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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Review of The Belly Fat Cure by Jorge Cruise

Summary of the Plan:  There's a one week challenge that you basically continue for your whole life.  The whole plan boils down to limiting sugar to 15g/day, and having six "servings" (5-20g = 1 serving) of preferably complex carbs a day.   You eat 3 meals, 2 snacks and a treat.


Overall Rating:   ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼


The Good:

1. SIMPLE!

2. No phases, just a lifestyle change. For those who can’t envision, say, consuming <50g carbs/day in maintenance (and even less than that for the length of time to lose substantial poundage), this might be the answer to avoid yo-yoing.

3. Relatively unstructured

4. Wide variety -- technically no disallowed foods

5. Sugar and starch are dealt with separately, yet sugars count towards the carb counts too.

6. Fiber is emphasized. I believe this is sometimes forgotten in some low carb plans, but clearly our digestive systems differ radically from those of my carnivore cat. There is ample evidence that our ancestors ate a ton of fiber. A bonus here is that the LC “breads” I enjoy will work nicely in this plan.

7. For those who enjoy a few more carbs, the 6 “servings” should be more than ample, especially if transitioning from a different low carb plan.

8. Uses total carbs. No net carbs = no confusion over whether to count sugar alcohols or compensate for fiber in the mix. This is a MUCH better treatment of sugar alcohols than I’ve seen in any other carb-controlled plan.

9.  For the most part, his assertions are well referenced.


The Bad:

1. The weight loss expectations – even though he adds the disclaimer that they won’t all be true belly fat – seem rather high. I’m not sure I buy into this notion of pounds of “false belly fat” essentially being impacted waste in my colon!! Even his fat losses of 2-3lbs/week seem high w/o some more structured calorie restriction and/or exercise “prescription”.

2. To me the carb “servings” increments (20g) are too broad. Anything <5g carbs is essentially not counted which leads to a serving size loophole. While 5-20g = 1 serving, 21-40g = 2 servings, and 41-60g = 3 servings. The high end of a 3 serving meal can be 10X the carbs of the low end of a 1 serving meal!! And even with that wild range, you are instructed to nit pick … thus 21g carbs = 2 servings while 20g carbs would only be 1 serving. Now presumably this would all even out, but Cruise essentially states to aim for 120g carb/day and stresses the importance of carbs in the diet. Therefore someone eating foods in the low 20’s or low 40’s would conceivably fall quite short on the carbs. I’m not sure why he didn’t do some sort of 5g “serving” and allow 25 of those or even twelve 10g “servings” … would seem to be more consistent to me, and if one is using the pocket counter, just as easy to cross off.

3. It almost seems as if he is encouraging sugar consumption. Sugar has not really been my issue since going LC, and although I eat more fruit now than I did (one piece a day sometimes), I would venture to guess that most LC days I’m getting <5g sugar.   However in the FAQ he backs off this impression of the diet.

4. Like the 6WC, most of the success stories are <25lbs carrying weight primarily in the belly. I can’t help but think most of these were sugar junkies prior to doing his plan. He goes so far as to claim you can’t gain weight on his plan, but clearly you can.

5. Some of his claims are not backed by science.  I’m still not buying the simplistic insulin theory. Yes, insulin’s acute action is to reduce lipolysis and fatty acid oxidation, but it all still comes down to the balance of intake vs. expenditure. Also, he’s inaccurate in stating that protein does not drive insulin up, when that’s simply not true.

6. See my post about this diet and leptin.

7. While it is OK to fall short on the sugar carbs, he specifies in the FAQ to make sure you get 6 “servings” of whole grain carbs/day. Given that many whole grain products are not 100% whole, I’m surprised he doesn’t recommend other starch sources as highly … although I like the rice on his “no excuses menu”.

8. I’m not sure his recommendation of replacing sat fats with PUFA’s is grounded in science – especially of those PUFA’s are in the form of veggie oils.

9. While he has a section on alcohol and mixers with “swap” suggestions, I am surprised that alcohol consumption is not addressed somewhat more directly in the book.

10. While this is a diet book, and there is a rather nice 8 minute ab routine included in the book, along with recommendations to walk, I think any book dealing with visceral fat and discussing insulin resistance should address exercise in more depth. Indeed he falls for his (uggh) mentor’s (Taubes) line about exercise possibly being counterproductive to weight loss b/c it will make you hungry and doesn’t burn enough calories to make a difference. *sigh*


The Ambivalent:

After reading the plan I was left with "that's it?"   Cruise, through all his research, seems to come to the conclusion that all one needs to do is control carbs and then fat and protein consumption makes no big difference.  He does point out in his daily menu that fats come mostly from that in eggs, small amounts in lean meats and going lightly on the added fats.  But discussion of this seems almost an afterthought of the book.  More extreme carb restriction will naturally up protein and reduce caloric intake.  I've also posted on a study where upping protein percentage led to spontaneous caloric restriction.  

After laying out a "nothing is off limits" very flexible plan, one is then treated to pages of menus to choose from  followed by pages of recipes.  Looking through these, it becomes more evident that "passive" caloric restriction is accomplished through a relatively low fat plan.


So … on a personal note…
Overall I kind of like this book for its simplicity and commonsense approach. While I’m not keen on the whole insulin thing, I have gotten used to that by now. Many in the low carb or Paleo world would reflexively dismiss this plan as having too many carbs, but keep in mind that Cruise counts total carbs. His numbers are not all that unlike those of Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint, although Cruise clearly does not share the aversion to grains that the Paleo/Primal advocates have – rather he seems diametrically opposite in advocating them to some degree. Speaking of the grains, however, I find his “nothing is off limits” approach refreshing and it mirrors my general longterm approach of everything in moderation. Humans have been occasionally indulging in various “goodies” (and “baddies”) for hundreds of generations w/o obesity going out of control. So I simply do not think everyone must become a purist and eliminate every “bad” food from their diet for all eternity to be healthy and a healthy weight.

I know it seems like the minuses outnumber the plusses, but that is just because they are more specific. Aside from being its own weight loss plan, I think this plan has potential to replace the Maintenance phase of Atkins or other carb-controlled plans (including my cheatin’ ways). Especially since I’m not a sugar junkie, and this plan is waaaaaaay more carbs than I’m used to on VLC days, this is something I could do 100% of the time (or darned near close!). 

I might give this a try at some point. I have no illusions of massive weight loss, but I have nothing to lose but perhaps some weight. It’s not all that different from what I did with my “semi-Primal” experiment last summer – other than that I was doing IF then. I’ve got this maintenance thing down pat now!! If for some reason I gain weight, I can just ditch the whole idea. I don’t think this is nearly as radical as the 6WC that almost derailed me back in September. I also think this is something I can get my husband on board with … would just require ME doing all the planning.

1 comment:

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