredients could cause health problems.

Alternative choices
It isn’t uncommon to see diet pill commercials for products which promise weightloss. Freshman Kirsten Kuehni said she believes these advertisements are common today, because they are money makers.

“I think a lot of companies jump on the bandwagon because people use them,” she said.

The reason diet pills are so popular, is because the process seems simple, said Susan Miller, clinical dietitian at Sacred Heart Hospital.

“It sounds easier to take a pill,” she said, in regard to conventional weightloss methods. Miller added people believe that if they take a diet pill, their weight will melt away overnight. But that isn’t the case.

“The biggest thing is that losing weight is what people want,” she said, “it will take work on our part.”

Kuehni said she has never used diet pills and does not know anyone who does. In previous health courses, she said she learned diet pills do not actually work. She said she agrees with Miller about why so many people use them in order to lose weight.

“I think a majority of people are too lazy to do work,” she said, adding a magic pill in a bottle would do the work instead.

One current diet pill Miller mentioned, alli, interferes with fat absorption and should be combined with a low-fat diet. However, Miller does not believe it makes a difference. People should follow a low fat diet anyway, she said. Miller also said she does not believe that pills, whether approved by the FDA or not, are good.

“Even FDA (approved) pills have been taken off the market,” she said.

Miller said she prefers different methods for weightloss than diet pills or herbal supplements, because some of them have had adverse effects, such as causing blood pressure to rise.

Miller said in order to lose weight, people should get physical activity, such as walking, although, “the best way to lose weight is eating less.”

When Rosie Murrell first came through the doors at the Hope & Healing Center, operated by the Church Health Center, she had a specific goal in mind: lose enough weight to qualify for bariatric surgery. Rosie had been seriously overweight her whole life, at one point weighing 437 pounds.

She wanted that surgery any way she could get it, so much so that the fact that she had been diabetic for 20 years, and had eventually increased her insulin intake to over 100 units, wasn’t even her biggest concern. She also had uncontrolled high blood pressure and was working on degenerative joint disease.

“My doctor was pushing exercise, and told me he wouldn’t do the surgery if there was more than a 50 percent chance I’d die on the table,” Rosie said. She’d begun to lose weight before she began at Hope & Healing, though the starvation diet she’d worked out wasn’t really working.

“When (the wellness counselor) told me I’d have to increase my calories” to keep losing weight, Rosie said, “I cried and cried.”

But with her Hope & Healing counselors, Rosie worked out a meal plan she could live with, starting with making a list of what she was eating every day, then every week. Slowly, slowly, things began to change.

“If I used to eat three or four candy bars a week, I’d only eat two,” she said. “Every time I dropped a candy bar, I’d add a fruit or a vegetable.” If she wanted ice cream, she’d eat a small cup, rather than a large bowl, and not every day. She put her food on smaller plates, instead of filling up a larger one.

“I couldn’t tell you when I stopped eating junk,” she said. “But I realized that if I’m going to do this, I can’t have my cake and eat it, too.” Her obsession with bariatric surgery began to fade.

She began exercising — “I do an hour of cardio every day,” she says now, along with core strengthening classes — and leaned on her friends in the Hope & Healing wellness classes and wellness coordinator Sharon Tagg for support.

Everything, from her grocery list to what she cooks for her family, is different. She says she allows herself as much as a five-pound weight gain, without “going off the deep end.” If she does gain weight, she knows she’ll be able to get back on track: “This is a lifetime change, not a fad diet,” she says.

Perhaps most astonishing, though, is what has happened over the last three months: Rosie has stopped taking insulin completely. “It’s as if I wasn’t a diabetic at all,” she says. “My health has improved so, so much.” She’s lost nearly 200 pounds, and is a size 18, and is still working to lose weight, even though “I’m smaller than I’ve ever been.”

It’s not just Rosie’s health and dress size that have changed: She travels around the country doing diabetes education for a pharmaceutical company, after having completed a training class — and her first plane flight ever — in Kansas City. “I look so small in my graduation pictures,” she said.

But “I always carry my ‘before’ pictures with me.” For the people struggling with their weight and with diabetes, it’s helpful to have a visual aid, she says. “My face is different now, but you can see it was me.”

Though she rejoices that she’s a “living, breathing statistic,” the pictures also remind her that “I won’t go back there.”

Rosie is 47, and says she is living her teen years over again, this time without the depression and rejection she remembers from being a 300-pound high schooler.

“I’m living a life I never lived before,” she says.

Green tea or green tea supplements are being added to many weight loss programs because of the potential benefits, affordability and effectiveness of the tea.

This tea has had numerous studies associated with it for different health benefits but we’ll focus on just weight loss. Green tea stimulates the body’s thermogenesis process which means more energy is created by oxidizing fat in the body and the metabolic rate is raised above normal which helps you burn this energy.

Many compounds found in plants will increase the thermogenesis process but green tea does it without increasing the heart rate unlike some of the others.

Keeping the heart rate at the same level is very important for many people but especially for those that are obese, have hypertension or have other cardiovascular health issues. Since your heart rate isn’t artificially elevated, you may be able to safely increase your activity levels at a faster pace

The only way you are going to lose weight is if you burn more calories than you consume. This usually means:

  • You must eat less and exercise more which isn’t always easy.
  • Change what foods you eat and how often can also help.
  • Adding green tea or green tea supplements to either of the above will speed up the weight loss process.

Studies have shown that green tea works by increasing the energy output by as much as 4 percent. Most scientists believe that this is caused by the high quantity of catechin that is in the tea and its extract.

Green tea does contain caffeine so you should either eliminate or reduce your intake of other beverages that contain caffeine (i.e. coffee, soda and other forms of tea) while you are taking it. Do not try to substitute the decaffeinated tea for use in your weight loss program because the chemical processes that are used to remove the caffeine may destroy the beneficial properties of the plant.

This tea or the supplement can be a very powerful part of your weight loss program as long as you stick to a sensible diet and exercise program that has you burning more calories than you consume. The power of this aide is its unique ability to help you increase your metabolic rate and burn some of the energy that’s currently being stored in fat cells.

Green tea is a simple, easy and affordable weight loss aid that can easily be added to any weight loss program that may last for a lifetime.

Americans are highly motivated to lose weight—as a growing list of best-selling books and highly trafficked dieting Web sites attest. We’re just not approaching it the right way. The pressure we put on ourselves to succeed—and the self-criticism we indulge in when we fall short of the mark—can have dire emotional and dietary repercussions.

Consider that pair of jeans hanging reproachfully in the closet. You realize they don’t fit, and you feel unattractive and worthless. This tendency to evaluate yourself too harshly will only make you give up altogether. You want to head to the fridge for solace.

You need to identify the things you’re telling yourself that cause you to feel discouraged and to throw in the towel. Don’t beat yourself up when you overeat. Accept that you acted in a self-defeating way, then establish better methods to meet your goal. Review what you’d like to do and work toward that goal.

Perhaps you’re not (yet) berating yourself for failures, but putting inordinate pressure on yourself to succeed. When you tell yourself, “I must lose 25 pounds by Valentine’s Day, or I’ll never get a date,” you’re setting yourself up for emotional turmoil, as well as weight-loss failure. Losing weight in a prescribed amount of time is a worthy goal, but the perfectionistic premise that sneaks into your thinking may well interfere with sensible eating and exercise.

In a perfect universe, the sight of those jeans, or the knowledge that Valentine’s Day is around the corner, would elicit rational thoughts like, “I’m going to look great soon, and I’m going to enjoy the challenge of eating sensibly and exercising along the way.” But few of us think that.

PT spoke with Nando Pelusi and Mitchell Robin, clinical psychologists in New York City, about what we really tell ourselves, sabotaging our own best efforts to lose weight—or meet any goal.

  • “I must be thin.”

    This creates desperation, which undermines a healthy long-range approach to sensible eating. Also, perfectionism pervades this thinking (I must not only be thin, but also perfect).

  • “I must eat until sated.”

    Early humans lived in an environment in which food resources were scarce. While our ancestors had to hunt down squirrels and eat them, we can supersize a Whopper meal and skip the workout.

  • “I need immediate results.”

    The demand for immediate improvement undermines commitment to a long-term goal. Quick fixes are hard to pass up: “This cupcake will make me feel good right now.” We think, why bother eating healthfully, when the reward is far off? Dieting requires present-moment frustration and self-denial with little immediate reward.

  • “I need comfort.”

    People eat to avoid feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety. Fatty and sugary food provides immediate comfort and distraction from other issues. Resolving some of these problems may help you overcome poor eating habits.

  • “I feel awful.”

    “It’s terrible being heavy.” For some, being overweight is the worst thing imaginable; it can immobilize you and leave you dumbstruck. That’s a reaction more suited to tragedy. Weight loss is best achieved without that end-of-the-world outlook.

  • “It’s intolerable to stick to a diet.”

    “It’s just too hard to diet.” This thinking renders you helpless. People who are easily frustrated want easy solutions. We’re seduced by fad diets because they appeal to that immediacy. Yet people who rely on fads suffer high failure rates. When you diet with the short term in mind, you don’t learn strategies that require patience and persistence.

  • “I am no good.”

    “Because I am having trouble in this one area I am worthless.” Being overweight can be viewed as a sign of weakness or worthlessness, and most people aren’t motivated when they feel that way. Another form of worthlessness: “My worth is dependent on my looks.” This idea confuses beauty with thinness, a concept played out endlessly in the media.

Get Moving

Now that you’ve thrown out your irrational thinking, a little motivation is key to change. But how do you make that leap? Psychologist and marathon runner Michael Gilewski has found that the brain can achieve a state of habitual behavior through small successes—turning a once extraordinary effort into mere routine.

“Even when someone climbs Mount Everest, it’s usually not his first time climbing,” he points out. Perhaps motivation may simply be the product of positive reinforcement and repeated success.

PT asked five expert motivators—including an active-duty drill sergeant and a rock-climbing instructor—how they rally everyone from first-time dieters to hard-core soldiers.

Inspiration From Within

Deborah Low is a certified weight management and lifestyle consultant in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“We have an all-or-nothing attitude: If we don’t do our full hour at the gym, we may as well sit around and eat junk food. If you feel guilty and punish yourself, you may eat 10 cookies instead of 2. If you criticize yourself, you’ll never change.

“Motivation is something we get from other people; but inspiration swells within us. Thinking ‘I’ll lose weight and then I’ll be happy’ is not enough. If we respect and love ourselves, independent of our weight, it’s easier to make healthy choices.

“We struggle because we’re fixated on the end result. We force ourselves to go to the gym, restrict food, measure and weigh ourselves. You let that number on the scale determine how your day’s going to go. I ask clients to remember what it was like to play as a kid. You ran around, climbed on things—your goal was not to lose weight, it was to have fun. Being active gave you a sense of freedom, excitement and amazement. You have to reconnect with that emotion.”

Being a Team Player

Chris Broadway instructs an Outward Bound outdoor classroom on Hurricane Island, off the coast of Maine.

“I set the tone of team spirit in the beginning; I teach one person a skill, and his or her responsibility is to teach everyone else. We let the students make their own mistakes. We expect students to have problems, as the activities we construct are a challenge. Discouragement can occur, but we celebrate accomplishments. Students set their own level of achievement. Some have a focus on the end result, but not everyone is results-oriented. Some want to measure success by relationships they form, by the process itself.

“Another motivating factor is how their experience here connects to their lives. We create situations where there are actual risks and perceived risks, as in sailing. We let the group navigate ahead of a storm, deciding when to pull back and when to move forward. We show them how to apply these situations to their own businesses or personal lives—calculate the risk, know when to take it or when to step back.

“It’s so much more powerful when another student steps up to deliver the message of leadership. As instructors, we’re always building their tool kit so they have the means to do that. With a group of 12, it’s difficult to hide in the background. Even if someone’s in a slump, he or she absolutely needs to fill a role.”

“Certain kinds of teaching are done from below—telling people what to do but being removed from the activity. I try to teach from above—I climb with my students, participating fully in the activity. I make my enthusiasm infectious.

“Even a climb well within your physical limits—if you strive to climb it beautifully—can be challenging and rewarding. Our culture puts emphasis on goals, on absolutes. We’re taught to believe competition should be ferocious. But if we lose that sense of fun, of delight, all the haranguing in the world from an instructor won’t give a student lasting motivation. The bottom line is to savor the movement, the physical sensation of moving up the rock and over the stone. That itself becomes a reward compelling enough to keep one involved.

“For someone in his or her mid-30s or older, climbing is still seen as a potentially dangerous sport, daring and terrifying. It’s a mental construct that can be inhibiting. Plus, for white-collar workers, running hands and fingers over rough rock could be shocking to the system.”

Coming Home Alive

Billie Jo Miranda is a U.S. Army drill sergeant in Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

“The goal is being prepared for war and coming home alive. The [desire to] drop out occurs in the first few weeks. Once they learn they have a comfort zone, get along and trust people, we’re pretty much over the hump. We motivate through example; we do it next to, in front of and behind them. We tailor training around the weakest soldier. It may not be beneficial for the soldier who was a college athlete, but everybody is part of a team, they push each other.

“There will be those who do the minimum. Today’s youth are Nintendo children. Training requires them to get out of bed and walk an extra mile. The more rigor you put into training, the more a soldier knows what he can accomplish in combat. They shouldn’t enjoy training. It should hurt physically and mentally. And they hate it. But we want them to enjoy the accomplishment.

“If you have heart, you have the motivation and the desire to get through anything. It’s a patriotic thought process: What we’re doing is for the betterment of America. When they say, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore,’ just give me 10 minutes with a soldier and she’ll do a 180. We use their being volunteers as a motivational tool: ‘Soldier, I didn’t ask you to come here. You obviously joined the military for a reason, you wanted to do something for your country.'”

Think Like a Thermostat

Peter Catina is a professor of exercise physiology at Pennsylvania State University.

“Most elite athletes are already at the top of their sport, and to reach the next level is a challenge. But it’s difficult to sustain your level when you’re at your pinnacle—novice or expert. Everyone must have both physical and mental discipline.

“Self-regulation is key; you can make it simple by being your own monitor. You have to think like a thermostat—be able to detect a discrepancy between the environment and your internal standard. It’s the difference between your current state and where your mind and body would like to be. You can then adjust—raise your standards to meet your expectations—through strategy and action. Some of us are born with high self-regulatory skills, but I can identify clients who lack the know—how and I teach them. Awareness is the first step: noting how many calories you’ve consumed, how effective your exercise is, how frequently and intensely you’ve exercised.

“Aerobics is no longer the panacea for losing weight. It’s the change in body composition that makes you look better, and for that, strength training is more effective. Don’t constantly weigh yourself, since muscle weighs more than fat. Instead, measure your body mass index—or even your waist—and only once every four to six weeks. I’ve had many female clients gain five pounds but go down three dress sizes.”


“Eat all you want and still lose weight” boast the ads for Akavar 20/50, one of the most heavily advertised new weight-loss supplements on the market.

Their promise gets caught in your head, not simply because it’s repeated – no, shouted – multiple times, but because, at this time of year, it sounds a lot better than going to the gym.

With New Year’s workout kick winding down and months to go before bikini season, midyear sees a dramatic slump in gym activity, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. So why don’t we all just pop a pill, order a pizza and commence the fat burning? Because it’s hard to believe such a miracle drug exists.

Akavar’s own research chemist, Dr. Nathalie Chevreau, was happy to fill us in on a 2001 report featured in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics that stated 24 people who took Akavar lost an average of 11 pounds in 45 days, while 23 who were given a placebo lost nearly no weight at all.

In fact, she even takes it herself.

“I take one serving, which is two tablets, once in the morning to make sure I’m not too hungry for the day,” says Chevreau of the pills, which cost $39.99 a bottle. “There is a slowdown of the stomach emptying into the intestine, so you have an increased sense of fullness.” She attributes the process to three active herbal ingredients, yerba mate, guarana and damiana.

But that’s not necessarily a good thing, say other experts.

“If it’s decreasing the appetite and causing you to eat less, you’re body goes into starvation mode and starts to burn lean tissue and store fat. The active ingredients are stimulants, and no one really knows what the safe doses are for any of these herbs in the long term,” counters weight-loss expert and non-Akavar affiliate Dr. Dave E. David, who equates the caffeine levels in one dose to 3-1/2 cups of coffee.

“Taking more than 250mg of caffeine has been implicated in insomnia and high blood pressure,” says nutritionist Thomas Von Ohlen, who works with thousands of patients to address the hundreds of different reasons for weight gain.

“The idea of one cure-all is absurd. Losing weight by taking diet pills and going to Dunkin’ Donuts all day long is a biochemical impossibility,” he adds. “The basic rule is, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.”

Meanwhile, Akavar’s ad claims: “We couldn’t say it in print if it wasn’t true.”

Well, actually, they pretty much can, as there’s no federal agency that reviews advertisements before they appear.

“They’re about as bold as you can be,” says lawyer Scott Shepherd of the outrageously brazen ads.

His firm, Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller & Shah, LLC, has filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, set to go to trial in 2010. “We filed our case in November 2007 based on consumer fraud claims,” said Shepherd, whose firm has successfully settled a $16 million suit against Rexall Sundown Inc., for weight-loss product Cellasene and a $12 million suit against the now-defunct Dr. Phil-endorsed Shape Up! diet supplements.

Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission was unable to confirm whether any investigation is pending.

One thing is clear: Getting off your behind and heading to the gym is looking better and better.