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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Thin from Within: Book Review

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Happy Hump Day! I actually love Wednesdays, but its not looking so good right now.  We have abruptly returned to seasonally crappy weather.

Perhaps like many folks you made a New Year's resolution back in January to lose some weight this year?

There are a million diet books out there. It can be very challenging for someone embarking on a weight loss journey to know which one to choose...if any!

Most are a big sham.  Some are downright ridiculous: Cutting out entire food groups; Slashing calories too low; Consisting of hard to find and/or very expensive ingredients; Making all sorts of claims that are unproven. 

When I was asked to review Thin from Within by Joseph J. Luciani, a psychologist, I was definitely intrigued because it focuses on the emotional and psychological aspects of our eating behaviours, which are really most often what are at the heart of our struggles with weight.

Unfortunately, Thin from Within is a bit thin.  I agree with the majority of what he writes about and recommends, but there are two main problems with his approach.  First, what he claims to be his unique solution: Self-Coaching, is really pretty similar to the intended outcome of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).  Second, the book is not written in a very accessible way for most people. 

Nowadays, few people are willing to read a lot.  In fact, I often recommend reading as part of therapy for my clients and a lot of people (most), will not do so.  Some may buy the books, but actually cracking them open is another story.  So if you are going to write a 'How-To' book for people nowadays, you have got to make it direct and succinct.

It should be like:

This is what self-coaching is...
This is how you develop the skill...
This is how you practice the skill...

You get what I mean?

This information is all in there, however, its lost in a lot of irrelevant dialogue and case studies which I don't think are particularly useful. I think quite a lot of people will simply just not make it through this book.

But the overall premise is valuable: its not that you have to find the magic diet or food that will allow you to lose weight, its that you have to alter your relationship with food. 

North Americans, in general, have an incredibly toxic relationship with food, and I am not even talking about eating disorders, which are a different thing entirely.  Its just that we have created a status quo, a whole culture, around very destructive eating and lifestyle habits.  Few people can get away with just 'going with the flow' and eating mindlessly because we are encouraged at every turn to consume garbage food (if you can even call it food) and too much food, and this is the case practically 24/7!

The most important thing for every single one of us living in this environment is to be MINDFUL of what we put in our bodies.  I don't mean you have to meditate while you eat every meal.  I just mean you have to be conscious of what you're eating and why.  So many of us eat simply because food is offered or available, or for emotional or psychological reasons, or boredom or habit.

My basic weight-loss guidelines are:
1. Write down everything you eat (this is very important, and there are apps if you are a device addict)
2. Get to know your body and appetite.  Most people are totally out of synch with their physiological energy needs.  Figure out when you are hungry, what times eating works best for you and what foods work best for you (i.e. some people do best on 3 meals, 2 snacks, some prefer 6 small meals, etc.).  Some people will feel best eating vegan, some can enjoy low-carb, others need carbs at every meal/snack.).
3. Don't get hangry.  Most of us should never go more than 4 hours without eating or we get hangry and then make poor choices.  Its not good for mood or energy levels either.
4. Eat mostly unprocessed food and cook it at home.  If you absolutely cannot give up your daily donut or potato chips, find a way to work it into your eating plan, in moderation, but stick with the healthy stuff as much as possible.
5. Plan.  Plan meals for the week ahead of time, shop and prep.  Make sure you are never without a healthy snack in case of emergencies.  Remember if you go without food for too long, the hanger will take over!!
6. Move your body every day, and make sure some of your activity includes strength training.  Building muscle mass increases metabolism and offsets decreases in metabolism that often accompany weight loss.
7. Only adopt a habit to lose weight that you know you can maintain long-term.  Why bother if it makes you miserable, you know it won't stick and then you'll gain all the weight back!
8. Forget about perfection.  There is no such thing as perfection anyways and all-or-nothing thinking is what undermines most people's attempts at making a healthy behaviour change.
9. Make sleep a priority.  Being tired compromises cognitive abilities and mood, and increases stress hormones, cravings and calorie consumption.
10. Get enough fibre and protein because they are what help keep you feeling full and will keep your energy and blood sugar in check.  Simple carbs and sugars fuel appetite and cravings, so minimize as much as possible.

Ultimately, you need to find the combination of lifestyle changes that work best for you.  We are all individuals and have differing preferences and body types.  What really matters is that you find a lifestyle that allows you to reach your goals and be happy and fulfilled and only you know what that is.  To find it, however, may take some trial and error, so give yourself time and experiment.  Try new things all the time until you feel what works.

So do I recommend this book? Not really.  Honestly, the weight-loss book I always recommend to my clients is The Diet Fix by Yoni Freedhoff. I think most people will find it difficult to get through this book and get a clear, coherent picture of how to put the ideas into practice.  I do think its useful to understand the psychological and emotional components of our eating behaviours because often it isn't just what you're eating, its what's eating you that prevents you from losing weight and improving your health.

Disclosure: A complimentary copy of this book was sent to me for review but all opinions on this blog are my own.