January is slipping away.
And for many of us, so too are those New Year’s resolutions to lose the extra pounds that lurk around our middles.
Just as calorie-cutting resolve falters — the constant presence of cookies and comfort food doesn’t help — publishers have unleashed a new selection of diet books to inspire wintertime weight loss goals.
Books getting the most buzz promise speedy slimming, of course.
But should you replace breakfast with butter-spiked coffee? Cut all sugars — even most fruits — from your diet? Or stick to a 1,000-calorie-a-day regime to lose 10 pounds in 10 days?
The Diet Decoder returns to decipher some of the top diet books of 2015.
Today we look at the Bulletproof Diet. On Friday, we scrutinize JJ Virgin’s Sugar Impact Diet, which guarantees a 10-pound weight loss in two (easy!) weeks. On Saturday, we review The Burn: Drop 3 in 3, 5 in 5, or 10 in 10.
Each claims to have cracked the fat-melting code.
None leave room for soul-soothing winter treats.
All, no matter what they pledge, will require a lot of determination.
DIET:The Bulletproof Diet: Lose up to a pound a day, reclaim energy and focus, upgrade your life (Collins; $22.99)
CREATOR: Dave Asprey
CREDENTIALS: He is an investor, entrepreneur, professional biohacker and chairman of the Silicon Valley Health Institute, a non-profit health education organization.
According to Asprey, who splits his time between Victoria, B.C., and Seattle, WA, biohacking is: “the art of using technology to change the environment both inside and outside of your body to take control and make it do what you want.”
CELEBRITY EDGE: Some will bestow Asprey with star status just for inventing Bulletproof Coffee.
The rich and famous who have endorsed his Bulletproof lifestyle include actor/producer Jeremy Piven, Stephan Jenkins of the band Third Eye Blind, and actress Shailene Woodley, who gushed about the benefits of Bulletproof Coffee on The Tonight ShowStarring Jimmy Fallon.
CLAIM: The Bulletproof Diet, which recommends that 50 to 70 per cent of your calories come from fat, promises many things. Followers can expect up to a pound-a-day weight loss, increased energy and mental focus, the ability to build lean muscle while exercising less, a shorter but better quality night’s sleep and even a boost in fertility. In Asprey’s own words, you will “ … finally have the power to be your most awesome, powerful self.”
PROGRAM: This is a high-fat, high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that promotes, among other things, whole foods, grass-fed butter, vitamin supplements and intermittent fasting.
The diet’s key component is Bulletproof Coffee — a 450-calorie drink made by whirling two cups of hot coffee, up to two tablespoons of grass-fed, unsalted butter and up to two tablespoons of MCT oil (a coconut oil extract) in a blender. This high-fat coffee is meant to replace breakfast and Asprey recommends followers buy Bulletproof coffee beans ($18.95 for 12 ounces) and MCT oil ($23.50 for 16 ounces) from his company’s website.
Asprey provides two weeks’ worth of high-fat lunch and dinner recipes, including smoked salmon butter bites and ground beef wrapped in bacon. There are no recommended portion sizes; Asprey says to eat until you are full.
SIDE NOTES: There are many; the book is full of tangents. Some examples: 1) Eat lunch and dinner within a six-hour window for a boost in energy and brainpower. That means if you eat dinner at 7 p.m., you can’t eat lunch until 1 p.m. the following day. 2) Asprey contradicts most nutrition experts and asserts white rice is better for you than brown rice because it is easier to digest and has fewer antinutrients. (3) If you tolerate dairy products, seek out organic, grass-fed, full-fat, unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk; contrary to public health experts, Asprey says raw milk is safe to eat and better for you than pasteurized dairy.
ALLOWED (Two-week protocol): Bulletproof Coffee, grass-fed, pastured meats, wild-caught seafood, pastured eggs, butter from grass-fed cows, ghee, coconut, avocados, most non-starchy vegetables, pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato and some kinds of squash, white rice, berries, and hardwood xylitol (a sweetener produced from a sugar alcohol found in plants).
PROHIBITED (Two-week protocol): Almost everything else.
EXPERT OPINION: Registered dietitian Lynn Weaver was curious about the Bulletproof Diet. The 300-page attention-grabbing book has received a ton of media exposure and Asprey’s personal journey — he travelled the world in search of weight loss secrets; he says he lost 100 pounds after finding the Bulletproof plan — is compelling.
But Weaver sums up her take on the diet in one word: “Bizarre.”
In her opinion, the premise and the plan are convoluted and hard to follow, while the recipes — particularly a lunch of salmon-wrapped butter bites — are weird.
“I don’t know what the appeal is,” she says. “I think it’s easy to drink your calories for breakfast, that it’s simple to grab a 450-calorie coffee in the morning rather than prepare food.
“But I can’t see someone not being starving by lunch. If you read online reviews, everyone says they are hungry on this plan.”
The worry, she adds, is that a high-fat breakfast drink, with no fibre and little protein to fill your belly, will set you up to overeat at lunch.
In its simplest form, the Bulletproof Diet is a high-fat, very low-carbohydrate diet that takes the paleo style of eating — emulating the way our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors would have dined — to the extreme.
Asprey pushes a diet high in fats and saturated fats, recommending that up to 70 per cent of your daily calories derive from high-fat foods, such as butter, full-fat dairy and meat.
While recent research questions the link between saturated fat and heart disease, Weaver says the scientific consensus has not changed; 10 per cent of your calories should come from saturated fat.
Asprey peppers his lengthy book with references to research that appear to back up his claims. But Weaver says many of the studies he refers to are small, some involving just a handful of people, and are not generally part of the scientific literature used by medical and nutritional professionals.
For example, she says, Asprey’s assertion that white rice is nutritionally better than brown is based on a study of six people.
“I do like that he took his health into his own hands,” she says of Asprey’s personal journey. “But one person’s experience is not another’s, one person’s experience is not a one-size-fits-all program.”
Weaver says many of her clients would have a hard time following the unstructured plan, particularly those who like to dine out and are rushed for time.
And she says that most health professionals recommend people get essential nutrients from healthy foods, rather than, as Asprey recommends, from vitamin and mineral tablets.
Weaver is also concerned by the book’s first-person testimonials that claim the Bulletproof Diet can cure diseases, such as asthma and multiple sclerosis. The claims, not backed up by rigorous research, offer people false hope and can do more harm than good.
EXPERT VERDICT: “I can’t imagine anyone being able to follow this diet, particularly if they didn’t like coffee. There’s nothing easy about it, much of it doesn’t make sense and it gives unrealistic expectations, such as curing disease.”