Tag Archives: Weight gain

4 Food Myths… BUSTED!

When it comes to food, everyone seems to have a different opinion.

Social media, marketing, our peers and even celebrities have come to shape the way we think about nutrition and food. At times, it can be difficult to differentiate between fact and fad.

Below are 4 common food myths that are still going around!


Myth 1: Eating fat will make you FAT

Low fat and fat free products are now widely available. This can be attributed to fear that eating fat will make you fat. However, these products are not necessarily healthy. Some have a lot of added sugar to compensate for the loss in flavor/texture. People also tend to over consume, thinking that because it is free/low in fat, they can consume more of it.

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Yes, fat has more calories per gram (9 kcal/g) compared to carbs and protein (4 kcal/g). But that does not mean that it is more “fattening”. In fact, studies have found that low carb diets (as oppose to low fat) have led to more weight loss [1, 2, 3].

We all need fat! They have roles in absorbing vitamins, appetite regulation, making of your brain cells, nerve cells and key hormones (sex hormones).

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The source, amount and type of fat are very important. These should come from olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, fish/fish oil and grass-fed animal fats.


Myth 2: Red meat is unhealthy

Red meat has always gotten a pretty bad rep. I often hear people say that they have to avoid eating red meat. And when I ask why, common answers would be “it is not good for me” or “it is not healthy”. But they cannot seem to pin point WHY it is unhealthy. It seems like an ingrain assumption. I wish people would have that same assumption towards highly processed packaged foods!
IMG_3452
Yes, PROCESSED meats such as poor quality sausages, ham, salami and burgers are associated with an increased risk of diseases such as diabetes, CHD and cancer. That is because processed meats are filled with chemicals and fillers. The same cannot be said for unprocessed red meat [4, 5, 6].

Good cuts of fresh, grass-fed red meats are very nutritious (protein, iron, zinc, Vit Bs, selenium, phosphorus etc) and they do have a place in a healthy diet. Just remember to cook them well. Harmful compounds can form if you burn the meat!

Oh, and if you’re worried about the saturated fat, check out this recent study.


Myth 3: Eggs are high in cholesterol and are bad for you

This myth has been busted ages ago but it still comes up every now and then. Our liver makes the bulk of the cholesterol in our bodies. The food we eat has very little effect on its production.

Yes, eggs are high in cholesterol BUT studies have shown that eggs raises HDL (the “good” cholesterol) and improves blood lipid profile [7, 8].

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Eggs are very nutrient dense. Loaded with protein (high quality essential amino acids), choline (for healthy brain), antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin (protects the eyes) along with other vitamins and minerals.


Myth 4: Low GI foods are healthier

The GI rating is another index that has been widely abused by the commercial food industry. The common perception is that if it is low in GI, it is healthy, regardless of the other ingredients.Low_Gi_Logo_CMYK_R

Low GI has been associated with terms such as complex carbohydrates, improved insulin sensitivity, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. However, a study has shown that low GI foods are not necessarily associated with healthier outcomes when compared to high GI foods [9]. In fact, some sugar-laden foods such as soft drinks have a relatively low GI. This can be very misleading, especially if one swears by the GI rating.

The GI rating alone says very little about the food. Instead of relying on a number or rating that has been assigned to it, focus on the ingredients that make up the food!


The next time you feel overwhelmed by all the food information out there, just remember – WHOLESOME, NUTRIENT RICH and FRESH!

Let me know if you have any questions!

10 Foods that are High in Sugar

Following on from my Added Sugars post, I thought I’d point out 10 foods that are relatively high in sugar.

You’d be surprise to find out that some of these foods are assumed and/or claimed to be “healthy” and good for you.

As you’re reading this post, keep this in mind (for context):

1 tsp of sugar = 4g

1 can of coke (350mL) = 10 tsp of sugar


1. Low fat yoghurt

Yoghurts with the right strain and amount of probiotics are good for gut health. They are also a good source of protein and calcium.

With the low fat trend still trending, many are made without the fat.

BUT yoghurt without the fat would not taste as nice. And so manufacturers tend to add quite a bit of sugar to make up for it.

Low Fat Greek Natural Yoghurt344668_1

100g = 6.7g of sugar

1.7 tsp of sugar

A2 Protein Whole Milk Natural a2_1kg

100g = 4.1g of sugar

1 tsp of sugar

I know that it is not a MASSIVE difference but just so that you are AWARE. And this is just one example.

Also, check out this study about FULL fat and LOW fat dairy products.

Solution:

Go for all natural Greek yoghurt or plain yoghurt. READ the LABELS and INGREDIENTS list. Sometimes, these natural plain versions have added sugar!

Ideally, you’d be looking at <15g of sugar per 100g.


2. Breakfast cereals

For many, breakfast cereals are a staple. It is a fuss free and quick breakfast option.

If you eat them every day, your choice of breakfast cereal is crucial. Most breakfast cereals are loaded with sugar (especially those that are marketed at children) and contain very little fibre, protein and other nutrients.

You’re basically having sugar for breakfast. A big NO-NO.

Kellogg’s Coco Pops

7442f090-bd1d-4498-afba-68a82a736907

1 cup = 14.4g of sugar

3.6 tsp of sugar

Solution:

Get up a little earlier and cook yourself a nutritious breakfast. Some eggs + avocado +/- toast will provide you with some protein, carbs and healthy fats to power you through your morning!

If you must have your cereal, choose those that are high in fibre, made from 100% wholegrains and with NO/least amount of added sugars.


3. Fruit juice

Whole fruit is good for you. Fruit juice contains fruit. So, it must be good?

I’d definitely think twice about that! Yes, fruit juice is made from fruit BUT without the fibre from a WHOLE fruit. It will still contain the antioxidants, vitamins and minerals from the fruit but it also comes with a huge hit of SUGAR.

Just think about it: How many oranges would it take to make a glass of juice?

Easily more than 5 oranges. It is so easy to drink 1 glass of orange juice (made from over 5 oranges) than to actually EAT 5 oranges! That’s a lot of sugar in a tiny glass!

Without the benefits of eating a whole fruit, sugar from fruit juice is still sugar. The body processes it the same way. Shockingly, the sugars in fruit juice can be as high (or higher) as those found in a can of coke.

Love potion from Juice Labstatic1.squarespace.com400mL = 43.4g of sugar

10.9 tsp of sugar

And look, it is actually given “5 health stars”.

Solution:

EAT the whole fruit! If you MUST have your juice, please make sure that there are no added sugars. And if you order fruit juice from a stall, ALWAYS ASK FOR NO ADDED SUGAR. Most places add some form of syrup/sugar in them!


4. Smoothies

Like fruit juice, smoothies are always assumed to be “healthy”. Yes, they can be!

But many commercial smoothies (bottled or from smoothie bars) are sweetened with fruit juice (apple juice, orange juice), flavoured yoghurts, sorbets, ice cream, honey or some other sweetener (natural/artificial).

Boost Juice Passion Mangoboost1

Med size (450mL) = 61.3g of sugar

15.3 tsp of sugar

 Solution:

Make your own smoothie at home! 1 cup of Strawberries + 1 Banana + Cacao powder + Milk/Yoghurt + Ice (optional) = YUM!

If you’re going for a commercial smoothie, check the labels and ask what’s in them! And a reminder to watch portion sizes.


5. Granola

Granola is made from rolled oats and combined with other foods like dried fruit, nuts, seeds and sweetened with either honey or other sweeteners.

With the right ingredients, granolas can be a good source of unsaturated fatty acids, iron, fibre and protein. But most commercial granolas are filled with sugar.

Five:am Apple Crumble Granola7807531 cup = 18.4g of sugar

4.6 tsp of sugar

Solution:

Check that there are no added sugars apart from the sugars found in dried fruit. Opt for the ones with the least amount of sugar per 100g. I’d also avoid those with some form of “vegetable oil” added to them.

As granola is more dense than cereal, use it as a topping (instead of having a whole bowl) on your yoghurt, fruit or even in your smoothie!

Alternatively, you can make your own!


6. Protein bars

With the word “protein” attached to these bars, surely they’re a healthy option?

Most of these bars are just candy/chocolate bars in disguise. They are usually loaded with sugar, low in fibre and with some protein.

Power Bar Peanut Butter Caramel Protein BarProteinSnack_Peanut-Butter-Caramel1 bar = 12g of sugar

3 tsp of sugar

Just for comparison, 2 large eggs contain around 25-30g of protein! Now, THAT is a high protein snack!

Plus, just look at the ingredients in this bar:

CHOCOLATE FLAVORED COATING (SUGAR, FRACTIONATED PALM KERNEL OIL, COCOA POWDER, WHEY POWDER, NONFAT MILK , SOY LECITHIN, VANILLA FLAVOR),CARAMEL FILLING (CORN SYRUP, SUGAR, CREAM, FRUCTOSE, PALM OIL, SALT, NATURAL FLAVOR), MALTITOL SYRUP, SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE, PEANUTS, SOY CRISPS (SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE, TAPIOCA STARCH, SALT),OATS, OLIGOFRUCTOSE (FROM CHICORY ROOT) , PEANUT BUTTER, WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE, FRUCTOSE SYRUP, CANE INVERT SYRUP, CALCIUM CASEINATE, AND LESS THAN 2% OF: PEANUT OIL, NONFAT MILK, SOY LECITHIN, WATER, SUGAR, SALT, NATURAL FLAVOR, SUNFLOWER OIL.

Look at all the different forms of sugar!

Solution:

Have some good ol’ hard boiled eggs for a snack. They are loaded with protein, vitamins, minerals, choline (in the YOLK) and carotenoids (in the YOLK) without the excess “junk”.


7. Sauces

Sauces, especially savoury ones, are probably the last place you would think of that would be high in sugar. Check out the sauces below!

Hoisin Saucemed105801_0710_hoisin_sauce_vert1 tbsp = 7.2g of sugar

Tomato Sauce

Ketchup1 tbsp = 5.2g of sugar

BBQ Saucethumbs_bbq_sauce

1 tbsp = 11.4g of sugar

Oyster Saucezhzhenka4-300x3001 tbsp = 4.8g of sugar

If you’re a sauc-y person, it is easy to consume a lot of sugar in one meal!

Solution:

Read the labels. Go for the ones that have no added sugar/least amount of sugar. Also, be mindful of HOW MUCH you’re having!

Try seasoning your food with herbs, spices, olive oil, lemon and vinegar. SO GOOD!


8. Sports drinks

Another question that I often get is “which is the best sports drink?” or “do I need sports drinks?”.

My standard answer would be: unless you’re an elite athlete training at high intensity levels every day (+/- under the sun), you don’t need a sports drink.

Sports drinks are designed to hydrate and fuel during/after intense and prolonged bouts of exercise. As such, most have a lot of sugar that can be easily absorbed and used for fuel.

If you are consuming them outside of this context, you’re just drinking unwanted sugar. Sports drinks are just another form of sweetened beverage and have been linked with obesity [1].

Gatorade81oG+Clh3nL._SY450_

600mL = 36g of sugar

9 tsp of sugar

Solution:

WATER! If you find it hard to drink plain water, squeeze some lemon and add some ice. Alternatively, have some fresh coconut water!


9. Flavoured milk

Milk on its own is highly nutritious and a good source of protein and calcium. Flavoured milk… not so much.

Along with the good stuff, flavoured milk comes packed with added sugars!

Oak Chocolate Milk 20160713055518OAK_Chocolate_600ml_3D

600mL = 63.6g of sugar

15.9 tsp of sugar

Solution:

Plain milk.


 

10. Iced blended coffees

Just look at the numbers…

Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino665e04ca364a4253a5b2c1fb9b514917Grande (16oz) = 61g of sugar

15.3 tsp of sugar

Solution:

Stick to the usuals: black coffee, latte, cappuccino etc. They are also a lot cheaper. 😉


I hope this was helpful!

Please note that I have NOTHING against these brands listed. Just providing some examples.

I am not saying that these foods do not have a place in your diet or that you should avoid them at all cause. BUT I do want you to be AWARE of foods that have hidden sugars.

Most people say that they do not have a sweet tooth or eat desserts, yet wonder why they struggle to lose fat. Well, you may very well be eating these foods that could have the same amount of sugar in desserts!

Also, be careful of “health claims”. As you can see, some of the foods listed above are sold as health foods.

I always say FRESH IS BEST! But if you are buying packaged foods, ALWAYS check the nutrition label and the INGREDIENTS list!

Let me know if you have any questions!

xoxo

Added Sugars – Everything You NEED to KNOW!

Sugar seems to be the biggest enemy right now, with good reason. The general population is consuming WAY TOO MUCH SUGAR, esp ADDED SUGARS!

Let’s take a closer look.


Natural sugars

Sugars are naturally found in fruits (fructose) and dairy foods (lactose). Lower levels are also found in semi-starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots and beetroot.

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Sources of sugar from wholefoods (the ones mentioned above) are more than just sugar. They come packed with nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. When eaten in the right amounts, these foods can reduce inflammation, improve immune function and enhance gut health.

 Added sugars

Added sugars are well, basically sugars that have been added to foods and drinks at any stage during preparation or processing. These can be added on top of the natural sugars that are already present.

Sugars are added to enhance the taste and palatability of foods. If it taste great, people are going to buy it. The food industry has relied on this to increase sales of processed foods – by adding loads of sugar to their products.

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Head down to your nearest supermarket, and randomly pick one packaged processed food item. Look at the ingredients. I can almost (ALMOST!) guarantee that some form of sugar (refer to infographic below – Other sugar names) will be among the top 5 ingredients.

The problem with these foods (besides being high in sugar) is that they have no additional nutrient value. Added sugars can really mess with your hormones (insulin) and metabolism, leading to an increased risk of chronic diseases (diabetes, obesity, heart disease) and tooth decay.

Current recommendation

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that added sugars should not exceed 10% of your total energy intake, preferably below 5% or about 25g/day. That’s about 6 teaspoons of added sugar over a whole day.

What does that look like?

To put things into perspective, just look at the amount of sugars in the foods below. You can see why we EASILY exceed 6 teaspoons a day!

 Kellogg’s Coco Pops7442f090-bd1d-4498-afba-68a82a736907

1 cup = 3.6 tsp

Five:am Apple Crumble Granola780753

1 cup = 4.6 tsp

Peel Fresh Orange Juice461707_L1

250ml = 4 tsp

Cokeairbornecokecan2

375ml can = 10 tsp

Common sugar claims

Navigating Sugar Claims

Other sugar names

Other Sugar Names JPG

How to spot hidden sugars

Sugars are usually hidden in processed and packaged foods. The problem with nutrition information labels is that it will give you the TOTAL (natural + added) amount of sugar. ingredient-list-THEIRS

What you can do is to take a look at the ingredients list. These are listed in order of their quantity in foods, starting from the highest to the lowest. If sugar is lined up right in front, it probably has a lot of added sugar!


 I hope this helps!

Don’t be swayed by marketing gimmicks. Let’s get smart about our sugars!

Let me know if you have any questions!

xoxo

Do Calories Matter? – Part 4

We’re on to PART 4! This is the longest series of blog posts I’ve ever done. Evidently, there is a lot more to talk about! These are just the highlights of a much bigger picture.


Let’s do a quick recap379302_325658287555375_1376847731_n.21

The flaws of the calorie centric view:

  • Humans are not perfect machines (cannot apply the concept of calories in/calories out). Equations are pretty much useless. Just use it as a GUIDE. Your life does not depend on it!
  • It goes against the Second Law of Thermodynamics
  • Calorie counting does not take into account the quality of foods and its metabolic effects on hunger, appetite, energy usage/storage, satiety etc
  • Many factors affect metabolism – environment, genetics etc
  • It is possible to increase fatness on a reduced calorie diet (on high GI foods) [1] SURPRISE SURPRISE!
  • Quality of diet can affect/induce anabolism (fat storage)
 Quick links to Part 1, 2 and 3!

QUALITY over QUANTITY

A calorie focussed mind would lookout for foods that are low/-er in calories. Since FAT is calorie dense, it immediately gets a bad rep. Low fat foods are usually high in refined carbs/starches. That’s because most times, when you take something out, you need to fill it with something else!
Even if they are not “empty calories” per se (containing vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants etc), these foods that are high in processed, artificial refined carbs/starches are DETRIMENTAL to health, causing harm to the body and metabolic dysfunction [2].
What to eat?
NUTRITION over CALORIES
 Tips-How-to-Pick-Good-Dog-Food-Ingredients-Dog-Food
Low refined sugar/carbs/starches
If you are going to eat carbs, go for WHOLE minimally processed ones. Starchy vege (sweet potatoes, potatoes, taro, pumpkin, squash etc) and fruits are great options. When going for rice/pasta/bread, think brown/red/wild/black. These are more nutrient dense. Refined options have been stripped of their vitamins, minerals and fibre. You’re basically just eating sugar.
Fats
The only bad fat here is highly processed trans fat. Go for fats found naturally in olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, dairy products, real butter, fat from meat and fish. These are all high in a good combination of mono- and polyunsaturated fats.

Protein
Meat, fish, eggs and dairy products (milk, cheese, yoghurt).2016-10-21-1477056674-8700239-homer
How much of each macronutrient (carbs, protein, fat) to eat is different for each individual. Get a dietitian to do the work. ;D

Gut Health

This is a growing area of research. The little bacteria in your gut is SO important!
Research has now shown that WHAT you eat affects the little bacteria world in your gut. You might need to rethink your zero-calorie artificial sweeteners! They have been shown to have the potential to alter your gut microbiome [3]. ANY disruption to this balance can possibly lead to obesity, diabetes, cancer, inflammation, inflammatory bowel disease and a decreased immune system [4].stomach-bacteria
The quality of food, prebiotics (food for healthy gut bacteria), probiotics (healthy gut bacteria) and antibiotics affect the overall balance of gut bacteria.
Sources of prebiotics: Prebiotics are the fibre foods that cannot be digested. Onions, garlic, asparagus, unripe bananas, artichokes are great sources. These are “eaten” and considered food for your gut bacteria.
Sources of probiotics: Fermented foods like yoghurts, kefir, tempeh, miso, kombucha, saukraut etc. Different brands use different strains of bacteria and the amount it contains varies.
static1.squarespace.com
These are beneficial but there is very little research that shows how much pre/probiotics to consume, exactly which strain (is best), the quality and how much of it actually stays in our gut after consumption [5].

Physical Activity

I don’t think I need to elaborate on this one.Processed with VSCO with f2 preset
JUST GET UP AND GET MOVING!
Any form of physical activity is better than NOTHING. Pick something that you like and JUST DO IT!

Rest
Sleep has become a luxury and stress has now become commonplace in our lives.
How do these affect weight and metabolism?
Stress stimulates the body to release cortisol, which is the hormone involved in CRAVINGS. “Stress eating” is real.Processed with Snapseed.
When you don’t get enough sleep, the hunger hormone kicks in.
Together, they have an influence on food intake and fat storage.


When you focus on QUALITY and pay attention to your natural body cues, you wouldn’t need to be whipping out your calculator and counting everything.
hands-holding-phone-and-donut
 Key points to remember:

-Focus on the SOURCE of calories and not calorie counts

-Eat REAL, MINIMALLY processed, WHOLE, FRESH, NUTRIENT dense foods

The GOLDEN rule is: If it is packaged, highly processed with ingredients that you can barely pronounce with loud “health claims”, don’t buy it!

-Achieving optimum hormonal balance and metabolic function is KEY

Do Calories Matter? – Part 2

Back for Part 2 of Do Calories Matter?

Here, we will discuss the calorie focused theory and how we gain weight.


Calories in calories out theory

Many of us tend to look at the calories in food when we are trying to achieve a certain weight (gain or loss).

Calories In > Calories Out = Weight Gain

Calories In = Calories Out = Weight Maintanence

Calories In < Calories Out = Weight Loss

From this perspective, it seems to say that we can eat whatever we want. Because only calories matter. It is saying that a calorie’s worth of beef, butter, ice cream, rice or beer have the same effects on the body (fatness and weight).

We also hear common terms like #IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros).  As long as it fits within your macros (protein, carb, fat), you can eat it. For example: I can have burgers and fries twice a day because it fits within my calorie needs/macros.

fc5a14fe892c3c2e60a96d57561ecfbb_junk-food-vs-healthy-food-junk-food-vs-healthy-food-clipart_800-506

But is 500 kcal of junk the same as 500 kcal of real food?

Are we gaining weight simply by EATING TOO MUCH?

Based on the calories in calories out theory, we gain weight by consuming more than we expend (which is true from a mechanic point of view).

The-Truith-About-Over-Eating

Calories in > Calories out = WEIGHT GAIN

Sounds easy enough?

BUT!

We are humans! We are not perfect machines where mathematical equations simply apply. There are MANY other factors that affect weight and metabolism. Counting calories disregards the quality of food and its effect on our metabolism – hunger, appetite, energy usage and storage, satiety etc.

Did you know that certain foods can “trigger” hunger?

This also goes against the Second Law of Thermodynamics which states that energy transfer is not 100% efficient. There will be losses. It means that what we eat does not necessarily become energy that we can use.

This is why people respond so differently towards food. We all have that one friend who can eat the world, not move a muscle and yet, not gain a kilo.

A different perspective

 

Obesity Model Flow Chart

The diagram is from a paper by Prof David Ludwig and Mark Friedman. They challenged the theory of gaining weight simply by consuming more calories.

They proposed the alternative model B, which shows how the quality of the diet can increase fat storage, drive hunger, decrease basal metabolism and the cost of energy to move muscles (muscles use less energy), ultimately leading to weight gain.

fat-cat

So, how do we gain weight (FAT)?

Let’s take a look at 2 hormones – insulin and leptin

Insulin is one of the hormones that play a major role in managing fuel concentration in the blood. It comes out to drive nutrients into STORAGE in the liver, muscle and fat cells.

brightly coloured breakfast cereal

According to the same research paper, poor quality rapidly absorbable carbohydrate rich foods (white rice, refined starches, sugars, high GI foods etc) can cause spikes in insulin levels (more so compared to proteins, unrefined carbs and fats).

Insulin is VERY efficient, so much so that it quickly stores the fuel (i.e. in fat cells around the waist). Since all of it is in storage, your blood circulating fuels suffer a sudden drop.

As your body is running low on fuel (because it is stored away), you’d feel tired, lethargic, moody and HUNGRY. This is also known as the “SUGAR CRASH”! And as a result, you EAT…… again!

pf0irboajkezwsc8boss

It becomes a vicious cycle and it all starts with eating insulin spiking foods.

High insulin levels promote fat storage AND prevents the breakdown of fat. It has been identified that insulin is the main culprit when it comes to overweight and obesity [1].

The scary thing is that all of this can be happening even when a person is eating in a calorie deficit! Studies have shown that when the number of calories remained the same, a diet with transfat promoted weight gain compared to a diet without transfat [1].

Leptin

Leptin is a hormone that responds to the body’s fat cells. When fat stores are FULL, this hormone is released. It acts on several organs and glands (muscles, thyroid gland etc) to overall increase energy expenditure (move more) and decrease energy intake (eat less).

jabba-the-catThis is your body helping you to NOT store so much fat and to stop eating!

If something is “metabolically wrong” (i.e. insulin resistance) or if a person is obese, this signalling gets messed up. Instead of telling you to move more and eat less, it does the total opposite! [2].

Angel+Food-+High+Res-6766

High insulin levels can also cause the body to stop responding to leptin.

These are perfect examples of how the quality of food (type and concentration of carbohydrates) acts in a neurohormonal way to push you to MOVE LESS, STORE MORE and EAT MORE!

Tackling obesity becomes more than just behavioural change. It is not just about telling someone to eat less and move more. As we’ve seen, you can gain weight and be metabolically obese even if you are eating less.

1-How-to-grow-hair-longer-naturally-1024x683

It goes beyond that.

It is looking at the QUALITY of food.


Looks like we cannot “outrun” a bad diet. I always thought we could. You’d be pleased to know that my ice cream and cake intake are now very much under control.

So, what WOULD happen if we just ate less?

Calories In < Calories Out = Weight Loss?

Stay tuned for Part 3!