Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Jillian Michaels' Master Your Metabolism (Giveaway!)

I read the whole thing in one day. I fell asleep reading it. And then I even dreamed about it. (In my dream I was interrogating Jillian about all the questions she left unanswered.) I posted yesterday that I think Master Your Metabolism by Jillian Michaels is the best health/nutrition book I’ve read in the past year. That may have been a bit premature. Like bjbella5 said about Bethenney Frankel’s Naturally Thin, “it started off well for me, but the ending wasn’t so great.” (Had the same reaction to Naturally Thin myself, girl.) Unlike Naturally Thin, however, Master Your Metabolism, completely changed my mind on some issues. Fact: my head is still spinning.

How Jillian & I Are Alike

1. Experimenting on Ourselves. Read this excerpt and tell me who this sounds like:

“I was obsessed with finding the right ways to burn fat. For awhile I followed the prevailing wisdom…[but when that didn't work] Scratch that, move on to the next thing. I did the same thing with my diet. I experimented with Pritikin, Atkins, Blood Type, pH, Paleolithic, begetarianism, food combining - even the dreaded Master Cleanse - you name the diet, I went on it. Why? Because I wanted to be skinny!

For a full decade, I treated my body like I was a lab rat. How could I have dreamed that all these extreme experiments were messing with my hormones? All I cared about was never going back to being the fat kid, and frankly, I didn’t care how I got the results I was looking for.”

Sadly, this could totally have been written by me. This part really threw me for a loop because I’d always considered my “experimenting” to be a good thing. I was challenging myself and keeping things interesting and… overtraining to the point I supressed my thyroid. Sigh.

2. Working harder and getting less results. Jillian talks about how during the first season of The Biggest Loser, she was so afraid of not looking “the part” on TV that she dieted down to 1200 calories a day and exercised like a maniac. After the show finished taping, she let her calories go back up to a reasonable 1600 and gained 15 pounds overnight, which she then drove herself nuts trying to lose before the next season started. She talks about how other people could have a glass of wine, no big deal, but if she did she immediately gained weight. Given the amount of time she spent exercising and what she was eating, she should not have been gaining weight.

You all may remember that I have had similar complaints. Remember the 10 pounds I gained in 3 weeks last June? I’m not saying I’m fat but I am saying that given the amount I exercise and how clean Ieat, that should not have happened. Not only did that experience wreak havoc with my psyche but I’ve spent nearly a year since then unsucessfully trying to “fix” it.

3. Screwed up hormones. Jillian then goes on to describe meeting with an endocrinologist and discovering that not only is she hypothyroid but that all her hormones were wildly out of whack. During my overtraining debacle, I had a similar experience except that unlike hers, my doctors would not listen to me and I never did get any answer for my messed up thyroid test results except “let’s wait and see.”

How Jillian & I Are Different

1. She says her fave book is Ageless by Suzanne Sommers. (No health book, no matter how good, compares to Les Miserables or Till We Have Faces. Sorry.)

2. She has the body she wants.

3. But the real difference between us is that she’s figured out what works for her. And she’s sure it will work for everyone else too. This is the part of the book that I had a hard time with. I loved the beginning where she detailed how she got herself into that mess - it’s pretty much my story except without all the famous people and TV cameras. But when she got to the how she healed herself, I found my skepticism rising. How many fitness gurus have I heard say, “It works for me, it’ll work for anyone!” That’s just not true.

Jillian is better than most. She doesn’t ask you to take her word for it carte blanche. Unlike her last book (Which if you read Making the Cut, then this one will leave you dizzy with how quickly she spins a 180), she does a really good job of presenting the current research and findings in the field. She details all the major hormones that you read about and then explains what their function is, how they get messed up and foods that both help and hinder them. Her basic recommendations involve eating healthy, clean, whole foods in 4 meals a day, about 4 hours apart. She tells you to get a full night’s sleep and also advises you to get rid of toxins in your enivornment by drinking purified water, tossing plastic food containers, and most importantly buying organic everything (even your sheets!). There’s nothing in there that any reasonable doctor could disagree with. It all aligns with current research.

Except that she also got put on thyroid medication. She says that medicine is not a cure-all for everyone and that hypothyroidism must be managed with lifestyle changes as well as meds and that even if you’re not hypothyroid any number of other hormones could be messed up. But. Anyone who is familiar with hypothyroidism knows that the right meds in the right combinations make all the difference. The cynic in me wonders if her miraculous overnight return to health would have happened from the meds alone - something I don’t have and won’t conceivably get - even without going organic and all the other changes she made. And there’s no answer for that.

The whole premise of the book is how she changed her diet, exercise and lifestyle (and used some meds) to fix her hormone imbalances. Since “figuring out the secret”, she’s been able to maintain her weight and improve her health with normal effort on her part. She writes:

” I’m thirty-four, and I feel healthier than I ever have before. I don’t overeat, but I live on 1800 - 2,000 calories a day instead of 1200. I spend about five hours a week in the gym at most. I don’t have to do more because my body takes care of that balance naturally. For someone who practically used calculus to track her food and exercise for years, you can’t imagine how freeing that is.”

And that, my friends, is where I want to be. Free. See, I started this whole health-nut craze years ago in my efforts to lose my baby weight and get healthy. Somehow I’ve managed to lose more of myself than I have of the weight. I never wanted to have to count every calorie and second-guess every food choice and exercise for hours every day. And yet that’s what I’ve become. And it’s not even working. I’m 14 pounds heavier than I was at this time last year (yes, yes, I know some of you think that’s a good thing.) I’ve had no notable performance or strength gains. I’m not any happier. In fact, I might be crazier. So what do I do? I just keep trying harder. I keep trying the next thing hoping that this will finally be “it” for me. And yet each thing may actually be hurting me by messing up my natural hormonal balance rather than helping. It was this realization last night that turned everything upside down for me.

I think Jillian’s right about the toxic hormone environment we live in. I do think that pesticides, poisons, additives, preservatives and many other side effects of our wonderful modern society do mess up our bodies in ways we are just beginning to understand. And yet, is her answer the right one? Or is it just another compilation of what is generally accepted now to be “best practice”? And if so, would it hurt to try?

This book may not be “it” - my answer to life, the universe, and everything (42!) - but it certainly is a wealth of knowledge about how our hormones effect our health and how our environment effects our hormones. Jillian tells a very compelling story in a very real manner. No matter how many times I’ve gone back forth with loving and hating her, I can’t deny that the woman is honest. And I have to respect that. This book is a must-read in my opinion. But now I really want to hear your opinions about it! Leave me a comment below; I have one copy to give away (just be warned, if you win it, I will expect a full report from you on what you think of it!)

PS> Kudos to so many of you for guessing it right! You guys are so stinkin’ smart!