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Book Review: Snack Yourself Slim by Richard Warburg and Tessa Lorant

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Having lost and gained the same 20 pounds for most of my life, I have crowned myself “Queen of the Yo-Yo Sisterhood” in reference to my many ups and downs of dieting. If there’s a diet, I’ve tried it.

After gaining an extraordinary amount of weight with my first child, I trod in uncharted territory, becoming obese. Through portion control, quality control and frequency patrol, I have lost nearly 40 pounds without dieting and have given up on that self-sabotaging habit forever.

Then along came Snack Yourself Slim by Richard Warburg, PhD, JD and Tessa Lorant, MA. Touted as a non-diet book, and titled with an irresistible assertion, I couldn’t wait to begin.

Alas, I should have stopped at the title. The basic principles in this lightweight, half-assed, typo-riddled piece could easily have fit in an 8-1/2” x 11” two-fold pamphlet instead of meandering into a 140-page book.

With Warburg’s PhD, I would have expected an assuring, perhaps even authoritarian tone, rather than this shallow, contradictory, repetitive piece. The writing style is casual and sometimes cutesy. And when an author declares, “no pun intended” more than twice, you know it was on purpose.

The premise of Warburg and Lorant’s eating plan is to break up what you would regularly eat in a day into 12 to 17 small meals called EATALL(TM) portions, eating every hour upon waking until bedtime. Followers of the EATALL(TM) plan are cautioned to not eat more than they are accustomed to. Simply re-allocate what they usually eat in one day, to more than a dozen snacks of approximately 100 calories each.

This revolutionary approach claims to help you lose “waist” (no pun intended, the authors claim), reduce cholesterol and stabilize, or maybe even cure, diabetes.

EATALL(TM) is a catchall meaning any type of food or activity that reduces the calories of meals. Warburg, at 6 feet tall and a whopping 178 lbs., discovered the EATALL(TM) way after desperately trying to lose four pounds. What he miraculously found was that while using the EATALL(TM) way, he lost an amazing 18 pounds in two months by eating small food portions many times a day.

The book is divided into a hodgepodge of sections, touching on the psychology and science of the EATALL(TM) plan, testimonials from EATALL(TM) plan success stories, how to use the EATALL(TM) plan, and suggested foods to use in the EATALL(TM) plan.

For those who can’t remember anything from page to page, the authors remind, reiterate and recap the EATALL(TM) way at every turn.

Incidentally, are you as annoyed as I am by the number of EATALL(TM) words in all caps, all over the page? Try reading 140 pages of this before you discover the reason for it. I’ll get to that later.

But first, let’s explore the science of the EATALL(TM) plan. Back in 1964, anecdotal accounts from a study of 400 Czechoslovakian men indicated that participants who reported eating more frequently weighed less and were less likely to be glucose intolerant than those who ate less often. The study doesn’t mention what the participants ate, the frequency of meals, or the nutritional composition of their diets, but then again we’re talking Czechoslovakia back in 1964, when most information was shelved behind an iron curtain.

Moving on to 1989, (at this point I had to check the book’s copyright and was astounded to learn it was published as recently as 2008) a Canadian study initially revealed that increasing the frequency of meals led to increased obesity in participants due to their inability to control their portions. But further testing with portion-controlled diets concluded that 100% of participants who ate 17 small meals versus three regular meals per day had reduced levels of insulin, glucose and bad cholesterol. Yes, 100% of participants. All SEVEN men!

It’s a good thing Warburg has his 18-pound testimonial and a handful of anecdotes from his friends to fall back on because the “science” cited in this book falls flatter than our great, green Earth.

According to the authors, now that we have solid, scientific grounds for the EATALL(TM) way, we can forget about meals, those silly social setbacks that have made us all fat, and switch to snacks all day long. You see, our evolutionary blueprint has programmed us to only know hunger and fullness, with no in-between. The EATALL(TM) portions with set calorie allotments allow us to eat just enough so that we are no longer hungry, but not quite full. So, we can reprogram our blueprint by experiencing the non-existent sensation of feeling satisfied.

The EATALL(TM) way is not just practicing portion control, it’s giving up meals for snacks. Once your body adjusts to the EATALL(TM) way, (although no clues are provided as to how and when this may happen, or how you will know when it happens), you will be able to eat meals again. But wait! Why would I change my new EATALL(TM) way of eating, just to go back to an unhealthy habit that science has apparently proven is bad for me?

But that’s not all. The continual practice of the EATALL(TM) way will resolve the root cause of excess weight and obesity, which is hunger. Evidently the authors are not very familiar with the phrase “emotional eating,” but I bet I could round up a butt-load of study participants who eat their hearts out more due to anger, fear and depression, than a rumbling belly.

The groundbreaking psychology behind the success of the EATALL(TM) way is based upon this golden nugget… eat small amounts of food frequently so you don’t get hungry. And how to cope with emotional eating for comfort? According to the authors, the need just seems to fall away. Understand? It works because it works. This circular reasoning is enough to make one’s head spin and stomach churn.

As a lifetime dieter, I am all too aware of the emotional and psychological factors that contribute to weight gain. For real people with real weight issues, advocating constant snacking is blatantly leading us into temptation.

The EATALL(TM) plan is promoted as easy-to-follow, yet the authors consistently backtrack on their advice.

· Eat what you regularly do in a day; just divide it into 17 portions. On second thought, the authors state that it’s better to eat less, be underweight and live longer.

· It is suggested you eat every 15 minutes. Or 30 minutes. Or 60. Or 90. Then we’re told to figure it out ourselves.

· Make sure the food is available, but not visible, because you might be tempted to eat it.

· The authors assert EATALL(TM) is ideal and practical for the whole family, yet concede it may not work for those who don’t have the time or opportunity to prepare food and eat all the time.

· Although the authors state you won’t feel hunger on the EATALL(TM) plan, they later counter with reassurances that you’ll get used to the hunger after a couple of days and then it will go away.

· You can eat whatever you want because this isn’t a diet, yet you may experience envy when everyone else is eating the good stuff while you’re eating bird food.

· Cheating on the EATALL(TM) plan is addressed, although I’m not sure how it can be a factor since no foods are forbidden. But not to worry if you do cheat, the authors state they do it all the time.

· You don’t have to exercise, although it will probably help. Suggested activities include painting, fishing and reorganizing your room, while lifting weights is noted as boring.

· Don’t count calories. That’s too tedious and laborious. Just make sure to eat about 100 calories per EATALL(TM) portion, but then again, who’s counting?

· Here’s some useful insight on how to prevent yourself from overeating at snack time. When eating out, take a few bites, then hopefully you will throw the rest away before you’re tempted to eat the whole thing. But if you do eat it all, don’t worry, just eat an EATALL(TM) portion within the next half-hour.

Near the book’s end, I briefly scanned the list of suggested foods such as paté, nut butters and spreads. After spending 100-some pages being told I can eat what I want, there’s no way in hell’s kitchen I’m making nut butter. Or eating half a pepper filled with cottage cheese, or salad with fish paté. Don’t play bite and switch with me, baby! While ice cream and sweets are also on the list, the authors note that you can eat cake, but you probably won’t want to. Why wouldn’t you want to, I wonder? Obviously, all that nut butter’s gone to their heads.

The authors claim the EATALL(TM) way is not a diet, because diets are bad for you. Yet they suggest the EATALL(TM) way can be combined with popular diets such as The Starvation Diet, The Grapefruit Diet or the Cabbage Soup Diet. And while they don’t necessarily recommend them, they propose you can use these diets successfully with the EATALL(TM) plan.

After decades of dieting, here’s a few things I’ve learned about how to tell if you’re on a diet. A diet will tell you:

1) when to eat
2) what to eat
3) that fast “waist” loss is easy
4) to change your already overtaxed schedule to accommodate the new plan
5) to cause disruption to your entire family

If it looks like a diet, if it sounds like a diet, if it tastes like a diet and makes me feel like I’m on a diet, it’s a bloody diet!

Disappointed as I was, I decided I couldn’t judge this book by its shallow content until I put it into practice. And in doing so, I discovered the EATALL(TM) way experience was much like the book. Bits and pieces of this and that scattered throughout, with nothing substantial to sink my teeth into.

I started the morning determining the amount of calories I should consume that day. Unfortunately, the authors couldn’t be bothered to explain how to calculate your EATALL(TM) portion calorie allotment. That’s what Google is for, they contend. I decided to plan for 11 100-calorie snacks, for a total of 1,100 calories needed to sustain my 5’ 5” 145 lb. frame.

Although I snacked all day and didn’t feel hungry, I wasn’t satisfied either. By 4:30 p.m., I was not physically hungry, but emotionally hungry for the first time in months. So much for their assurances of not to worry, claiming that if you eat too much, your body will tell you. Mine however, doesn’t tell me – it shows me – all over my ass.

I'm a big advocate of portion control, but this diet with its incessant snacking really did me in. I ended up feeling cranky, crampy and bloated. I realized once more how much I don't like being told when to eat or what to eat or not to eat. I also experienced the dangers of being tempted with food all day. I haven’t binged in years, but the EATALL(TM) diet triggered one doozy of a free-for-all.

After going through 11 snacks, eight forks, six plates, four spoons, three glasses and two knives I decided that gain or lose, this is one diet I will not be living on longer than a day. Other than taking the kids to and from school, I had to stay home all day to prepare and eat snacks. Which made me ponder, “Isn’t this how I got fat in the first place?”

If the EATALL(TM) way was impractical for me, I can only imagine the trouble it would cause forcing it on the family. First, I would have to pack at least a dozen little snacks in my kids’ lunches. Of course, I’ll need to switch the lunch boxes for suitcases to fit the dozen or so containers for the food. Then notify the teachers that my little snackers will be taking a break from their lessons every half hour to munch on some kiwi or crackers or beans.

Back at home, we’ll start sampling supper around 5:00 p.m., then clean up the dishes, re-heat more supper at 6:00 p.m., clean up the dishes, snack again around 7:00 p.m., then clean up the dishes once more. So my dawdling daughter who takes eons to eat a simple sandwich will spend each night gnawing away at the kitchen table. Plus, there’s nothing quite as enjoyable to the palate as leftover leftovers.

The authors suggest using the EATALL(TM) way will help wean your kids from junk food if you let them choose their own snacks. Why didn’t I think of this before? Because given their own freewill of what to eat, what sane child would choose potato chips over nut paté?

It wasn’t until I reached the end of the book that I realized what the authors meant when stating that the EATALL(TM) way is not a diet. While Warburg has studied molecular biology, his passion seems to be intellectual property law. He dedicates nearly a full page to the proper use of the term EATALL(TM), explaining in more detail and clarity how to use the EATALL(TM) phrase, than how to use the EATALL(TM) plan. This probably explains why I am so angered by this book. With 350+ references to the EATALL(TM) way, it reads like a marketing tool to brand the EATALL(TM) way into our brains. It’s all about coining a phrase to cash in.

EATALL(TM) seems to say it is the BE ALL and END ALL to the serious epidemic of obesity and excess weight in our society and once the EATALL(TM) way consumes our collective consciousness, it will be licensed to Mr. Christie and General Mills to be repackaged in 100-calorie allotments of satisfying snack-packs of crackers and nutty butters.

If you are looking for a serious solution to the problem of excess weight and obesity, Snack Yourself Slim is simply a joke. But if you just want to snack yourself silly, I promise it will BEATALL. No pun intended.

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About Eleanor Diekert

  • carol

    She complains about “preparing snacks all day”. What’s to prepare for a half cup of cottage cheese and a cracker? a piece of whole wheat toast? a piece of bread with a slice of cheese on it? a piece of fruit? a piece of leftover chicken? a spoonful of peanut butter? The real time consuming deal is preparing a full blown dinner, altho it can yield leftovers. maybe.

    what’s she preparing for snacks? fancy hor d’oeuvres? little danish finger sandwiches?

    This complaint made her sound a bit dense, when it came to common sense. which she abandoned as she escalated her assault on the book into near hysteria.

  • skinnierthanyou

    you sound like a fat miserable person. Just wanted to let you know that your article put me off to anything you would ever write in the future. There is a way to critique people without bashing them.

    I’ve lost so much weight doing it and it teaches you portion control so you can eat whatever you want to, but keep it within the 100 calorie range every hour. That’s what skinny people do, and that’s why they say they can eat WHATEVER they want, it’s just you eat a huge portion and they don’t. GET IT NOW?

  • carfash

    For a food addict as I am, this “diet” or plan is perfect for me. It takes no time to do the snacks and I know that in 45-55 minutes, I can have more. Cutting down portions to this extent of 100 cals per hour, helps the stomach to “shrink” and get used to smaller portions. I do interspace it with high and low calorie days and I seem to lose more from the high calorie days, but perhaps that’s just me, as dieting is so individual anyway. I put everything on the computer and I’m very happy with this approach. I have learned from this plan to be aware, i.e., mindful eating, to be patient, to have better understanding on calorie content and portion control and that 100 calories will satisfy a person’s (mine) to overeat.”Each to his own, said the old woman as she kissed the cow.” (old southern saying) OH, by the way, I think you learn more about any approach if you try it for more than only one day. In this plan, you need to record your daily weigh, daily fruit and vegetable intake and other details as per individual need.