Commentary on medical news by a practicing physician.

  • Epocrates MedSearch Drug Lookup


    "When many cures are offered for a disease, it means the disease is not curable" -Anton Chekhov

    ''Once you tell people there's a cure for something, the more likely they are to pressure doctors to prescribe it.''
    -Robert Ehrlich, drug advertising executive.

    "Opinions are like sphincters, everyone has one." - Chris Rangel

    email: medpundit-at-ameritech.net

    or if that doesn't work try:


    Medpundit RSS

    Quirky Museums and Fun Stuff

    Who is medpundit?

    Tech Central Station Columns

    Book Reviews:
    Read the Review

    Read the Review

    Read the Review

    More Reviews

    Second Hand Book Reviews


    Medical Blogs


    DB's Medical Rants

    Family Medicine Notes

    Grunt Doc




    Code Blog: Tales of a Nurse

    Feet First

    Tales of Hoffman

    The Eyes Have It


    SOAP Notes


    Cut-to -Cure

    Black Triangle



    Kevin, M.D

    The Lingual Nerve

    Galen's Log



    Doctor Mental



    Finestkind Clinic and Fish Market

    The Examining Room of Dr. Charles

    Chronicles of a Medical Mad House



    Health Facts and Fears

    Health Policy Blogs

    The Health Care Blog

    HealthLawProf Blog

    Facts & Fears

    Personal Favorites

    The Glittering Eye

    Day by Day


    The Business Word Inc.

    Point of Law

    In the Pipeline


    Tim Blair

    Jane Galt

    The Truth Laid Bear

    Jim Miller

    No Watermelons Allowed

    Winds of Change

    Science Blog

    A Chequer-Board of Night and Days

    Arts & Letters Daily

    Tech Central Station





    The Skeptic's Dictionary

    Recommended Reading

    The Doctor Stories by William Carlos Williams

    Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82 by Elizabeth Fenn

    Intoxicated by My Illness by Anatole Broyard

    Raising the Dead by Richard Selzer

    Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy

    The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

    The Sea and Poison by Shusaku Endo

    A Midwife's Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich



    American Academy of Pediatrics

    General Health Info

    Travel Advice from the CDC

    NIH Medical Library Info



    Tuesday, July 20, 2004

    Book Review: Who doesn't want a flat, wash board stomach? A "six-pack" as they say. It's a hallmark of youth. Something we enjoy before time and gravity work their mischief on our bodies. No one's immune. The little pot belly is as much a hallmark of age as gray hair and wrinkles. But David Zinczenko, editor-in-chief of Men'sHealth magazine has a solution - the Abs Diet: The Six-Week Plan to Flatten Your Stomach and Keep you Lean for Life. Or maybe it's the solution of his co-writer, Ted Spiker, it's hard to tell. They both get credit for writing it, but there are a lot of personal singular pronouns sprinkled throughout the book. At any rate, the solution is this: Fat is a slug. Muscle is a furnace. Increase your muscle mass and you'll burn more calories, thus losing weight and keeping it off - especially in that fat-hording belly area.

    The writing is engaging and often witty (Zinczenko? Spiker?). Sentences such as "Commercial bread baking has followed the same path as Michael Jackson - the whiter it gets, the less wholesome it becomes" and "Like the mother-in-law who tries to tell you how to raise your kids, fructose screws up a system that was working perfectly fine without it." sprinkle the prose, making what has the potential to be a very dull subject almost interesting. Although no references are listed, many are mentioned to bolster the authors' nutritional claims, making it, unfortunately, impossible to check up on them.

    The basics of the diet are sound: eating frequent, small meals each day rather than three large meals (the better to keep the munchies at bay), avoiding the empty calories of alcohol, and allowing yourself one diet-free day each week. The rest of the diet is on shakier ground - relegating foods to "power" groups, each of which is supposed to give you certain health benefits - building muscles, promoting weight loss, strengthening bone, fighting cancer, etc. While certain foods certainly enjoy the reputation of doing these things, their influence is small. No one should count on any one type of food to save them from pathology. The other centerpiece of the diet is the ingestion of something called "smoothies," a blended drink of yogurt, peanut butter, whey, and whatever else you can think of to give it some sort of flavor (berries, bananas, etc.) The authors say they're delicious. I'll take their word for it. Do they work? They probably do provide a certain sense of fullness that helps the dieter stick with their regimen - kind of like a homemade Slimfast.

    But, of course, if a true six-pack abdomen is what you're looking for, diet alone won't do it. You need to exercise those muscles to make them firm and strong, and the Abs Diet has no shortage of exercises for strengthening and tightening those abdominal muscles. In fact, exercise is as key to the program as diet. And rightly so. The program calls for some sort of exercise daily, which is a sensible approach to losing weight and keeping it off.

    Will the diet give you a six pack in six weeks, as one of its opening chapters claims? Will it increase your "staying power"? Maybe. But it's highly doubtful that the regimen, or any regimen, will turn this into this. Time's touch is not a gentle one, nor one so easily reversed.

    UPDATE: I forgot to mention that this was cross-posted at Blog Critics, where this interesting comment was also posted:

    That's one thing almost all these diet books have in common: they each have a strong undercurrent of fear. That may seem like an odd thing to say, but it's there -- perhaps even in just the odd line, but that's a dead giveaway (pun intended). This is a fear of aging, and of death, and I find it totally inexplicable. It's almost a clinic morbidity, a phobic state, and it makes people pathological devotees of one diet after another.

    There's an exhausting sameness to these books and I'm starting to wonder about the audience. Does anyone go out and read them one after another, trying them all? Who are the Linda's and the Rosalyn's and the Marsha's who invariably fill the interstices with their "personal" experiences? I suspect they're probably entirely imaginary.

    What none of these books tell you is the most obvious: cut out the junk food, exercise *regularly* (and that doesn't mean violent games of squash once a week) and just make sure your diet is something you can live with. None of these fad diets can give you that -- it's impossible to live forever on high-protein-high-fat-no-carb or vice-versa.

    The historical evidence also doesn't support this kind of skewed eating. The point is to achieve permanent weight loss *if you have a clinical obesity condition*. Otherwise it may not be necessary, medically speaking. It's just that our society is now quickly turning body fat into a taboo, somewhere below incest and patricide. Our self-image is increasingly determined by our perception of others' perceptions of us rather than logic.

    Most diet and health books also don't allow for human frailty. Everyone is bound to fall off the wagon once in a while. I mean, for how long can you resist that burger, fries and coke meal? I like Zinczenko's advice to allow yourself one off-day every week. Agatston (the South Beach diet, so far the most sensible of the lot) says something similar. That is probably the one thing you can grow old with -- gracefully.

    You know, I've always wondered about those testimonials in diet books, too.

    posted by Sydney on 7/20/2004 11:24:00 AM 0 comments


    Post a Comment

    This page is powered by Blogger, the easy way to update your web site.

    Main Page


    Home   |   Archives

    Copyright 2006