Friday, January 26, 2007

Book review: Dr. Dan's Super Weight Loss Plan

So this author's publicist sees my reviews at Amazon.com. I get an e-mail saying she'll give me a free copy of the book if I promise to write a review on Amazon. I figure, okay, no problem. I like reading diet books and if I get a free one just for writing a review after, cool.

So I say yes and the book arrives and I'm flipping through it and I am not impressed with some of the claims the book makes.

First, the co-author claims that women can "bulk up" if they use high weights at low reps (pg. 12). Um...no...not unless they are taking testosterone or steroids. I've used high weight and low reps and only have a little muscle tone to show. Certainly no one would call me bulky!

Dr. Dan writes about BMI, body fat, and lean mass (pgs. 35-43). All good stuff and worthy of discussion. Thumbs up. Too many people focus on BMI when body fat percentage is an important part of the equation.

He then spends a great deal of time on weight lifting exercises. Nothing wrong with that, and if you want to get into weight training, the book is worth the price just for that. He believes in a mixture of high reps with low weight and low reps with high weight. When you can do 15 reps at a given weight, that's your start weight. Then add a bit of weight for each additional set.

The exercises have lots of drawings to show how to do them, and some of them can be done at home with minimal equipment. Others require a gym. He spends very little space on aerobic exercise, so this isn't a good book if that is your primary interest.

This book is less about weight loss and more about strength training and getting fit, but I don't suppose titling it "Dr. Dan's Super Fitness Plan" would sell as many books. If weight training and fitness are your goal, this is a good book. But for weight loss I feel there are better books. In fact, if you want to lose weight, get this book for the weight training, find another on aerobics, and another on nutrition. While Dr. Dan has a bunch of nutrition information, it's not much different from The Zone diet (Dr. Barry Sears). If you choose to eat as Dr. Dan outlines, you'd be better off with The Zone book, though both plans have way too many carbohydrates for my taste. Carbohydrates aren't necessary for life (fat and protein are) so I try to keep them low. Why make what isn't necessary the basis of a diet? I'd rather eat what my body needs, and what will prevent me from getting diabetes in the future.

My problem with Dr. Dan's nutrition information is he feels a need to take a swipe at low-carb diets.

You know, I have this theory: if you can't tout your diet program without knocking down another to make yourself look better, your diet probably isn't worth my time. I stumbled across this in the chapter on nutrition:

I get patients and clients on an almost daily basis who have "been on Atkins" for months or years. Frankly, I have yet to see one that was fit and in good condition; they are mostly plump, bloated [um...carbs cause bloating] and out of shape [and this is the fault of the diet...how?]. Many have lost weight with Atkins, gained it back, lost it again, and then gained back even more. This is the inevitable consequence of loss of lean muscle mass and lowered metabolic rate. If you really enjoy eating very low carbohydrates for prolonged periods, you feel healthy, have energy, reach your ideal body weight and stay there, and are lean and fit [he thinks these are impossible], then I have no objection to Atkins or any of the other carbohydrate-restricted plans. However [you knew that was coming didn't you?], it is interesting to note that the finest athletes do not eat that way. Enough said. (pg. 162).

It seems this book was written when Atkins was very popular and Dr. Dan does his best to dissuade people from that approach. I'm knocking off one star from my review just for the section quoted above. It seems it was written at the height of the low-carb craze, but seriously, to ask a low-carber (me!) to review a book that bashes low-carb probably wasn't the best idea!

He goes after low-carb again a little later: It is impossible to take weight off and keep it off if you are not able to eat your favorite foods. Um...my favorite foods were all refined carbs, not allowed even on your plan, Dr. Dan. What do you suggest I do?

He continues, You have to have a diet that you can stay on now and forever and enjoy. So avoid those extreme diets that deny you whole categories of food. Oh, gee. Here we go again. Low-carb is NOT no-carb, Dr. Dan. Low-carb allows a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and doesn't deny any "whole category of food," so it is a lifetime plan, for me and many other people. How can I believe anything he says when he doesn't bother to do the slightest bit of research on what low-carb is, yet writes about it authoritatively? What else might he have said that is also wrong?

But he's still not done. Experience has shown that very few people can stay with a dietary approach that denies them the foods they enjoy and are used to. But most overweight people are "used to" foods that made them overweight. So even on your plan they have to give up the foods they are "used to."

I have a radical idea - instead of trying to let overweight people eat the foods "they enjoy and are used to," how about those of us who are overweight get "used to" a new, healthy way of eating and liking foods that are good for us? It's amazing how good vegetables can taste once you are "used to" eating them. Once this occurs, it's easy to stick to any diet.

Dr. Dan claims his diet is not low-fat, and yet in his example of a 200 pound person he expects them to only eat 67g of fat a day. That's pretty much low-fat in my opinion, and your food won't taste very good limiting yourself to that amount.

Kudos for him on the amount of protein recommended - he says to shoot for 1g of protein per pound of body weight. While this might seem extreme to some people, it is safe and necessary to build muscle (again, he focuses on weight training, and protein is essential for this).

Kudos to him for recommending supplements. I think everyone should take a multi-vitamin/multi-mineral supplement no matter what kind of diet you eat - low-carb, low-fat, low-calorie. It is hard to get enough vitamins from the food we eat today because the soil is depleted, we are less active than our paleolithic ancestors, and we eat more carbohydrates than they ("enriched" foods are the worst because they have everything good taken out and then a few things put back in).

Because we need less food and the food we eat isn't the high quality our ancestors ate, supplements are a good idea for everyone today.

Again, if you are looking for a good, basic fitness program, then the exercises in this book will help you, and the carbohydrates allotment won't be extreme because you'll be working it off. But if you are looking to lose weight and keep it off there are better books.

2 comments:

Spider63 said...

Very thorough review, thanks! Every book I have ever read about weightlifting tends to believe that LOW repetitions with maximum weight (that you can lift) builds slow twitch muscle fibers (mass); while HIGH reps with lower weights is what builds definition (muscle tone).

Of course, everyone is different, and unless you are doing one-rep maximums you may not really know the extent of your strength. Low rep sets are usually 8 repetitions or less. High reps are usually ten or more. There are tons of books about this, Arnold S. and many others have written about the subject, so I am just repeating what I have read in their books.

I enjoyed your review of the whole book, I have read some of your reviews in the past, and they are always very good, thanks!

Cindy Moore said...

Thanks. Good review!