New York Times Review
I'VE never understood why January is diet season. Don't people realize they still have many months during which they can layer their layers? Every diet book should come out on May 1. That's when you realize you have less than two months before someone, somewhere, is going to force you to go to the beach. But O.K., fine, "new year, new you" and all that. Let's get a jump-start on the panic, shall we? I'm a sucker for customizing, so the idea of a bespoke diet program geared to one's personality is appealing. Jen Widerstrom is a trainer on "The Biggest Loser," and her DIET RIGHT FOR YOUR PERSONALITY TYPE: The Revolutionary 4-Week Weight Loss Plan That Works for You (Harmony, $26) describes five basic human prototypes - the Organized Doer, the Swinger, the Rebel, the Everyday Hero and the strong-minded Never-Ever - and creates a plan not of different foods but of different dieting and exercise habits to adopt. Establishing your personality means taking a lengthy quiz . This is an exercise (probably the only exercise) I enjoy. I thought my own Rebel designation - a person who skips meals, then devours, Pac-Man like, everything in her path - was spot on. The suggestions for Rebels seem sensible: Prep food the day before, consciously think about portions and keep gym clothes in the car at all times (because Rebels aren't fans of routine, and we never know when the mood to work out may strike). Each personality description gets a little convoluted, but suffice it to say that this is at least an interesting way to approach losing weight. Of course, maybe I just liked it because, as the world's most conventional person, I enjoy being considered a rebel at anything. I kept picturing myself as Brando in "The Wild One" : "What are you rebelling against?" "Celery." David Zinczenko's THE ZERO SUGAR DIET: The 14-Day Plan to Flatten Your Belly, Crush Cravings, and Help Keep You Lean for Life (Ballantine, $28) targets an easily identifiable enemy, comparing excess sugar in our diet to a deadly virus. As Zinczenko, the editorial director of Men's Fitness, explains (along with his co-author, Stephen Perrine): "Thanks in part to the lobbying of the food industry, sugar consumption rose by 25 percent between 1970 and 2000, in almost exact parallel with the increase in high fructose corn syrup production and obesity." Sugar causes us to gain weight in two ways. Since it can't hang out in the bloodstream, it heads with drone-like precision to our hips and thighs (that is, it gets stored as fat). It also has a rebound effect that causes us to be hungry. Drinking just one can of Coke a day means you're consuming an additional 31 pounds of sugar a year. Well, that got my attention. "The Zero Sugar Diet" is really about cutting out all added sugar, and even then, you need to add fiber and protein to create satiety and slow the absorption of carbohydrates. This will lessen those hills and valleys of energy throughout the day and create more of a steady thrum. Sometimes I enjoy a good scare. Reading THE CHEESE TRAP: How Breaking a Surprising Addiction Will Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy and Get Healthy (Grand Central Life & Style, $27) is like going to a horror movie, only instead of the killer being Chucky, it's cheese. (O how I slay myself.) Neal D. Barnard even tosses out a line in the intro that would be perfect for the trailer of the movie: "You love cheese. But I'm sorry to tell you, it does not love you back." Cue ominous cello music. While cheese may be, as the legendary editor Clifton Fadiman called it, "milk's leap toward immortality," here it is death on a plate. Barnard, the founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, is an animal-rights activist and proponent of a vegan diet who has courted controversy before. and I'm in no position to judge the veracity of all his claims. But he cites studies that associate cheese with everything from America's expanding waistline to migraines and joint pain. The problem is not just the high fat content. Cheese proteins contain casomorphins, chemical compounds that attach to the same opiate receptors in the brain as heroin or morphine. Additionally, the milk we buy was meant to nourish baby cows or goats or sheep; it is filled with growth hormones and estrogens we don't want or need. Barnard does his best to make cheese not only terrifying (comparing its dangers to eating poisonous puffer fish) but gross: At one point he cites a performance artist who sat in a gallery and offered patrons three types of cheese made out of donated breast milk. Maybe you don't find that disgusting, in which case you probably like performance art. By the end of the book I was sufficiently freaked out to go and buy something calling itself paleo mozzarella-style cheese. It is vegan, and it tastes like tapioca flavored with coconut. Not bad! But you know what it doesn't taste like? Cheese. The idea behind Rebecca Scritchfield's body kindness: Transform Your Health From the Inside Out - and Never Say Diet Again (Workman, paper, $14.95) is simple and true: For a vast majority of us, big dietary changes don't work, particularly if approached with kamikaze enthusiasm. Incremental change is the way to go. Scritchfield, a nutritionist, proposes ignoring the numbers on the scale and focusing instead on health. If you do this, and stop approaching food as a form of reward and punishment, you'll eat less emotionally and more rationally; you'll be able to "order dessert when you really want it" and not apologize. There is a lot of journaling here, a lot of fighting the "thought bully." There is some controversy too. Scritchfield believes "you can be fit and fat" - that it's inactivity, not obesity, that is linked to mortality and heart disease. Of course, when was the last time you saw a 90-yearold sumo wrestler? THE HUNGRY BRAIN: Outsmarting the Instincts That Make Us Overeat (Flatiron, $27.99, to be published this spring) is really no more a diet book than "Anna Karenina" is a romance novel, but for those interested in the complex science of overeating, it is essential. The neurobiologist Stephan J. Guyenet argues that we need to understand our brain circuitry in order to stop ourselves from overeating, and he chronicles years of research on the role of the hormonal regulators of appetite and the way they work on certain neural pathways in our brains. For example, the hormone leptin codes for satiety, and if you have no leptin in your body you can't stop eating. So why did a drug to provide people with leptin never make it to market? It turns out (probably) that while low leptin levels create a starvation response that promotes weight gain, high levels of leptin don't promote weight loss. So much for that magic pill. We still have a great deal to learn about the role inflammation plays in obesity, and this is currently a hot topic of research, but we're not there yet. In the meantime Guyenet offers suggestions for "tricking" the brain into eating less, which include things we already know but tend not to practice: making sure "high reward" foods (translation: everything I like) are not readily available; and eating simple, high-satiety foods like our preindustrial brethren. Because guess what? If you live in "primitive" societies that have been studied like Kitava, an island off the coast of New Guinea, and eat like the natives, you can live to old age without high blood pressure or obesity or diabetes. Of course, New Guinea has tarantulas, burrowing snakes and the world's only poisonous birds, so maybe it all evens out. I will be haunted by Guyenet's description of parabiosis, a surgical technique. Basically you sew together an obese mouse that is missing leptin with a slim mouse, surgically attaching their circulatory systems. In doing so, the fat mouse will get skinny. Dieting be damned. Perhaps someone could attach me to Gigi Hadid for a couple of weeks. Gigi, sweetheart, you have my number. Text me. ? Judith newman is working on a book called "To Siri With Love," about children, autism and the kindness of machines.
Library Journal Review
ABC News health and wellness correspondent Zinczenko (Zero Belly Diet; "Eat This, Not That" series) now turns his focus to eliminating the added sugar in America's diet and replacing it with fiber and other healthier choices to achieve stable blood sugar levels. The author creates a user-friendly guide with food lists, recipes for all meals of the day, a seven-day meal plan, a three-day detox plan, and sample workout plans, providing a wealth of helpful information and tools for those wishing to limit added sugars in their diet. An aisle-by-aisle shopping planner that names brands makes finding no-sugar-added foods in all categories easy and fast. The focus on reducing sugar has gained significant notice as more reports emerge spotlighting its negative effects. VERDICT This practical, easy-to-digest book will be popular with health-conscious readers.-Crystal Renfro, Kennesaw State Univ., Marietta, GA © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Nutrition and fitness expert Zinczenko (Zero Belly Smoothies) and Perrine compare the prevalence of sugar in the American diet to a "virulent virus" in this passionate, anti-added-sugar manifesto. According to Zinczenko, the natural sugar found in healthy diets isn't problematic, but the hidden, added sugar lurking in such foods as salad dressings, sauces, and peanut butter contributes to diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Though Zinczenko notes that new food labels mandated by the FDA and set for 2018 will require a separate listing for added sugars, as of now buyers must do their own sleuthing. This book suggests a variety of ways to identify and avoid hidden sugars, and includes ideas and recipes for "zero sugar" breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners, as well as info on foods to eat on the go and in restaurants. Zinczenko's plan emphasizes a two-pronged approach: decreasing added sugar and increasing fiber. This plan is informative and entertaining (e.g., a chart converts common meals to their equivalent in donuts; "an open letter from your pancreas") and will help readers rein in cravings and become savvy monitors of added sugar consumption. Agent: Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, William Morris Endeavor. (Dec.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.