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Book Review of: The Body Fat Solution

5 Principles for burning fat, building lean muscle, ending emotional eating, and maintaining your perfect weight

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Review of The Body Fat Solution, by Tom Venuto (Softcover, 2010)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.

I turn 50 this year, yet look better than most of the guys on the cover of Men's Health. So if I tell you a book on fitness is so accurate that I agree with 99.99% of it, you can probably guess it's a good book on fitness. This is a good book on fitness. In fact, it's a great book on fitness. If you're looking for a text that will provide the information you need to have a lean, attractive body, then you've found it in The Body Fat Solution.

Rather than try to spin out some new theory or special diet, Mr. Venuto pulled his fitness and fat loss information from the world of bodybuilding. That's a world where you see what works and what doesn't, rather quickly.

Usually a book in this genre is too narrowly focused, and it will have errors in the area of focus and in areas related to it. Consequently, many people read such a book and put it to use but still have that fat. This book provides a holistic, proven approach to having a lean, strong body. If you read this book and put it to use, you won't have any more fat than you want to have.

I found only two errors related to fat loss, and they are minor. On page 308 (in Appendix 4), Mr. Venuto recommends grapes for meal two and canned kidney beans for meal three. Grapes have grape sugar, which is very glycemic, and kidney beans are canned with white sugar or a similar substance. I think if you counted the calories, you'd find these two "errors" insignificant for most folks (especially if you consider the grape total sugar we are talking about--it's not much). My advice is to eat an apple or orange instead of grapes, and make beans in a crock pot.

From a health standpoint, Mr. Venuto's food recommendations need a bit of revision. For example, whole-wheat pita bread still contains (usually) highly refined wheat flour and almost certainly contains hydrogenated oil.

I recommend not eating tuna for two reasons. One, we are fishing these creatures into extinction. Two, tuna is a high-level predator and thus the concentration of mercury in tuna is greater than I'm comfortable with. Despite the problems with tuna, it's a mainstay in the bodybuilding nutritional literature and so it's not surprising Venuto would include it.

If you're in the same eating dysfunction as the vast majority of Americans, the food recommendations here will provide an enormous improvement for you in terms of health and ultimately how you feel about yourself. So, I'm not saying to toss them out. Just don't eat the tuna, grapes, or bread.

Most of the book is about getting into the right mental state and staying there. In martial arts, this is called conquering the enemy within.  Some reviewers criticized the book for this. But here's the thing. People don't go to bed slender and suddenly wake up fat. They get fat one spoonful at a time (or forkful, handful, whatever). There are reams of data showing that the "valve" for fat gain isn't related to any of the excuses commonly given. Your mind controls your fat, because your mind determines how much and what kind of food goes past your lips. It also determines what kind of exercise you do and how much.

You can have the greatest plan in the world, but it won't work if your mind isn't in shape. I'm a huge advocate of the principle of intensity, as intensity is what produces the spectacular results many of us are after. Why doesn't everyone exercise with intensity, if it's so great? Because you need a certain mindset to go through high intensity workouts. Most people confuse this with working out longer. It's a matter of expending the greatest energy in the least time. Think of it as somehow jacking a 60W light bulb to100 ever so briefly.

Mr. Venuto talks about squats as a master exercise. Everything he says is correct. There's a huge body of literature behind this. My only caveat would be that you do front squats (Frank Zane has a few things to say about that).

The squat is the most beneficial exercise you can do, if your goal is to optimize your physical conditioning. In addition to burning calories massively, the squat has an almost miraculous effect on your hormonal environment.

If squats are so beneficial, why doesn't everybody do them? Because the exercise, when done correctly, is incredibly hard and exhausting. Most people lack the mental ability to get past that, and either do a lame squat session or don't do squats at all. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger was daunted by the squat (which is why he always sought a training partner) during his peak years.

Thus, Mr. Venuto's emphasis on the mental conditioning is right on target. If you're already doing squats with such intensity that your heart feels like it's coming out of your chest during each set and you keep going, then you may be mentally conditioned enough to skip much of this book.

Even if you have no desire to exercise with intensity or do brutally tough workouts, that same mental conditioning will help you control your food intake instead of letting it control you. And you won't need to do some weird, obnoxious diet or starve yourself. Some people become lean and strong without ever setting foot in a gym or picking up a barbell. But they still are using mental conditioning. That's why this book emphasizes it.

This book consists of four Parts, divided into twelve chapters and four Appendices. It's 316 pages long.

Part One, Setting the Stage, consists of four chapters. Here, we get an understanding of the facts about obesity, attitudes, and emotional eating. No guilt trip stuff, here. Just good information.

Part Two, The Five Principles, consists of five chapters. And, obviously, each chapter covers a principle. These aren't something cutesy the author cooked up to sell a book. These are from the literature, both in the bodybuilding world and from without. The "without" area includes various fields of mental conditioning. It's all proven stuff.

Part Three, Putting It All Together, consists of three chapters. Chapter 10 is about planning and implementing. Chapter 11 is about how to reach your initial goal, once you get started. Chapter 12 is about how to stay lean for life.

Part Four contains the four Appendices:

  1. A little info on The Body Fat Solution Website.
  2. Calorie calculations, including some short-cut stuff that is generally good enough.
  3. Recommended foods.
  4. Menu plans.

This book doesn't have a bibliography. However, it doesn't need one. Mr. Venuto provides attributions in the text on many occasions. I'm familiar with all those references, having read them myself. His training tips don't need references, as they are the proven principles that bodybuilders use every day.

But if you have doubts, then look up Venuto online and you'll see all the proof you need that this man not only knows what he's talking about, but he walks the walk. Or, more accurately, he squats the squat.




About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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