Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Book Review: Weight No Longer - The prescription for amazing fitness and Living

Weight No Longer: The Prescription for Amazing Fitness & Living

I learned something extremely important from this book: NEVER waste your time on a health or medical book that is self-published!!!

I should have learned my lesson after reviewing this one.

Weight No Longer is written by Philip Caravella, an American family doctor who seems to think he has the secret to weight loss that everyone else has overlooked.  I'll save you the time and money you would spend on this book and tell you that is so-called secret is that - despite what most other credible health experts have concluded - he believes exercise is far more important for weight loss than diet.

While I agree with him wholeheartedly, that exercise is pretty much the most critical lifestyle factor (aside from not smoking or drinking excessively) for your overall health, it is not MORE important than diet for weight loss.  Health maybe, weight loss not likely.

When I mentioned this to Adam, he suggested that Caravella probably works for Coca Cola.  Ha, maybe!!

But this is only one of a trillion problems with this book. 

First of all, his research is very shoddy.  He only backs up some of his many claims and arguments, but when he does, he mostly refers to very old (like 1994) studies, all from the New England Journal of Medicine.  Its a good journal, but it seems like he just pulled what he had off his book shelf and flipped through them to find evidence for his hypotheses, rather than doing real research.  There are millions of studies on diet, exercise, weight loss and chronic illness that have been published since 1994!!! And normally you don't want to use studies published in only one journal to try to avoid editorial biases.

The second big problem with this book is it meanders all over the place and the content of the chapters doesn't necessarily relate to the chapter titles at all.  It is also extremely repetitious.  Come on folks, even if you are self-publishing, get someone else to edit the manuscript for you before you put it into print!

It is also puzzling that he believes that exercise is the secret to weight loss, but then spends a great deal of time talking about diet.  He basically contradicts himself all over the place.

I do agree with what he calls, "Dieting's Biggest Taboos and Mistakes:" (although I don't see how these are taboos)
  • Fasting
  • Skipping meals
  • Fad diets
  • Yo-yo dieting
  • Impatience
  • Diet meds (actually some of the experts I respect feel these sometimes have a place in weight loss treatment for the obese)
Caravella believes that obesity is a 'social disease' but barely acknowledges the role of poverty and socioeconomic status. He does say both big business and government should take some responsibility for dealing with the obesity epidemic, but then spends a lot of time pontificating about how individuals have the control and responsibility to manage their weight. He does mention emotional eating but doesn't really address how to deal with it.  Some of his arguments have a bit of a "blame the victim" tone and he seems to try to use guilt (look at the health care costs you fat people incur on all of us!) as a motivator.

Caravella argues that one cannot be fat, by our conventional understanding of the word, and healthy.  This is still an area of debate in the medical world.  To make his point, he says,"...I have never seen an obese marathoner." Ha, well one was just recently featured in Runner's World Magazine, so there Dr. Caravella!

He refutes the assumptions of many supporters of the low-carb movement by challenging the notion that blood insulin levels are primarily responsible for weight loss.  A recent study found that this is not true, so he may be right in this case.  In addition, he argues that physical activity is the key factor.  Exercise does affect insulin control, and as sport nutritionist Nancy Clark, pointed out, the way you process carbohydrates is determined, in large part, to your activity levels.  Love your carbs? Then get moving!

Probably the most egregious error he makes is defining anaerobic activities as those exercises that use large and/or small muscle groups and are less physically demanding than aerobic activities. WTF?

Anaerobic activity is actually:

While “aerobic” means “with oxygen,” anaerobic means “without air" or "without oxygen." Anaerobic exercise is short-lasting, high-intensity activity, where your body’s demand for oxygen exceeds the oxygen supply available. Anaerobic exercise relies on energy sources that are stored in the muscles and, unlike aerobic exercise, is not dependent on oxygen from (breathing) the air. Examples of anaerobic exercise include: heavy weight-lifting, all types of sprints (running, biking, etc.), jumping rope, hill climbing, interval training, isometrics, or any rapid burst of hard exercise (source).
Caravella actually starts Chapter 15 - Resistance Training, with, "Resistance training is another word for anaerobic exercise." Okay, a) its 2 words, and b) this guy doesn't know what he's talking about!!

Later on in the book, he also makes the absurd claim that diet is not important because, "...even overeating can be overcome with more exercise." Wrong! He says he'll prove this in the book, but where he does this, I don't know...especially since he doesn't provide any references for these claims.

After repeatedly arguing about the primary role of exercise in weight loss and management, he then has a whole bunch of chapters devoted to nutrition and diet.  While he seems to promote the paleo diet at the beginning of the book (oy!), he is less specific by Chapter 30 and suggests a diet 'must' contain 25-35% fat, 20-25% protein, and 40-45% carbohydrates, although he repeatedly mentions the benefits of what gorillas eat (we've moved from our ancient ancestors to gorillas!).  At least he emphasizes whole foods.

Honestly, I don't want to waste any more time on this book.  I know you won't buy it, and you shouldn't. 

I think the point is that when deciding how to spend your precious time to find accurate health information about diet and health, evaluate:

1. Credentials of writer (this guy is an M.D., but that's not necessarily enough!)
2. Is it self-published or was it published by large/credible or small/unknown publishing house?
3. Was the book adequately researched?
4. If secondary sources were used, are they peer-reviewed, scientific studies (rather than magazine articles, popular books, etc.)?

Disclosure: I received this book for no charge and all opinions on this blog are my own.

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