Akin to the previous article, which suggested some must-have books to begin resistance training, this one discusses some valuable books on nutrition. Reading these will provide you with an insight into the root causes of obesity, i.e. food and habits which are likely to promote it), while simultaneously offering some effective tools to deal with it.
As discussed earlier, it is easy to design a diet and lose some weight in the initial few months. The trouble is in maintaining progress. Multiple well-designed and meticulously conducted studies have demonstrated that weight loss tends to plateau even in the most committed individuals over 6-12 months, and is inexorably followed by weight regain over the course of the year after. Hence, two years after an enthusiastic beginning, most people (>90% in several studies) are back where they started from. A depressing scenario, indeed!
Those who have been following this series from the beginning know that it’s possible to lose weight and keep it off too, provided some rules are followed. While one can learn a lot about the impact of different food items and nutrients on weight just by revising the Ship Shape articles on nutrition, some of you may want to delve deeper for a fuller understanding of this rather complex subject.
Please bear in mind that a lot of the information in the earlier articles is from scientific medical journals and text-books, which are a little too complex to be followed by the lay man. I shall thus be presenting a list of books that can be read by anyone, not just doctors or science students.
The Root Causes of Obesity and Lifestyle Diseases
1. Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, by Gary Taubes
This is one of the landmark books that examine the history and causes of weight gain in the last 50 years. With data from scientific studies in populations that have stayed away from civilisation, as well as rat studies, it presents at length the insulin model (simply put, the carbohydrate model) of obesity, with compelling data on why calories don't matter, that is, fat is not burnt by the body unless insulin levels in the blood are low. He also recommends a regular intake of all kind of meats, while avoiding refined carbs completely (including wheat and wheat products) – two major diet controversies today.
2. Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health, by William Davis, MD
This one is by a cardiologist, who also believes that modern wheat is to be avoided in order to be healthy and fit. The data on two pieces of whole wheat bread raising the blood sugar more than two tablespoons of pure sugar comes from this text. With the recent wave of going gluten free, especially among athletes and sportspersons, a look at this very informative book is warranted.
3. The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss, by Jason Fung, MD
Dr Fung is a nephrologist with special interest in diabetes and obesity, and also supports the insulin model, i.e., the carb-based model of obesity. He also presents the history behind the data leading to guidelines restricting fat intake, and their loopholes. While the book has been criticised for quoting blogs in addition to medical journals, he was one of the early researchers to implicate refined carbs more than fats in obesity. Finally, he suggests a diet pattern that enables us to avoid getting fat, or lose weight if we need to.
4. Eat Fat Get Thin, by Mark Hyman, MD
Another book presenting the background of the demonisation of fats by studies conducted in the 1940s-60s, and their formal restriction to prevent obesity and heart disease in subsequent dietary guidelines. It discusses the impact of fats on metabolism, explaining at length why fats do not cause obesity.
5. The Case Against Sugar, by Gary Taubes
A thorough discussion on how sugar and refined carbs have helped usher in obesity and lifestyle disease. While it has been criticised by authorities as being biased, the amount of data on sugar that was relatively ignored in the 80s and 90s is shocking. There is no doubt that these items should be minimised in our diet, as this book will undoubtedly convince you.
What and How Should One Eat?
A book that discusses the nitty-gritty of diet, it talks about all individual food groups (e.g., meats, eggs, dairy, fruits and vegetables, etc.), and provides guidance on what items can be consumed ad lib, what are to be limited and what is to be avoided. He suggests his version of an ideal diet-the “Pegan diet”, a synthesis of the Paleo and Vegan diets (discussed earlier), designed to keep one near ideal body weight and full of energy. Perhaps one of the most useful texts if one wishes to plan one’s own diet.
The two books discussed above (3 and 4) also give useful information about what to eat and when to.
Small, Frequent Meals or Intermittent Fasting?
7. Intermittent Feast, by Nate Miyaki
A to-the-point discussion on the benefits of eating a more natural diet (akin to Paleo) while minimising refined foods (carbs or fats) with natural proteins and fats. Carbs can be increased by people who exercise heavy regularly, while fats need to be emphasised by sedentary individuals, who gain weight rapidly if they eat excess carbs. Overall, the recommendation is to avoid refined foods and keep the meal frequency low (he strongly recommends a satisfying dinner, and light snacks during the day).
8. The Warrior Diet: How to Take Advantage of Undereating and Overeating, by Ori Hofmekler
An Israeli ex-Army officer, he has evolved his own techniques for Maximum Muscle, Minimum Fat by using The Anti-Estrogenic Diet and finally, The Warrior Diet (incidentally, all 3 are titles of books he has written on nutrition and fitness). He also reiterates the remarkable benefits of intermittent fasting-feasting as in the above book, especially for people who are physically active.
This is a book for bodybuilders, or those who perform heavy exercise regularly. Rather than using steroids or other supplements of doubtful value, Dr Willey outlines how one can achieve similar results with healthy food combined with exercise. He gives detailed plans regarding calorie intake and adjusting meals according to exercise plans and goals.
For Those Who Want Quick Fat Loss
10. New Atkins for a New You: The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight and Feeling Great, by Westman, Phinney and Volek
The original Keto diet – the Atkins’ diet is discussed here. Replete with details of the Induction and Maintenance phases, full of practical meal recipes and plans, this is a must-have for those planning a short phase of the Keto diet. While there are concerns about its health implications for long-term use, there is no doubt about keto diet's fat-loss efficacy.
Among these books, the most useful books to understand the cause of obesity are Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It and The Obesity Code. The most helpful one for designing a healthy and balanced diet is Food: WTF Should We Eat? Better than Steroids is more useful for athletes, sportspersons and bodybuilders. Wheat Belly is an essential read if one wishes to go gluten-free, or is gluten sensitive.
That’s it then-the complete low-down on the sources for the secrets of nutrition, fat loss and muscle gain.
You can buy the book by clicking on its title in the article. You would be re-directed to Amazon where you can place your order. Happy reading :)
This is a recurring column published every Sunday under the title: What is Nutrition.
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