I recently read The Smarter Science of Slim, by Jonathan Bailor, published in 2012. I post this here because the author considers his eating plan to be a Paleolithic-style (Stone Age) diet. Per Amazon.com’s rating system, I give it four stars (“I like it”).
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Mr. Bailor’s weight-management diet avoids grains, most dairy, oils, refined starches, added sugars, starchy veggies, corn, white potatoes. You eat meat, chicken, eggs, some fruit, nuts, seeds, and copious low-starch vegetables. No limit on food if you eat the right items.
It’s high-fiber, high-protein, moderate-fat, moderate-carb (1/3 of calories from carbohydrate, 1/3 from protein, 1/3 from fat). He considers it paleo eating (aka Stone Age) even though he allows moderate legumes and dairy (fat-free or low-fat cottage cheese and plain Greek yogurt). Paleo purists outlaw legumes and milk products.
Will it lead to weight lose? Quite probably in a majority of followers, especially those eating the standard, low-quality American diet. When it works, it’s because you’ve cut out the fattening carbohydrates so ubiquitous in Western societies. The protein and fiber will help with satiety. Is it a safe eating plan? Yes.
For those with diabetes needing to lose weight, I prefer a lower carbohydrate content in the diet, something like Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution or Conquer Diabetes and Prediabetes: The Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet.
I don’t recall any recipes or specific meal plans. You put your own meals together following his guidelines.
Our major points of agreement:
- Exercise isn’t terribly helpful as a weight-loss technique for most folks.
- We’re overweight because we eat too many starches and sweets.
- Natural, minimally processed foods are healthier than man-made highly refined items.
- No need to emphasize “organic” /grass-fed beef/free-range chicken.
- We don’t do enough high-quality exercise.
I have a few problems with the book:
- It says we’re eating less. U.S. caloric consumption over the last several decades has increased by about 150 cals (630 kJ) a day for men and 300 cals (1260 kJ) for women. The author seems to contradict himself at one point by favorably quoting Hilda Bruch’s writing that “…overeating is observed with great regularity” in the obese.
- Scary graphs showing increasing instances of heart disease and diabetes over time aren’t helpful because they ignore population growth. The population-adjusted diabetes rate is indeed increasing whereas heart disease rates are decreasing.
- It says the Calories In/Calories Out theory of overweight has been proven wrong. This is by no means true. It just hasn’t helped us much to reverse the overweight epidemic. Sure, it’s often said that if you just cut a daily tablespoon of butter out of your diet, you’d lose 11 lb (5 kg) in a year, all other things being equal. Problem is, all other things are never equal. In reality, we replace the butter with something else, or we’re slightly less active. So weight doesn’t change or we gain a little.
- It says the “eat less, exercise more” mantra has been proven wrong as a weight loss method. Not really. See above. And watch an episode of TV’s The Biggest Loser. Exercise can burn off fat tissue. The problem is that we tend to overeat within the next 12 hours, replacing the fat we just burned. I agree with the author that “eat less, exercise more” is extremely hard to do, which is the reason it so often fails over the long run. As Mr. Bailor writes elsewhere: “Hard to do” plus “do not want to do” generally equals “it’s not happening.” Mr. Bailor would say the reason it ultimately fails is because of a metabolic clog or dysregulation.
- He says there’s no relationship between energy (calorie) consumption and overweight. Not true. Need references? Google these: PMID 15516193, PMID 17878287, PMID 14762332. The author puts too much faith in self-reports of food intake, which are notoriously inaccurate. And obese folks under-report consumption more than others (this is not to say they’re lying).
- Mr. Bailor’s assessments too often rely on rat and mice studies.
- By page 59, I had found five text sentences that didn’t match up well with the numeric bibiographic references (e.g., pages 48, 50, 59).
- S. Boyd Eaton is thrice referred to as S. Boyd.
- How did he miss the research on high intensity interval training by Tabata and colleagues in 1996. Gibala is mentioned often but he wasn’t the pioneer.
- Several diagrams throughout the book didn’t print well (not the author’s fault, of course).
- In several spots, the author implies that HIS specific eating and exercise program has been tested in research settings. It hasn’t.
Mr. Bailor’s exercise prescription is the most exciting part of the book for me. His review of the literature indicates you can gain the weight-management and health benefits of exercise with just 10 or 20 minutes a week. NOT the hour a day recommended by so many public heath authorities. And he tells you how to do the exercises without a gym membership or expensive equipment. That 20 minutes is exhausting and not fun. You have fun in all the hours you saved. If this pans out, we’re on the cusp of a fitness revolution. Gym owners won’t be happy. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?
One component of the exercise program is high intensity interval training (HIIT), which I’m convinced is better than hours per week of low-intensity “cardio” like jogging. Better in terms of both fitness and weight management.
The resistance training part of the program focuses on low repetitions with high resistance, especially eccentric slow muscle contraction. This is probably similar to programs recommended by Doug McGuff. John Little, Chris Highcock, and Skyler Tanner. I’m no authority on this but I’m trying to learn. By this point in the book, I was tired of looking up his cited references (76 pages!). I just don’t know if this resistance training style is the way to go or not. I’ll probably have to just try it on myself. What do you think?
I admire Mr. Bailor’s effort to digest and condense decades of nutrition and exercise research. He succeeds to a large degree.
Steve Parker, M.D.