What if everything you knew about eating a healthy diet was wrong? For most of my life it has been, or more accurately, my own thinking of what was right and wrong has changed dramatically over the last 20 years.
Our own versions of what is right and wrong comes from what we were taught, what we read and researched ourselves, and of course, our own experiences. Take any point of view in the diet and exercise world and you can find emphatic believers on each side.
I remember back when I was a teenager, I used to eat fat free cookies and I thought they were a diet food. Now I believe I was wrong.
I remember thinking that a low carb diet was the way to lose fat. Now I believe I was wrong.
For a short time, I stopped eating bananas because I read that it could help me lose weight. Now I believe I was wrong.
I once temporarily cut out dairy from my diet because I read it caused bloating. Now I believe I was wrong.
I once cut out grains and starchy carbs. Now I believe I was wrong.
I used to go to Subway and order a deli meat sandwich and baked chips and I considered it a healthy meal. Now I believe I was wrong.
I used to think that Diet Coke was a healthy alternative to regular soda. Now I believe I was wrong.
Oh boy, looks like I've been wrong A LOT.
Now I think a well-balanced, low sugar, low salt, low saturated fat diet full of mostly whole, natural foods is the most healthy diet to follow. I drink lots of water and eliminated sodas from my diet completely. I am right, right? RIGHT?
Not if you ask Matt Stone, the author of Eat for Heat: The Metabolic Approach to Food & Drink. This might just be the most bizarre health book I have ever read. Matt turns everything we think we know about health and our metabolism on its head. Do I agree with everything he says? No, but is it because he is wrong, or is it because I am stuck in my own box of what is right and wrong? I was determined to read this with an open mind.
Several times in the book, I literally laughed out loud. Not because of Matt’s humor, but he is a funny guy, which by the way, makes reading a health book a little more enjoyable. I laughed out loud at how absurd some of his suggestions sounded to me. He suggests at one point that for some people with a low metabolism, that drinking a soda could be a better choice than water. These are wild concepts for me, especially coming from a health book. I kept reading, I was going to hear this guy out.
It started out benign enough. Matt suggests, through his own, hilariously described, research on the subject, that we “healthy people” are drinking entirely too much water, that by drinking even the widely accepted standard of eight glasses of water a day, we are actually diluting the extracellular fluid in our bodies causing a lot of undesirable side effects, like fatigue, weakness, dizziness, nausea, irritability, and a weakened metabolic state.
He says a lot can be determined by the color of our urine and that clear urine, like we have always been told, is not the desired color. He says clear urine is a clear sign that you are over hydrated. Matt says we should only drink when we are actually thirsty. I am known, or more accurately, laughed at around the office for always drinking plain hot water. I am cold all the time. I drink hot water to stay warm. I fill up my cup and go to the bathroom about once every 45 minutes. I think I am doing the right thing by drinking all this water. Matt thinks I am wrong. Matt thinks I drink too much water and for the wrong reasons (to keep warm, rather than thirst). Matt says if I make some changes to raise my metabolic rate, like drink less water and consume more salt, I won’t need hot water to keep me warm. Matt thinks I go to the bathroom too much. So far, I'm intrigued.
He writes that the person trying to follow a healthy diet usually does not get enough salt, that reducing your sodium intake is a mistake, that we need to be adding salt to our foods for the warming effect. With these first few suggestions, I am on board with doing some experimenting of my own. I am thinking about reducing my fluids and adding more salt back in my diet just to see if I notice any difference. It hasn’t gone off the deep end for me yet. I am still following along.
Then he said to mix sugar and salt together for snack or to take the mixture at night when you can’t sleep. Weird to me, but still reading. I'd never think that eating pure sugar as a regular snack could be beneficial to my overall health or metabolic rate.
He goes on to explain warming foods and cooling foods. Warming foods, such as sugar, salt, starch and saturated fat, are those that raise your core temperature. He suggests eating these when you feel at a low, cold state, a sign that your metabolism is low. My head was spinning when I read some of his variations of a suggested menu. He does say the meal plans are merely examples of possible menus. He strongly encourages the reader not to follow these plans verbatim, that they are merely examples to help us understand the general concept.
Pancakes, added sugar, cheeseburgers, milk shakes, cheese, and crackers. Wait, is this is a health book?
At this point, I actually thought, Is this a joke? I imagined that the last line in the book would be, “Ha Ha, Just kidding, I just wrote this book to show you that you can’t believe everything you read.” I was so dumbfounded by the suggestions in this health book that I stopped reading mid-way to search online for other reviews. Was I the only one who was completely thrown for a loop by what this guy was saying?
Apparently, so far, yes.
In all fairness, this isn’t a weight loss book. It is a book about raising your metabolism and decreasing the symptoms of a low one. I think the general idea is to eat to support metabolic health, not to lose weight, and that your body and weight will adjust naturally. I think he is saying that food restrictions and diets hurt much more than they help. With this, I agree whole-heartily. It is nothing new that eating more calories raises your metabolic rate, and starving yourself lowers it. In theory it makes sense to eat more calorie dense foods in order to raise your metabolism.
While I don’t think I will be replacing my chicken salads with pizza on a regular basis for the health benefits, (I’ll still eat pizza because it is yummy), I think he has some interesting ideas and I will definitely be doing a little experimenting with my fluids, salt, and yes (gasp), even sugar. I am liking my new excuse to eat chocolate covered pretzels.
Maybe this guy is a lunatic or maybe he is dead right. Maybe sometimes you have to be willing to unlearn what you think you already know in order to grow.
I think the most important thing when reading any information on health and fitness (or any subject, for that matter) is to keep an open mind, soak up the knowledge and experiences that people are willing to share, to learn to think critically about the information being provided, to be able to take the good from it and strip away the bad. Who knows, maybe in time Matt Stone will have me convinced that eating potato chips for a daily snack is good for my overall health. I am not quite there yet. It doesn't mean I can't appreciate the concepts of his book and do some experimenting on my own.
Eat for Heat digital download is available on Amazon for .99 cents right now . This link is not an affiliate link, and I gain nothing from you clicking on it. I am simply sharing in case you were interested in the download.
Have you read the book? What do you think?
On a side note, one of my New Year's resolutions is to read at least one new book a month. Expect more book review posts like this one in 2013. How about a Running for Dummies book club? Do you have any recommendations of great running, health, or fitness related books?