Sometimes big ideas come from small places. From, say, a tweet.
That's how this book came about.
I was on my way back from a taping of The Biggest Loser when I got a phone call. It was from Ben, the husband of Olivia, who won Season 11.
"I'm following you," he told me. Pretty sure he didn't mean he was stalking me, I still had to ask what on earth he was talking about.
"I'm following what you eat -- your meals you post on Twitter."
Ben, like Olivia about 100 pounds overweight, went on to explain: "It's kind of my way to stay connected to Olivia... It's like being there with her." If you're not familiar with the concept of the show, let me explain a little: While taping the show -- which is a contest to see who can lose the most weight-- contestants are separated from their families and all their normal routines, so as to break all ties with their normal eating cues. Ben had been separated from his wife for weeks by this point, and following my tweets about what we were eating made him feel a little closer.
Some weeks later, at the season finale, Ben was on hand to watch and cheer for his wife, and he was noticeably thinner. He had lost about 100 pounds! We were so impressed that we put him on the show, both to share in his wife's victory and to show off his own achievement. Later, he told us all how he did it, and why it worked.
I just followed Bob. I watched his tweets. I listened to what he said he ate. I figured, how can I go wrong? This is what the expert is eating! And that decluttered everything. It made it incredibly clear to me what mattered and what mattered with my diet. It ... kind of gave me a set of rules.
Bang! A set of rules.
Anyone who's ever dieted knows exactly what Ben meant. Today, like never before, we are bombarded from every direction with health advice -- about diet, nutrition, weight loss, exercise, organic or nonorganic, free range or corn-fed. Now add in the daily science and medical news, a lot of which sounds either stunningly obvious (not being obese = good) or ridiculously counter to what we thought was correct (fruit juice = not so good), and you've got a jumbo case of Clutter Brain.
Clutter Brain is what happens when you hear so much information about a subject that you can't make solid, reasonable decisions -- in this case, about what you should eat. It's incredibly paralyzing, and just about every dieter knows what often comes with Clutter Brain: anxiety. And you know what that means: exhaustion, depression, and then bingeing. What else -- at least in my experience -- relieves stress and anxiety better than, say, pie? A whole pie. Right? Which obviously counteracts the benefits of the advice you were trying to follow in the first place.
So, what if we eliminated the clutter? I began to think. What if I could come up with a list of simple, nonnegotiable rules that the average Jane or Joe can follow in daily life -- rules you can always fall back on in a pinch, rules you can use not just when you are trying to lose weight, but for when you are trying to stay slender.
I'm certainly not the first guy to say this, but in our modern, information-glutted world, rules matter more than ever. Why? Because our external environment no longer seems to have any firm boundaries, any limits, or any positive cues about when to stop consuming anything. I mean, there is a reason that people get fat -- it's easy and cheap to get high-calorie, tasty food. If you look at statistics, more Americans than ever are eating out (and eating enormous portions), eating bad fast food, drinking huge amounts of high-calorie sodas and "energy" waters, and microwaving endless plastic platters of "convenience" food. All of which, while easy, will also make you fat -- fast.
But if you want to be right-sized in body, you've got to get rid of the supersize way of life. Whether you want to lose 20 pounds or 200, what the contestants on The Biggest Loser have learned -- and taught me -- holds true: You've got to make a break. You've got to divorce yourself from the past and find a different way of living.
And you can never go back.
Once you accept that, and realize there is no finish line, then you've got a better chance of succeeding. Just like Ben, who not only dropped 100 pounds but, so far, has kept it off.
But wow, Bob, you say, all I want to do is drop 20 pounds!
No, I don't think so. C'mon. If "all" you want to do is drop 20 pounds, you'd surely have succeeded by now, given the glut of diet books out there, many of which are pretty good. No. If you are sitting here reading a diet book by one of the trainers on The Biggest Loser, I think you... kinda... want... something... a little... more... than... "just" dropping some weight.
You want to keep the weight off.
You want a way that makes sense in your real-world daily life.
Something convenient and healthy.
Something you can always fall back on.
Something permanent, nonnegotiable, and simple.
That's what I want to do with this book. Think of it as a rule book for your life as a healthy-weight person, a person who can enjoy delicious food in the right portions and be satisfied. Someone who can not only resist all the jumbo colas and supersized fries that get waved in front of our noses, but not even feel tempted by them!
Actually, this isn't only a rule book. Part I of the book is "The Skinny Rules" -- the 20 principles you need to read, understand, and really try to live by. But then I've also created Part II, "The Skinny Way" -- a day- by- day menu plan that will get you through the first 30 days of living by the rules. And Part III, "The Skinny Tools," houses the recipes and tips that you'll be called on to look at, cook, and consume! My intention is to take the guesswork out of losing weight for you. After the first 30 days on the program, you will have lost weight and you'll be more confident in eating and living according to my rules. By then you're likely not going to need all of the handholding I provide in this book. You will be on your way to a skinny life!
Don't get me wrong, it won't always be easy. "Easy" does not work. But it will be liberating. Remember what helped Ben: rules and clear instructions freed him from all the brain clutter. These principles let him make rational eating choices without being anxious.
That said, I'll have you know that I do have a heart. I get it that these rules are demanding, and that you don't have superhuman willpower (although you have a lot more than you think!). In the first 30 days especially, following all the rules may seem difficult. And depending on how much you have to lose or how you've been eating in the past, it may indeed be so! You are breaking old habits and building new ones, and that's tough. But back to my goodheartedness: I've devised what I like to call a "step-down method" for what most people feel are the handful of most difficult rules. You'll find them marked with a little sign like this: _ These step-downs will help you move away from an old behavior and toward a new, healthy one a little at a time. Keep in mind that this intermediary step is meant to be temporary. Strive to live the rule all the way!
The Skinny Rules: Recipes From the Book
B.E.S.T. Breakfast Sandwich
1 ounce (3 pieces) low- sodium turkey bacon
Nonstick cooking spray
3 large egg whites, beaten
2 slices whole- grain bread
½ cup raw spinach, either baby spinach or whole- leaf with stems removed
1 thick slice tomato
1. Cook the bacon according to package instructions. Set aside.
2. Spray a skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Heat over medium heat.
3. Add the egg whites. Scramble.
4. Meanwhile, toast the bread.
5. Place the spinach on 1 slice of toast, layer the tomato, scrambled eggs, and bacon, and top with the other slice of toast. Slice in half on the diagonal.
420 calories, 26g protein, 49g carbs, 13g fat
Spicy Quinoa Paella
Olive oil spray
¼ onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
½ red bell pepper, diced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
½ cup diced zucchini
4 ounces chicken, cubed
¼ cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
¾ cup low- sodium chicken broth
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
1. Heat a skillet over medium- high heat. Coat with olive oil spray.
2. Sauté the onion, garlic, and bell pepper for 4 to 5 minutes, until tender.
3. Stir in the pepper flakes, oregano, coriander, and zucchini and cook for 2 minutes.
4. Add the chicken and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to cook all sides.
5. Add the quinoa and allow it to toast for 2 minutes.
6. Pour in the broth, lower the heat, and cover. Cook for 15 minutes, or until the quinoa is cooked through and the broth is absorbed.
7. Add the spinach and stir in until wilted.
363 calories, 5g protein, 45g carbs, 5g fat
Excerpted from The Skinny Rules by Bob Harper with Greg Critser Copyright © 2012 by Bob Harper. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
For more by Bob Harper, click here.
For more on weight loss, click here.