Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Review: The Ultimate Weight Solution

As you may know, I've been reading Dr. Phil Graw's book The Ultimate Weight Solution. It purports to give 7 "keys" to losing weight and managing it for a lifetime.

I give it three stars out of five.

First, the book can have value to anyone who is struggling with food from a psychological perspective. Dr. Phil's doctorate is in psychology and this comes through in his book. If you are a binge eater or otherwise overweight because you can't "stick" to a diet plan, then Dr. Phil does have some good information on overcoming those problems. Some is common sense information - such as getting the junk food out of your house, and some is not so common - such as taking a bubble bath when you are tempted to eat. If you fit in this category the book is worth the read. It's worth the read even if you don't think you fit in this category.

The book also contains many "audits" that help you gauge where you are in life and therefore helps you know exactly what issues to work on. You'll need a pencil and a notepad. These audits are useful if you are brutally honest with yourself during them. Hey...no one but you will ever know your answers!

However, I have some bones of contention, which is why I am only giving it three stars. I'm knocking off one star because it's a good book, but not great, and another star for the horrible, 30-year-old dietary information he gives.

For example, he exalts canola oil over coconut oil. Why? Simply because coconut oil is a saturated fat. It doesn't matter that studies have shown it's healthy and useful for managing weight.

Two, he takes a swipe at all other diets, and says his program is not a diet, yet it is - it's got lists of good and bad foods and what proportion to eat them in. Furthermore, he says that when you go off other diets, you regain the weight. Well, duh. All "diets" should be lifestyle changes. If they are not, then yes, the weight will come back. I just recently hit goal on my chosen diet program. But if I go off it and start eating the way that made me fat, then I'll get fat again. It's a lifestyle change. His diet or any other has to be that.

Three, we find out toward the end of the book in the "When You Can't Lose Weight" section that he is insulin resistant: he had high triglicerides and high blood sugar. I can only imagine that he would follow his own diet, and if his diet caused him to have elevated triglicerides and blood sugar, then how healthy can it be? Plus, in my opinion both of these conditions can be treated with diet alone, but because it would require something other than a mainstream diet, he is keeping these things in check through both diet and medication.

What is his eating plan? One part lean protein, one part veggies, one part fruit (or a second serving of veggies), and one part starch. And after bashing other diets as quick fixes and fads (which would include all low- and controlled-carb plans), I came across this gem: "For greater fat loss, you may wish to reduce your intake of starchy carbohydrates...A slight reduction in starch intake is known to help your body burn fat." I would think a greater reduction would burn even more fat, but he won't take that step.

So on the one hand, he says these are fad diets, but on the other hand, he admits that reducing starch results in greater fat loss. Which is it? Am I the only one that sees this as a contradiction?

He also makes the statement that saturated fat causes insulin resistance. Um, no. According to a nutritionist I talked to, this is only true in a certain percent of morbidly obese individuals who have been morbidly obese for a while (and this applies to all fat, not just saturated). The rest of the time (which is the vast majority of cases) fat doesn't do anything to raise insulin and therefore cannot cause insulin resistance.

So, in summary, the book has its uses, but it my opinion Dr. Phil needs to stick with his specialty. Dr. Phil giving nutrition advice is like Dr. Atkins giving psychological advice - it just doesn't work because neither knows much about the other subject. Dr. Phil is a psychologist and should stick with the psychological aspects of diet. Leave the nutrition to those trained as medical doctors.

Read the book, but for God's sake, skip key #5 on nutrition. Read a book by a nutritionist or a medical doctor or two.

Three stars out of five. The psychological advice IS good and I've found things that can help me that the more traditional books (focused only on what to eat) ignore. It's worth the read as long as you skip key #5. I recommend Jonny Bowden, Dr. Atkins, or Dr. Michael Eades for advice on food.

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