Get the whole review of Jumpstart to Skinny in one easy location under the ‘book reviews‘ tab at the top.
I’ll go ahead and preface this post by saying I don’t have a lot of disagreements with Harper’s exercise instruction. It’s better than I’ve seen from a lot of other trainers for sure. I like to think that pre-The Biggest Loser, Harper was a wonderful trainer with integrity. I suppose I can see how easy it is to compromise your morals when millions of dollars are on the line and it doesn’t really seem like you’re hurting anyone – even more so when hundreds of thousands of people tell you daily what a wonderful thing you’re doing.
While I have few problems with his technique instruction or his form (only problem I have is with his kettlebell swing instruction), I do disagree with what he’s asking of people on 800 calorie per day diets.
Your only goal on so little fuel should be to maintain your muscle mass – not to try and burn off what little fumes you may have left. He provides 7 different workouts, some of which I like more than others.
- 20 sit-ups
- 15 squats
- 10 push-ups
- AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) in 20 minutes
This workout is decent – but I fear that 10 push-ups may not be feasible for many of the people reading this book, especially any beginner women. As well, 20 minute AMRAPs for beginners is usually pretty tough.
But, I understand he is trying to make a semi-difficult workout for a wide variety of skill levels with minimum equipment. That’s a tall order. AMRAPs are one way to try and take care of that problem – people who are less experienced would just go more slowly and complete fewer rounds than more seasoned workout veterans.
Unfortunately, there are going to be plenty of readers who can’t do a proper squat or push-up – what about them? I think it would have been a good idea to provide alternatives to commonly problematic exercises. Maybe something like:
Workout 1 – Advanced Level
- 15 Reverse Crunches (bring hips off floor)
- 10 squats (3-8-x) Meaning, take 3 seconds to lower yourself to the bottom of the squat, hold for 8 seconds and come back up.
- 10 push-ups
- 3-5 rounds
Workout 2 – Beginner Level
- 10 Reverse Crunches (keep hips on floor)
- 10 chair squats
- 3 push-up negatives
- 3-5 rounds
Anyway, I appreciate that it is difficult to write programs suitable for whatever number of people is required to have your book become a New York Times bestseller. But with just a tad more content, the most obvious problems can be rectified. I’m sure Harper is a good enough trainer to know that, so I’m not sure why it’s not included.
There are some workouts that I really have to question the intent of, however:
- 20 medicine ball push-ups
- 20 medicine ball sit-ups
- 20 medicine ball squats
- 20 no-wall balls
- 20 medicine ball burpees
- One round for time
Now, I get that it’s only one round, but just imagine: it’s day 16 in a row of eating 800 calories. You’ve already done 12 exhausting workouts and you’re sore, famished and completely exhausted. It’s all you can do to walk up the stairs without getting light-headed. What would be the best thing to do? Apparently push-ups and burpees on an unstable surface! Brilliant!
Not the training effect we’re going for
Not to mention this workout is very unsuitable for a beginner. It’s unsuitable even for people with a couple months of basic training under their belts. To be fair, he does state on the burpees and push-ups that if it’s too difficult to do with a medicine ball you can go without. I think that this would be another good time for an Advanced / Beginner split.
Burpees are hard. Burpees are really hard when you’re light-headed from only eating 800 calories per day. Burpees are really really hard when you’re only eating 800 calories a day and you just did a bunch of other exercises that make the blood rush to your head. (Push-ups / Squats / Wall balls (involve squatting))
Moral: Generally the main gripe I have is just that it’s unrealistic and miserable for a half-starved person to be given high-intensity crossfit-esque workouts. You need the proper fuel to even get anything out of it.
Again, the best you should hope for on this steep of a deficit is to maintain your muscle mass if you want this to be a little bit less of an awful experience.
Again, you can find all the segments of Jumpstart to Skinny‘s review under the “book reviews” tab at the top. You’ll find all the segments of The Skinny Rules there as well.
As far as a final word on this book, I have to say that I’m greatly saddened by what’s in here. I’m sad because so many people read this book and think that quick weight loss is something attainable, normal and even desirable. I’m sad because there is not a single peep from Harper about the drawbacks to following a crash diet. I’m sad because there are probably thousands of people who bought this book with high hopes only to find themselves facing failure after being unable to keep up with unreasonable restrictions and rules.
This book, and The Skinny Rules, will give the impression to people who try it that weight loss simply must not be for them. If these rules are non-negotiable and necessary to lose weight, while at the same time being unsustainable, then what’s the point? Why even try?
If you tried to follow the rules in this book and came up short, it’s not your fault. Harper mentions his ‘expert’ status several times in this book – no true expert in healthy weight loss would give out these suggestions. You are being misled.
If you want to lose weight, here’s a more realistic plan:
- Manage your expectations. You do not need to lose 20 pounds in 3 weeks to have a good time at your reunion, wedding or vacation. If you want to lose weight, recognize that to do so and keep it off it necessitates a long, slow process.
- Maintain a small deficit. If you’re counting calories, try something small and barely noticeable, like 200-300 calories. If you’re not counting, try just eating 80% of what you’re eating now. One less spoonful of potatoes at dinner. Half of a normal piece of toast at breakfast. Manageable stuff.
- Strength train in a way that makes you happy to maintain your muscle mass. This could be doing bodyweight exercises, training with weights, hiking, pole dancing, whatever.
When you’re just starting out, that is seriously all you need. Could you do more? Sure. But if you’ve been hopping from one diet to the next for years with no lasting results, why not try something a little more manageable?