By Marika Sboros
Are you battling to lose weight? Confused by the minefield of conflicting nutrition and weight-loss advice out there?
Or simply and seriously concerned with your health or the health of those you care about?
If so, this book is for you.
The Diet Fix is by British public health and obesity researcher Dr Zoë Harcombe. The sub-title says it all: How to lose weight and keep it off… One last time!
On the front cover, British consultant cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra calls The Diet Fix “a gamechanger”. It is that and more.
Harcombe is a prolific author of best-selling books on optimum nutrition and beating obesity. These include a seminal work, The Obesity Epidemic: What caused it? How can we stop it?
The Diet Fix is very different – much shorter, less dense, an easier read overall but just as seminal. Once again, Harcombe demonstrates her well-developed habit of delivering on all promises.
She goes over old scientific ground that’s in her other books but bears repeating. Combined with the most up-to-date research, it paints the big health picture of sustainable, safe and healthy weight loss.
Avoiding past mistakes
Harcombe charts an innovative, scientific and practical 10-step course. It stops weight-loss yo-yoing and gets you moving in a new, metabolically healthy direction.
Just as importantly, she helps you fix the wrongs and avoid past weight-loss mistakes. One is “grazing” – eating lots of small meals – that many dietitians still advise. One of Harcombe’s favourite sayings repeated in this book is: “Unless you are a cow – or want to be the size of one – stop grazing!”
Her basic premise is about eating better food, not less food. By that, Harcombe means “real”, in other words, nutrient-dense, satiating food. At heart, her book is about never going hungry, feeling miserable and deprived again as you lose weight and keep it off.
To achieve that she targets damaging yet enduring myths in nutrition science that keep people fat and sick across the globe. One of those myth: all you need to do to lose weight is eat less and move more.
It’s the so-called CICO (calories-in, calories-out) model of obesity.
The model is a mantra that drug, processed food and soft drink industries have fostered for years. It’s a myth that industry-led MDs and dietitians perpetuate to this day.
The model relies on overweight or obese patients wrongly believing that their health conditions are the result of their own gluttony and sloth. That couldn’t be more wrong. Or as Harcombe underscores in this book with a quote that Blackadder might have said: “This is wronger than a very wrong thing!”
Righting diet wrongs
The myth’s consequences for public health globally have been nothing short of disastrous, as Harcombe’s own research and this book show.
Harcombe shows that it really isn’t possible to outrun a bad diet. She knocks for a six all the “evidence” for low-calorie diets.
She also shows why she has become the go-to nutrition specialist for many MDs internationally. That’s largely a function of her formidable intellect and varied educational background and career path.
Click here to read: Noakes trial: ‘Angel Harcombe aims at its heart
It’s also because this book is a powerful mix of the personal and professional. Harcombe experienced the misery of yo-yo dieting throughout her 20s and opted to use her scientific training to find a solution.
She is a Cambridge University graduate with a BA and MA in economics and mathematics. She enjoyed a successful career in global blue chip organisations. Her early career involved international roles in management consultancy, manufacturing and marketing. She later specialised in personnel and organisation.
At her career peak, Harcombe was Vice President for Human Resources for Europe, Middle East and Africa. She left corporate life in 2008 to pursue her passion – diet and health.
Harcombe returned to full-time study in 2012 to complete a PhD in public health nutrition, which she was awarded March 2016. Her thesis examined the evidence for the introduction of dietary fat guidelines – both at the time they were introduced and the evidence available today.
Her research has challenged and effectively undermined public health dietary advice that continues to this day in many countries. That advice has demonised fat (especially saturated) and recommends that people should base meals on carbohydrates.
The Diet Fix: ‘Unparalleled command of science’
But there are other reasons why this book is such a good read, including that Harcombe is a very good writer with an acerbic and a very witty “pen”. She understands the power of humour and that laughter really can be the best medicine.
She also doesn’t suffer fools gladly – or really, at all.
The book opens with a page of quotes from leading lights in nutrition science globally. One is Australian sports physician Dr Peter Bruckner former Team Doctor for the Australian national cricket team.
He says of Harcombe: “Most people who write books about diet either don’t really understand the science, or don’t understand food. (She) gets the science and knows food.”
US investigative science journalist Nina Teicholz puts it even more strongly: Harcombe displays “an unparalleled command of the scientific literature on nutrition”.
That’s deservedly high praise from Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise, a definitive work on the politics and religion that continue to bedevil nutrition science to this day.
South African scientist Prof Tim Noakes is similarly fulsome in praise. He says of Harcombe: “There is quite simply no writer on nutrition and dietetics anywhere in the world whose opinion I value more than that of Zoë Harcombe.
Hard science rules
“Here, finally, is the weight-loss advice that is effective because it is based on hard science and presented by someone who has been there, tried them all and found what actually works. And keeps on working. For decades.
“If you are still searching for that elusive lifestyle prescription that will work for you, rejoice. You have finally found it.”
Enough said. Go out and buy The Diet Fix.
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