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Book Review: The Ultimate New York Diet by David Kirsch

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For those of you who don’t want to waste a lot of time listening to me pontificate, I’ll get right down to business. The Ultimate New York Diet by New York-based personal trainer David Kirsch is yet another in a seemingly endless tidal wave of cookie-cutter guru books. But duller.

There’s nothing unique about this book, the plan, or Mr. Kirsch’s philosophy. For 25 bucks we get about 300 pages chock-full of the usual recycled information that is available in almost any other diet book that has been written over the past decade and on the Internet. Menus, recipes, testimonials, endorsements, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Have you ever heard of the guideline that is taught in “Public Speaking 101?” You know, the old “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.” Well, this old adage applies to the first 160 pages of the book and includes the usual celebrity testimonials and the average Joe anecdotal success stories. We get the same info over and over again presented in a preachy, most-foods-are-evil tone.

One of the most distasteful elements of this book is the constant demonization of most kinds of regular food. Despite his assertion that he doesn’t dwell on the negatives – or the foods that you can’t eat – Kirsch is constantly telling us how bad bread is for us and how bad dairy is for us and that we need to stay away from coffee — just please shut up and keep all of these very important secrets to yourself and your clientele.

We know the drill. White bread and sugar and pasta and coffee will kill us even though these foods have sustained countless generations. That’s why all of those old people are now dead; they ate too much bread and put too much sugar and half and half in their coffee. Oy vey.

Ah, but now I am pontificating. So I will show great self-restraint and just give you my thoughts on this book in my trademarked and smart-aleck format.

Hook: David Kirsch helped supermodel Heide Klum get back into her Victoria’s Secret skivvies only eight weeks after giving birth to her second kid, and he’s going to share his secrets with us.

Gimmick: Kirsch promises a 14-pound weight loss in the first two weeks of the program through an incredibly restrictive diet, and claims that rapid weight loss is healthy and beneficial. There seems to be a preponderance of evidence to refute the position that rapid weight loss is healthy and beneficial.

Inconsistency: Kirsch says that he was against all kinds of rapid weight loss programs and changed his mind only when approached by ABC, who wanted him to design a rapid weight loss program for the television show Extreme Makeover. There isn’t too much data to indicate that rapid weight loss is beneficial and there certainly wasn’t any ground-breaking study that made Kirsch change his mind. The way the book reads, Kirsch became a proponent of rapid weight loss because he was offered a job by the ABC network. Not a good reason to change your mind. But hey, that’s just me.

Glaring Omissions: There are several. First of all there isn’t any real discussion with regard to Kirsch’s theory that rapid weight loss is beneficial or necessary. Despite being told rapid weight loss is good, Kirsch never really tells us why rapid weight loss is necessary. We don’t get too much real evidence to show us that rapid weight loss is beneficial either. And while there is a decent bibliography, we don’t get enough specifics about studies that Kirsch uses to support his various positions and statements.

Also, Kirsch doesn’t seem to recognize that people of different sizes have different caloric requirements to support their basic metabolic needs. For instance, a 225-pound person needs more calories than a 150-pound person to maintain muscle and support other vital functions, yet meals in Kirsch’s Phase 1 never contains more than about 975 calories.

Annoying Features: Here’s the list.

  • The preachy tone.
  • The constant references to the New York way of doing things.
  • The 1980s-era workout program.
  • The micromanagement of your eating life.
  • Emphasis on body weight.
  • Confusing appearance – such as having a “perky butt” – with health.
  • Kirsch’s constant negative references to food and his obsession with exercise; almost everything is “bad” for you and you really should exercise 90 minutes a day, every day. 
  • The boringness of the book.

Most Outrageous Claim: Kirsch is of the opinion that people need to exercise 45-90 minutes a day, every day. This is nonsense. This obsession with exercise is unhealthy and unproductive. Working out this much sacrifices quality for quantity and guarantees that you get the least out of your exercise. For those folks who don’t have this block of time to devote to exercise, Kirsch recommends performing several ten minute workouts during the day. This kind of approach results in people obsessing over exercise.

Say Something Nice: On page 25 Kirsch provides a good summary of why low-fat diets wound up making a lot of people fatter.

Bottom Line: Reading the Ultimate New York Diet was a joyless, mind-numbingly dull experience. Trying to implement this program would be just as boring, but with the added misery of being ravenous during every waking moment. This program would have the effect of replacing the addiction to over-eating with the compulsion to exercise and the obsession with every morsel of food that a person puts in their mouth; neither is good. Life is too short to live this way.

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About Sal Marinello

  • This article has been selected for syndication to Advance.net, which is affiliated with newspapers around the United States. Nice work!

  • Carrie

    David makes it very clear that this should only be done for two weeks. Since you read so much of the book, you should have read that as well. It’s just a quick fix. No one said to live by this book for the rest of your life. People,,,,,,,,,,it works!!!