Book Review || ‘The Skinny Rules’ by Bob Harper – Chapter 4

Chapter / Rule 4 – Slash your intake of refined flours and grains

First of all I would like to point out that I am eating a white bread sandwich while writing this part of the review.  Just wanted everyone else to appreciate the irony.

Secondly, here is a rule that I can generally get on board with – but not exactly for the same reasons as Harper.

“Grains – mainly in the form of refined flours – dominate our modern diet.”

A pretty true statement to start out with.  Harper does a decent job of perpetuating this by advocating everyone start out their day with some refined carbohydrates in the form of sugary oatmeal…but I guess that’s me attacking the person instead of the argument.  Whoops.

(If you look up the definition of “Pandering” on google, this video appears)

“…if they are at all refined – from rice to bread – they make you fat.”

Harper sure doesn’t shy away from making really bold statements.  Pretty much all of them are wrong, like any kind of blanket statement, but there it is.  Let’s clarify: refined breads won’t make you fat, too many refined breads will make you fat.  It is easier to eat too many refined breads than say, broccoli.

He then goes on to describe some paleo-diet-esque statements about how we weren’t created to eat grains, our ancestors didn’t so we don’t digest them properly, etc.  I’ll just leave this video below to let someone much more informed on that topic than I to talk about some of those points:

(Skip to 8:26.  Video isn’t working properly for some reason.)

A couple snippets:

“We have…evidence from at least 30,000 years ago of people using stone tools…to grind up seeds and grains.”

“Even with the limited research we have…these things include grains, include barley…we even have legumes and tubers.”

Now, am I not saying that anyone who feels they don’t tolerate grains or legumes or whatever well is wrong.  Regardless of what human history says, you are a unique individual and you have different tolerances / sensitivities from other people.  But to say that all people all the time are not meant to eat grains or legumes is a bit of a stretch.  Do you tolerate them well?  Do you feel well when you eat them?  Are you in good health?  Are you staying within your caloric range and getting in enough protein?  Great!  Have some beans/bread/rice/whatever.

Harper then goes on to describe some grain anatomy, and states that the “bran” of the germ is,

“…utterly indispensable for digestion…”

Grain Anatomy – Taken from runnerbeans.files.wordpress.com

I’m not sure if we have the same definition of ‘indispensable.’  One can, indeed quite well, digest grains without the bran.  IN FACT it is far EASIER to digest a grain when it does not contain the bran.  The bran of a grain contains most of the fiber.  You know, that stuff your body can’t digest.  The bran also contains a fair amount of gluten.  I’m far from someone who would advocate a gluten-free diet unless you actually have celiac disease (you probably don’t), but it’s just another point that makes his assertion of ‘bran required for digestion’ peculiar.

When you remove the bran from a grain, you’re removing the fiber, the ‘whole grain’ part of the grain if you will.  One of the most well-known reasons to eat whole grains over refined grains is that they digest more slowly.  So WHY he would say

“Without the bran, starchy carbs get stuck in our gut for much longer than they should…”

I have no idea.  Maybe I’m missing something, so if anyone has insight into that point, please let me know.  It’s true that refined carbohydrates offer one very little in the nutrition department.  I will most certainly agree on that point.  However, many whole grains aren’t exactly a cornucopia of vitamins and minerals either.  You’ll find far more nutrition and fiber for less calories in vegetables and fruits.  So feel free to enjoy grains if you tolerate them well, but don’t fool yourself into thinking they’re some kind of ‘super-food.’ (Aghhhhhh I hate that term SO MUCH)

Harper then tries to make some point about whole grains being awesome but I’m still not really sure what it is.  He references this study, where he says the scientists

“…had [participants] eat a very small serving of barley with their evening meal; other patients ate the same meal without the barley.  In the morning, the researchers drew blood samples and measured blood sugar levels.  The barley eaters’ were better.”

That could be true.  It might not.  I have no idea because THE STUDY HE REFERENCES HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT HE JUST SAID.

Seriously, go look at the reference link.  I triple-checked to make sure I got the right study.  What he describes in the book is a COMPLETELY UNRELATED EXPERIMENT.  I can’t verify it because I have no idea what he is talking about.  The study that he references is about amylose-spiked bread (the study does not say it was made with any form of barley), not barley.  The participants were asked to eat low-fiber foods and white bread the night before, not barley.

So.  That’s pretty bad.  Once again, perhaps I am missing something.  After all I’m not a scientist, I may have misread the study.  It is hard for me to believe that someone cited something completely unrelated to prove a point in a widely-published book.  I do really hope I’m missing something here.

To be fair, the study in the discussion section does mention barley products and potential positive benefits of them, but it is referencing other studies.

Also he mentions in this chapter that your daily allotment for calories is 1750.  I’m not sure where that number is coming from.  That’s like how much a pre-pubescent girl should be eating so I am not sure who his target audience here is exactly.

Harper then gives the step-down for this rule: eat brown rice, though he’d like you to get off of rice entirely.  Because it’s like, bad for you or something.  Do you eat a traditional Japanese / Chinese / any number of cultures that routinely eat rice diet?  TOO BAD THESE RULES ARE NON-NEGOTIABLE.

Here we see a picture of a traditional Japanese dinner with its trademark white rice and consequently severely obese family. Taken from news-walker.net.

Moral

Yes the American diet is refined-carbohydrate heavy.  Refined carbohydrates have very little to offer your body in terms of vitamins and minerals.  It is EXTREMELY easy to over-eat on cookies and bread than it is on broccoli or carrots.  This is why people advise eating vegetables over grains in general.

However, if you stay within your caloric limits, eat enough protein and don’t feel like crap, it is 100% possible to lose weight while incorporating cookies into your diet.  You won’t feel much hunger satiety from them though, unfortunately.

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About katwhit

Coffee shop blogger by day, personal trainer by night. My interests include lifting weights, puppies, teaching people how to lift weights and dogs. Head on over to my blog and you'll find: reviews of best-selling diet books in extensive detail, critiques of various fitness publications, and even the occasional rant on the latest TV fitness segments.
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