Okay, so maybe you’ve tried to get your loved ones to read Good Calories, Bad Calories, only to watch them experience brain-lock the first time they see the words lipoprotein lipase.
Hey, it happens. I was a pretty good student, but I was out of school for many years before I could read a chemical name without experiencing unsettling classroom flashbacks — in my case, visions of a stern nun who responded to questions such as “Could you please explain that again?” by shaking her head and staring at the ceiling as if to plead, “Dear Lord, why are you punishing me by enrolling dolts in my class?”
Gary Taubes is working on a more consumer-friendly version of his ground-breaking treatise, which I’m looking forward to reading. But in the meantime, there are some good books out there that offer scientifically sound advice for losing weight and improving your health, minus the heavy-duty science.
I read one this week. Actually, I read it in an afternoon, which is what makes the book worthwhile: it’s a nice little summary of what works and what doesn’t. If your Aunt Martha isn’t willing to read this one, it’s time to just give up.
The book is titled S.P.E.E.D., which is an acronym for Sleep, Psychology, Exercise, Environment and Diet. I’m pretty sure the particular arrangement of the chapters was done on purpose … I mean, they could’ve called it D.E.E.P.S., or P.E.E.D.S., or P.E.D.E.S., but S.P.E.E.D. is easier to remember and more eye-grabbing. And as the authors point out, each chapter stands alone. You could read them in reverse order without losing any comprehension.
The book was written by Jeff Thiboutot and Matt Schoeneberger, personal trainers who between them hold several degrees in fields like nutrition, psychology and exercise science. (See their web site here.) Normally, when I see Bachelor of Science in Nutrition after an author’s name, I start to worry … here comes the brain-dead parroting about the evils of saturated fat and all that. I’m pleased to say, however, that these two have actually done their research. Pretty much everything they state in the book is followed by a string of citations from scientific journals — so if you do enjoy jumping head-first into the science, you can look it up.
And if you don’t, you can still learn what works and what doesn’t when it comes to losing weight. Here are some highlights:
- A lack of sufficient sleep screws up your blood sugar, promotes insulin resistance, and increases your appetite. (As someone who deals with occasional bouts of insomnia, I can attest to the appetite problem.)
- Achieving any goal, including weight loss, requires defining a vision and a specific action plan, then sticking to the plan. The plan should focus on what you can do, not on pre-defined results. (There’s some good advice in this chapter on avoiding negative mental patterns that undermine your success.)
- Exercise alone rarely produces any meaningful weight loss — but the right kind of exercise combined with the right diet does work, and exercise is important for your overall health, fitness and mood.
- A whole-food diet with a minimum of sugar and starch is best for supporting both health and weight loss. Yes, you’ll need to create a calorie deficit to lose weight, but keeping insulin in check by restricting carbohydrates makes the process much easier.
The scientific evidence presented in each chapter is neatly summarized, straightforward, and easy to digest. You’re not going to learn intricate details about biochemistry or metabolic pathways from this book — but again, that’s the point. (Remember Aunt Martha.) You can think of it as a case of “We did the heavy lifting, so you don’t have to.”
And it’s clear that Thiboutot and Schoeneberger know how to separate the good science from the bad. One of my favorite sections of the book is actually an appendix that gives an overview of the Scientific Method and explains the differences among various levels of scientific evidence — or what the authors call The Great, The Good, The Bad and The Absolutely Worthless.
Much of the nutrition reporting that appears the media is based on studies (and I use the term loosely) that fall into the last two categories. More than a few health and nutrition reporters need to read this book … or at least be smacked over the head with it.
But don’t smack Aunt Martha. Just put the book in her hands and hope she reads it.
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