The Skinny Rules

Confession: I love Bob Harper. I started watching The Biggest Loser (something we’ll talk about more in another post) during the first season, and I knew straight off I would give anything to train with Bob. I own most of his DVDs; they provide a great workout and lots of inspiration (and perspiration). So I ordered his lastest book from Amazon as soon as it came out.

The Skinny Rules is full of really solid advice. Drink lots of water – but don’t drink your calories. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Get your protein and fill up on fiber. Limit your consumption of refined flours and grains, cut out artificial sweeteners and fast food, and cut back on salt and processed foods. Eat breakfast. Learn to read (and understand) food labels. Get plenty of sleep. He even suggests a splurge meal once a week. There’s not much to complain about here – these are the rules I generally live by, spelled out simply and with Bob’s good humor.

But why not The Healthy Rules? Shouldn’t health and wellness be our focus, rather than thinness? According to the book, getting skinny – and thus no longer being fat – are the main reasons you should want to eat healthy. I realize that’s true for a lot of people, but I don’t think it’s a message a fitness and nutritional professional should be promoting. I also take issue with the way he plays on the fear of (staying, getting, or reverting back to) fat. Overall health and wellness seem to take a back seat to the goal of a thin body. I don’t really think Bob believes this, but I do think he knows his audience. I’m sure that using the word skinny helped him sell a lot of copies. I just wish that someone with as much influence as Bob would stop talking about thinness and start talking about health.

Let’s look at a couple of passages that struck me in particular:

  • “…there is a reason that people get fat–it’s easy and cheap to get high-calorie, tasty food.” (While overeating is a problem for many people, there are other reasons people get fat.)
  • “…if you don’t start eating fish, you’re going to get fat again.” (What if you don’t like, or are allergic to, fish?)
  • Regarding his rule No Carbs After Lunch: “If you can abide by this rule, you’re gonna be thin!” (How can he guarantee this, for every single person? What if I eat 5000 calories worth of protein after lunch? I understand that this rule is supposed to be paired with all of the others, and a low overall calorie intake, but claims like this just make me shake my head.)
  • After instruction on how to cook broccoli rabe: “You’ve now mastered one of your most important new cooking techniques–one that will go a long way toward making you slimmer, fitter, and happier.” (Please stop perpetuating the belief that thinness = happiness.)

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like in this book. Bob admonishes you to never go on a diet that eliminates an entire nutrient category, and he acknowledges that deprivation is not motivating or sustainable. There are some excellent recipes and fantastic overall guidelines to follow. I recommend this book if you can take from it the solid nutritional advice within, and can stomach – but not swallow – the promise that following these rules will make you thin. They will definitely make you healthy!