School's (almost) out for the summer! Not that that means much to most of us adults. (Friend: Charlotte, what's your summer looking like? Me: Exactly like every other day of my life.) But whatever, the days are long and there are barbecues and pool parties to be had so who needs homework? So instead of telling you a bunch of health and fitness books that you need to read, I'm giving you official permission to skip these five! (Note: I do feel some existential angst about being an author who is now going to rag on other authors but I am not saying any of these books are bad -- they're all wonderful in their own way -- I'm just saying that for various reasons you don't have to read them to get the full effect.)
The Water Secret: The Cellular Breakthrough to Look and Feel 10 Years Younger by Howard Murad M.D.
The magic bullet: Water, duh.
Summary: Dr. Murad is the man behind the world-renowned skincare line. While I can't speak to the efficacy of his pricey products, I do have a lot of friends that swear by them. In this book he tells you how to have great skin through lifestyle changes like drinking more water, eating foods with a high water content and taking some supplements.
What I liked: I definitely appreciate his emphasis on healthy living and his years of anecdotal evidence are impressive.
Why you don't need to read it: Did you know fruits and vegetables have a lot of water in them? And that sugar is bad for you? Then you already know everything in this book.
The magic bullet: A supportive community
Summary: Having founded BodyBuilding.com, Gethin is a rockstar in the bodybuilding community and in this book he gives you a simple plan on how to eat clean, incorporate weight lifting and some mental tools to help you achieve your healthy living goals.
What I liked: It's all great advice. Research certainly backs up the use of visualization, stress reduction, journaling and community support to help you lose weight and feel great. And of course lifting weights and eating clean are very effective tools for changing your body.
Why you don't need to read it: There isn't a single piece of new information in this book. Gethin doesn't say anything that hasn't been said and said better by other bodybuilding luminaries. The one unique aspect to his plan is the online community he started and encourages you to join... for a fee. It reads like one long infomercial. Plus, the Gym Buddies and I agreed that his workouts were super boring.
Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival by T.S. Wiley
The magic bullet: Sleep... 9.5 hours of it per night.
Summary: Willey summarizes decades of sleep research and concludes -- rightly so, I think -- that our modern 24/7 neon-lit lifestyle is as bad for our bodies as Snooki is to the reputation of Italians everywhere. She says that the lack of sleep (caused mainly by our light the night philosophy) is to blame for the obesity epidemic, cancer, mental illness and pretty much every other modern ill.
What I liked: Her research (with contributor Bent Formby -- thanks for the correction Sigi!) makes sense -- telling people to rise and retire with the sun in order to keep our circadian rhythms in sync just seems like sensible advice. She says we're all severely sleep deprived and I believe her.
Why you don't need to read it: If an LSD-tripping hippie and the guy who said the Rapture would happen on May 21 had a literary lovechild, this book would be it. Willey's over-the-top zeal mixed with her mystical hyperbole makes it really hard to take anything she says seriously. And also, in the winter here to take her advice I would need to be in bed by 6 and sleep until about 9 am. While hibernating for 15 hours a day might have made sense 200,000 years ago it really doesn't anymore.
Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes
The magic bullet: No carbs
Summary: Carbohydrates -- yes all of them, even including "healthy carbs" like whole grains and fruit -- lead to obesity, a host of illnesses, depression, anxiety and possibly world destruction. He recommends eating as low-carb as possible. Adherents to Atkins, Paleo or Primal diets will find they're in very familiar territory.
What I liked: If anyone has ever presented a more compelling case for low-carb diets then I've never read it. The man knows his stuff backwards and forwards. I'm not entirely sure about his conclusions as they go against absolutely everything I've been taught about good nutrition but his reasoning is hard to argue with!
Why you don't need to read it: If you've already read Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health then you've heard it all and in greater detail. Taubes says at the beginning that this book was written for people who couldn't make it through his original 500-page tome. However, if you haven't read GCBC and are curious as to what all the furor is about then this is the book for you. So if you are looking for new information from Taubes, this book won't do it for you but otherwise I totally do recommend you read it. It's fascinating. I read the whole thing in one evening and then went back and re-read it over the following few days. (So I guess I am recommending it to you... but only if you haven't already read GCBC.)
The magic bullet: Tim Ferriss, himself. Naturally.
Summary: Tim Ferriss is a highly controversial character in the fitness world. He goes to all kinds of extremes in pursuit of the perfect body. No training is too hard, no diet too restrictive, no human growth hormone supplement too expensive for him to try. In this book he summarizes all his cheats into neat little DIY-chapters.
What I liked: I'll admit to being a huge Ferriss fan clear back from when he first exploded onto the scene. How could I not love someone who so unabashedly uses himself as a human guinea pig? It's what I might be doing if I didn't have kids, had unlimited money and little common sense. (Aw heck, we all know I really don't have much common sense as it is.) I ate up his advice on weight lifting, sprinting, jumping and even really enjoyed his "slow-carb" dietary advice. (Not that I use it, just that it was an interesting read.)
Why you don't need to read it: If you want the Cliffs Notes version of the book go read the first top-ranked user review on Amazon. It breaks it down for you chapter by chapter and saves you 400 pages of Tim's self-aggrandizement. There's a reason he was named "#1 Self Promoter" by Wired magazine -- that's the man's real genius, frankly. But the real reason why I don't recommend this book is that all of his lifestyle advice reads like the playbook from a super wealthy, super douchey (one of the only times I will invoke the d-word on this site because it is the only one that fits) frat boy. The chapter on female orgasms -- yes, the dude has the nerve to write an entire chapter geared toward teaching the other sex to climax -- will make any woman want to punch him in the face. (First because of his disingenuous chapter title -- total bait and switch -- and second because of the totally smarmy way he cons that poor yoga teacher.) In addition, many of his experiments would be impossible for most people to replicate due to the specialized equipment, access to experts and huge amounts of money they required. I went into this book really quite liking Ferriss -- say what you will but he is hilarious -- and ended it kinda hoping that some girl at a book signing gives him a solid kick to the nethers.
Tell me -- do you now want to eat more water, lift more weights, get more sleep, eat less carbs and sex up Timothy Ferriss?!? Seriously though, what do you guys think of these books and their "magic bullets"? Do you have a health or fitness book I should skip? Or one to recommend I read??