Perhaps it is ironic that one of my favorite sayings is “Diets Don’t Work”, yet I continue to read diet books. I guess it is a hazard of the job. I have to know what is being said in the industry to keep up with information that my clients might ask me about.
The latest book I have read, which is due to hit shelves May 11, is called Ultimate You: A 4-Phase Total Body Makeover for Women Who Want Maximum Results. It is written by what you might call a pretty dynamic duo. Joe Dowdell is a personal trainer and strength coach whose A-list clientele includes Claire Danes, Anne Hathaway and Mario Lopez. Dr. Brooke Kalanick has a Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine and Masters in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine and specializes in weight loss, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and women’s health. Together they put together an interesting read that looks at all aspects of weight loss and health, including stress, exercise, nutrition and hormones.
Often people try to fixate on one piece of the puzzle. For example, the people in the gym exercising for 1 or 2 hours a day, but stop for a muffin and iced coffee on the way home. They fixate on the exercise part of the equation and ignore the nutrition. The plan in this book looks at all elements to help you achieve your goal, ” The Ultimate You”.
The first chapters of the book really give you an overview of what the book is about, the 4 phase plan designed to deliver “The Ultimate You”. Throughout this introduction they deal with some important topics, like stress. It would be nice if our bodies did work like perfect machines where less calories in and more calories out would always equal fat loss. But they don’t. Things like stress and hormones impact how our bodies function and our overall health more than most people realize. During their introductory sections, they do a great job of explaining some of those impacts. They also spend a full chapter discussing rest and recovery, which is also more important than most people think. After all muscles get bigger not during our workouts, but as part of the rebuilding that happens during recovery. Rest and recovery help us diminish stress and keep us from overtraining, which can lead to injury and illness.
More and more programs are also preaching the gospel of High Intensity Interval Training (or as they refer to it Energy System Training-EST). This combined with a well thought out weight training program will give anyone a good workout, especially beginners.
However, where I start to disagree with their methodology is the nutritional program. I think this goes back to the Diet’s Don’t Work phrase. What I see in this program is a very strict diet, not necessarily a bad thing, but is it livable for most people? My approach is to help people live a healthy and fit, but real, life. I could see people struggling to maintain their adherence to this approach, particularly if they are balancing their meals with the needs of their family. In my opinion, even though they stress 90% adherence, I still think it can be unrealistic for some especially in the long term.
They set up the nutrition with foods from Optimal and Allowable food lists. As you progress, ideally you should only be eating from the Optimal list. This list is somewhat limited and, when trying to balance a busy life, could actually be barrier to program adherence. I like to set the bar high for clients, but also understand that changing eating habits is a process that takes time.
Don’t get me wrong, I agree with a good portion of it. Yes, sugar and soda should go. Yes, you should eat more vegetables. Yes, lean protein is extremely important. But we also have to function in the real world. That includes eating out when traveling or lunches with business clients, shopping on a budget or looking for quick options to throw in a purse or back pack. No one is perfect and I worry this way of eating asks for too much perfection from the average person attempting to get healthy and fit.
There are 2 other things I take issue with in the nutrition section.
- A Vegetarian Diet is Bad: I guess I have a hard time with this one because I have been a vegetarian since before I started this journey. I am living breathing proof that you can be healthy and fit without eating only animal protein. Their approach doesn’t allow for the choice to not eat meat. Health and fitness should be inclusive to all, even those with dietary restrictions.
- Lots and Lots of Supplements: Part of this speaks to the budget issue. Most people I know cannot afford to buy the multitude of supplements that they recommend. Each phase recommends a new list of supplements to take. I thought about going back and counting all the supplements, but I decided against it. Let’s just say for the average person its way too much without knowing if it will really make any difference or not. I am not against supplements. However, for the average person health and fitness can be obtained without taking a handful of pills each day.
Despite all that, I enjoyed the book. On a scale of 1-10 I would give it a 6. Above average, lots of good information that a reader could learn from. A reader would find a good exercise plan but the nutrition plan might be something they would continue to experiment with till they found the right balance for them.
If you have a chance, and like to read diet books, check and it out and let me know what you think.