The Weight Loss Plan for Beating Diabetes, by Dr. Frederic Vagnini
and Lawrence D. Chilnick (Softcover, 2009)|
(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you
want a hardcopy)
Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
This book delivers on the promise made in its title and its subtitle. But
it could do better.
With some exceptions, the nutritional material in this book is highly
accurate and good to implement. Though this book was written specifically for diabetics, it's
one of the best diet-related books I've ever read and even the average
non-diabetic would be wise to read it and heed it. On the exercise
front, it's good only for people just starting out from the "very unfit"
My qualifications for reviewing books that deal with diet, exercise,
or health are extensive. A picture's worth 1,000 words and you can see
mine at www.supplecity.com. I
reviewed this book as a fitness expert, not as someone with diabetes (I
don't have it).
The book is well-written and well-founded on the science of diet and
nutrition. With few exceptions, its recommendations are in harmony with
the current theory on diet. This is a stark departure from the typical
"diet" book, which is based on something other than fact. This book
isn't based on whacky theories that don't work. It's based on sound
The book falls down, however, on the exercise recommendations. Many
of those conflict with the science of exercise and I will address those
points shortly. They are, however, "OK" for someone who is very out of
shape. And they do follow the recommendations of gyms and personal
trainers for such people. But they don't fit a long-term plan and after
a few months they provide increasing benefit only at a glacial pace or
not at all.
I want to emphasize here that there is nothing in this book that will
harm you. But some of the information will limit you, and if you have
the correct information you can do better.
Mostly, the recommendations are based on hard facts. But some of the
dietary recommendations step out beyond the hard science into what may
be called "expert opinion." For example, on page 99 Dr. Vagnini says, "I
recommend limiting or even omitting wheat products altogether." There
isn't hard science for this recommendation, but that doesn't mean it's
I live in Kansas, and our number one product is wheat. That said, I
have been making this very same recommendation for many years. I rarely
buy any wheat products. I do not eat wheat products if presented with
them in a (rare) visit to a restaurant. And I don't mean just rolls or
bread. You find wheat even in soy sauce.
My restaurant philosophy is very self-protective: if I can't identify
it, I won't eat it. So anything I order in a restaurant is plain. That
isn't how I like my food. I prefer my food well-seasoned, and at home I
can choose from many non-toxic approaches to flavoring. You can't do
that in the typical restaurant, and one reason why is the reliance on
My guess is Dr. Vagnini would agree with me that wheat in itself
isn't bad. But there are some problems with it, and if you avoid wheat
you avoid those problems:
- It's so overused that even if you swear off bread you may be
- Wheat tends to come in highly processed forms, meaning eating
wheat products generally isn't much different from eating straight
- If you find wheat on a label, chances are you will also find
hydrogenated oil and/or corn syrup--both of which are unsuitable for
consumption by mammals (including humans).
If we flip the page, we come to a recommendation that's based on
misinformation. Dr. Vagnini suggests using egg whites rather than the
whole egg. This same suggestion appears in the bodybuilding literature,
and there's no factual basis for it. In fact, the whole egg is good for
you and eggs should be eaten whole. There isn't a toxic part of an egg
thrown into the shell with a good part. The yolk contains vitamin D,
Omega 3, and other nutrients, and it's in balance with the white. The
only purpose served by tossing an egg yolk is the wasting of good food.
This assumes, of course, you are properly sourcing your eggs.
The yolk does contain fat, including cholesterol. But the cholesterol
breaks down in the stomach's hydrochloric acid and the body does not
stupidly reconstitute the results into cholesterol and start jamming up
your blood vessels out of some crazy desire to give you coronary
disease. That just does not happen. If you were so inclined, you could
drink a glass of cholesterol (assuming you could get it) every day and
not see your blood cholesterol rise (assuming you kept your total
calories to what you actually burn).
The problem with cholesterol ingestion is not the cholesterol itself,
but the calories (fat is calorie-dense). So, you just don't want to
overdo it. The calories in an egg give you plenty of room, there. I have
yet to see a single double-blind study showing causation from
cholesterol ingestion to blood cholesterol. There is an incidental link,
but incidental links are what we use to form logical fallacies.
Let's keep in mind that cholesterol is a precursor to important
hormones like testosterone. You actually need cholesterol to survive.
There's a good article on cholesterol in the Journal of American
Physicians and Surgeons Volume 13 Number 3 (Fall of 2008). There are
many more primary source (the most reliable kind of source) articles
that explain the role of cholesterol.
This role has been deliberately misportrayed so that big pharma
companies can make millions of dollars selling health-antagonistic
anti-cholesterol drugs. The medical literature and medical practice are
in conflict on this issue. Unfortunately, doctors are inundated with
propaganda from big pharma and have been accepting cholesterol lies as
fact. They need to turn to the validated literature.
Here's an anecdote. In my late teens, I began a breakfast regimen of
tossing a dozen eggs into a blender every morning and drinking down the
slurry (thanks, Sly, for that tip--it really helped me). They were eggs
from free range farms in Wisconsin and Illinois, and at the time my
rationale for sourcing them that way was they just tasted so much better
than the supermarket eggs. I didn't know then what we know now--factory
farmed eggs are low in omega 3 (heart healthy) and free range or
unmolested chicken eggs are loaded with it. Forget fish, I'll have my
eggs please. And by the way, that omega 3 is in the yolk that many
"experts" advise us to throw away.
Sometimes I picked eggs right from the nest--no little cages--and
occasionally suffered the wrath of a mad hen. It was worth it. There was
no danger of salmonella or whatever you get from eggs that are factory
farmed in deplorable conditions. Raw was good. It still is, if you
source your eggs properly.
This was my breakfast for years, until I mistakenly got scared off
raw eggs for a while. But before I stopped, I had a blood test for a job
interview and my total cholesterol was 110. When I related this to a
doctor, he replied that I was just constricting other sources of
cholesterol. I said, "You mean the New York Strip steak I have every
Also on page 100, the authors recommend veal. Do not eat veal. It's
toxic. The means of producing veal is sadistic, and the results of that
show up in the meat you put into your body if you eat the veal. Go to
the Humane Society Website and find the video clip that shows how these
animals are starved, beaten, kicked, and jabbed repeatedly with cattle
prods by people who need serious psychiatric care. The animals are so
weak, they can barely stand up. You want to eat the meat of an animal
whose body is pumping out stress hormones at astronomical levels? And
who is so nutritionally deprived it can't even walk to its own
Also on this page, the authors recommend "whole-grain, non-wheat
bread." They need to mention that bread is typically made with two
cancer-causing substances, the second of which is also highly implicated
in diabetes: hydrogenated oil and high fructose corn syrup. Read the
label. If these poisons are on it, don't buy the product. You can find
bread that isn't contaminated with these things, but such bread makes up
a small percentage of the offerings.
If we really wanted a "national health care plan" we'd forget about
the medical insurance part and just stop these purveyors of poison from
making people sick with corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. But that would
require common sense, so it's not an option for government. Poisoning
people is illegal, unless you fund a lobby that has key members of
CONgress on its payroll.
Another anecdote. I discovered, to my horror, that Libby's now puts
out "pumpkin pie filling" with corn syrup in it. I discovered this while
making a pie per the Fit Pumpkin Pie recipe on Supplecity (no sugar, no
hydrogenated oil, and it's superbly delicious). I had to toss the
filling mix (eggs, milk, spices) down the drain, because I added the
Libby's product last and only then realized something wasn't right (it
smelled wrong and was too thin). Watch those labels--the sugar people
are infiltrating everything. Libby's also makes a non-toxic pumpkin pie
filling, and if they had scruples they would make that their only
version of pumpkin pie filling.
On page 103, the authors mention brown rice. This is misleading. The
color of the rice is not relevant. Brown rice isn't necessarily whole
grain rice. The key is you need to eat whole grain rice instead of rice
that has had those outer layers removed. Ideally, you will always eat
rice with beans so that you get a completed protein. If you buy canned
kidney beans, they are probably in sugar water. A crock pot and dry
beans will solve this problem.
Not an exercise expert
While Dr. Vagnini hits the nutrition points expertly (except as noted
above), he (along with his co-author) errs greatly in the exercise area.
As noted earlier, their advice works OK for people who are very unfit.
But it will plateau you out very early in your fitness program if you
stick with it.
On page 128, they talk about serious weight training and say
"...working on one or two body parts per machine." Serious weight
training does not use machines. With free weights, you activate the
stabilizer muscles and properly load the muscle chain you're working.
This produces several benefits that don't occur with machines.
On the next page, they recommend resistance exercise three times a
week. This directly contradicts the body building literature, basic
physiological science, and actual results over decades of practice. You
will quickly plateau on this limited schedule. One reason why is you
either extend the recovery cycle too far out between workouts, or you
overtrain in every workout while sacrificing intensity. Gyms like to
have people on this schedule for a variety of reasons, none of which
have to do with putting your body in its best condition.
Gyms also like "circuit training" which involves
insufficient-intensity exercising of all muscle groups in the same
workout. This violates several fundamental concepts of training, but
it's easy to stick to if you don't mind getting poor results. If you get
poor results, you're likely to quit before using up your annual
membership fee. Good gyms discourage circuit training and encourage
actual workouts because they want long-term memberships and they want to
deliver maximum value to their members. Most gyms focus on that one-year
cycle, which is rather cynical and short-sighted in my opinion.
If all you want is to be minimally fit with minimal effort then, yes,
you can do three times a week. But the real benefits come in "the last
10%" and you never get into that zone on a three times a week schedule.
On the page 130, the authors recommend doing cardio and weights
together. This directly contradicts the body building literature and
basic physiological science. It is appropriate for someone just starting
out, because that person isn't capable of generating the intensity
required for proper resistance training. But after you reach a "ground
level" of fitness--typically that takes less than a month--this practice
works against you. If you are doing your weight training properly,
you've already pushed your cardiovascular system hard (front squats, for
example, make my heart feel like it's about come out of my chest because
they heavily load the core) and you are too drained to "do cardio."
If you still have energy for "cardio" after your weight workout, you
did that workout wrong. If you do cardio before that workout, you will
do that workout wrong. The human body is capable of only so much. The
points I just made assume you are at the intermediate or higher level of
fitness and capable of intense workouts.
On page 131, they provide an intensity scale from 1 to 10 with 10
being maximum intensity. They recommend keeping your workout intensity
between 3 and 4. This flies in the face of exercise physiology. At this
level, you will not get the hormonal response or the adaptation that
should be the goal of your workout in the first place. If your body
never approaches anywhere near its limits, there is no reason for it to
adapt. So you make no further progress no matter how many years you work
This low intensity issue is exactly why 3x/wk gym rats look about the
same after five years as they did on month number six of their gym
membership. They usually do lift more weight, but only because they
cheat on the exercises (for example, rounding shoulders forward in the
bench press). In my own case, I shoot for a 10 with every workout. I
usually hit an 8 or a 9.
Intensity doesn't mean "more weight." There's a good article about it
on www.supplecity.com, and it's
titled "1 Key to Fitness." If you get everything else right but don't
have intensity, your workouts are simply maintenance and not the best
use of your time.
So, what do I think of this book overall? It's perfect for someone
who is in the condition Dr. Vagnini was in when he started his fitness
quest. Very obese, really out of control physically. But once you get
things stabilized and your eating habits corrected, you need to move
beyond the entry level exercise recommendations to things that give you
a high return on the time you spend exercising. It's very motivating
when you see outstanding results. Why limit your motivation by limiting
This book consists of two Parts and six Chapters, plus
Part One consists of two chapters and explains what
this program is about, what you can expect from it, how it can benefit
you, and what you need to do. It also lays out five sensible, achievable
steps you can take toward putting yourself in control of your eating and
your diabetes. Amazingly, these chapters focused on the needs of the
reader rather than the needs of the author.
Part Two consists of three
chapters. These are, in sequence:
- Chapter 3. Women, Diabetes, and Weight Loss.
- Chapter 4. Stress, Diabetes, and Weight Loss.
- Chapter 5. Diabetes, Family, and Weight Loss.
Appendix 1 looks common medications for diabetes and discusses their
effects (in medical parlance, "side effects" by which they mean the
effects of the drug).
Appendix 2 provides some quick recipes. If you
eat exactly as laid out here, you will be orders of magnitude healthier
than the typical American--who is on a diet of processed grain and
damaged fats. I'm aghast when I look in the typical shopping cart, and
you should be too. For 90% of the population, this is "can't go wrong"
advice--diabetes or not. But you can go beyond these recommendations to
One thing I noticed about these meals is the
portion size. These are all small meals, which is key to having a
healthy body composition (% body fat).
Another thing I noticed is
there are only three meals given per day, and that's not good. However,
this may be remedied by substituting a fruit and small protein for each
of the other three. Supplecity has an article, "Single Digit Body Fat on
Six Meals A Day" and it explains the six meal a day concept. It's a
fundamental concept in nutrition in the body building world; it's a
useful concept outside that world as well.
As a final note, the
authors look favorably upon the Body Mass Index (BMI). This is a crude,
inaccurate tool. As you move from obesity toward a healthy body
composition, it becomes increasingly useless. Body fat scales are
inexpensive and give you useful information. In my own case, I'm lean
and muscular as my photo at Supplecity shows. I'm 6 feet tall and in
that photo weigh 153 pounds (5.5% body fat). Per the BMI, I'm suffering
from lack of muscle. That obviously is not the case. So don't use BMI.
Use a body fat scale.