November 22, 2011

The Smarter Science of Slim: Review & Giveaway

Curious to hear more about a book that outlines a scientific, research-based approach to weight loss, yet challenges conventional thinking with surprising studies and some downright radical advice?

Or, even better, wanna win a free copy of the book?

Why yes, patient readers, Crabby’s Crass Calvacade of Commercialism continues! This week we’ve got a review and giveaway of Jonathan Bailor’s soon to be released book: “The Smarter Science of Slim.

And, depending on reader enthusiasm (as measured by total number of comments), the giveaway MAY include an additional hard copy for which Canadian and/or Eurpean readers will be eligible.

Seriously, Do We Need Another Freakin’ Diet Book?

Well, maybe not, but I thought this one looked interesting. So many weight loss books either rehash the hard truths you already know, or are written by self-proclaimed experts who come up with amazing new weight loss discoveries by simply making shit up. Whether the book then hits the best-seller lists depends mostly on which celebrity has written it or can be bribed into endorsing it.

Sadly, the Breatharians are still in dire need of a celebrity.
Hmm...Gwyneth? You Busy?

So while I tend to turn down most diet book review pitches, this one caught my eye. Jonathan managed to acquire a bunch of impressive and enthusiastic pre-publication blurbs by lots of sciencey bigwigs, including John Ratey. (And who is John Ratey? Well, he’s a researcher whose name still lures innocent googlers to an ancient Cranky Fitness post on exercise, BDNF, and growing new brain cells, so I brightened up considerably when I recognized his name). Anyway, I liked the fact that a whole slew of academic types endorsed the research in this book.

So What’s Radical About this Weight Loss Book?

Well, maybe “radical” is putting it a bit strongly. It’s certainly not the first book to suggest that the weight loss picture is more complicated that calories in, calories out. We’ve gotten pretty used to the idea that some exercises are more efficient than others, and some foods are “good” or “bad” for weight loss in ways independent of calories.

But I don’t think I’d ever seen a respectably researched book proclaim that there is so little relationship between calories consumed, hours of exercise accumulated, and weight loss.

In short, The Smarter Science of Slim says: If you want to lose weight, eating less won’t help. Exercising more won’t help either. In fact, to lose weight for the long term, you need to eat more and exercise less. If you stick with this program, Bailor claims you can change the way your hormones work, rejigger your weight "set point" to a lower number, eat a ton of food, exercise for ten minutes a week, and look like a fitness model.

The catch? Well, you gotta eat the right kind of food and do the right kind of exercise. And, hint: Twinkies, Doritos, and long slow walks in the park aren't on the list.

Studies That Got Me Thinking.

While I know that the kind of food and exercise one gets are important, I'm pretty old-school in how I approach my own weight management. In fact, I recently went back to counting calories, which is downright quaint in fitness blogging circles. So to read study after study in this book about the absolute failure of the "calories in, calories out" model to achieve long term results was a bit sobering. It only works about 5% of the time.

In fact, as many hard-working dieters have discovered, weight loss achieved by calorie restriction with low-quality food can totally backfire, leading to rapid regain and a higher set-point weight that makes weight loss even harder the next time.

And, when overweight people restrict their calories, their bodies don't behave the way thin people's do. The book cites a study in which thin people burned off nearly 50% more body fat than heavy people when put on the same zero calorie diet. And sheesh, how unfair is that, when you think about it? Heavy people, who had extra fat to burn, had become unable to burn fat the way slim people do.

This and a bunch of other studies were pretty convincing that something funky is going on with obesity, calorie intake, and weight management that has nothing to do with calories in, calories out. There is a lot of research discussed in the book about hormones, changing your set point, how our bodies deal differently with "high quality" vs "low quality" foods, and how different kinds of exercise impact the body differently. I won't go into it all here because I'm way too lazy Bailor explains it all much more clearly, but I have to say that it made me think very differently about what it takes to lose weight and keep it off effectively.

So What's the "Smart" Way to Eat in Order to Get Slim?

Simple! Eat only "High Quality" Foods. Bailor has an acronym (which you may find either cute or annoying) to describe them: SANE, which stands for Satiety, Aggressiveness, Nutrition, and Efficiency. These have to do with how full foods make you feel, their glycemic index and load, what sort of nutrients they contain, and how easily they are stored as fat in your body. (And since you actually want InEfficient foods that don't get stored as fat, the acronym should probably be SANI, but gotta admit that's not terribly catchy).

The Bottom line of Smart Eating:

Eat as many non-starchy vegetables as you possibly can, especially deeply colored and leafy vegetables. But stay the hell away from corn and white potatoes, and limit other starchy vegetables like turnips, yams, etc. You also want to eat lean protein at least five times a day, plenty of fruit (particularly berries and citrus), and plenty of nuts and seeds.

You can also eat, but go easy on, beans and dairy products.

What do you steer clear of? Oil, whole and refined grains, any form of starch, and all sweets.

And What is "Smart" Exercise?

Rather than piling up tens of thousands of steps a day on your pedometer, running marathons, swimming lap after lap, or taking back to back cardio kickboxing classes at the gym, Bailor says the smart thing to do is ditch all that. You can change your body's hormones and torch off fat in an extremely short amount of time by doing high intensity interval training, and deep muscle resistance exercises using extremely slow, heavy, eccentric movements. (I.e., slowly lowering a weight much heavier than you could lift).

Now here's where the whole notion of Smart Exercise starts to sound, well, a bit incredible: You start with two 10 minute workouts a week. Then, when you get better at it, you can cut back to one 10 minute workout a week. That's all you need to do, according to Bailor.

Again, there is a lot more in the book about pragmatics of the diet and exercise, and lots of research and explanations on how and why this is all supposed to work. Let's just say it's a relatively simple, but not necessarily easy, plan to follow.

What I Liked About The Smarter Science of Slim

As I said before, I liked the way there were actual studies to back up the recommendations. Confession: white lab coats and multiple regression are big Cranky Fitness turn-ons.

And the diet advice seems consistent with my own experience: I'm already mostly eating this way, and it seems to work! (Though I'm only about 90% compliant, but hell, that's as good as I ever intend to be on any diet. At least not until I find one that puts cupcakes and kettlecorn on the "eat more" list.) It's weird, because I approached my eating plan from a totally different direction: the unfashionable, completely discredited "calories in, calories out" model. But when I discovered far too many calories were incoming relative to outgoing, and I started looking for ways to optimize, I ended up with a plan strikingly similar to the "SANE" model. I eat more protein than before, a ton of vegetables, I've started going easier on beloved whole grains and starches, and I'm a big fan of weird but convenient ingredients like whey protein, egg whites, canned salmon, and big-ass packages of frozen blueberries. The sweeteners I use somewhat guiltily are Splenda and Stevia, which the book says are OK in moderation. I've found I can eat a big-ass portions with this plan, which is awesome, because portion control is not my strong suit. So personally, I had to like a book that confirmed my own trial-and-error experimentation.

Another good thing about the book is that Bailor doesn't insist on perfection. He's got a chart saying how to modify the plan depending on your goals. What does it look like to eat like a person who is Obese? Overweight? Typical? Hot? A Fitness Model? There are different targets for different levels of obsession commitment.

It's also nice to see an exercise plan with specific how-to's for HIIT and deep muscle training workouts--there are both gym and home versions.

What I Didn’t Like So Much

The "easier said than done" factor. As many of have discovered, there is a ton of sensible diet and exercise advice out there... and very few people actually follow any of it for more than a few weeks. The fact that this may turn out to be a more optimal weight loss plan than most isn't gonna be much help someone who chooses to stop at Dairy Queen rather than face one more whey protein smoothie or spinach salad. Bailor's premise is that you can "fill up" on protein and fiber to the point where you're "too full" for sweets and starches. Well, sorry Jonathan, but welcome to Planet Crabby, where the laws of physiology and psychology dictate that there is no such thing as "too full" for dessert!

On the other hand, all the motivational tips and tricks that are lacking in this book are available a million other places. (Or hell, pick up this book for guidance, then hire yourself a newly minted, not-too-expensive, shamelessly self-promoting wellness coach to keep yourself on track!)

Also, I had some ambivalence about the exercise claims, but couldn't manage to execute the recommendations well enough to test them properly.  You are supposed to be doing these exercises so f#@cking intensely that it's impossible to do anything other than moan for quite a few days afterwards.  I swore I tried really hard, but could still jump on the elliptical or go to spinning class within a day or two, so was clearly doing it wrong.  And yet my "not quite intense enough" version was still mighty unpleasant, if mercifully brief.   I am definitely a believer in both HIIT (or, well, at least some similar SHIIT) and heavy lifting, but I'm not sure I can (or want to) ditch my other cardio activities.  But then I'm a 51 year old post-menopausal slacker. You kick-ass go-getter types may have better luck reaching the required intensity necessary to make the Astounding Amazing Miraculous Fat-Blasting happen with just 10 minutes a week.

Overall?  Even if one didn't want to jump totally on the "Smart," bandwagon, it's a fascinating and well-researched book with plenty of thought-provoking ideas and pragmatic tips for health, weight loss and fitness. You can checkout the The Smarter Science of Slim on Amazon and it even has it's own facebook page.

And now finally... on to the Giveaway!

So, here's the deal. Enter by leaving a comment below by Tuesday November 29th, and the Random Number Generator will pick a winner on Wednesday November 30th. If there are fewer than 50 comments, we have one copy of The Smarter Science of Slim to give away, and it can only be mailed to a U.S. address. However, if we can get more than 50 comments, a second copy will magically appear, which can go outside the U.S. because I will be mailing it! Note: winner(s) will need to check in by Monday Dec or I'll redraw.)

And in case I don't get around to posting again this week, have a Happy Thanksgiving or just a Happy Thursday!


  1. Crabby, i'm intrigued! Especially the part about exercise. Even if only had to do it for 10 minutes 3 times a week, that's better that what every other expert on earth requires.

    After all, i'm of the opinion exercise is punishment, so the less of it i have to do, the better.

  2. Sounds intriguing! I'm figuring out what to eat to keep myself healthy and energized. This sounds promising!

  3. I'm certainly curious about it, but it's something I'd never do. When you get the required comments to go international please leave me out of the running.

  4. Sounds interesting. I do tend to always be a bit dubious of people who explain why counting calories just "doesn't work" though. I've used it with more success than any other weight loss technique and I know others who have done the same.

  5. I reviewed it on amazon. I've been beginning to do the program for a couple weeks now. I mostly ate the way he described (except I can't do seafood and I will have some starch now and then, like sushi or a potato).

    I bought the whey. I bought tons of decaf green tea. I've been working my way to the 5 x 30. I started regaining at 2100-2200 cals (from the 1200 to 1400 I'd been eating this year), so I'm scaling back and recalibrating. Ordered the workbook, but I am gonna give this program a total shot.

    His charts and the studies he gathered...fascinating as heck.

  6. I can accept that this limited kind of exercise might work combined with the kinds of food eaten to successfully lose weight but I can't see how it would be beneficial to overall fitness and health.. heart.. lungs.. strength.. etc. It sounds just a little to bizarre and gimmicky to me but I thank you for the offer and I hope I help to bump up the number of comments.

  7. The eating part sounds intriguing, but the weights? If you can't lift it, how are you supposed to lower it? Oh...I sit in chairs, does that count as lowering more than I could lift?

  8. Sounds interesting. My world of counting calories has been failing me greatly. I don't eat terribly, better than before but I have a long way to go. It sounds pretty hard to stick to. I mean who doesn't love a white potato!?

  9. I felt very virtuous as I was snacking on nuts when I read this. The self-righteousness melted though, when I remembered that said nuts were glazed with Southern Comfort, butter, and brown sugar!

  10. Oh heck, its worth a try, not much else is working for me anymore!

  11. Well, it's hard to imagine giving up exercise, especially the benefits in mood that come with aerobic activities. But, I'd love to be included in the giveaway.

  12. I'm definitely interested! I think I have to do more exercise though since it's my go to for stress reduction & making me seem/act like much nicer person than I actually am.

  13. This book sounds interesting. I'd love to read it.

  14. I'm really interested to find out more about this idea

  15. Interesting! I am not sure I am all on board I do eat similar to the book but not exact & I am not giving up my grains for sure. I work to eat all the other stuff just right so long term to have no whole grains, even though I don't do a ton, ain't gonna happen. ;-) I need to enjoy some thing with all I do.

    As for the exercise, I incorporate HIIT into my already crazy routines so I would not be willing to cut back like mentioned & especially at this time in my life when hormones want to add weight no matter what. Plus, the high intensity can be hard on joints so people do have to be aware of that.

    I am glad it works for some & you are having success but for me, I don't think I can commit. ;-)

    I will read more on it though!

  16. I would love to find something that works that I could stick with. Maybe this is it.

  17. Interesting! Count me in please!

  18. I want the book!

  19. Also want to throw out the issue of problems and risks associated with eating too much animal protein.

  20. Okay, you've got my curiosity up - count me in!

  21. Everyone I know who has succesfully lost weight believes in calories in versus out. Everyone I knbow who hasn't either owns none, or lots of diet books

    If I want to get published and sell a diet book, saying you can eat more and exercise less is the way to go. That's what sells. That isn't what changes lives for the better.

    That's my opinion.

  22. I'm totally in! This would be great to have after all the holiday feasts. Awesome Giveaway!

  23. Now if you just gave some links to those studies so the content can be verified.

    So far anyone who purports that the first law of thermodynamics is not in effect when it comes to losing weight was so far never able to prove it in a peer-reviewed study.

  24. I'm highly sceptical about the less exercise part...I need my running! But, I'd still be interested in checking this out.

  25. I was very wory about my poor health for last 2 years.But Nowadays I got it better after visiting to a nutritionist in New York.She really helped to improve my health.It was by just some balenced food in my ddaily life.

  26. Do I have some bones to pick with him! I read this post while cooking potato pancakes--in lots of oil--and there's no way I'm giving up starch and sugar. He lost me at the "multiple meals" point. Some of us just don't like snacks! Then the exercise thing--am I supposed to give up my job??? which is mostly exercise? Also, over the last year I have lost about thirty pounds (which I gained over about fifteen years) by exercising more. So I don't want to follow this program, but I sure do want to read all the details and the research!

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  27. damn I'd miss my weights and cardio if I only did that much exercise each week!

    But then I do love my training and wouldn't decrease it that much if he paid me....

    Great review, I love the honest reviews that only very few people do, where they not only give their opinion, but also where you can really see that the reviewer has actually read the book!

    Keep up the good work,

  28. I'm leaving a comment, because who doesn't need some motivation to return to better eating & exercise after Thanksgiving?

  29. OK, I'm so totally in on the no low-slow cardio (I hate) -but I don't want to only lift for 10 minutes a week. I need more.

    Moving myself to toward that eating goal, but not seeing any changes yet. Must need more protein!

    I'd be interested in reading about the science behind this - and figuring out where I really need to tweek thing.

  30. I'm curious. I too have respect for John Ratey so I would read this book with an open mind. I love it when authors back up their claims with real research. Thanks for the giveaway.

  31. I think he's definitely on to something as far as the eating is concerned. It seems his focus is on eating 'real' foods that the body can readily use. I myself don't think 10 minutes of exercise a week is enough, especially for people that are in desk jobs five days a week. We really do need more physical activity than that to keep our cardiovascular system in good working condition and our bone and muscle density at a healthy level.

  32. I would love to read this book and learn how to eat better!

  33. I was pretty dismissive of this book because his Web site is so bad. Nice to read more of a review of it.

  34. So I'm commenting again in hopes of adding the Canadians to the pool of winners. The more I think about this book the more I want to read it. (Probably not follow it, though.)

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  35. Jumping in at the last minute - thanks, Crabby!

  36. Thank you for this ! Seriously useful info.

    I have bookmarked this and i also am looking forward to reading new articles.

    Keep up the great job!

  37. I've got the book. The part about exercise is not the end all. His exercise program is for fat burning and is a form of HIIT using 30 second intervals at the highest resistance you can handle then back down to normal resistance. Many people wrongly assume that he is advocating this type of HIIT only. If you read his book/website you will see that, for example if you wanted to run a marathan, you would utilize a different training approach that incorporated more cardio. The exercise shoule fit the goal. Endurance training will require more cardio. I have found that since I stopped long cardio sessions (I was doing 30 miles jogging via treadmill at 1% incline a week in addition to three hours of body toning exercies) and switched to a HIIT plan and heavier weights, I have had better results.

  38. I read the book on my Kindle. About half of it provides the bibliography to all of the studies he references -- very impressive, science-based book in that way. The writing style is so-so, at best, and I did find the SANE anachronym annoying. Both the diet and the exercise plan can be amended to suit one's lifestyle choices. I eat vegetarian about 80% of the time and I can manage to follow this diet fairly well. It's heavy on the vegetables -- 10 servings per day -- which suits me, and it emphasizes fruits beyond apples and bananas. Actually, if you eat 10 servings of vegetables other than potatos or corn and 2-3 servings of fruit every day, add in plenty of protein, you are going to be full on low calorie foods and are going to lose weight. At least I do. It's the increase in vegetables that does it for me more than the increase in protein.

    The exercise plan is fairly simple. I can't give up my regular walks because, well, the dog still has to go whether I'm in the mood or not. She just won't listen to reason. However, the book says you can do what exercises you like, as long as you add in the exercises in the book. They are intense strength training exercises. I'll continue my cardio and yoga, neither of which seem to help me lose weight but both of which help me in other ways. I've needed to add a strength-building component to my life and this suits.

    All in all, a good book with good information and a healthy plan. Presentation needs serious work, but the science is there and it seems less gimicky than most.

  39. Calories DO count, and as you say, it is impossible to be "too full" for dessert. To me, some idea in this book seem valid (more high quality protein; less starch..etc.); but the exercise requirements for someone such as me (a senior citizen) sound unachievable.

    No magic book, I'd say. A bit loony, I'd say.


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