The hallmark of any New Year brings the inevitable resolutions along with a stream of diet, exercise programs and late night infomercial purchases to satisfy the demand.
Bombarded with contradictory information telling us to eat this, don’t eat that, don’t eat at all, graze all day etc; it’s little wonder that the average person throws their hands up in frustration and abandons their good intentions.
The goal of this diet book is to simplify the madness by catering to the individual using a science based approach. If a diet works, the authors contend, then it basically adheres to two basic principles;
- “If you want to change your weight in either direction you have to create an imbalance between the calories you take in and the calories you expend”
- “To build more muscle, you need to get stronger”
Taking into account these keys to transformative success, the book is essentially a diet AND training book since both are inextricably intertwined. The authors also sprinkle in some psychology without getting too highbrow or convoluted in their message to the newly converted.
The authors break it down simply;
- It’s supposed to be hard (but not impossible)
- Begin with the end goal in mind and act as if.
Since changing one’s psychology towards diet is integral to adherence and sustainability, one of the biggest failures of many fad diets is they exclude foods/macronutrients and don’t honor personal preference or individual tolerance. Saying that you can’t eat something, paradoxically causes many people to crave that food evermore. Striking dairy (as in the case of Paleo) seems nonsensical in those that tolerate dairy just fine.
Basing a diet around the foods you love goes a long way in maintaining sustainable compliance over the long term. Studies show that adherence to diets like the Ornish and Atkins diet resulted in a 50% dropout rate over a year compared to diets with more inbuilt flexibility like the Zone and Weight Watchers (a 35% drop-out rate respectively.)
Instead, a quality diet takes the form of being 80% whole and minimally processed foods you like, 10% of whole and minimally processed foods you don’t like but don’t necessarily hate (which basically entails “eat your fucking veges”) and 10% of whatever you want (i.e. junk)
Expanding on these themes further, the book is divided into 3 parts.
Part 1 looks at what makes a diet successful and debunks some of the more popular diet myths and gym-floor cliches (eg. “abs are made in the kitchen”, “pain is weakness leaving the body” etc). Schuler looks at what makes a workout “work” including the best combination of movements and exercises needed to create the classic physique outlined in the “special topic” – “What Women Want”
While discussing the ideal physique, Schuler is quick to interject early on (and then many other instances throughout) his own genetic shortcomings. In fact he dedicates a whole chapter lamenting his limitations in “Why It’s So Hard To Get The Body You Want”.
Adhering to Schuler’s early recommendation of acting “as if” is difficult when his constant bleatings make lifting and dieting come off sounding like a Sisyphean effort in futility for the majority.
Considering this book is pitched at the mainstream novice who already views anyone with a basic outline of their abs and the beginnings of a vein running down their arms as an obsessive-gym-going- #steroid junkie, Schuler’s whining about his own shortcomings and injuries don’t exactly inure the novice with a solid psychological foothold of high expectations and confidence.
Part 2 lays out The Diet Plan which includes a method for Calculating Daily Calorie Needs (with some handy case studies using a wide spectrum of lifters as examples), food choices (encompassed by the acronym Megs Fabulous Figure Stopped Missing Fries: Meats, Fats, Fibrous Veges, Starches, Milk & Dairy, Fruits) and a really neat and simple way to approach carb cycling, or what “my friend Alan” refers to as “Nonlinear Carbohydrate Allotments”
Food Lists take up almost 30% of the book. I’m ambivalent when it comes to pages and pages of lists when there are so many sources and apps available to compiling this kind of information, but again, as this is a book aimed at the novice reader, a quick/easy all-in-one reference that enables the minimum of effort on their part is somewhat understandable.
The way the example meals are set out however, borders on the bizarrely frustrating. For example –
FLOATING MEAL A: 425 calories, 25 g protein, 25 g carbs, 25 g fat Three whole eggs, cooked any style (or) 3 ounces moderate- or high-fat meat, any type (or) 3 ounces very lean meat + ¼ cup nuts, any type (or) 1 scoop protein powder + 2 tablespoons nut butter, any type (or) 1 scoop protein powder + ¼ cup nuts, any type (or) 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese + 1 tablespoon nut butter, any type
1 serving of fruit: one large fruit, any type, such as apple, banana, or orange (or) 1½ cups fresh fruit (or) ⅓ cup dried fruit (or) two small fruits, such as apricots, figs, tangerines, or kiwis
Fibrous veggies can be added if/as desired; shoot for at least 3 servings total for the day (a serving of fibrous veggies is approximately 1 cup).
Firstly, WTF is a Floating Meal? And could they have formatted each meal combo any more confusingly?? When you have pages of these examples, your eyes begin going batshit trying to make head and tails of the content.
I also noticed there’s no female examples and assumed that there’s
- a female version of the diet is in the works ($$Ka-CHING!$$)
- an assumption that women don’t read books.
Part 3 provides a training program which includes a warmup, some core training exercise, and an explanation of the primary and accessory exercises with pictures. The program is nothing special, but should give the newbie the knowledge to train with the minimum of fuck-around-itis.
Added to my ever list of growing hates are picture-text descriptions (especially when they take up an additional 15% of the book) of how to perform exercises since it’s not an effective medium to judge whether you’re performing an exercise correctly. It’s akin to following one of those origami books – fold this here, turn, flip, rotate 90 degrees and join the fold to tab C,.throw it in the air and catch it with your left hand….ahhhh fuck it.
A nice feature is the annotated notes and references Schuler incorporates at the back. I found some really cool books and articles and thought it made for interesting elaboration of some of the concepts discussed. .
The book is written in Schuler’s conversational style that totters between entertaining and cornball. He has a tendency to meander, trying to be too cute with analogies and anecdotes while the reader’s left hoping he’s going to get the fucking point sometime soon. An article written by Schuler himself for Men’s Health summarising the essential points minus the filler shows how the book could have very easily been broken down to a 2 page article with very little substance omitted.
Alan’s overall contribution to the book is also somewhat confusing. His role is more consultant than co-writer. Schuler’s constant reference to Alan in the third person (around 144 times) gives the impression that Alan’s name is on the book is ornamental; he’s a respected albeit, bankable flavour of the month in the industry. This doesn’t detract from Aragon’s credibility however. Alan’s an excellent writer and it would have been nice to have more pages dedicated to his ideas in his words.
(Incidentally check out this great interview with Alan Aragon on Aussie Podcast “Muscle Radio” for some really interesting insights on fatloss, dieting, meal frequency, meal timing and supplements)
Overall, it’s a solid blueprint for the novice looking for a comprehensive reference work on structuring a sustainable diet that doesn’t require the user to suffer under imposed extremes. I’d especially recommend it to a personal trainer who’s wanting to adopt a workable program that caters to the individuality of each client. There’s enough in here for the veteran to digest and enjoy, but I’d direct you towards Alan’s excellent “Research Review” for a more comprehensive and satisfying intellectual meal.
Novice Lifters 4/5
Advanced Lifters 3/5
“The best way to get more omega-6 fats is to eat more nuts. To Alan, nuts may be the strongest argument against the importance of balancing the two types of PUFAs. That’s because nuts are outrageously unbalanced—almonds have more than 2,000 times as much omega-6 as omega-3—and yet they’re associated with a long list of health benefits. People who eat the most nuts tend to be the leanest, with the lowest risk of diabetes, respiratory problems, and cardiovascular disease”.
“So should you take a “just in case” multivitamin? That’s a surprisingly complicated question. Most vitamin research can be summed up with one word: “meh,” followed by dozens of references. The most we can say is that a basic, inexpensive multi, taken daily, can’t hurt, and might help in some minor way. Alan recommends two brands: Kirkland and Nature Made. Both have USP verification, which ensures label accuracy, purity, and potency, and that it will dissolve in your stomach and be properly absorbed.”
“As for bathroom scales that purport to measure body fat via bioelectrical impedance, you’re lucky if they measure your weight accurately. Body-fat readings are all over the place.”
“….in early 2014, there doesn’t seem to be any cause-and-effect link between breakfast eating and weight control. Alan says the evidence isn’t compelling enough for you to change lifelong habits and preferences. If you don’t like eating breakfast, you can reach your goals without it. If you’re more like me, and wake up hungry every morning, there’s no problem with that either.”