Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Master Your Metabolism: A Review

For the past five months I've been working my butt off to lose weight and get healthier; more than just a bid to fit into a size 6, this has turned into a complete lifestyle change, encompassing much more than I at first expected. I have considered and discarded things like the Skinny Bitch Diet, Vegetarianism, the Zone, Atkins, and South Beach. If you have no idea what I'm talking about when I say these things, feel grateful; for the most part, all the above ideas are missing critical pieces of the puzzle. By denying your body specific things and replacing them with the latest fat-free, carb-free, meat-less, sugarless, low-everything product, you can throw things badly, sometimes dangerously out of whack.

This is what is at the heart of Jillian Michael's new book, Master Your Metabolism. To boil down the essential ideas in this nearly 300-page book, Jillian wants you to: Remove toxic, processed, fake foods and dangerous chemicals around your house; Restore whole foods, organic whenever you can get them, to your diet; and Rebalance your eating habits by abiding by the 40-30-30 ratio of carbs to protein to fat, and eating every four hours.

Basically, the book states that we have effectively wrecked our metabolisms by eating cheap, processed foods that are full of chemicals that mess with our hormone levels and make us fatter, exhausted, and older than we deserve to be. Our ancestors didn't ingest crap like polysorbate and hydro-tripta-whatsamacallit; they ate fruits and vegetables and meats that had not been treated with pesticides and growth hormones; they ate whole grains and got plenty of sun. They were, for the most part, far less obese than we are now; in just the last 20 years the obesity rate has gone up to 30%, when it was only about half that in the '70's.

Jillian uses her own story to illustrate what these chemicals can do even to someone who seems "healthy": though Jillian is a famous trainer, in spite of restricting her foods and counting every calorie, in spite of working out for hours and hours, she still saw her weight go up with almost no provocation; she could eat one heavy meal and end up gaining three pounds! After going to an endocrinologist, she learned that not only was she suffering from a metabolic disease (in her case, hypothyroidism), but most of her hormone levels were severely out of whack. After a serious life-reevaluation where she cut out the daily diet cokes and protein bars, she now can work out half as much and eat twice the amounts she used to (of real food), and she can maintain a healthy weight.

This all sounds like common sense, but it was quite a revelation to me. You mean, the 100 Calorie packs and the low-calorie yogurt is actually still hurting me? Eating like a bird is actually wiring me to hold on to fat? As someone who hit a plateau two months ago and has watched her weight go up two pounds after just one KFC meal, this rings a true, but uncomfortable bell. Jillian isn't telling you to become a vegan or go on some radical food-replacement crash-diet; this is just about eating real food, that either had a mother or came from the ground.

I know, you're probably thinking, "But, eating organic is expensive! I just want to get this package of cheddar-flavored rice cakes and then wash it down with my diet coke; isn't that just as good? It's low-calorie!" But, those rice cakes have more chemicals than rice; just try looking at the ingredients sometime. If you can pronounce them all, you are more hooked on phonics than I am. And, doctors have been saying for years that diet sodas are much worse for you than even regular ones, though both are pretty bad. Jillian has no sympathy for the average lazy American who only wants to eat what the Big Food Corporations have made so much money training us to crave; why should she hold our hands and be easy on us, when this crap is loaded with carcinogens and toxic chemicals that can kill us? Did you know that some baby formula is so full of estrogen that babies are developing breasts? The things that make our food so cheap are making us fat, diabetic, and giving us everything from metabolic diseases to cancer.

Do I sound like a convert? Well, it's hard to completely change your diet when you aren't the one buying the groceries, but I hope to start switching my eating habits gradually over the summer, until I'm not eating very much that contains anything with fourteen syllables. If you're serious about getting healthy, and especially if you're already diabetic or suffer from any kind of thyroid disease, you need to read this book.

There; 'nuff said.

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