High Altitude For Sale

After reading Meowser’s comment on last week’s JigglyTroll post, I decided to take a look into the affect of high altitude living on weight loss. While I was in Ecuador, I lost maybe 20lbs for no apparent reason. I ate tons of carbs, sugars, chips, cookies, etc. All the stuff the Medical world tells me is bad for me. Yes, I walked more. And I ate my biggest meal in the middle of the day. But I don’t think either of those things could’ve really affected my weight that much.

So what conclusion did I draw? High altitude affects weight loss. In my research, I discovered that no one has really determined how yet. I found only a couple of articles about it. First, there was this one in the American College of Sports Medicine. Basically, it says that altitude can encourage weight loss, even if you’re only sleeping in an artificial high altitude:

…For at least some overweight or obese individuals, sleeping in simulated altitude tents may act to jump-start a weight-loss program.

Hmmm….interesting, right? Well, the best part is that now these altitude tents have become the future of the weight loss market. Jump to this article called “Selling weight loss without effort” (which has since been taken down for public reading without registration), and we can observe the madness.

But Kutt spent most of his 20 minutes in front of the venture capitalists explaining CAT’s place in the multibillion-dollar weight-loss market–explaining that you can lose up to two pounds a week by spending eight hours a day at a simulated altitude of 12,000 feet, even if you’re just sleeping.

“There’s over 50 studies that document this,” he said. “All people really need to do is sleep at altitude, and their body goes into altitude climatization mode, and that will trigger the weight loss.” He then rattled off some compelling facts: 51 million Americans are clinically obese, and there are no accepted therapies for weight loss–only drugs approved by the FDA.

Oh yes, let us look at those compelling facts. Dear dear, how scary!

I’m not sure I would literally buy into this theory. I mean, yes, I lost weight while in a high altitude (Quito is at 10,000 ft). But considering I could only find a few pages that actually spoke about it in all the internets, I’m not sure if it’s completely valid.

But oh joy, we have another weight loss program to be disgusted by! I can’t wait until the “$18,000 ‘Colorado Mountain Room'” becomes all the fashion. We’ll all be walking around like madmen/women trying to spend as much time as possible in our fake high altitude. Oh please! it’s no fun without the culture, let me tell you. And they fail to mention anything at all about altitude sickness. Think you won’t experience any of that just because it’s fake? I doubt it.

I’m genuinely interested in how this all turns out, now.


12 thoughts on “High Altitude For Sale

  1. Hey, I gained about 15 pounds moving from higher altitude mid-state to the coast. Can I get a note for my doctor so he stops harassing me about it? 😉

    But seriously, you’re right about the “AmAzing WEIGHT LOSS!ELEVENTYONE TentZZZ of PERPETOOL YOOOTH.” Can’t wait to see those on the market. Yet another item rich snobs can waste their money on, so that they can feel superior to poorer fatties. Woohoo! 😉

  2. I actually have a lot of trouble with my (normally very mild) asthma at higher altitudes. It makes sense that one would lose weight at higher altitudes as the body has to work harder. It’s like excersize, without the work! However, like all weight loss plans, I have a feeling it doesn’t work in the long term. When you move away your body wont have to work as hard and you will gain the weight back.

  3. Shinobi, like all weight loss plans, they only work if you stick to it 4LIFE.

    So no moving to a lower altitude.
    Splenda shall henceforth constitute 87% of your diet.
    You shalt spend two hours a day in the gym and spend two-thirds of your income on a personal trainer.
    Fer. Leyef.
    And if you don’t stick to it, it shall henceforth be translated as an error of morality and looked down upon as such.

    I always wondered — for the people who restrict for weight loss for life, are they the ones that love and take care of themselves, or are they the ones that truly hate themselves?

    I shall ponder it in my High Altitude Magic Weight-loss* Instant Special Guaranteed** 4Leyef Tent [TM]

    * results not typical
    ** not a guarantee

  4. The issue I could see with trying to lose weight at higher altitudes is that after a while you will acclimate to it. That’s why athletes who have to compete in games at higher altitudes will go their months before, so their bodies can get used to it.

    If this gets popular maybe they’ll put out legislation that anyone who lives around sea level must leave for fear of becoming fat. Poor Netherlands.

  5. I do find it interesting that Colorado, which has a very high altitude, has the lowest “obesity” rates in the country, and Mississippi, which is, well, in a swamp, has the highest. I have to think there is some kind of connection there. Obviously there are socioeconomic and ethnic/racial issues at play also, but probably the altitude thing can’t be dismissed entirely since the difference is so striking, and other states at lower altitudes with similar demographic makeup have higher rates of “obesity.”

    But gaah, I can see how this could get nasty in a hurry. “But high altitude gives me headaches/makes me wheeze!” “Tough luck, fatass, you’re living in the mountains and that’s that.”

  6. This is really interesting. I spent two weeks at 11,500 ft recently, and lost about 7 lbs. Of course, I did spend the first two days throwing up from altitude sickness (perhaps that’s their weight loss secret?) and then the rest of the time hiking instead of sitting at a desk, but it was pretty sudden and big enough that it was not typical for my body.

    I actually haven’t gained it back, which was what I was expecting, but then I think that might be because I have fixed the physical reasons for my binge-eating (malabsorption due to celiac disease).

    Another really interesting effect of high altitude is that none of my joints hurt, and I didn’t get a single muscle pain from 7-mile hikes across the mountains. A friend of mine went to the same place a little later, and her arthritic pain (she’s 72) was hugely reduced. For that alone she was considering moving! Apparently it can go either way for arthritis, and we got lucky.

  7. I grew up in Santa Fe, at 7K ft, and have always been very active (including ski training at 10-12K ft 3-5 days/week for the 10 years I was on the ski team, and riding my horse in the mountains a lot). I’ve been fat my whole life. I moved to the Boston area two years ago, and while I gained a little during those first few months where things were crazy (and my horses were still in Santa Fe), the lower elevation hasn’t really affected me at all.

    Well, except that when I go home, I can’t even throw a lousy bale of hay up on top of the loaded trailer when I go to get my retired pony’s stash of hay replenished. *That* was embarrassing, when I had to let the guy who works at the hay farm load the top layer of hay bales because, at 8K ft at the hay farm, I just have highly limited strength these days…

  8. I don’t know about weight loss, but at high altitudes, I am always hungry. Stomach-grumbling, crabby, headache fixin’ to start any minute hungry. So maybe I am metabolizing food faster when I’m there?

  9. An increased metabolism is a plausible theory — my heart was beating faster than usual (to get enough oxygen I guess), so it’s possible that other metabolic processes were sped up.

    I googled it just now and found this. It seems to confirm a slight increase in metabolism at higher altitudes:


    I still think simulated altitude tents are a stupid idea — I doubt it would have a huge effect, and I’d imagine the stress on the body going back and forth between “altitudes” would cancel any imagined benefits from weight loss. Not to mention the nausea and the headaches (aka altitude sickness).

  10. I’d imagine the stress on the body going back and forth between “altitudes” would cancel any imagined benefits from weight loss.

    Yeah, just ask anyone who plays for the Colorado Rockies. Especially pitchers. Until the Rockies started putting their baseballs in a humidor a few years ago to make them heavier, balls would just go flying out of Coors Field, and the players would have to try and adjust their game radically between Airball Park and sea-level visitors’ parks. Even after that, though, it seems like Rockies would always have a great record at home and a really crappy one on the road. (Unless the entire team just stunk on ice that year, like it seems to right now, and then they’d only be mediocre at home. But crappy on the road, always.) I have to believe the going-back-and-forth thing must be hell on them, even if they’re Young Athaleeetes and are supposed to be able to deal with anything.

  11. Even after that, though, it seems like Rockies would always have a great record at home and a really crappy one on the road.

    I’m glad you wrote that! Just after posting, I thought, “waitaminute, what about the athletes that go back and forth for training and benefit from it?”

    So does this mean that while all the endurance athletes go to higher altitudes for training, the Rockies should come down to sea level? Funny.

  12. Well, I’m not sure where the altitude cut off point is. Judging from the obesity rates in West Virgina, the mountain state, I’m wondering about this hypothesis.
    when I moved from Washington DC to the top of a mountain in West Virginia, I gained 50 lbs during the first winter on the mountain. I guess I live at about 3 or 4 thousand feet. My ears used to pop but I’m used to that. If mountain living were all that great of an obesity treatment, why is West Virginia number 3 in the highest obesity rate chart.

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