Stop The Insanity? Or Start The Insanity?

Stop The InsanityThis book by Susan Powter is aimed at those people (sadly, mostly women) who have tried every fad diet and just keep getting fatter. She looks at the myth that we need to eat less to lose weight, and explains why sometimes we need to eat more.

(This review of her 1993 book was written in 2002, and although it’s hard to believe it over a decade on, back then much of her anti fat advice was taken very seriously)

If we don’t get enough food, our bodies think there’s a famine and we get more efficient ie. our metabolism drops. But we still need to get fuel from somewhere so our muscles get robbed, because that’s easier then burning fat. So we do lose weight, but most of it is water and muscle. Then we go off the diet because we’re starving, our metabolism stays low and we pile on the fat. So each time we go on a “diet” we lose muscle and gain fat. Her fat loss secrets are :

  • Eat more of the right kinds of food – high quality protein, complex carbohydrates, fruit & vegetables
  • Eat less of the wrong kinds of food, especially foods with a high content of “bad” fat. Susan explains how to work out the % of calories that come from fat. You can’t always trust the claims on the label.
  • Never go hungry. If you’re hungry, eat. Just be careful what you choose.
  • Exercise regularly

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It is & it isn’t. It does take a bit of fiddling around to work out the fat content of what you’re eating, and it takes discipline to discard some of your old favourites. But the easy bit is that you don’t have to starve yourself, and as your taste buds change you find new favourites.

The exercising bit isn’t necessarily easy, either, if you’re not used to exercising regularly. The secret here is to find what you enjoy. Some people checking out this site will be into cycling. I prefer weight training, walking & aerobics.

Strength training of some kind is important as muscle needs fuel and the more muscular you are, the more calories you burn each day. You’ll get best results from a combination of strength training (if you don’t like weight training, try yoga or Pilates) & aerobic work (cycling, walking, running, dance classes, aerobics). These are only some of the possibilities, there are hundreds of interesting sports to try.

The good advice from Stop the Insanity is fairly simple and sensible really:

  • Stop depriving yourself & eat plenty, just make the right choices.
  • Get some exercise on a regular basis.

But on the downside : Her recommendation is basically for a high carb, low protein, low fat diet. This seemed at the time to work OK for weight loss for her, but certainly doesn’t for everybody, and maybe didn’t for her in the long term (see below). Before deciding to go with her plan, check out the lo-carb vs lo-fat page, and read up on metabolic diets and metabolic typing. The longer term (1-3 year) results of following this eating plan have not been good for most people.

  • Her recommendations on how much protein to eat are low, and most people need more.
  • She is very anti-fat, her diet would lead to serious deficiencies in good fats.

But add more protein & some essential fats and you’ve got reasonable basics – although you might want to combine this with one of the other eating plans discussed – my recommendation is to consider committing to a whole foods plan.

November 2002 : Case Study

I recently exchanged some emails with Ms C, who had been following these guidelines for 2 years. During the first year, she lost 30kg, put on muscle and went well. During the second year, she started to feel fatigued, stopped losing weight even though she hadn’t reached her target weight, and came down with pneumonia.

After looking at a list of characteristics of Protein types vs Carbo types (The Metabolic Typing Diet), it looked like she was a Protein type following an extreme Carbo type diet. By decreasing her carbs and increasing her protein and good fats, she started regaining her energy almost straight away.

The moral of the story is : even the wrong metabolic diet can give good results initially, if it is a based on eating wholesome foods and cutting down on sugars and trans fats. But when you don’t feel good on a plan, even if it had worked for you in the past, don’t be afraid to try something different.

  • It may not be right for your metabolic type   – or –
  • It might have been what you needed to get back into balance, but might now be too extreme

Susan Powter went on to write “Sober and Staying that way ” (1997) – a book about her own alchoholism, after following her low fat diet. She later became a “radical feminist lesbian woman” (2004).

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