The Smarter Science of Slim: Review & Giveaway

Curious to hear more about a book that outlines a scientific, research-based approach to weight loss, yet challenges conventional thinking with surprising studies and some downright radical advice?

Or, even better, wanna win a free copy of the book?

Why yes, patient readers, Crabby’s Crass Calvacade of Commercialism continues! This week we’ve got a review and giveaway of Jonathan Bailor’s soon to be released book: “The Smarter Science of Slim.

And, depending on reader enthusiasm (as measured by total number of comments), the giveaway MAY include an additional hard copy for which Canadian and/or Eurpean readers will be eligible.

Seriously, Do We Need Another Freakin’ Diet Book?

Well, maybe not, but I thought this one looked interesting. So many weight loss books either rehash the hard truths you already know, or are written by self-proclaimed experts who come up with amazing new weight loss discoveries by simply making shit up. Whether the book then hits the best-seller lists depends mostly on which celebrity has written it or can be bribed into endorsing it.

Sadly, the Breatharians are still in dire need of a celebrity.
Hmm...Gwyneth? You Busy?

So while I tend to turn down most diet book review pitches, this one caught my eye. Jonathan managed to acquire a bunch of impressive and enthusiastic pre-publication blurbs by lots of sciencey bigwigs, including John Ratey. (And who is John Ratey? Well, he’s a researcher whose name still lures innocent googlers to an ancient Cranky Fitness post on exercise, BDNF, and growing new brain cells, so I brightened up considerably when I recognized his name). Anyway, I liked the fact that a whole slew of academic types endorsed the research in this book.

So What’s Radical About this Weight Loss Book?

Well, maybe “radical” is putting it a bit strongly. It’s certainly not the first book to suggest that the weight loss picture is more complicated that calories in, calories out. We’ve gotten pretty used to the idea that some exercises are more efficient than others, and some foods are “good” or “bad” for weight loss in ways independent of calories.

But I don’t think I’d ever seen a respectably researched book proclaim that there is so little relationship between calories consumed, hours of exercise accumulated, and weight loss.

In short, The Smarter Science of Slim says: If you want to lose weight, eating less won’t help. Exercising more won’t help either. In fact, to lose weight for the long term, you need to eat more and exercise less. If you stick with this program, Bailor claims you can change the way your hormones work, rejigger your weight "set point" to a lower number, eat a ton of food, exercise for ten minutes a week, and look like a fitness model.

The catch? Well, you gotta eat the right kind of food and do the right kind of exercise. And, hint: Twinkies, Doritos, and long slow walks in the park aren't on the list.

Studies That Got Me Thinking.

While I know that the kind of food and exercise one gets are important, I'm pretty old-school in how I approach my own weight management. In fact, I recently went back to counting calories, which is downright quaint in fitness blogging circles. So to read study after study in this book about the absolute failure of the "calories in, calories out" model to achieve long term results was a bit sobering. It only works about 5% of the time.

In fact, as many hard-working dieters have discovered, weight loss achieved by calorie restriction with low-quality food can totally backfire, leading to rapid regain and a higher set-point weight that makes weight loss even harder the next time.

And, when overweight people restrict their calories, their bodies don't behave the way thin people's do. The book cites a study in which thin people burned off nearly 50% more body fat than heavy people when put on the same zero calorie diet. And sheesh, how unfair is that, when you think about it? Heavy people, who had extra fat to burn, had become unable to burn fat the way slim people do.

This and a bunch of other studies were pretty convincing that something funky is going on with obesity, calorie intake, and weight management that has nothing to do with calories in, calories out. There is a lot of research discussed in the book about hormones, changing your set point, how our bodies deal differently with "high quality" vs "low quality" foods, and how different kinds of exercise impact the body differently. I won't go into it all here because I'm way too lazy Bailor explains it all much more clearly, but I have to say that it made me think very differently about what it takes to lose weight and keep it off effectively.

So What's the "Smart" Way to Eat in Order to Get Slim?

Simple! Eat only "High Quality" Foods. Bailor has an acronym (which you may find either cute or annoying) to describe them: SANE, which stands for Satiety, Aggressiveness, Nutrition, and Efficiency. These have to do with how full foods make you feel, their glycemic index and load, what sort of nutrients they contain, and how easily they are stored as fat in your body. (And since you actually want InEfficient foods that don't get stored as fat, the acronym should probably be SANI, but gotta admit that's not terribly catchy).

The Bottom line of Smart Eating:

Eat as many non-starchy vegetables as you possibly can, especially deeply colored and leafy vegetables. But stay the hell away from corn and white potatoes, and limit other starchy vegetables like turnips, yams, etc. You also want to eat lean protein at least five times a day, plenty of fruit (particularly berries and citrus), and plenty of nuts and seeds.

You can also eat, but go easy on, beans and dairy products.

What do you steer clear of? Oil, whole and refined grains, any form of starch, and all sweets.

And What is "Smart" Exercise?

Rather than piling up tens of thousands of steps a day on your pedometer, running marathons, swimming lap after lap, or taking back to back cardio kickboxing classes at the gym, Bailor says the smart thing to do is ditch all that. You can change your body's hormones and torch off fat in an extremely short amount of time by doing high intensity interval training, and deep muscle resistance exercises using extremely slow, heavy, eccentric movements. (I.e., slowly lowering a weight much heavier than you could lift).

Now here's where the whole notion of Smart Exercise starts to sound, well, a bit incredible: You start with two 10 minute workouts a week. Then, when you get better at it, you can cut back to one 10 minute workout a week. That's all you need to do, according to Bailor.

Again, there is a lot more in the book about pragmatics of the diet and exercise, and lots of research and explanations on how and why this is all supposed to work. Let's just say it's a relatively simple, but not necessarily easy, plan to follow.

What I Liked About The Smarter Science of Slim

As I said before, I liked the way there were actual studies to back up the recommendations. Confession: white lab coats and multiple regression are big Cranky Fitness turn-ons.

And the diet advice seems consistent with my own experience: I'm already mostly eating this way, and it seems to work! (Though I'm only about 90% compliant, but hell, that's as good as I ever intend to be on any diet. At least not until I find one that puts cupcakes and kettlecorn on the "eat more" list.) It's weird, because I approached my eating plan from a totally different direction: the unfashionable, completely discredited "calories in, calories out" model. But when I discovered far too many calories were incoming relative to outgoing, and I started looking for ways to optimize, I ended up with a plan strikingly similar to the "SANE" model. I eat more protein than before, a ton of vegetables, I've started going easier on beloved whole grains and starches, and I'm a big fan of weird but convenient ingredients like whey protein, egg whites, canned salmon, and big-ass packages of frozen blueberries. The sweeteners I use somewhat guiltily are Splenda and Stevia, which the book says are OK in moderation. I've found I can eat a big-ass portions with this plan, which is awesome, because portion control is not my strong suit. So personally, I had to like a book that confirmed my own trial-and-error experimentation.

Another good thing about the book is that Bailor doesn't insist on perfection. He's got a chart saying how to modify the plan depending on your goals. What does it look like to eat like a person who is Obese? Overweight? Typical? Hot? A Fitness Model? There are different targets for different levels of obsession commitment.

It's also nice to see an exercise plan with specific how-to's for HIIT and deep muscle training workouts--there are both gym and home versions.

What I Didn’t Like So Much

The "easier said than done" factor. As many of have discovered, there is a ton of sensible diet and exercise advice out there... and very few people actually follow any of it for more than a few weeks. The fact that this may turn out to be a more optimal weight loss plan than most isn't gonna be much help someone who chooses to stop at Dairy Queen rather than face one more whey protein smoothie or spinach salad. Bailor's premise is that you can "fill up" on protein and fiber to the point where you're "too full" for sweets and starches. Well, sorry Jonathan, but welcome to Planet Crabby, where the laws of physiology and psychology dictate that there is no such thing as "too full" for dessert!

On the other hand, all the motivational tips and tricks that are lacking in this book are available a million other places. (Or hell, pick up this book for guidance, then hire yourself a newly minted, not-too-expensive, shamelessly self-promoting wellness coach to keep yourself on track!)

Also, I had some ambivalence about the exercise claims, but couldn't manage to execute the recommendations well enough to test them properly.  You are supposed to be doing these exercises so f#@cking intensely that it's impossible to do anything other than moan for quite a few days afterwards.  I swore I tried really hard, but could still jump on the elliptical or go to spinning class within a day or two, so was clearly doing it wrong.  And yet my "not quite intense enough" version was still mighty unpleasant, if mercifully brief.   I am definitely a believer in both HIIT (or, well, at least some similar SHIIT) and heavy lifting, but I'm not sure I can (or want to) ditch my other cardio activities.  But then I'm a 51 year old post-menopausal slacker. You kick-ass go-getter types may have better luck reaching the required intensity necessary to make the Astounding Amazing Miraculous Fat-Blasting happen with just 10 minutes a week.

Overall?  Even if one didn't want to jump totally on the "Smart," bandwagon, it's a fascinating and well-researched book with plenty of thought-provoking ideas and pragmatic tips for health, weight loss and fitness. You can checkout the The Smarter Science of Slim on Amazon and it even has it's own facebook page.

And now finally... on to the Giveaway!

So, here's the deal. Enter by leaving a comment below by Tuesday November 29th, and the Random Number Generator will pick a winner on Wednesday November 30th. If there are fewer than 50 comments, we have one copy of The Smarter Science of Slim to give away, and it can only be mailed to a U.S. address. However, if we can get more than 50 comments, a second copy will magically appear, which can go outside the U.S. because I will be mailing it! Note: winner(s) will need to check in by Monday Dec or I'll redraw.)

And in case I don't get around to posting again this week, have a Happy Thanksgiving or just a Happy Thursday!

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