Welcome to my first book review!

Whenever I see a new book, whether it’s a book on nutrition or the latest novel, I try to read the reviews first so that I can get an idea of 1) it’s premise, 2) what it can offer me that is new and important, and 3) the overall impact of the book – is it going to change my thinking, my world views, or improve my knowledge base in a significant way? This is what I will try to share in my book reviews so that you can decide if it’s worth not only your money, but your valuable time as well. So, on with the review!

“The Skinny Rules” is a new book by fitness trainer Bob Harper of The Biggest Loser TV show. The premise of his book is that if you follow his 20 Rules, you will not only lose weight but you will keep it off. For good. The first half of the book is his Rules, the second half is filled with menus and recipes. It’s basically another book telling you to eat whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies, written by another fitness trainer who thinks he is a dietitian. Yes, another one of those.

His Rules state things like “Slash Your Intake of Refined Flours and Grains” and, “Don’t Drink Your Calories,” which you know is near and dear to my heart, and “Get Rid of Fast Foods and Fried Foods.” Nothing too revolutionary here. There are a few Rules that I thought were great to include, such as the importance of reading nutrition and ingredient labels, noting not only serving size, but number of servings per package – something most people don’t pay attention to at all.

He’s fairly good about backing up his Rules with studies to prove his points, until there is some science that he doesn’t really agree with, and then he says things like “Trust my process” and “I’m saying it works.” These kinds of statements make it seem like the author is discounting the science of nutrition in favor of what he thinks works. Not my favorite approach if you are trying to build credibility.

This was most obvious when he talked about “Rule 3: Eat Protein At Every Meal –or Stay Hungry and Grouchy.” This Rule states that you should divide your weight in pounds by two to get the number of grams of protein you should eat each day.

He further states that “no one really knows” how much protein we need, and in a very small way, almost mocks authorities such as the FDA, The National Research Council, and The National Academy of Sciences for the differing amounts of protein each recommends. While I’m not so fond of the “I know what’s best, don’t worry about what everyone else is saying” attitude, I do need to give him kudos as he would prefer you to eat plant proteins over animal proteins, which is not only healthier for you but also better for the planet. The only issue here is that if you are focusing on plant proteins (good for you!), it may be difficult to meet his recommendation for protein.

For the most part, his message is a healthy one. His Rules, though some lack scientific evidence to back them up (Rule 7: No Carbs After Lunch), provide a fairly strict regimen for those opting to jump on board, and offer little leeway in terms of moving into healthier eating patterns at a more gradual pace.

I feel that some of the weaker areas of this book are when he attempts to get all “sciency”. As he shares reasons to get processed grains out of your diet, he makes this statement:

Without the bran, starchy carbs get stuck in your gut for much longer than they should, and begin to interrupt normal bodily processes.

What does that even mean? In reality, it’s the reverse: it’s the bran (fiber) that causes the carbs to stay in your gut longer, and the removal of the bran and germ actually increases the rate of digestion, turning the starch into sugar much more rapidly!

And then there’s this one:

Let’s get schooled. There are two different kinds of fiber. The first, soluble fiber, is just that. It gets dissolved by water and absorbed into the bloodstream, where cells use its various components for vital functions.

Last time I checked, fiber doesn’t get absorbed into our bloodstream, no matter the kind, and our cells certainly don’t use fiber for anything! He also believes that fiber is a phytochemical (it’s not).  Let’s get schooled. Good one.

Another item of concern is the caloric restrictions he recommends. For men, it’s 1,500 calories a day, and for women, only 1,200 calories a day. How does he come up with these numbers? No idea. If you are going on the assumption that the average female needs roughly 1800 calories a day, that is a 33% reduction – far too severe in my opinion if you are expected to stay on it for an extended period of time. Better to cut out 200-300 calories a day and build good eating habits that will last than to cut out 600 calories a day and risk feeling deprived and miserable!

While I haven’t reviewed the recipes, I’m sure that most are healthy and affordable. There is no mention of where the recipes came from, but he does refer to them as “my recipes,” whatever that means. Who knows, maybe he’s whipping up new frittata recipes every Sunday morning!

So, what’s my opinion of this book? If you are ready to make some serious changes to your diet, and you’ll have to be honest in your own assessment of that, it can probably help you to lose weight. Even if his science isn’t correct (or proven in some cases), the ultimate goal is to get you to improve your habits and food choices. It’s too calorically restrictive for my liking, but if you’re looking for big changes and big commitments, then I’m sure these Rules will help you achieve your goals. B-