Tag Archives: Harper

Chapter / Rule 12 - Lay off ALL Booze!

I'll start off with something positive here.  Going out to drink will not help you get closer to any weight loss goals you may have, I agree with Harper there.

However, I don't feel we need to demonize booze to get that point across.  You're smart, you know alcohol has calories.  If you recognize that and still want to go out and have a good time, by all means, go for it.  If you only give yourself 3 weeks to lose as much weight as possible, then yeah, it doesn't sound like a good plan.

But if you're getting ready for a wedding (one of the examples for why one may need this diet program that Harper states over and over), do you want to miss out having fun with your friends on your bachelor / bachelorette party?  Are you going to drink at your rehearsal dinners?  To each their own, and if you don't need to drink to have a good time, more power to you.  But personally I'd be a little upset if I didn't get every ounce of joy from those once-in-a-lifetime experiences to try and look slightly thinner in some pictures.

Anyway, that's all fluff.  Let's go over the justifications on why to not drink alcohol:

"Alcohol...is a central nervous system depressant.  You don't ever want that..."

Probably a time you'd want a little liquid courage.

Probably a time you'd want a little central nervous system depression.

Many bar-goers beg to differ! (Fun fact, did you know that archery competitions typically ban alcohol since it calms archer's nerves, decreasing hand tremors and improving accuracy?)

"Booze will alter your metabolism and slow down fat-burning."

Now this isn't an untrue statement.  But I think many people see statements like this and assume that consuming alcohol will decrease your metabolic rate in general, for which I haven't found any good evidence - please correct me if I'm wrong.  (I actually found a study - albeit a very old, small one - showing that it increases metabolism)

However, your body will process alcohol before anything else, by proxy lowering specifically "fat-burning."  We've mentioned before that it doesn't matter too much if your body is burning fat or carbohydrates - everything will catch up eventually if you're eating at a caloric deficit.

"...then there's the simple fact that this is a low-calorie, three-week diet, and alcohol contains calories..."

Very true.  If you're eating 800 calories a day, it would be best to get those calories from nutritious foods.  (But you should probably not only be eating 800 calories a day.  I think I've said that a couple of times.)

"Last but not least, it may surprise you that my objection to alcohol while on Jumpstart is less about calorie intake...

Every now and then, while driving home late at night...I see a line of guys outside the local open-late burger place.  All of them fat and...drunk."

Typically what the line at Cook-Out in Durham looks like at 1:00 AM.

Typically what the line at Cook Out in Durham looks like at 1:00 AM.

Harper then goes on to describe what all of us are probably familiar with - late night drunken food runs to Cook Out or Taco Bell.

(Sooo it is about calorie intake then?)

Who hasn't done that once or twice?  But I feel compelled to mention that there are plenty of skinny people who have this habit as well.  Will drinking 800 calories of beer followed by a 2,000 calorie hush-puppy & corndog combo help you lose weight?  No - but that doesn't mean there aren't people who do this on occasion without being fat.

I suppose my issue with him implying only fat people have this habit is that it says you're not allowed to party or have fun if you want to be at a reasonable weight, which is simply untrue.  Being thin does not mean subjecting yourself to a life of constant restriction and misery.

Moral: Alcohol doesn't seem to lower your metabolism.  (Correct me if I'm wrong) However, it does have calories and can lower your inhibitions towards food which will not help you achieve your weight loss goals.  Sure is fun though.

Chapter / Rule 13 - An espresso a day...or two or three

Coffee has had quite a few news articles singing its praises.  (Not endorsing that article, just showing there are a lot of claims around coffee)

Harper agrees with a few of them and gives us a couple of studies:

  1. This study showing that coffee consumption is correlated with lowered risk of metabolic syndrome in men.
  2. Another study showing that dark roast coffee had more antioxidants than light roast and that it contributed to "significant" body weight reduction.

A few issues with using the first study:

  • Diet was assessed through questionnaire, which as we know by this point can be prone to error.
  • There was no corresponding correlation with the women in the study, which is suspect.
  • The study acknowledged that this is an association and not enough to prove causation.

With study #2, the full text is really required.  I will try to get access to it and amend this post - the abstract gives no context to the claim of "significant" body weight reduction.

French people drink coffee.  French people are thin.  Therefore coffee makes you thin.

French people drink coffee. French people are thin. Therefore coffee makes you thin.

Anyway, coffee has claims to increase fat metabolism (although whether the broken down fat gets used more readily as fuel during exercise over existing carbohydrates doesn't seem to be clear), and it also serves as an appetite depressant! (it is possible that decaffeinated coffee does a better job of this)

Harper makes a last point about why you should drink coffee on this plan - it will get your energy up for the workouts he'll talk about later.  And on 800 calories a day, you'll need all the help you can get.  I personally drink caffeine during my workouts - it may be placebo but I feel it helps me stay focused and energized when I'm going up for my eighth set of squats or whatever.

Moral: Coffee can be helpful for the dieter due to appetite-suppressing qualities.  It could increase fat metabolism during exercise, maybe.  As well, the increase in energy can help improve your performance during workouts.

Whew!  Okay, that's a lot of rules.

But wait, there's more!

This book also contains a lovely workout plan, which I will enjoy reviewing in a bonus section!

'Let's Sharpen Our Bullshit Detectors' Update

Still working on my little guidebook for navigating the health & fitness industry.  I'm about done and all I need are a couple of people who would be willing to give it a critique.  I'm sure I've missed quite a few typos and there are probably some segments that don't make any sense.  I could use another pair of eyes, so if you'd like to help me out, just shoot me an email at:

kat@capitalstrength.com

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Chapter / Rule 4 - Get rid of water weight by drinking more water

In bodybuilding competitions, The Biggest Loser weigh-ins and wrestlers trying to make weight, water manipulation is huge.

Look at how pure it is! Drinking a bunch if it MUST be good for me! You know, because toxins, and whatnot.

For bodybuilders it's because at 3% body fat, a little bit of water weight can be the difference between 1st and 5th place.  (Not so much of a big visual change for you and me)

For The Biggest Loser, it's to make it seem like you've lost more fat than you really have - but more importantly so that you can stay in the competition.  The only way to lose 20 pounds in a week is to shed a bunch of water weight - aka weight that isn't making a big difference in the way your pants fit.  (It's a great way to make yourself pee blood though!)

For wrestlers, a change in weight class can mean wrestling someone with 20 pounds more muscle than you.

For followers of Jumpstart to Skinny shedding water means basically zero positive change in appearance, but you'll sure feel like the program is working when you step on the scale and have pissed away 10 pounds of water!

Really that's the only benefit you'll see from getting rid of water weight.  You would have a similar effect going on a low-carb diet, since carbohydrates cause you to hold onto water.  This is also why low-carb diets are seemingly more 'effective' in the short-term.  Water doesn't actually mean any good changes in appearance unless you're a super-ultra-lean bodybuilder right before a show.

But Harper has a few other things to say about drinking massive amounts of water so let's take a closer look:

"Next, there's the scientifically complex but pretty straightforward truth that increased water intake lets the liver devote more resources to fat metabolism..."

'Scientifically complex but straightforward' sounds like an oxymoron to me.  Of course there is no citation for this particular gem, so let's do some digging ourselves:

Some things that your liver is good at doing in regards to fat -

  • Converting stored fat into energy
  • Converting excess carbohydrates and proteins into fat

Now, does water affect this?  Perhaps, if you're dehydrated.  I was unable to locate any studies regarding water intake and liver function aside from the obvious fact of dehydration not promoting optimal organ function.  Again, though, I couldn't find any studies backing this up.  (Here is a link to a little blurb in a Harvard Health newsletter though.  Take it with a grain of salt.)

Let's just assume though that dehydration adversely affects your liver's ability to metabolize fat.  Do you need to be drinking the amount of water that Harper recommends?  (80 ounces at MINIMUM, which is equal to almost 5 standard bottles of water)

Lots of time to get real familiar with our porcealin friend if you follow this rule.

As I discussed in my review of Harper's last book, there is very little evidence regarding the 'optimal' amount of water for an individual.  There isn't much backing up the assertion of '8 glasses a day,' or '1/2 your bodyweight in ounces of water.'  In the link to my last review above, there is also a discussion about what all can contribute to your water intake for the day.  (Soup, fruits and vegetables are big contributors, especially on this diet where you eat a lot of these)

That review also debunks Harper's assertion of water causing you to burn more calories in and of itself.  He mentions it again in this chapter.

Now it has been found that drinking water before and during meals can help you eat less.  Not only does it help fill your stomach some, but it also makes you take longer to finish your meal which leads to eating less overall.  (Some studies point to soup as being even better at keeping you satiated for a long time - it has a ton of water in it on top of being combined with more solid substances that prevent you from just passing it through 5 minutes later)

Really though, I don't think that there is any strategy you can use to ever feel satiated on this 800-calories-a-day diet.

You could stop reading this part of the review right here and skip to the moral.  What I'm going to post below is speculation on my part:

As far as the assertion that drinking crap tons of water will help you drop water weight, I don't think you'll see much of a difference.  Your body is rather good at regulating itself.  Drink less than you need and your body will conserve more of it and you'll urinate less.  Drink more than you need and it'll just pass right through you.  Losing water weight has to happen in a very short window, say for a competition.

Drink lots and lots of water for a week and your body regulates hormones so that it doesn't hold onto very much water.  Then you have a very brief window to cut out your water while you still have the hormone levels that promote losing water.  After a while of not drinking much, it will level off again.  Homeostasis is a wonderful thing.  It keeps us from doing stupid shit like dying from trying to lose pointless scale weight through water loss.

Moral: Manipulating your water weight is not going to do a lot for your physical appearance.  Don't bother.  Drinking water can help you feel full, but I doubt you could do anything to reduce your hunger cravings on this diet plan.

Chapter / Rule 5 - Get your electrolytes

Here's a rule I'm having a tough time understanding.

Electrolytes are most commonly seen in sport drinks:

Some electrolytes include: sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, bicarbonate and phosphate. Wheee science-y terms!

Why are electrolytes so common in sport drinks you ask?  I AM SO GLAD YOU DID!

When you sweat, as you do during exercise (some of us more than others), you lose water and electrolytes like sodium. (Which is why it's salty.  Also if you don't take a shower for awhile after and all the sweat evaporates, you may find your skin a bit grainy from leftover salt.  Fun facts!)

Generally we need electrolytes for various bodily functions.  But another reason is because they promote water retention.  So if you just dehydrated yourself running a marathon, a combination of electrolytes, glucose and water are a super way to re-hydrate quickly.

Now the reason that I was SO EXCITED to explain that to you is because it is a DIRECT CONTRADICTION of the rule we just posted about above!  Drink a crap ton of water to lose water weight, then re-hydrate with your electrolytes - brilliant!

Generally in a normal diet you'd be getting enough electrolytes (presuming you aren't a marathon runner or doing 3-hour practices for your sport) and you wouldn't have to worry about it.  However since you'll only be eating 800 calories a day in this diet, you may be deficient - I'm not really sure to be honest.  I can't claim to be an expert on that.  However you're probably deficient in a bunch of other things as well (like, calories) so electrolytes is just one of many worries.

"After decades of irresponsibly selling high-sugar electrolyte replacements in the form of "sports drinks," manufacturers finally get it: we don't want or need the sugar.  We just need the electrolytes, thank you."

Now, I'm hardly a big defender of the food industry, if you couldn't tell.  In fact, sports drinks are really only necessary for people doing long endurance events or marathon practice sessions - not that you'd be able to tell that from their commercials.

But the purpose of a sports drink is to re-hydrate you and give you a little bit of fuel.  Sugar is needed for this.  It's not the sport drink manufacturers at fault here.  It's YOU for thinking you need a sport drink for your 45 minute strength training session.  Or for following a ridiculous 800 calorie diet.  Sports drinks serve their purpose.  Normal people do NOT need electrolyte supplements.

At the end of this chapter, Harper says that you should not take diuretics to lose weight.  Finally something we agree on!

Moral:  If you're trying to lose water weight, taking electrolyte supplements is perplexing.  I'm not sure if they're necessary on an 800 calorie a day diet - they might be.  Either way, you should really not only be eating 800 calories a day.  Have I mentioned that?

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This is a long one so grab some coffee and settle in!

Chapter / Rule 1 - Take Control with Proper Portions - 40/40/20

For Rule #1, Harper shows you the breakdown of macronutrients he wants you to be eating.  40% of you calories from carbohydrates, 40% from protein and 20% from fat.

Taken from teamripped.com

This is a fairly standard diet plan.  40/40/20 has been used as a starting point for many conscious eaters for ages.  Go around on any forum or website and you'll probably see this recommendation.  So when Harper states that he's

"...tinkered with this formula to get it right:  I've tried different percentages, added, subtracted, split things up one week and then tried something new the next...I know this is the formula that will work."

he's basically full of it.  He didn't come up with this "formula."  But it sure does make him sound smart and science-y!  On the other hand, I don't doubt that he's guinea-pigged many different kinds of diets and found this one to be the one that worked.  Most of the dedicated fitness enthusiasts I know have tried all different kinds of diets just for the fun of it or out of curiosity.  Self-experimentation is great fun if you do it right and it can teach you a lot about yourself.

However, I don't think that 40/40/20 works perfect for everyone.  There are many happy people out there who do something like 60/20/20 or 20/60/20.

40/40/20 isn't a bad place to start though if you're not sure what you're doing, so I am pretty cool with his recommendation here.  Many crash-diet plans you'll see involve much much lower carbohydrates than that!

Here's another thing I appreciate about this chapter: Harper has a couple of quotes about how no food is inherently bad -

"It's not that complex carbohydrates are evil or that you can never have them again..."

"Fats are not "bad"..."

So, thanks for that!  In an age where sugar is the devil (although...he did say that fructose and sucrose are "twin demon-spawn" in his last book...hmm...) and saturated fats are going to clog your arteries, it's nice to hear a public figure say that there isn't anything bad or evil about two major macronutrients.  Poor carbs and fats.  All they ever wanted to do was be delicious.

He also mentions that protein is key for preserving muscle mass while losing fat.  Very true as well.

Now onto the stuff he didn't get quite right:

"...protein helps control blood sugar and insulin..."

Protein stimulates insulin as much as, and in some cases more than, many carbohydrates.  This isn't really common knowledge, but it certainly should be.  So next time someone tells you that sugar and other carbs are bad because of insulin, point that fact out to them.

"...think of it this way: simple carbohydrates are found in fruits and vegetables...and are generally "good."  Complex carbohydrates are what we find in processed starchy food - breads, baked goods, pastas, crackers and potatoes."

You may be asking yourself, "Wait, I always heard we wanted complex carbohydrates?"  And you'd be right - in general that's been the advice doled out.  Harper is kind of tripping over himself a little here.  In his last book, he actually wanted you to eat whole-grain carbohydrates (Rule #4 - however he has made clear that this particular book is for special circumstances).  Here's a summary of why the advice is typically to eat complex carbs instead of refined carbs:

  • Complex carbs take longer to digest (due to fiber content and the fact that longer, more "complex" chains of carbohydrates take longer for your body to unravel and use)
  • The longer they take to digest, the more satiated you'll feel and the slower your blood sugar will go up.
  • This will lead you to be less hungry, thus consume less calories and lose weight.

So the reason that people don't generally suggest things like twinkies, pop-tarts, white bread and other refined carbohydrates is because, aside from their lack of nutritional value, they get digested quickly and cause your blood sugar to go up and crash back down.  Sometimes this can leave people hungry and/or tired.  Not generally things you want to be during a caloric deficit.

Fruits and vegetables do tend to be on the simpler side of carbohydrates.  This is why some people will tell you that apples and bananas are going to make you fat or some shit. (Because they have a lot of sugar in them) However most sane people will realize that the fiber and nutritional content of them off-sets and potential 'negatives'.  Plus they're delicious.

A basket full of simple sugars!

Harper could have been much more clear by leaving simple and complex carbohydrates out of the equation.  If he had simply said something like "fruits and vegetables have a lot of fiber and water content, leaving you much more full than a twinkie on your ridiculously low calorie diet.  So we're going to eat those instead of twinkies, woohoo!"  instead of trying to sound smart, it would have made much more sense.

"You'll have an amazing, for-the-ages wedding album, a jealousy-inducing reunion photo, a bathing-beauty shot that your spouse just can't stop looking at!"

YES, WE GET IT, WE'RE GOING TO LOOK SEXY.  Also, maybe it's just me, but I kinda think it's more important to look back at your wedding album with fondness not because of how tiny your waist might be, but because it memorializes the day you committed yourself to someone you (hopefully) love.  Haha nahh, it's more important to look smokin'.

Moral: 40/40/20 macronutrient breakdown is sensible to start with and pretty standard.  Not bad advice for someone just starting out.

Chapter / Rule 2 - Cut back on calories.  Then cut back again.

800 calories a day for women.  1200 for men.

So you're a 6'0 female waitress on her feet all day?  800 calories.

5'2, 230 pound female track and field athlete?  800 calories.

That makes sense, right?  I mean, haha, what are the chances of you blacking out in the middle of a shift at around day 18 of only eating 800 calories a day?  The price we pay for beauty.

I'm going to make this perfectly clear right here:

Unless you are under the surveillance of a medical team, you should never, under any circumstances, intentionally eat only 800 calories a day for an extended period of time (say, 21 days).

Harper says that these are special circumstances and that if the calories weren't this low you wouldn't meet your weight-loss goals.  That is probably true.  Because if you're trying to lose a significant amount of weight or drastically change your appearance in 3 weeks, you need to change your expectations.

As a fitness professional who isn't interested in creating drastic, insanely fast weight loss for maximum TV ratings or to sell a crap ton of books, I'm going to tell you that there is NO NEED to ever drop weight that quickly unless you are under the guidance of a medical team.  Your health and sanity is way more important than the need to look 2 inches slimmer in your reunion pictures.

Are you serious about losing weight?  Then do it in a sustainable way that HONORS your health - mind and body.  It will take longer, yes.  But I PROMISE you will be better off in the long run.  Honor your body by giving it the time it needs to change.

"[Diet experts and motivators] dress it up in pretty prose but never tell you the truth about the number of calories it takes (or doesn't take) to meet your goals."

Actually, most diet books and health magazines also give ridiculous calorie counts for women.  1,200 - 1,500 is pretty standard.  For most people (especially those with a lot to lose), THIS IS STILL TOO LOW.  Harper, you are just taking this one step further in the wrong direction.

He cites 3 different studies to back up his assertion that this is a safe, effective and sustainable way to lose weight.  (By sustainable, he means that you can sustain the weightloss from this 3-week diet by going back over to The Skinny Rules diet after this program is done - basically he asserts that you will not gain back any weight from this.) Let's take a look at these studies:

Study #1

"VLCDs [Very Low Calorie Diets] produce greater improvements in glycemic control than more moderate diets, even if weight losses are the same.  Better glycemic control means better weight control."

It is clear that Harper never expected anyone to look up the studies he cites.  Because if you did look this one up, you'd find a conclusion that is the complete opposite of Harper's arguments:

"However, to date, it has not been possible to develop treatment programs that maintain this weight loss long term. Neither intensive maintenance sessions nor intermittent VLCDs have been successful in maintaining the benefits of VLCDs long term. Thus, from the perspective of producing long-term weight loss, balanced low-calorie diets appear to be as effective as VLCDs."

However, it is true that VLCDs produce superior glycemic control in obese diabetic patients.  This is important for a diabetic since excess blood sugar is a dangerous problem for them.  Diets like this are supervised by a full medical staff.  If you do not meet both of these conditions, VLCDs are not for you.  See the above quote that says VLCDs have not been successful in maintaining weight-loss.

Study #2

Thankfully for this second study Harper cites, we can get the full text.  In this study, participants were put on a 800-calorie per day diet for 8 weeks.  After this intervention, there was a 6-month maintenance phase.  He read this study and concluded:

"positive metabolic changes that the low-calorie diet induced made weight regain much less likely."

The funny thing is, this study is only looking at participants who regained weight.  So using this study as an example of how VLCDs don't cause weight regain is a bit odd.

I think this may once again be a case of Harper citing a study just to have something to cite and sound official.

The primary finding of this study was that participants who lost the most weight and those who made the best improvements in insulin sensitivity regained less weight.  While this is certainly interesting and perhaps merits further investigation, it is a far cry from saying a VLCD will not lead to weight regain - especially considering everyone regained weight.  Some just did to a lesser degree.

Study #3

This study is an examination of existing literature on VLCDs.  It looked at 9 different trials to gather data.  They concluded:

VLCDs ... with an average intake between 400 and 800 [calories] do not differ in body weight loss. Nine randomized control trials, including VLCD treatment with long-term weight maintenance, show a large variation in the initial weight loss regain percentage, which ranged from -7% to 122% at the 1-year follow-up to 26% to 121% at the 5-year follow-up. There is evidence that a greater initial weight loss using VLCDs with an active follow-up weight-maintenance program, including behavior therapy, nutritional education and exercise, improves weight maintenance.

In other words, within 1 year, some people lost more weight, some people gained more weight than they lost.  After 5 years, no one had completely maintained their weight loss, with some again gaining more than they lost.  They conclude that, when it comes to using VLCDs to lose weight, it is best to lose a whole bunch of weight then continue treatment with exercise, therapy and seeing a nutritionist.

Sadly a lot of us don't have access to those last 2 options.  They certainly would be helpful in maintaining weight loss.

In any case, this study (I think, I could be wrong) was only looking at VLCDs, without comparing them to more modest diets.  This is not sufficient to say that using a VLCD is the best plan.  However, to assure you that this 800 calorie per day diet is a good plan, Harper concludes:

Short-term very low-calorie dieting can produce a whole bunch of positive changes that will keep you from getting fat again.

They can also be very difficult to follow outside of a laboratory and can produce a whole bunch of negative changes that will keep you from maintaining your hard-fought weight loss.

Moral: PLEASE DON'T ONLY EAT 800 CALORIES A DAY.

Chapter / Rule 3 - Eat no complex carbs after breakfast

If there's one thing I want you to get out of listening to me ramble about these books and nutrition in general it's this:

It's not as complicated as you'd think.

It doesn't matter when you eat.  It doesn't matter too much WHAT you eat.  What does matter is HOW MUCH you eat.

So rules like this annoy me.  They end up confusing people, there's conflicting opinions everywhere, and for the person just looking to get a bit leaner they really don't matter.  Sure you can argue about pre and post-workout nutrition a little, but if it confuses you or causes you stress you don't have to worry about it too much.  Honest.  Just do what you want.

I found this picture from an article talking about the evils of gluten. God stock photos are getting ridiculous. First it was "women laughing alone eating salad", now it will be "women looking terrified and guilty eating any kind of food."

"...sugar cues the pancreas to make more insulin.  And that process triggers appetite!"

He's being a little contradictory - simple sugars, like the kinds you find in fruit and vegetables, tend to be the ones that would cue the insulin response.  Yes, they have fiber and loads of nutrients and good stuff, but they are, in the end, sugars.  Also as we went over before, protein stimulates insulin as much as and sometimes more than carbohydrates.  So this point is kind of moot.

If he just said "we're cutting out grains of all kinds because they aren't very satiating for the calorie load" this would all be making a lot more sense.

"The later in the day you eat complex carbs, the more likely it is that you will get food cravings late at night."

I'm pretty sure if you follow this diet you're going to be having food cravings late at night, early at night, in the afternoon, late morning and early morning.  Ya know, because you're only eating EIGHT HUNDRED CALORIES!!

Moral: Meal and macronutrient timing is really not super important.  If you're more advanced when it comes to nutrition feel free to tinker, but if you're new to the whole thing, don't worry about it too much.

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Chapter / Rule 17 - Eat Your Vegetables - Just Do It!

It's finally happened.  I found a chapter that I have basically no greivences with.  Vegetables are swell.  They can taste good if you learn to cook them right.  I agree with all this.

...What do I do now?  What do I use this space for?  No witty or sarcastic disagreements.  No silly pictures with ridiculous captions.  I got nothing.

Moral: Vegetables are a lovely weight loss tool.  They aren't magic, but they are very filling and tend to help you eat less, while simultaneously being nutritious.  Going to go sit in a corner and re-evaluate my life now.

Chapter / Rule 18 - Go To Bed Hungry

Oh good, something for me to vehemently disagree with.  I was a little concerned for my mental health after that last chapter there.  Let's take this opportunity to point out some really stupid quotes:

"...overweight people are often lonely and anxious; eating before bed is nerve-settling, comforting."

Well that sounds like a bit of an over-generalization...

"The absence of carbs in your bloodstream will let your body produce the hormones it needs for better sleep."

Come again?

In fact, in looking up what he could be talking about, I came across many articles that encouraged eating carbs before bed to help you get to sleep.  If you use Harper's logic about no carbs after lunch, it would make sense.  He says in that chapter that carbs make you sleepy.  So...why am I going to bed hungry again?  Sounds like a perfect occasion to eat cake to me.

This is me about 10 minutes post-Thanksgiving dessert.

"Denied fuel for more than 5 hours, your body will start burning its own fat and sugar.  That means that, if your dinner was at 8PM, you're burning fat by 1AM."

Again....what?

Your body doesn't work that simplistically.  It's not about trying to trick your body's processes into burning ONLY FAT EVER - it's about letting it do its own thing while just giving it a little less fuel total than it needs.  And that little less fuel could be done over the course of a day, over the course of a week, month, year, whatever.

And in any case, your body is probably burning mostly fat while you're sitting at your computer reading this.  It's just not burning very much of it.  Because you're just sitting around.  Same for when you're sleeping.

It doesn't even matter if your body is burning fat or glycogen anyway.  If you have eaten less than you need to function, your body will eventually get around to losing fat, whether you burned away fat directly or you burned out some glycogen stores.  IT DOES NOT MATTER.

So that 'fat-burning' zone on the treadmill?  You can forget about it.  Becoming 'fat-adapted'?  Pointless.  Calories reign supreme.

Moral: Going to bed hungry is not something we should aspire to.   When you are aspiring to the lifestyle forced upon people who can't afford food, you should really re-think your choices.

Chapter / Rule 19 - Sleep Right

Oh no...it's happening again.  A chapter I generally agree with.  Umm...okay...what did I do here last time.   Just cut straight to the moral.  Right.  But this time I'll add in a cute puppy:

Taken from 16-horsepower.tumblr.com

 Moral: Sleep is good.  It will make your weight-loss efforts easier to stick with.  You'll feel better, have more energy to do that exercise thing, and be less apt to over-eat the next day.  Sleep rules.

Chapter / Rules 20 - Plan One Splurge Meal a Week

One thing I do like about this chapter is that Harper concedes that there are many people who disagree with this rule.  It's easy when you've been restricting all week to have your cheat meal turn into a binge meal.  It would hardly be your fault.

Coming from someone who used to do things similar to this, it makes eating for me highly stressful.  The cheat meal is even stressful.  There are a million things I can't eat anymore, so what do I want to indulge in?  It was like trying to answer a trick question - if I didn't get exactly what I was craving (which was everything), I'd have to wait A WHOLE EXTRA WEEK to get it.  Pizza?  Ice cream?  Chinese food?  A sandwich?  Any dessert?  YES TO ALL OF THE ABOVE OM NOM NOM NOM.

I'm using this picture again because I love it.  OM NOM NOM NOM!

I'm using this picture again because I love it. OM NOM NOM NOM!

Then I'd feel guilty anyway.

So yeah, cheat meals don't work well with my brain.

But, again, that's me.  Just like Harper states, it has worked for him and his clients.  Doesn't mean it will work for you, and that's okay.

But either way, there are a few rules he gives even to your cheat meals:

  • No liquid calories except red wine
  • Make sure to count your calories anyway
  • Try to make your splurge at lunch or breakfast.  If it's dinner, make it before 7.
  • Only drink water, and don't get any of the bread.
  • No fast food.

This cheat meal certainly has an awful lot of caveats.  Some cheat.

Moral: Cheat days aren't for everyone.  They certainly aren't for me.  But, if it works for you, keep on keepin' on.

Chapter / Rule 14 - Eat A Real Breakfast

More studies showing that health-conscious people eat breakfast and thus weigh less.  People who don't eat breakfast usually don't do it intentionally for health reasons, and are more likely to be less concerned about health, thus weigh more.

I'll quote myself from a previous review:

Moral: "You do not have to eat breakfast.  It does not ‘jumpstart‘ your metabolism.  You do not have to eat breakfast."

Chapter / Rule 15 - Make your own food and eat at least ten meals a week at home

Not totally bad advice, and typically something that I can get behind.

Typically cooking your own meals is cheaper, it's easier to control what goes into your food, and usually (though of course, not always) you'll be eating less calories than if you got some fast food.

However, once again, it's not absolutely, utterly necessary to lose weight.

Mmmm Chipotle Burrito Bowl. Delicious, completely compatible with a weight-loss focused diet, and also happens to be fast food. Woo! (taken from livingtherun.com)

As well, a significant portion of the obese and overweight population live in areas with a distinct lack of access to grocery stores, cookware, and decent kitchen facilities.  As well, one shouldn't discount the fact that, especially if you're inexperienced, cooking takes time.  It's the time to get to the grocery store, pick out your groceries, store them, cook them, and clean up after them, as well as put away any leftovers.  Is it so hard to see why someone working 80 hours a week would be disinclined?  Does it make them doomed to be fat forever?

Other than that, I generally like this chapter.  While I don't do it, eating only at the table is good habit to have, and he gives a pretty good list of basic cookware that you'll need.

Moral: It's probably easier to lose weight eating mostly from home.  It's also typically cheaper.  However, it's not absolutely required.

Chapter / Rule 16 - Banish High-Salt Foods

Harper is correct about one thing.  Salt can cause water retention, which can create some serious scale fluctuations which many dieters may find discouraging.  However, I think this is one of many reasons that the scale is not a good way to measure body recomposition progress.

However, as far as salt being bad for you, unless you already have blood-pressure issues, you really need not concern yourself with how much sodium you're taking in.  In any case, if you've been following his advice of not eating fast food, you'll probably be fine.   I do think American cuisine could use a bit more when it comes to herbs and spices, though.  Salt, pepper and garlic powder aren't the only things out there!

Basil, oregano, Italian seasoning, cumin, curry powder, ginger, rosemary or chili powder are some of my favorites.  (I have no idea of their sodium content, however!)

Moral: Unless you have an existing blood-pressure condition, don't sweat your sodium content.  I would encourage experimenting with new spices and herbs however!

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Chapter / Rule 11 - Get rid of those white potatoes

A chapter filled with our favorite flawed and not-in-anyway conclusive Harvard Nurse's Health Study (this study has been referenced about 5 times at this point), anecdotal evidence and pointless food avoidance!  How fun!

To his credit however, he does state,

"It's not that there is anything innately wrong with white potatoes; it's just that we consume so much of them, and in the most overweight-producing forms."

I can get on board with that.  He points out most of our potato consumption is in the forms of french fries, chips and tater tots.  Yes, if that comprises the bulk of your diet, then there is a bit of a problem.  And I agree - there isn't anything wrong with potatoes.  There's something wrong with too many potatoes when you want to lose weight.

However, despite this admission, he goes on to say that you are no longer allowed to eat white potatoes.  Why?

"...I was thinking perhaps I was being unreasonable by making this a rule.  But then I looked around at the people who were most successful at losing weight and keeping it off.  None of them eat white potatoes in any form."

Whaaaaaaaaaat???

This isn't just an anecdote, it's an extremely hyperbolic anecdote that flies in the face of common sense.  Especially since he goes on to say that sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are okay.

Seriously?

Poor white potatoes.  They get such a bad reputation.  But it's really quite undeserved.  Why are sweet potatoes in any way more acceptable than white potatoes?  They have very similar nutritional profiles:

"In a 100-gram portion, the white potato has 92 calories, 21 grams of carbs, 2.3 grams of dietary fiber, 2.3 g of protein and 17% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. The same amount of sweet potato, on the other hand, has 90 calories, 21 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, 35% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C and 380% of the daily recommended value of vitamin A."

"Why don't you guys buy me anymore?  I...I love you guys.  What did I do wrong?"

"Why don't you guys buy me anymore? I...I love you guys. What did I do wrong?"

They may have a lot more vitamin A, but as long as you're eating a varied diet you're probably not deficient in that.  Otherwise, they have essentially the same calories, same fiber, same carbs, and same protein.  So what is the big deal?

However, Harper wants you to cut out all potatoes and starchy tubers, including parsnips and turnips for the first month of your diet.  Why?  Your guess is as good as mine because I have no clue.

Moral: There is nothing wrong with white potatoes and they are similar in nutrition to a sweet potato.  Just as with everything else, too many calories from potatoes will impede any weight loss goals.

Chapter / Rule 12 - Make one day a week meatless

Oh boy, I'm so excited for this one.  Please Harper, enlighten us about why we shouldn't eat meat:

"One reason, and one reason only: it will help you lose weight and keep it off."

Oh...do go on...

Well...I read the whole chapter and there is not ONE line, anecdotal or not, that says why you should specifically avoid meat one day (actually he says the more the better) per week.  Like he didn't even try.

What IS presented in this chapter is that, like, beans and nuts are healthy / good for you / help you lose weight / etc, etc.

But not just any nuts.  Stay away from the salted kinds.  Or the honey roasted kind.  Or the kinds in mixed nut jars. (????)  Why?  Fuck if I know I'm pretty sure he's just making shit up at this point.

He mentions his de-bunked point of nuts being a food that "cause weight loss more than others, even if their calories are the same."  Let's take a look at a couple of the studies he used to back this up.

The first study takes 2 groups of obese people and have them placed on a 500 calorie deficit diet.  1 group was given pretzels as a snack, and the other pistachios of the same caloric content.  At the end of the 12-week study, both groups lost weight, though the pistachio group lost 1kg more than the pretzel group.

Unfortunately, I couldn't get a full text of this study.  This is unfortunate because there are many other variables that could have contributed to the changes.  Were both diet groups on the same amount of carb / protein total?  If not, that would definitely have an effect.  Were both groups under observation during the entire intervention so that they knew exactly what each group was eating?  If not, that would absolutely have an effect.  Pistachios are certainly going to be more satiating than pretzels.  If they were under observation or had their food controlled, did both groups eat the same things outside of the pretzels / pistachios?  If not, that would affect the outcome.

I wish that I had the full text so that I could answer those questions.  However, based on the full studies that I do know of, if protein, carbohydrate and fat levels were constant, then this would be something worth looking into more.  But I doubt that is the case.

Hey, Snooki eats pistachios, I saw it on that commercial. And she lost weight. She's famous, and that's all the proof I need, mister!

He then cites another study and claims that it states nuts increase your Resting Energy Expenditure (REE), thus resulting in weight loss.  The cited study itself doesn't do an experiment, rather it is reviewing conclusions from previous studies.  Let's take a look at one of those.

"This study did not confirm previous results in lean and obese individuals, using peanuts, that there is a significant increase in RMR following chronic nut consumption9,21. As body weight is the predominant determinant of RMR, it is unclear whether the previous results are anomalous or are specific to peanuts, particularly as another study with almonds also did not observe changes of RMR5. Further research is required to clarify the effects of nuts on energy expenditure"

Well, that's not quite as exciting as what Harper was promising.

Moral: There is no reason to avoid meat when it comes to health or weight-loss.  There are many reasons to go vegetarian or vegan that revolve around social and sustainability issues, but there is nothing in literature (or apparently in anecdote) to lead one to think they are 'healthier'.  As well, peanuts and beans are great and satiating, but as with any other food if you over-eat them you will gain weight.

Chapter / Rule 13 - Get rid of fast foods and fried foods

This whole chapter is insane.  I want to quote the specific parts of it that are crazy, but I'd be quoting the entire chapter.  It is 4 pages of hyperbolic scare tactics meant to convince you that if you eat fast food, EVER, LIKE EVEN ONCE, you will become instantly obese, get diabetes, a heart attack and probably die, if not at the very least just end up in the ER.  I am really not exaggerating.  If you're curious just pick up the book and flip to page 62.  Here's one of my favorite parts:

"Even standing inside a fast-food restaurant reinforces the problem.  Your powerful sense of smell gets hijacked by all those high-fat molecules filling up the air around you.  You also lose control of your sense of taste.  Soon, anything that is not hyper-sweet or salty falls short of your desire and just doesn't do it for you.  You're a prisoner of fast food.  Not an addict.  A prisoner."

Well then.

"Is there any way to eat fast foods...or fried foods and be healthy?  No."

Michael Phelps, winner of a bajillion gold medals. This must have been after that. It's impossible to be healthy and eat fast food at the same time.

Gonna back that up with anymore awful studies?  Ooohhh how about something from the Nurse's Study here?  No?  Nothing?  Not even going to back it up?

Okay then.

Moral: It's easy to over-eat fast foods and they won't be the most nutrient-dense foods you can find out there.  They have a distinct lack of fiber, nutrients and variety.  However, to say you can never eat them if you want to be healthy is asinine.  Come on, you know better than that.

 

 

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Chapter / Rule 8 - Learn to read food labels so you know what you are eating

I'm all for knowing what you're eating.  Obviously if you're looking to lose weight, having an idea of how many calories you're getting, or how much protein you've had is very important information.  And if you're feeling extra frisky, knowing that you're getting the Recommended Dietary Allowance of essential vitamins and minerals is pretty swell.  (I'll admit though, I don't do that last one at all.)

So, at first anyway, it seems me and Harper agree.  Knowing how to read a food label can be a helpful tool to keeping your weight in your control.  However, I apparently have a lot more faith in humanity in general to figure out how to read nutrition labels that Harper says are:

"frequently confusing - graphically busy, laden with irrelevant claims and detail, sometimes almost impossible to find on the container."

Yeah, just look at all those graphics and irrelevant claims.

Also containers are typically only so big.  I'm not sure how it could ever be tough for someone to find a nutrition label on it if it has one.  I'm envisioning something like a black-and-white scene in an infomercial for a useless product of someone having way too hard a time doing a mundane activity.  

Anyway, Harper then goes on to cite a couple studies about how people who read nutrition labels eat more fiber and nutrients and less calories and blah blah blah blah correlation without causation people who read nutrition labels are more likely to be concerned about their health and make better food choices etc etc etc.

Let's take a look at what Harper says are the "absolutely fundamental" things to understand when reading labels:

Serving Size / Number of Servings 

I definitely agree with this.  I can't tell how many times I read the calories on an item and thought "not bad" only to realize it was one of three servings.  How one cookie can get away with being technically 3 servings, I don't know.  Speaking of the ridiculousness of serving sizes, allow me this opportunity to share one of my favorite stand-up bits:

Calories

The single most important thing when it comes to losing weight.  Probably why it's the easiest thing to find to read on the label.  I've got no complaints about this one.  But just because something is dense in calories doesn't mean you can't eat it, even if you're looking to lose weight.

Protein

Probably the second most important thing when it comes to fat loss.  Assuming you're looking to retain your muscle, that is.  (Probably something you'd want to do)

Sugar

I mean, I guess it's cool to know how much sugar is in whatever you're buying.  It's probably surprising to see how much is in some products.  The more sugar, the quicker it will likely digest, the less satiating it will probably be.  But, again, if you're looking to lose weight, you can still eat this if it's within the more important calorie range.  That's certainly more realistic than Harper's advice to not buy it if it's a main ingredient.  Guess we all should stop eating apples.  (Oh wait, you're supposed to eat those Every. Single. Day.  I'M SO CONFUSED HARPER.)

Roughly 76% sugar here. (Well, 100% if you consider the fact that all carbohydrates become simple sugars eventually) Image from prevention.com

Sodium

Unless you have a blood pressure issue, there isn't much of a reason to be super concerned with how much sodium you're taking in.  There are much more important things to concern yourself over if you're struggling to lose fat.  Sodium may increase your water retention which will make the scale number fluctuate annoyingly, but that's really not the best metric to use, as I'm sure you've heard a million times.  Drink enough water and you'll be fine.

Fat / Trans fats 

I like that Harper says fat is not a bad thing - there is still a sense out there of the fat-phobia left over from the 90's.  Fat doesn't make you fat.  It seems people are taking baby steps though and aren't completely ready to relinquish the fear of fat with certain restrictions:   "Unsaturated fats are good, saturated fats bad."  It's time to let go of that last bit of fat fear: saturated fats are fine.  Eat red meat and full-fat dairy if you like them.  You won't clog your arteries or get heart disease from them, it's okay.

However I can't completely say all fats are fine either - there is evidence that trans fats may be harmful in certain amounts.  However I'm not sure I'll ever call them 'demon-spawn' as Harper does.

As well, Harper says not to eat anything that is over 20% fat calories.  I'm sure he doesn't mean one shouldn't have oil or most nuts, but he should really specify that.

Carbs

Yep, carbs are a thing.  They have calories.  If you eat the kind with more fiber, vitamins and minerals, you'll get more fiber, vitamins and minerals if that's your thing.  However Harper has a whole list of kinds of carbs that you cannot eat to lose weight.  Did you know that you absolutely can't have cornmeal or potato starch and stay slim?

Fiber

Generally the more fiber in an item, the more full it will make you feel and as Harper says, probably the less processed it is.  I really enjoy feeling full, so eating vegetables and fruits and Quest Bars and Arctic Zero (completely processed foods that are also completely filling and awesome) is a good idea for me.  However, I also eat lots of things that don't have a ton of fiber, like cake.  Mmmm cake.

Net Carbs

Net carbs is basically this on a nutrition label:

Total Carb grams - Fiber grams = Net carbs

This is because fiber is indigestible, but still counts towards the carb amount on the nutrition label.  I mentioned in my old blog about how food companies are already allowed to reflect this fact in their total calories.  So this is more just a fun fact, not something you really need to pay attention to.

The Ingredient List

Ingredient lists are super helpful when it comes to figuring out exactly what you're putting in your body.  Whether or not long ingredient lists necessarily mean something is bad for your health though is not cut and dry.  There are heavily processed products that can absolutely support a healthy, lean body.  (See Quest Bars, Arctic Zero and the wide variety of protein powders available.) And here's one quote I'm going to go off on a bit of a tangent about:

"For one, if it's got that many ingredients, it's probably incredibly processed - dense in chemicals that Mother Nature never intended you to eat."

Please, what exactly did Mother Nature intend for us to eat?  Did she intend for us to eat Quaker oatmeal for breakfast everyday?  Did she intend for us to domesticate pigs and chickens and eat bacon and eggs regularly?  Did she intend for us to turn the unrecognizable wild banana into the domesticated kind we see in supermarkets today?  Did she intend for people to ever drink tea, or eat horse meat?  Is there any kind of of force, or power, or spirit that has dictated what is 'good' and 'bad' for us, or is it not completely up to us?

Anyway, sorry for that rant, but for some reason it's started to grind my gears whenever people say we weren't 'meant' to eat a certain kind of food item.

Chemicals

I'm going to make a confession.  I am not in any way qualified or knowledgeable in this area to make a good analysis of the chemicals in the list of things to avoid by Harper:

  • Food dyes
  • Aspartame
  • Polysorbate 60
  • Olestra
  • MSG

However, if you're interested, I wouldn't take the book at its word.  Ask your friendly local food safety professional if you want a second opinion.

The "Percent of Daily Values" Section

Helpful section if you're looking to make sure you're getting sufficient vitamins and minerals.  Honestly though, if you're eating a diet that contains fruits, vegetables and animal products of some kind, you're probably getting enough.  Typically your local, fresher, grass-fed type will contain more, but that can get a bit pricey.

Moral:  If you're looking to lose weight, understanding what is in your food is important.  The most important component is the calorie content, followed by protein.  After that things tend to get a bit muddy and open to personal interpretation and preference.

Chapter / Rule 9 - Stop guessing about portion size and get it right - for good

Harper touches on one point that I find interesting about the culture of food in recent years, especially in America.   Portion sizes have gotten much larger - he gives the statistic that at-home meals have increased by 20 to 30 percent over the past 20 years. (20 to 30 percent increase in what he doesn't say.  Calories?  Volume? Plate size?)  Regardless, the size options available at fast food places have certainly increased, and perhaps our expectation of appropriate food volume has with it.

From Gawker

This chapter has 2 techniques to control your portion sizes:

1) Forced Portion Control

Basically the advice of have snacks already partitioned in small sizes so that if you're in a bind you can quickly grab something that isn't super calorie-dense.  I can get on board with that - it makes counting your calories real easy if you're into that kind of thing too.

However, I know that if there are easy things to snack on around the kitchen, there is a high chance that I will snack on them.  So, whatever works for you.

2) "Harpersizing"

Described as "taking advantage of high-fiber, low-calorie foods that fill you up." Basically saying, vegetables have very few calories and are very filling, so you could eat a whole plate, be absolutely stuffed, and still not have eaten much in the way of calories.  I like this idea, and I do it often.  Here is a favorite dinner side dish:

  • Take a shit ton of broccoli florets and lay them on a pan
  • Spray with olive oil
  • Top with seasoning salt, garlic powder and pepper
  • Put in oven on 415 for 15-20 minutes until they're basically totally burnt (Okay, this step is just because I'm weird and like my vegetables burnt to a crisp)

This is paired wonderfully with some responsibly-raised, grass-fed, free-roaming, anti-biotic and hormone-free beef, or cake.

Moral: Controlling your portion sizes is just another way to control your caloric intake.  If you'd prefer a big, huge meal at one point during the day or several small meals throughout the day both are okay.  Oh, and vegetables are filling.

Chapter / Rule 10 - No more added sweeteners, including artificial ones

"You won't psychologically expect supersweet when I'm done with you."

That sounds terrifying.

"You don't have the physiological ammo to "just have a little"."

That sounds inaccurate.

Here's an anecdote.  Take it with a grain of salt:

Before I was doing the "If It Fits your Macros" part of my experiments, I tried avoiding things like chocolate and sweets on a regular basis.  When I did have them, they were in huge quantities I couldn't get enough of.  I scoffed at the idea of anything in 'moderation' - in fact I hated that term.  I couldn't fathom people not desiring huge quantities of sweets if they ever got their hands on some.

Enter IIFYM.  I would have bits of chocolate or sweets on a daily basis.  Shortly after, 2 squares of dark chocolate was enough.  I could eat that and be satisfied.  I think I 'get' what people meant by moderation now.

So, perhaps you don't feel like you don't have the 'physiological ammo' for moderation because you...don't eat stuff in moderation.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents on that subject.  We don't have any studies to analyze here about whether or not that's backed up with data.

Harper, going off of a previously de-bunked idea of certain foods causing weight gain more than others independent of their caloric content, says that sugar will make you gain weight more than fat will.  Yes, over the decades our consumption of carbohydrates (and thus, sugar) has gone up, but much more importantly our consumption of just straight-up calories has gone up even more.

He then states his plan is based around low-sugar fruits.  Uhh...what is a low-sugar fruit, exactly?  Look at the nutrition for an apple like I listed above.  Same thing for berries.  Low relative to what?

Any splenda or other artificial sweeteners in your coffee or tea?  NOPE DO THAT AND YOU'LL JUST BINGE ON TWINKIES LATER BECAUSE YOU'RE ADDICTED TO SUGAR.  Or something like that.

Moral: Sugar usually means a less-satiating food.  (Exceptions, obviously include things like fruit.) Avoiding sugar typically means you're avoiding excess calories, which is what leads to weight loss.  However, you are fully capable of exercising moderation if you so choose.

3 Comments

Chapter / Rule 5 - Eat 30 to 50 grams of fiber each day

Well this one is easy enough - a brief 3 pages and pretty simple to understand.  Fiber is filling, fiber can slow digestion and generally is found in foods you'll want to be eating anyway.  (Fruits and vegetables, that is)

Those are enough reasons to be eating fiber right there.  Bam, done.  However, probably to take up some space, he goes on to talk about other health benefits to fiber: lessen the risk of certain cancers, decreases cholesterol and prevent onset of type 2 diabetes.

The issues with the study he cites to back up these claims is the same issue we run into with studies from previous chapters.  Correlation does not mean causation.  The study used 7-day food records to determine a participant's general intake of cereal fiber, refined and whole-grains.  They then cross-examined this information with other factors such as fasting glucose and cholesterol.  This is an on-going and long-term study.

Unfortunately, just like with the Nurse's Study we discussed before, asking participants to measure and accurately report their food intake is often very inaccurate and unreliable.  As well, people who are more health-conscious tend to eat more fiber and whole-grains.  This does not mean that fiber and whole-grains are what is causing the decreased chances of cancer or type 2 diabetes.  This also doesn't mean that fiber and whole-grains are what cause the participant to lose or keep a lower BMI.  It could be do a whole host of other lifestyle factors that are outside the scope of the study.

Moral: Fiber can increase satiety, slow digestion and is often found in foods you would want to eat while trying to improve your health.  However, fiber itself is not a magic weight-loss ingredient.  Not everyone does well on the same amounts of fiber, especially those with pre-existing GI issues.

Chapter // Rule 6 - Eat apples and berries every single day.  Every.  Single.  Day!

I haven't even read the chapter yet.  This is just my initial reaction from the title:

"That sounds like bullshit."

Okay, off to read the chapter.  Be right back.

-------------------------

All right, I read the chapter and it's not really as bad as I thought it'd be.  We actually start out quite reasonably:

"[apples and berries] have lots of desirable vitamins, all kinds of micronutrients, and lots of fiber..."

All true.  Apples and berries, among other fruits and vegetables, contain a lot of the above.  That's why they're considered good foods for your overall health and weight loss.

However, why he limits it to apples and berries and not say, apples and grapes or berries and peaches or garlic and cucumbers, I'm not really sure.  He states the reason for apples and berries is due to their high anthocyanin content.  While phytochemicals (what anthocyanin falls under) have been found to be anti-inflammatory, I don't know if that is a good enough reason to deign foods that contain high amounts of it 'non-negotiable' for weight loss.

Other foods that are high in anthocyanin that aren't apples or berries:

  • Eggplants
  • Grapes
  • Red Cabbage
  • Tomatoes
  • Cauliflower
  • Peaches
  • Carrots
  • Black soybeans

Phytochemicals and Watermarks everywherrrrreeee

So why is this chapter not called "Eat Red Cabbage and Carrots every day" or something else?  He mentions a study where participants who ate whole apples before a meal ate 15% less than participants who ate applesauce or fiber-spiked apple juice.  I'll agree that apples are very filling - likely due to their high fiber / water content which tends to get degraded as you mush / liquidate it.  Anecdotally, apples are one of the most filling foods to me.  However you could probably replicate that same study with watermelon or cucumbers or any other high-water, high-fiber food.

Moral: Once again, I agree that eating fruits and vegetables are generally a good idea.  However, to specifically call out apples and berries as THE required food to eat everyday doesn't make sense.  If it's just for the reasons of phytochemicals, any of the other foods listed above would serve just as well.  And again, you could still lose weight without including these in your diet at all.

Chapter // Rule 7 - No carbs after lunch

I vehemently disagree with this rule.  This is a short chapter, and the weak reason he gives for this rule is:

"Carbs are forms of sugar, and sugar cues the pancreas to make more insulin, which in turn triggers appetite.  The later in the day that you consume sugar, the more likely it is that you will get food cravings late at night.  Late-night food cravings are not a good thing!"

Two things,

1) Protein stimulates insulin as much if not more than carbohydrates depending on what is ingested.

2) What makes late-night food cravings any worse than mid-morning food cravings?

I mean by this logic, you really shouldn't have that bowl of oatmeal in the morning because the earlier in the day that you consume sugar, the more likely it is that you will get food cravings early in the day!  Except where Harper is all about him some fruit (sugar) and oatmeal (sugar) in the morning.  So why is late at night so bad?  I would argue if you're going by this logic, late-night food cravings would be better because you could just go to sleep.  If it's mid-day you've got a long ways to go.

I was expecting to read something about how eating carbs at night means that you'll just store the carbs as fat because you'll be going to sleep and not expending any calories to burn it off.  Which is false, you can eat carbs whenever you want, assuming you keep at or below your daily caloric needs.  It's not like you fall asleep and suddenly your body stops working.  Again, protein also raises insulin levels.  This is not a bad thing.  In fact, there is a whole diet regimen out there based around eating all your shitty carbs late at night.

OM NOM NOM NOM

OM NOM NOM NOM

Moral:  It's not when you eat, it's how much you eat.  If you feel like eating a piece of chocolate cake 30 minutes before bed and you are still under your calorie expenditure, you will still lose weight.  Some people will get bad heart burn or acid reflux, but hey, whatever floats your boat.