If Diets Really Work, Why Am
I Still Fat?
By Belinda Elliott
Celebrity trainer Dino Nowak wants to set the record straight.
After watching many of his clients waste money on weight loss
products that did not work, and suffer with diets they couldn't
stick to, he decided to write a book that would give people honest
answers to their weight loss problems. In The Final Makeover,
he exposes the inaccuracies of popular diets and gives readers
the valuable information they need to make wise choices about
their health. I recently spoke with Dino about his book.
There are so many diet and health books on the market
today. What led you to write this one and how is it different
from all the others?
D: You know, it actually took me such a long time to do this
because I saw so many diet books out there by a Ph.D or by “Dr.”
this or “Dr.” that, and I thought, “Well, why
would someone want to read mine?” But as I kept reading
these diet books and reading the reviews they kept getting it
wrong and there were inaccuracies, errors and contradictions.
So I just took each diet book that came out and read them and
marked them up, and I started compiling all this. I really began
to see that even though they were dealing with the diet and the
physical aspects, they were always neglecting the emotional and
the spiritual aspects.
Any change – and this is from my background being a Christian
as well as being in the fitness industry – any change that
you attempt from the outside in never works. It never lasts. It
is just behavior modification. You really have to have a change
of heart, and the only one who can do that is Jesus Christ. He
is the only one who can change a human heart. So you have to start
inside and work out. That’s where this book is different.
And even some popular books that use dual psychology, they say
you need to come to the point where you can look in the mirror
and love yourself unconditionally. The problem is that humans
are notorious for conditions. Where is that unconditional love
found? Unless you have a relationship with God you don’t
have a concept of unconditional love. So that’s where it
is different. It works from the inside out.
How has that message been received by the secular market?
You know, honestly, it has been received better in the secular
market. It has been a slow start in the Christian market, and
I think it is because they have been burned so many times from
so many different programs. In the secular market they are more
apt to kind of tear things down or look at the criticisms of the
current diets that are out there. And also, I’ve been blessed
to have the opportunity to do things like Lifetime Television
and Entertainment Tonight, and if you mention those two programs
people will take it. In the Christian market it has taken a little
longer. They are a little more skeptical.
And, I think, at least this is what I’ve experienced and
it isn’t always popular, but I talk a lot in the book about
the different dieting scams, and pills, and products that are
out there. And oftentimes, some of the Christian programs have
sponsorship by those very companies. So they are hesitant to have
me come in and speak out about that. That is why I made sure in
the book to document everything, so that it is backed up, to let
people know that this is the truth. For me, that’s been
the frustrating aspect because on Christian radio on Monday through
Friday and on Sunday, all you hear is pastors talking about truth,
integrity, and honesty, then on Saturday morning it is all infomercials
for diet products or this thing that cures arthritis, cancer,
or whatever. So that has been very frustrating for me, and I think
that is part of the reason why it has taken a while in the Christian
Do you think that when Christians hear those kinds of
infomercials on a Christian station they take it in without thinking
about whether or not the information may be accurate?
Yes, that’s a big thing because they assume that since
it is on a Christian station they can trust it and believe it.
So I write in the book that those stations have a higher responsibility.
I would expect that from the secular market, but I’m shocked
that we do that to our brothers and sisters in Christ. And oftentimes,
the producer or someone doing the radio show doesn’t know
themselves. They just assume that the person has the evidence
and has the clinical studies but, as I write in the book, whenever
the Federal Trade Commission comes in and asks to see the studies
no one has them. So I think the burden of proof needs to be put
on the advertiser for them to say, “Look, here are the studies
and here is where they are published.” Anyone can do a study
and twist is however they want. But when they say, this was published
in the Journal of American Medical Association. It was reviewed.
That’s the key.
Just as no Christian station would air a commercial for Hooters
-- you know, they would screen that -- they should also be screening
these products to protect their listeners.
Switching gears a little, you have worked as a trainer
with several celebrities and you say in the book that you’ve
found they struggle with the same issues as everyone else. Why
They struggle even more so, because so much of their identity
and even their career is found in that image in the mirror. They
will go to auditions and they will have a casting person look
them point blank in the face and say, “You are too fat.
Your arms are too big. Your stomach is too big.” And that
will happen on a daily basis sometimes when they have multiple
auditions. The average person often isn’t exposed to that
harsh of a criticism. Their harshest criticism is often from themselves.
So that can be kind of tough, especially the longer you are in
the industry. As actors and actresses get older it becomes tougher.
So it’s hard, but on the other hand, it is their job so
they have more time to dedicate to that. They often have a personal
trainer like myself, a dietician, a cook, a nanny, a housekeeper,
and a gardener, so it is easier in that aspect. Average Americans
do not have that luxury so they have to take care of the kids,
cook, shop, and do all of those things in addition to trying to
squeeze time in to try to take care of themselves. So there are
advantages and disadvantages that they have.
You also mention that there is a lot of deception that
goes on in Hollywood. Americans are often looking at celebrities
as their idols and wanting to be like them, but they aren’t
getting a realistic picture.
That has been freeing for me, just as a man in Hollywood what
I’ve seen about how we view women, whether it is our girlfriends
or our wives, and even the men, the ideas of perfection and the
role models we look to. When I began to work with some of these
people I would see their picture on a magazine cover and then
I would train with them and I would say, “In the picture
you didn’t have love handles. Those came back really quick!”
And that was just mind blowing, the amount of deception that is
out there. And it is so impossible to find those pictures. The
best thing you could probably do is go to the grocery store and
pick up an Inquirer or a tabloid magazine and see their candid
photos. It’s unbelievable. I was looking at one of Brittney
Spears. On her new CD cover she is stick thin, and they had one
of her at the beach with her fiancé and I thought, “That
is not the same girl!”
It’s really frustrating to think how many young girls are
looking at that picture and saying, “I want to look like
that.” When the fact is she wants to look like that too.
That’s the message that I’m trying to get out is that
what we need to do is to honor God with our bodies, care for our
health and our fitness, and to use what we’ve been given.
That’s one of the biggest things is to stop following the
world, stop following the culture. In no other area of life do
we do that. We don’t follow the culture in how to raise
a godly family or how to live a godly life, but when it comes
to caring for the body God has given us who do we chase? The world.
My passion is to be that person in the Christian marketplace who
people can say, “Here is someone that I can trust, he is
not out pushing pills, he is not out trying to make a buck.”
And I can give them the right information and point them toward
the Lord too.
You mention that many of the diets that are currently
popular could actually be dangerous. One of those you discuss
is the low-carb diet. Why is that diet not a good one?
Well, first of all, these diets are nothing new. They have been
around since the 1800s. One of the first high protein, low carb
diets was William Banty back in the 1800s. It’s just unbelievable
that this seems to be a new, revolutionary thing. I mean, even
the Atkins diet has been around 30 plus years now. Americans love
bacon; they love burgers and cheese. If plans like this worked,
we should have eradicated obesity in the past 30 years. They just
don’t work. And with all of these diets, the whole time
they are saying calories don’t count but carbs do, all of
their meals are low calorie. With any diet, all diets, I don’t
care what diet it is, they have a proven 95 to 98 percent failure
rate within six months. Diets don’t work. So people go on
these diets and the diets fail them, and they think, “I’m
worthless. I’ve failed. I can’t do this.” And
they berate themselves even more when it is the diet that is the
It is much easier to teach someone to diet, and give them a good
list and bad list of foods, than it is to actually educate them
on how their body works. When your body eats carbohydrates it
is basically like gasoline in a car. It is what our body runs
off of. When it breaks down that carbohydrate it breaks it down
into what is called glucose. It stores the glucose in your muscle
fiber and about 100 grams in your liver as glycogen, it is a storage
form. Think about a gas can in your garage, that’s the storage
form of energy. When you stop eating carbohydrates, all that is
depleted and it goes where your body uses it up. Now with every
gram of glycogen in the body, your body attracts three grams of
water. So when you lose those glycogen reserves you are flushing
water out on a three to one ratio. There goes the weight. So on
the scale you have lost 8 pounds or ten pounds, but it’s
What happens next is that your brain functions almost exclusively
off glucose. Our brains can’t store it like our muscles
can so the brain needs a steady supply. When our carbohydrates
are gone our glucose is gone and the brain starts to freak out.
It says, “I need that glucose.” So you feel nauseated,
lightheaded, dizzy, you have mood swings, and those are all things
that these low carb diets claim will show that it is working.
It is actually your body struggling to survive. So what it does
is it sends a distress signal throughout the body and begins to
break down muscle tissue and take the protein, through a process
called gluconeogenesis, it converts it to sugar -- which these
low carb diets never tell you about -- and gets the glucose to
the brain. Now you’ve broken down lean muscle tissue which
is more dense than body fat, and it is more metabolically active,
so you are losing muscle which again appears like weight. So you’ll
lose 15 or 20 pounds on the scale, but in all reality if you were
to do a body fat test that percentage is higher now because now
more of your body is made up of fat as opposed to lean tissue.
So many people they try and try and they can’t stick to
this diet, no one can, because your body is fighting it and it’s
starving and eating itself to survive. So you go off the diet
and you have your first piece of bread, and here comes the glucose,
it goes back into the muscle fibers, and the water comes back
in. Your body is trying to return to a normal healthy state and
here come on the pounds. Then you think, “Bread is bad for
me.” But your body is just trying to go back to normal.
And you have damaged yourself because now you’ve lost that
lean muscle tissue and your metabolism is lower. As a result,
the weight you lost before comes back and even more.
So the key is really to start developing more lean muscle tissue.
A pound of fat uses about 3 to 6 calories a day, however, a pound
of muscle uses 30 to 50 calories. So for each pound of muscle
you are revving your metabolism and it makes your job that much
easier. That’s why with bodybuilders all they do is eat
and sleep. It’s like a car. You can drive the same 10 miles
in an 8 cylinder car or a 4 cylinder car, but that 8 cylinder
car is going to use more fuel. That’s the idea. By being
physically active, being healthier and fit, you will burn more
calories doing the same activities during the day.
You mentioned body fat. Many people are concerned about
how much they weigh, but they often do not realize that a high
percentage of body fat is also a crucial factor. How important
is the amount of body fat you have?
Body fat is one of the biggest things. All many diets talk about
is weight, but body fat is really the key. I had a client I was
working with in Los Angeles. We reassessed after about four or
five weeks, and she had gained five pounds. Initially, she started
freaking out, but that’s the reason why I use body fat,
circumference measurements with a tape measure, and skin fold
measurements with calipers. She lost 30 millimeters on the calipers,
lost a couple inches, and her body fat went down but her weight
went up. She was fitting into smaller clothes, was tighter and
toner, but her wait went up.
We have to get away from this idea of weight. That three digit
number on the scale means absolutely nothing. It is about understanding
what is happening inside your body, and working with your body
and getting great results instead of working against it and struggling
and trying to hold out with as much will power as you can. No
one has that much willpower. You can’t go the rest of your
life and not have a piece of chocolate. It is about working with
your body, removing the emotional bondage we place with food,
and enjoying what God has given us with discernment.
In the book you mention that in addition to choosing
foods wisely people need to be more aware of their portion sizes.
Why is that important?
If you want to see what the real problem is in our culture, look
back at 1970. Back then the restaurant industry was a $40 billion
per year industry. Fast forward to the year 2000, it was a $440
billion industry. So we are not eating at home like we used to.
On top of that, serving sizes have increased depending on the
restaurant anywhere from five times to 10 times what they used
to be. We are eating out more, and serving sizes have gone out
of control. There’s your problem.
Also, during that same time period our society has become more
sedentary. Our jobs are more sedentary. We’ve gone more
high tech. And for entertainment, kids used to go outside and
play and make up games. Now they get home from school and they
plop in front of the television. They play Playstation or Xbox
or they surf the internet. So many things have changed in our
society that it is very easy to blame carbohydrates or these different
things. But when you look at what has happened, we’ve gone
through fat – that was the villain decades ago – then
all of sudden it is carbohydrates. There are only three food groups:
proteins, fats, and carbs. So what is next? We need to look at
the deeper issues – expectations, motivations, and societal
issues like entertainment, eating out instead of cooking ourselves,
and eating at home as a family. That is what needs to change.
When you discuss fitness in the book you emphasize that
people don’t need to have an expensive gym membership or
any fancy exercise equipment. Why do you feel that way?
That is really where my heart’s passion was. I saw so many
people… in these fitness books they give you these lists
of exercises and of machines at the gym. Number one, most people
can’t afford to have a membership. And if they can, even
a greater amount of people do not feel comfortable walking into
those environments. But you really don’t have to have all
that equipment. There are over 100 exercises in my book and not
one of them requires a piece of equipment. Also, there are seven
levels so you pick your starting level. Most fitness books make
the error of assuming your fitness levels. They just say here
are the exercises. A lot of people can’t even fit into the
machines, or they don’t feel comfortable, or maybe they
have injuries, so it is just too hard for them to start out. And
I really don’t like machines because they are very fixed
linear path movements. We never experience that in real life.
In real life we turn, twist, rotate, and bend. Never in your life
have you had to sit down like on a leg extension machine and move
your legs like that. When in your entire life have you done that?
People are working out in these very fixed linear paths, that
don’t replicate and transfer to real life activities. By
doing the movements in my book, they are much more time effective,
use multiple muscle groups, use compound complex movements, give
a greater caloric burn, and they translate well into your daily
life. It makes you fitter and stronger than just working in one
Do men and women lose weight differently?
Yes, men typically have more lean muscle tissue, so in a sense
it is easier for them to lose body fat. The flip side of that
is that they carry more in their stomach which is a greater health
risk. Women store it more in their hips and thigh area. I go through
in the book and talk about LPL, the gatekeeper so to speak, in
how your body determines where it stores fat. And a lot of that
is based on genetics as well. Men and women do have differences.
For women, primarily because of childrearing, it is harder to
lose that fat because your body is holding onto it for reproduction.
God designed our bodies incredibly well. Other books say that
is evolution, but I believe it is God. Whether it be through feasts
or famines, women needed to be able to feed the children and store
that fat for fuel energy.
Also, men can get down to as low as 3 percent body fat before
it becomes dangerous. Women can only get down to 17 percent. Already,
you are looking at a five-fold increase that women cannot go below.
Their lowest levels are five times that of men. Many people compare
women to men and they shouldn’t do that. Like that show
The Biggest Loser, it was unfair to women because they were equally
comparing their fat loss to the men. What they should have done
is if the woman lost 2 percent body fat they should have given
her four points because it is a lot more difficult for women to
get their body fat percentage low.
So women really need to have realistic expectations of what their
bodies are capable of and what they are supposed to do, because
you look at these images in the media and they aren’t even
healthy. They aren’t real. You can’t do that. The
body can’t do some of those things. Yet, we are looking
to those images as the ideal.
In your book you include a lot of pages where you can
track your body measurements, what you eat, and how you spend
your time. Why is that important?
It is huge because so many studies have shown that we tend to
overestimate our activity and underestimate our food consumption.
So often times, you may think you had two sodas today, but when
you use your log you see that you had four or five. It is a huge
difference to have a visual representation of what you are actually
doing in a day than just guessing what you did. I put a time journal
in there too because people often say, “I don’t have
enough time in the day.” But when you actually have to track
your time and you see that you have three or four hours spent
watching television, you have some time. You also need time in
the Word and time with family and friends. This plan looks at
the whole person.
And for your measurement logs you are not just looking at your
weight, but looking at your measurements, your inches, your skin
fold, and your body fat percentage. Tthe key difference is to
look at those measurements as opposed to looking just at your
Your weight means nothing. Who came up with that idea? Weight
is just the force of gravity acting upon a mass. We are so much
more than just that number. It means absolutely nothing. It is
about what is going on inside your body.
Recent studies have shown that obesity in children has
significantly increased. What is the parents’ role in helping
their children be healthy?
The biggest thing is setting the example. What really frustrates
me is when parents single out that child, like when the whole
family is eating dinner and this one child is eating something
different. The family is eating pizza, but he has a chicken breast
and broccoli. Make the changes for the whole family. Everyone
benefits from that. Never single out one particular child. It
just wreaks havoc on them with body image issues, eating disorders,
and self-confidence. It is just horrible. Instead set the example
and get the whole family active. Take the kids to the park and
start playing more games with them. Set the example yourself in
that you start working out and you start taking care of your body.
Then they will see how much better you feel and how much healthier
and happier you are, and they will follow and change.
Your program is for 40 days, but what should people be
doing after that time period? Isn’t this really a lifestyle
Your 40 days is your jumpstart. Like with the heart excercises
in the book there are seven levels. During your first 40 days
you may go through levels one and two. Then you come back around
and do levels 2 and 3. The idea is to keep continually progressing
and challenging your body. It is like when you were in fourth
grade and you completed the fourth grade math book. Imagine that
you went on to fifth grade, sixth grade, seventh grade, and eighth
grade, but you kept the fourth grade math book. You wouldn’t
progress or develop and grow. Sadly, that is what we do with our
fitness component. We do the same routine that we saw in a magazine
or on a video, and we’ve been doing this forever, and we
wonder why we haven’t changed. Our body adapts and plateaus.
So you have to constantly keep things challenging for your body
so that it continually grows and progresses. That is why the first
40 days you can go through it, and then change the progression
levels so you have plenty of variety to keep going with it.
What advice do you have for people who have tried many
of the diets or weight loss products out there and feel that they
have no hope because nothing has worked for them?
There is hope. I work with people who have tried every diet under
the sun. I’m working with Lulu Roman, from HeeHaw, right
now on Entertainment Tonight. She had tried every diet. But the
change occurs when you start to look inward and look at your motivations
for change and your expectations. Understand that it is not to
follow the world, not to follow the culture, but to use your body
as a tool to glorify God and set an example. And also to really
put things in perspective, think of how many people you have come
across in your life who have had terrible accidents and are paralyzed
for the rest of their lives. They are in wheelchairs or stuck
in a hospital bed somewhere. They would give anything to be able
to get up and go for that walk that we complain about. They would
give anything to go to the park and play with their kids. There
is so much we take for granted.
So first and foremost, where you are right now, see your body
as a blessing with all that it can do. Instead of standing in
front of the mirror and focusing on all the things you don’t
like, get a pen out and write down all the things your body can
do and see what a blessing that is. Then begin to move forward
with proper expectations, proper motivations, proper methods –
not dieting because diets don’t work -- it is by moving
and using the body. God designed our bodies to move. Look at us.
We don’t have Barbie arms and GI Joe legs that don’t
bend and move. We were designed to move and to really glorify
God and enjoy the movements. That is one of the biggest things
you can do to make that change once and for all in your life.
And understand that fitness or health does not come in any one
shape or size. I have clients in Hollywood who are size two or
three when they come to me, but they are classified as obese because
when we do the body fat percentage, they have a 37 or 38 body
fat percentage. They are obese. It is called “skinny fat.”
Then I have people who are what’s known as a “plus
size” but they will pull a 25 or 27 percent body fat reading.
They are fit, active, and healthy. They are in better shape than
that thin person.
We have to understand that God created us differently. God gave
us diversity in flowers, trees, all kinds of different things,
and we are not meant to all look alike. While some people are
considered “plus size” that is a cultural standard.
The important thing is to be fit and be healthy. We were not all
meant to be thin, and once you get that idea out of your head
you may attain that, but that is not the goal. That should not
be the motivation. Glorify God with your body, use it as it was
designed, and enjoy the journey. It is a lifelong change.
What can people do to protect themselves from the weight
loss scams that are out there?
To really protect yourself and to stop falling for these scams
and diets, particularly the infomercials on pills and products.
People need to start thinking about it this way. We know that
65 percent of all Americans are overweight or obese. Let’s
imagine that the news came on and said, “Sixty-five percent
of Americans have AIDS.” If someone came up with a pill
that cured that, it wouldn’t be on an infomercial. It wouldn’t
be on late night TV. It wouldn’t be in between soap operas.
They would be a Nobel Peace Prize winner. A major pharmaceutical
company would be in a bidding war with them. It would be all over
every news network because it would be such a huge breakthrough.
Sixty-five percent of all Americans have obesity, diabetes, or
heart disease. When someone finds the cure it is not going to
be on an infomercial. So until you see that, put your wallet back
in your purse, or back in your pocket, because nothing works.
They may say, “Clinical studies prove…” but
when the FTC comes in they don’t have them. It has happened
time and time again. The problem is that by then they have already
gotten your money.
In America we spend over a billion dollars a year on health and
weigh loss products. That’s more than the countries of Hong
Kong, Ireland, and Egypt use to run their whole nation. We spend
that much on these diet products, and we are one of the fattest
countries in the entire world. It doesn’t work. Change your
heart. Change your motivations to honor God, and be a light to
One of my biggest passions is this. Imagine five years from now,
the news came on and said that now 75 percent of all Americans
are overweight and obese, but there is this population of evangelical
Christians who are down to 55 percent. What are they doing? Do
you think your neighbor would come over from next door and ask
what you are doing? There is the perfect opportunity to tell them
the Lord has changed your heart and that has made the difference.
That’s what I want to happen in the Christian marketplace
with our brothers and sisters. I want them to have that witness.
But that will only happen if we stop following the culture and
the world. We have to separate ourselves and be set apart, to
change and not follow the world.
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