The full name of this book is MASSIVE. It is - Wake Up! You're Probably Never Going to Look Like That; How to be Happier, Healthier and Imperfectly Fit. Talk about a mouthful! How does author Michelle Pearl's content hold up?
Let's start with the good parts of the book. Pearl is not writing a diet book nor a how-to-exercise book. Rather, she's tackling a number of common issues people have with becoming healthy, and discussing them. The one she tackles first has been covered in many books and TV shows, but is well worth bringing up again. And that is: the metabolism of a person who has become chronically overweight is simply permanently different than a person who has never gained that weight. It's a testable biologic fact. Their metabolism is now changed. In essence the overweight person's body now has a new "set point". Their body thinks they are SUPPOSED to be the 300 pounds. If they somehow get down to 200 pounds, by whatever means, their body will think they're quite sick and try to get back to 300 pounds. Compare this with someone who is normally 200 pounds and who artificially eats enough to reach 300 pounds. Their body and metabolism will naturally work to get them back to 200 pounds.
I cover this phenomenon thoroughly in various places on my site, so I won't go further into it here, but suffice to say that this is a testable truth and is important to understand for anybody involved in weight loss.
Pearl covers how a substantial part of a body's size is genetic. Studies have been done with adopted children. If size was due to how we are fed as kids, you'd think the kids would grow up similar to their adopted parents. Instead, the kids ended up looking like their biological parents in substantial number of cases. Their body simply had a shape it was meant to be.
Pearl deserves great kudos for being open and honest. She was once 300 pounds and tried many times to get back down to 150. She admits it's not easy. She talks openly about her personal struggles, with an alcoholic husband, alcoholic brother, and kids who became drug addicted. I have a lot of respect for what she had to go through. Her openness helps others feel they can also overcome hurdles.
Pearl herself, as well as many people she tells the stories of, find success on low carb diets. They avoid potatoes, rice, and pasta, and aim for a salad a day. These are all menu styles I can agree with.
So there's a lot here I can be happy with. Unfortunately, there is a larger number on the "unhappy with" side, for me.
Pearl launches the book immediately into scolding trainer Jillian Michaels because of her "belittling" behavior. Whether I agree or disagree with Pearl on this, I respect her opinion. That is, until Pearl spends the rest of the book belittling other people. The book is snarky, hostile, and belittles a series of celebrities and people in many cases for no reason at all. She's negative towards vegetarians, not only making it clear that she doesn't like that diet herself but also pulling out - in large letters - a featured person's quote about "For the record, it sucks being fat, but it really sucks being a fat vegetarian!" Again, why do this? Why delight in picking on other people?
She tosses out a number of gross generalizations which then make me reduce my faith in other information. She states baldly that NOBODY wants to be a weight larger than what current doctors feel is a "healthy" BMI. This is not true at all. There are many people in many cultures who feel a larger body shape is quite appealing and to be desired. I know many men and women who are pleased with and feel wonderful with large curves.
A section about scales dismisses them because "The scale can't tell the difference between a pound of fat and that pound of muscle that I just gained from working out." This is simply not true. Absolutely a scale CAN tell the difference - I've owned a series of scales which have done this for ten years. This type of scale, to me, is critical in healthy weight loss.
Pearl has an entire break-out section on "I do anything and everything to keep fat grams out of my body." This is definitely a section that needs to be rewritten. Fat is a giant category of energy, along with the other things a human body can metabolize - proteins, carbohydrates, and alcohols. One would never say "I would keep all protein out of my body" - they would die! Instead they make sure they eat HEALTHY proteins, based on whatever meal system they eat. In the same way, someone who ate no fats would die! Yes absolutely you should reduce UNHEALTHY fats such as trans-fatty-acids. At the same time you should actively seek out omega-3s and omega-6s and other healthy fats in proper proportions and volumes. To just blindly eliminate all fats from a diet could lead to serious nutritional issues.
She talks about choosing exercises and that if you find yourself dreading an exercise that you should give up immediately and go find something else. I disagree wholeheartedly. Some fear can be natural! I feel you should give it a fair try anyway. Yes, I might dread that first yoga class because I'm sure I'll make a fool of myself, Then I get through it, realize I adore yoga, and I have a life-long passion. To give up just because of a feeling of dread would make us lose out on so much in life.
Pearl says in some sections that she wants to resist media messages about what we should "look like". Then she makes quotes such as "I don't exercise because I want to look skinny. I exercise because I know what I will look like if I don't." She even emphasized the second line. How about exercising because it helps you to be healthy, no matter what you look like? That it helps the lymphatic system work properly? She manages to work in praise for her body in, how a guy from high school saw her present shape and thought she "looks so hot". The whole emphasis on hot bodies, sexy bodies, media-enforced-ideas of body shapes, goes against what I feel we should be focusing on. If she had praised how great her doctor thought she was doing, how her various numbers were all in healthy ranges now, I would have been thrilled. Instead her focus is all on how her body looks to others and how men react to her body.
So while there were some good aspects to this book, those good aspects are covered in many other books. They are not unique to this book. The many questionable sections of the book were too troubling to ignore or gloss over, and I worry that people might read those and think they were accurate. There are many other aspects about calorie burn and exercise that I didn't even mention, because this review is already long enough.
So to summarize - some good information. But I'd get one of the many other awesome, accurate books on the topic rather than having to try to figure out what to pick-and-choose as being accurate in this book.
I was sent a review copy of this book.
Buy Wake Up! from Amazon.com