Book review–”The Skinny Rules”

I just jammed through one of the best “diet” books I’ve ever read: The Skinny Rules: The Simple, Nonnegotiable Rules for Getting to Thin, by Bob Harper, trainer from The Biggest Loser.

True, I’ve not read that many diet books, but then, after this one, I don’t think I’ll need to. At least not until science changes, which it is bound to do. Then there will be some other set of rules to follow. But for now, the 20 outlined in this book will work just fine.

What I like:

  • Harper has a nice tone. He knows what he’s asking you to do isn’t necessarily easy, but he makes it clear it’s necessary. He strikes an easy balance between empathetic and no-nonsense.
  • The book is strongly supported by research, but Harper doesn’t weigh readers down with too much technical jargon. He gives just enough information to be credible, and to help readers understand he has good reason for the rules he’s dictating, but not so much it gets tough to follow.
  • The rules are simple, non-gimmicky, and realistic. Harper isn’t asking readers to take crazy supplements or set strict mealtimes. He emphasizes natural, “clean” eating for health rather than quick-fix drop 20 lbs. in 20 days tricks. He’s advocating lifestyle changes here. Real changes real people can make forever.

What I don’t:

  • Not much, really.

A few of my favorite rules:

  • Drink a Large Glass of Water Before Every Meal–No Excuses! I’m working on this one myself. While I don’t drink soda, juice or other caloric drinks (except for non-fat milk and adult beverages–of course!), I also don’t get enough water. This rule is more challenging than you might think, but after just three days of adhering to it, I do notice a difference in how I feel. 
  • Don’t Drink Your Calories
  • Eat Apples and Berries Every Single Day. Every. Single. Day. I love this rule! The fact that it’s telling readers to eat something, rather than cut something out is very effective. It’s a simple, action-oriented goal. Plus, these are fruits I actually like.
  • No Carbs After Lunch. Don’t let this one scare you away. I have never been a fan of rules like this one. I clearly remember telling clients that rules like this were silly. “Calories are calories and it doesn’t matter when you eat them. Your body doesn’t suddenly turn carbs to fat just because it’s 7 pm. Blah, blah, blah.” But that’s the thing about the body; we know what we know until we learn something different. Scientists are discovering loads of interesting things about how the body processes sugars, and the impact it has on our ability to lose weight. Because I’m intrigued by the science here, and because I’ve found that eating carbs later in the day tends to make me sluggish and bloated (TMI?), I’m giving this rule a go. Once you wrap your mind around the idea that dinner doesn’t have to include carbs, it’s really not that hard. Full disclosure though, I’m not going to be crazy strict about this rule. There might be some quinoa or the occasional whole wheat tortilla sliding past the noon hour. 
  • Eat a Real Breakfast. Here’s another thing I’ve been telling clients for years, but unlike the last rule, it looks like this one still stands. The research on eating breakfast and weight loss just keeps getting stronger. If you want to lose weight, you MUST eat a breakfast that includes protein. A maple and bacon donut doesn’t count. 

There. That’s just five and already you’ve got a solid blueprint for making healthy changes. Think what you could do with 15 more. In addition to the rules, Harper includes sections with sample meal plans and some of his favorite recipes. I’ve tried the “Makes Me Happy” Tuna Salad and Mustard Vinaigrette (I put it on steamed broccoli), and both were great.

As usual, I didn’t get anything out of highlighting this book except the thrill of sharing what I consider a high-quality resource. Buy it, don’t buy it, makes no difference to me. But if you’ve been looking for something clear and easy to cut through all the diet noise out there, this might be just what you need.

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8 thoughts on “Book review–”The Skinny Rules”

  1. Alexis @ Lex & Learn says:

    Love this post, Trisha! I am most curious, if you decide to blog about it, regarding the meals and snacks you choose to avoid carbs after lunch. I am a carb freak and crave nothing other than carbs come 3pm. I can kind of wrap my head around how to avoid them at dinner, but for my husband bread or rice or a sweet potato is a must if we’re going to eat light with fish or tofu. Thanks!!

    • wishfit says:

      Alexis! Love your blog. I’d never seen it before. As for the carbs, I know what you mean. I find if I don’t feed myself well earlier in the day, I get crazy hungry/blood sugary later in the afternoon. Then I eat cereal. Then I feel like crap. I’ve been working on breaking that cycle for awhile now, and as long as I stay on top of my hunger, I do really well. Well-planned out snacks and protein, protein, protein. That’s the key for me.

      My husband (and boys) are just the same when it comes to carbs at dinner. “Where’s the bread?” is something I hear a lot! You’ve given me a great idea for next week. Stay tuned.

  2. Amity says:

    The glass of water before every meal reminded me of a NPR segment about brain health. Apparently one really good thing you can do for your brain is have a glass of water before you have anything else in the morning.

  3. tara says:

    Hi,
    Do you think the meal plans are very good to follow? I’m having trouble with digestion but relunctant to go on an elimination diet because I’m mentally not prepared for that. How many calories do you think the meal plans call for? I remember glancing at them in a bookstore and they looked decent but I was a bit unsure of the fruit (some of the shake recipes are a lot of fruit, is that normal, or what?). I’m looking for 2000-2200 meal plans…so…not sure !
    This book or others with legit meal plans that won’t make a person be too carb-heavy or too fat-deficient or unhealthy, etc?

    • wishfit says:

      First off, let me say this: I’m not an RD, or other nutrition expert. If you are worried about food allergies or some other kind of intolerance, you really should see a qualified specialist.

      That being said, if you’re just looking for a moderate, nutritionally sound diet plan, I do think this is a good place to start. Harper is a little fuzzy on the calorie content of the meal plans. He mentions the men’s plan is 1500 calories and the women’s plan 1200. But in another part he says men should be around 2000. He also says when following the meal plan, it’s up to the reader to calculate what a serving should be for them. Of course this book is meant for weight loss, so someone who is looking to maintain their current weight, or is doing a lot of activity, would have different calorie needs.

      It sounds as though you have a good handle on what your daily caloric intake should be, so I’d think you could adjust portion sizes from Harper’s meal plan to meet your needs.

      The reason I like this book, is that it’s not gimmicky. It’s based on some solid current research, as well as his own experience. Foods are not arbitrarily cut out, and no healthy food is really off-limits. He suggests limiting carbs in the early phases of weight loss, and also curbing carb intake later in the day, but again, that’s based on some newer research regarding the body’s insulin response. He also lists some veggies to eat more moderately and avoid later in the day because of a higher glycemic index.

      I know a lot of low-carb diets frown on fruit because of the sugar content, but I really disagree with that. Unlike a lot of simple carbs and fruit juices, real fruit has fiber to slow down digestion and temper blood sugar response. I love fruit shakes with lots of fruit and greens because it’s an easy way for me to get more of some stuff I don’t like to eat plain. Don’t use fruit juice as the liquid base if you want to keep sugar/calorie count low. I tend to use a splash of juice and the rest water.

      As for other books with meal-plans, I haven’t really read many at all. I don’t like to follow a strict meal-plan. It’s too hard when you’re cooking for other people, especially little ones. I liked this book for me, because the rules are easy to understand and inspired some healthy changes. The meal-plans gave me a few great new ideas for implementing those changes, and nice recipes or suggestions I added to my repertoire. If you are looking for a meal-plan to meet more specific needs, I’d really suggest meeting with an RD. In the past, I was lucky enough to have an RD friend provide me with an eating strategy tailored just for me, and it was a wonderful experience. Something I still go back to when I’m struggling with my diet or need some structure.

      Whew! Long response. I hope that helps. Feel free to ask any more questions.

  4. Pingback: WOW | wishfit

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