As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I read The Skinny Rules and, as much as I wanted to hate this “diet” book, I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. Both Babyface and I have been following the rules (with some modifications) for about a month now and we both feel strong, healthy and lighter .
Now that we’ve been following the rules for a month, I figured it was time to share my feedback. I definitely wanted to absorb the rules and live them for a while before I told you my reactions. So, here we go, let’s start with the bad stuff.
Things I Dislike:
- The lack of explanation on the majority of the rules. In general, my biggest peeve is that I feel like there are a lot of things that are just brushed over without nearly enough explanation to implement without some serious guessing on the reader’s part. Just one example: a lot of people took note of the “no carbs after lunch” rule and thought that sounded impossible. It does! But the truth is, the book isn’t really saying “you need to eat 0g of carbs after lunch” because the recipes and menus in the back of the book themselves advocate fruit smoothies (lots of natural sugar carbs) and other carb-loaded foods in the afternoon. What the book is advocating is to get high-quality (fiber-filled) carbs all day and then greatly reduce your carbs after lunch. So no giant piles of rice or quinoa with your dinner, but you better believe most dinner recipes in the book has carbs (like the Turkey Meatball recipe that uses cooked brown rice to hold them together). It took me reading this particular rule no less than a half-dozen times before I really “got it”. And honestly, I’m still not 100% sure this is what Bob intended.
- The baseline calorie level. He gives a flat-out 1200 calories for women and 1500 calories for men. I am 5’9″ and
231223 pounds. My BMR is around 1600 calories a day. I burn between 400-600 at almost every workout I do. If I ate 1200 calories not only would I be miserable, but my body would shut the hell down. Operating on a 1000 daily calorie deficit does not a happy Cass make. I think it was a little irresponsible of Bob to give blanket numbers like that. Sure, it’s one thing when you’re on the Biggest Loser and have constant medical supervision and your job is to lose weight, but my life isn’t like that. My job is to do other things that require me to be sharp, focused and…pleasant. That wasn’t going to happen at 1200 calories a day. It’s especially ridiculous when you consider the protein rules that are given—half your current weight is the number of grams of protein you should be ingesting. If you are tipping the scales at 300 or 400 pounds, getting 150-200 grams of protein and staying under 1200 calories a day seems like an impossible feat. I wish the book included a more broad range of calorie goals.
- The complete and total absence of any fitness information or, at the very least, information about how this eating program fits in with a fitness program. This is related to the calorie count beef, but if you are a runner, burning thousands of calories each week, you have different nutrition needs than if you are sedentary. And the book never mentions this. I honestly don’t think there is a single word about fitness. Which is infuriating for someone who believes strongly that the key to a healthy body is as much about fitness as it is food. It’s especially frustrating because, obviously, Bob Harper is knowledgeable about fitness. All I’m asking for is a page, or heck, even a paragraph about how to modify the plan depending on your activity level.
- The contradiction. I felt like the whole book was riddled with contradiction. The book sets out these hard “non-negotiable” rules and then within a paragraph or two, totally undermines them. Or, even worse, undermines them in a later rule or in one of the menu plans. For example, rule number two—don’t drink your calories—sounds pretty cut and dry, right? Except for the part where Bob tells you he drinks coffee with milk because it makes him “happy” (Well…beer makes me happy! Why can’t I have that?) and that you can drink smoothies and you can drink red wine. Basically, the rule is about not drinking soft drinks or juice, but that doesn’t sound as sexy as “don’t drink your calories”. I’m fine with things being general, flexible guidelines, but this book isn’t selling it that way. To me, “non-negotiable” (which is on the front cover, yo) means there is no flexibility. You are either giving us general guidelines or you are giving us hard rules. Pick one and stick to it.
- The lack of vegan and vegetarian choices. There is one sidebox in the book where Bob talks about being a vegetarian on this plan and he pretty much says, “Sorry ’bout your luck.” He even asks readers to submit their vegetarian and vegan recipes because he had a hard time figuring them out. This is especially concerning considering one of the rules (#12) is to make one day meatless. I’m not a vegetarian and I’m certainly not a vegan, but I am a flexitarian and I’d really prefer to have multiple meatless meals a week and I just don’t see how that’s possible if you followed the recipes and meal plans in the book.
Alright, now that my Negative Nancy-ness is out-of-the-way, let’s talk about what I do like:
- In general, I really love the vast majority of the rules. I think they are really nice guidelines to live your life by, especially if you are new to the world of healthy eating. There is nothing insane in them or unreasonable. They focus on eating nutrient-dense, whole, healthy foods. Honestly, to implement the rules, I didn’t have to change my diet that much. In fact, I don’t even remember a lot of the rules because they are so obvious to me. I think the rules are do-able for the long-term and are a great foundation for anyone looking for a guide to a healthy eating program.
- The removal of added sugar. This rule (#10) has definitely been the hardest for me, but I think it has also had the most effect. I’m a sugar-a-holic and add it to everything. I didn’t really ever realize how big of an issue it was. I had convinced myself that it was okay because I was using natural sugars (maple syrup, agave, etc.) but the truth is, they are still sugar and still affect your taste buds and how your body processes food. The rule doesn’t say this is permanent, but it does say that you need to cut the sweetness of your foods to retrain your taste buds, and I totally agree. I want to enjoy the natural sweetness of real foods, and to do that, I need to re-sensitize my tastes.
- The recipes and meal plans. Other than the limited vegetarian choices, I really do like the recipes and meal plans. We’ve tried quite a few of the recipes from the book and they have all be very tasty and very top-notch. I really appreciate that the recipe developers made sure to include little “touches” of indulgence so the meals don’t feel so dull—a few tablespoons of cheese here and a drizzle of olive oil there can go a long way to making a dish feel decadent.
- Having a set of rules to fall back on. I talked about this before but I’ve always had my own set of “rules” to fall back on, but with weight loss, I’ve honestly been a little lost for the past few years. The things I was doing before no longer were working. And I was getting so much conflicting information, I didn’t even know where to start. But these rules have given me a foundation. Something I can refer back to when I feel lost or confused. Just having that feels so good. I feel like I have a safety net.
- The focus on hydration. YES! YES! YES! YES! I’ve always been a huge champion of keeping hydrated, and I’m so happy to see a weight-loss book focus on it so much. I think it’s something people toss aside as unimportant, when in reality, I think it’s the most important rule on the list.
- The splurge meal. If you would have asked me how I felt about this rule (#20), a month ago, I would have scoffed and said that it was a ridiculous idea. It promoted bingeing. If you needed to splurge, it meant you were restricting yourself, which wasn’t cool. It just basically went against everything I believed it. But after reading about the rule and putting it into action, I’m realizing that it’s not actually all that different from my general philosophy of eating healthy most of the time—it’s just more structured and planned. The book says it isn’t a meal to eat 3000 calories or a meal to gorge yourself on fast food, but it’s a meal where you can bend (or break) the rules gently to give yourself a little indulgence. I like that. Have pasta for dinner, eat a slice of cake with lunch, go out for your favorite breakfast pancakes, but do it with conscious decision and planning. Bob even says you should estimate the calories, protein, fat and fiber of the meal before you start eating it. Indulgence while still being accountable.
- The results. It’s flat-out working. My weight loss had totally stalled. Actually, in fact, I’d gained weight. And now, I’m down to my lowest weight in at least two years. I don’t really love the idea of doing something just to lose weight, but I also don’t feel like I’m my best at the weight I currently am. Would I do something extreme like take pills or starve myself just to see a smaller number? No. But this program is totally reasonable (as in, I could see myself doing it for life) and I feel amazing. I have tons of energy. And it’s really nice to see the scale going in the right direction.
Alright, now onto the actual system. Here is a rundown of what I’ve changed and what I’m really adhering to:
- Eating more calories. As you could have probably guessed, I’m eating more calories than the 1200 suggested. I’m averaging between 1500-1800 calories a day, which, honestly, is about what I was eating before I ever started following the Skinny Rules. So I’m losing weight, while eating the same amount of calories. Amazing.
- My daily chocolate. I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t eat chocolate. So I don’t. Even though the rules suggest no added sugar, I still have a nice big honkin’ square of dark chocolate with lunch everyday. It keeps me sane.
- No carbs after lunch. I thought this would be crazy hard, but I’m actually having no problems with this rule at all. In fact, I’m thinking it (and the combo of no sugar) is one of the biggest reasons weight is falling off. I always ate a very carb-heavy diet before, but now that carbs aren’t part of my dinner, my daily levels are much more reasonable. Don’t worry, I’m eating plenty of yummy complex carbs. They just come before 1pm.
- Bye-bye sugar. Other than my daily chocolate, I’ve been avoiding added sugars almost completely. I’ve been sweetening my morning oatmeal with bananas or apples and drinking my coffee and tea “straight up”. It was really hard at first, but now that I’m a few weeks in, it’s not too bad at all.
- I’m drinking my calories. I know, I know, this is one of the “big” rules, but I honestly think it was meant more to discourage drinking soft drinks, alcohol and other nutrient-void drinks. So I’m drinking my calories. I’ve been making a lot of smoothies, drinking milk, coconut water and tea. Other than the rare frappucino, I’ve never really had an issue with drinking nutrient-void drinks. So I’m just…pretending this one isn’t in the book.
- We’ve cut out white potatoes—for now. I’m not entirely sure this is a permanent change. I’ve heard about the “evils” of white potatoes, but I just don’t 100% agree. They are a whole, natural vegetable. I think a lot of people abuse the white potato, but I think in moderation, it’s fine. We might be adding these back in soon.
- High protein, high protein, high protein! I’ve always tried to get lots of protein, but now I’m really keeping an eye on the numbers. I’m trying to hit between 100 and 125 grams of protein a day.
Overall, I’m really pleased with the book. I think, if anything, the most important thing they’ve done for me is reset my desire to lose weight. I was so disoriented with weight loss. I had no idea why what I did before wasn’t working anymore. I was so unsettled and confused, but these rules have given me a jump-start. I feel like I can lose weight again. And do it in a natural and healthy way.
Also, having a clear set of rules to fall back onto is so nice. I think they’d be a great option for anyone who is looking to drop some weight or get some clarity on how to get into healthy eating. I do think that anyone who wants to follow them should feel free to adjust anything they are uncomfortable with. They are sold as “non-negotiable” but I think each person is individual and what works for me, or a contestant on the Biggest Loser, won’t necessarily work for you. Just like anything else, read, absorb and then make your own decision. Just because someone is a celebrity trainer doesn’t mean we should believe everything they say.
Have you read The Skinny Rules? If so, have you tried any of them out?