Conquer the Fat-Loss Code, by Wendy Chant (Softcover, 2009)|
(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you
want a hardcopy)
Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
This book is written for the ordinary American.
hasn't spent hundreds of hours poring over the (often dry) literature about health
and fitness, but has been bombarded by the disease culture
marketing messages all around us. For such people, it's impossible to
sort out what to do for a reasonably lean physique without help from the
right source. This book is such a source.
People at a high level of physical conditioning
(see my photo on www.supplecity.com)
and health (I haven't been sick since 1971, despite having an immune
system deficiency) could easily find fault with this book, if we lose
sight of what this book is trying to accomplish and for whom it is
written. Remember, most people haven't met with success in keeping their
waistline the same--much less in body sculpting.
A person freed from our nation's disease
culture would be horrified to find soda pop (osteoporosis in a can) or
wheat flour products (typically made with hydrogenated oil, which is
highly carcinogenic) seriously discussed in the context of dietary
recommendations. Read again the title of this book. That's what it
delivers on, not obtaining total health. It focuses on a goal that is
achievable for the average person--optimal health can come later. Trying
to do it all at once just isn't smart.
Reaching people where they are
People well into double digit fat territory aren't
there because they are conscientious about their food choices (quite the
opposite) and are simply getting too many calories from the extra large
portions of kale they heap on at every meal. No, it's something else.
Those people are there because of many
poor choices integrated into their lifestyle. Asking
such people to completely revise the way they eat and exercise is a recipe
But there is a middle ground, and that's where
this book comes in. It provides a way to stake out that middle ground, a
way that anyone can do to obtain a life
free from obesity. As obesity is a significant risk factor for disease
and the primary cause of most illness in America today, this is no minor
For example, every 10 pounds of excess body fat
raises the risk of prostate cancer by an order of magnitude in a male of
average height. If you can get him to drop to 6 or 7 % body fat through
a plan he can handle, you drastically reduce his cancer risks.
book recommends foods that contain hydrogenated oil--isn't this wrong? That depends on a lot of factors. In this context,
it isn't wrong. Tell him he has to stop eating bread in addition to
everything else, and is he going to stick with the program? Probably
not. So, start from where he is and tackle his biggest problem. Refine
other things later. Once he's conquered the fat-loss code, he can slowly
work into eating safe foods in place of refined wheat flour and
Sure, hydrogenated oil is also causing him
additional cancer risk. But think of his far higher risk level if
he's doing that plus carrying 40 extra pounds of body fat. Once he's at
a safe body fat level, he could refine things further into the optimum health range. But just getting to the
safe body fat level is not going to happen if he has to make many
changes unrelated to the goal of getting there.
With Wendy's plan, people can still eat the foods
they like (acquired a taste for) rather than switch over to foods they
don't like. If you don't enjoy the foods you eat, then you're not going
to stick with an eating plan that requires those foods.
Bill Phillips embraces the
philosophy of reaching people where they are rather than imposing
something impossible on them. Because of the stunning results, we know
his recommendations work (it also helps when we are up on dietary and
exercise theory and can see why those recommendations work). Can the
same be said of Wendy Chant?
In a word, yes. But let's put a few more words
into answering that question.
First, it may help to name some other experts who
are successful with this philosophy:
- John Scott. CEO of JS Nitro, John Scott is
helping thousands of people achieve their fitness goals. If you're
looking for a quick answer to a vague question, you won't get one
from John. He wants you to look closely at what you're doing and
apply principles to see what is the likely best solution to your
problem (whatever that problem is). John's knowledge is
encyclopedic, and he's always digging into the latest research.
- Dianne Villano. Diane is a myth-busting personal trainer who saw patterns early on in her career. She
found that people tend to latch on to ideas that
aren't true and then get frustrated with their poor progress. Diane
exposes the myths (she's got articles on several) and explains the
reality. She believes that if you apply the reality in the context
that applies for you, then you'll make progress toward your goal.
Her clients agree that this works.
- Sandy Miller. Amazing is an understatement. Sandy prefers to stay off
the national stage, so you have to find her and work with her in
person. In addition to being a stunning beauty, she has a sharp mind
and is an outstanding trainer. But beware. She doesn't wave any
magic wands. A four letter word is at the core of her training
philosophy. That word is "work."
As you can see, Wendy isn't some oddball with yet
another fad diet. The specifics of her diet program aren't the real
secret to success, either. If you adopt her program exactly as it is,
you will lose body fat. A knowledgeable person can modify that program
along the lines of its underlying concepts and still achieve success or
even move to the next level. Or not. Just having a healthy body fat
composition is a huge leap forward for many people. With Wendy's
program, it's a leap anyone can make.
Wendy has taken several concepts from the fitness
and bodybuilding literature (and practice). For example, she recommends the HITT (High Intensity Interval
Training) method. This is a favorite of Gary Matthews (a trainer in the
U.K.). Take a look at Sylvester Stallone and Demi Moore if you want to
see the results of this method. Shawn Phillips relies heavily on this
method, so look him up online and see his photos--with abs like that, do
you think he's doing something that works?
Not perfect, but they work
As mentioned earlier, this book's dietary
recommendations aren't perfect. I think for the audience she's trying to
reach, they are correct. The same is true of her exercise
recommendations. There is some disagreement in the fitness expert
community as to what type of workout program is best. I think that
controversy exists because people respond in different ways, not just
physically but also emotionally. If you're trying to help the largest
number of people get to a good place to be, then getting 80% results
with a 5% dropout rate is much better than getting 95% results with a
95% dropout rate.
For maximum results, you do 5 or 6 intense
workouts per week with each workout devoted to a specific group of
muscles. These workouts are short and brutal, and it takes several days
for each targeted group of muscles to recover. Very few people can
tolerate these workouts, so very few people do them. Sandy Miller
(mentioned earlier) will push clients only as far as she believes they
are willing to work. She holds the door to higher achievement open, but
doesn't shove the unwilling through it. Some clients never get a high
intensity workout, others get nothing but.
A very obese person is a poor candidate for high intensity workouts. So is a
person who is profoundly under muscled. A circuit training approach is the
typical introductory routine for such folks, and it's what nearly every fitness
center wants its "new to fitness" members to do. Such an approach gets a
person to a baseline level and for many people that's enough. They don't
want to do the harder training required for further gain, and where they
are isn't bad.
Wendy has considered all of this, and her exercise
recommendations fall into the "doable" range for everyone. Once you've
conquered your fat and want to move to the next level, you can modify
the exact program without learning any new concepts. Or you can stay
with it exactly as is and still be way ahead of average. Also, the
exercises she recommends are the classic ones that bodybuilders have
proven to be effective. She's chosen ones that use simple (and
inexpensive) equipment, so you don't have to join a gym to do them.
Points of disagreement
One point I don't like is Wendy's recommendation
to eat 5 times a day. My article, "Single Digit Body Fat on 6 Meals A
Day" obviously recommends something different. Perhaps 5 is yet another
way to reach people where they are, but I don't think a 6 meal
schedule is any harder to do than 5. With only 5, you give up a window of nutrient
optimization / insulin management / metabolism igniting.
problem is people are used to overeating three times a day and if you
ask them to eat half as much twice as often, they instead just eat twice
as much. As I'm not a trainer working with "regular people," I don't
know the logic behind this and it may be right on target for that group. As with other
concepts already discussed, it's a big step in the right direction.
Wendy says your muscles don't know if you are
using a heavy weight and a few reps or a light weight and many reps. I
don't know of anyone in the bodybuilding community who would agree with
that contention. It's well-documented that muscles respond very differently
to peak loading than to low-level loading.
When you fire enough muscle fibers strongly enough
(due to the load on the muscles), the whole body responds with hormonal
changes. These changes involve elevated cortisol (the stress hormone)
followed by depressed insulin, depressed cortisol, and elevated
These changes cause the body to store
calcium in the bones, store less fat, and grow more muscle. This is why
we do such exercises as dead lifts, front squats, and bench presses--all
of which, when done intensely, raise testosterone for several days
following the exercise. These changes are primarily why HITT works, as
these changes are primarily what you get from HITT. If you look at
sprinters and then look at Marathon runners, you see the difference
between what high intensity gives you and what low intensity gives you.
Sprinters have noticeably less subcutaneous body fat and more muscle
than their Marathon-running counterparts. If you want that beautiful
sprinter body, don't do high rep / low weight workouts.
Wendy talks about adaptation, and that is exactly
the process involved here--it's why the body does that hormone dance.
Endurance and power require different body compositions, and the
body adapts according to the stresses you put on it.
The changes just mentioned are also why a man who
does nothing but squats twice a month for three months will have larger,
more chiseled-looking arms than if he did nothing but biceps curls every
week for six months (all else being the same).
For someone just starting out, lack of intensity
may not matter in terms of productivity. The body will undergo positive
adaptation regardless of the reps/resistance formula. My article on
intensity sheds light on why high-rep workouts are, nonetheless, limited in their
effectiveness. It's also worth noting that for someone who hasn't
learned good form it is much better to do low resistance and high reps
than to aim for intensity and be side-lined by an injury.
A final note on diet. Wendy keeps insisting on egg
whites. I have seen this mistake in many other books. There is nothing
wrong with a whole egg, provided it's not a "factory egg" produced by a
stressed out chicken confined to a two-foot cage and feed grain. Buy
eggs laid by healthy chickens, and you have an ideal food. You can
identify such an egg readily. It has a tough shell that you have to
smack pretty hard to break, and it has a flavor quite different from that of the typical
grocery store egg. Many grocery stores now carry such eggs, often under
a label saying "free range."
Tossing out the yolk wastes a
good nutrition source. This mistaken notion of tossing out egg yolks
comes from flawed research on cholesterol, conducted with the wrong kind
of eggs. Buy the right eggs,
and eat them whole. Your cholesterol profile will have your doctor
asking you what you are doing, it will look that good.
Just to put some numbers to it, in my senior year
of high school I ate one dozen eggs each day and my total cholesterol
was under 120. That was in the days when total cholesterol was all we
measured. In the decades since then, I have still been a big egg-eater
and when I've had blood tests my cholesterol profile has been in the
ideal range every time. I never discard a yolk.
This book consists of four Parts:
Part One explains the concepts in simple terms.
People who reach a state of "truly shredded" could
add more, but this is just about right for someone who just wants to
look good instead of obese.
Part Two is very prescriptive. It lays out a
specific plan for the target audience of this book. I don't
like its particular mix of ingredients, but again Wendy is reaching
people where they are and this plan will result in fat loss.
Part Three explains how to fit the plan in around
the realities of every day life. It includes tips for travel, holidays,
and other situations that are known to derail fat loss commitments.
Part Four contains recipes. I personally
find most of these too simple and limited,
but perhaps that's why they are included. You can find other
recipes at www.supplecity.com
and in a few health-savvy recipe books. Also, the recipe for five alarm
chili is wrong. The hottest you can get with using cayenne pepper is
three-alarm chili. Wendy has obviously never lived in west Texas. My
five-alarm chili makes Mexicans sweat and just barely misses melting
Follow the plan laid out in this book,
and you can get to a healthy body fat level. If you have struggled to
get there before, struggle no more. Wendy's plan is one anybody can do.