I got this as a free book through BookBub, and despite the horrible title and bad cover, I picked it up because I am a sucker for self-help books, especially self-help books for problems I don’t have. I also love non-fiction books about science, and anything about food.
I’m not a dieter. I may possibly be the only woman in the western hemisphere who hasn’t dieted at least once. I avoid low-fat, sugar-free, low calorie, zero carb, and all the health fads that come by. I don’t drink smoothies with acai berries in them, I didn’t drink Dr. Braggs vinegar, add flax seed to my protein shakes and I roll my eyes when people talk about something as being a miracle food. Believe in diets? I barely believe in vitamins. But this book isn’t a diet book. Not exactly.
The basic premise of this book is that your body develops fat as a way to store toxins it can’t process, and that food you can’t digest properly is counted as toxic. Here’s the part that hooked me: he offers a series of tests you can do (mostly ph analysis of body fluids) to find out what your imbalances are. To a hypochondriac who loves science, this is like crack cocaine.
I’ve done some research on some of the things he’s talked about since I read this book. It’s like falling down the rabbit hole. This is one of my first forays into this branch of alternative medicine. I had no idea how deep this went. Hale emphasizes that he has no medical credentials. He’s a comedian, he says, not a doctor. This is a little like a politician bragging about how they have no political experience: I know it appeals to some people, but I’m not one of them. Still, by the authority with which he talks about alternative medicine, it’s clear he’s been at this a long time. Maybe he’s even good at it. I know that his comedic skills didn’t manifest well. I found his asides distracting rather than amusing most of the time. That often happens when stand-up comedians write books http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/… so I don’t hold it against him.
I’m of mixed minds about this book. On one hand, doctors generally aren’t very good at curing people of obesity. “Eat less, exercise more” is generally useless advice. One, everyone knows it. Two, most people can’t do it, and three even people who manage to do it don’t keep the weight off. There’s a moral judgement about fat people that it’s all about laziness, which frankly, I don’t believe. I’m willing to entertain other theories as to why people keep piling on the pounds even when they are spending billions of dollars on diet an exercise tips.
Some of Hale’s points make intuitive advice. Fat is a repository for toxin, so you can have trouble if you lose the fat without reducing the toxin buildup. Salt is not bad for you, and you can suffer from too little of it. Low-fat and sugar-free are not better than real food. He’s got some points about organics which make intuitive sense (plants grown in non-nutritious soil are not nutritious) that have, frankly, not been proven or disproven. The most fascinating idea to me is that people have trouble digesting because their stomach makes insufficient acid, so you can digest food better if you have acid tablet supplements. He explains digestion in a way that not only sounds logical, but makes me nod in agreement, like “hey, he’s right! Maybe we shouldn’t go around cutting out gall bladders and tossing them away willy-nilly!”
But there are a lot of places where Hale’s science is, frankly, sketchy. He says we can’t digest carbs without sufficient “minerals” but then he neglects to say what these minerals are. He says to use sea salt rather than refined salt, but white sea salt is pretty damn pure, unless you’re deliberatly seeking out the pink or grey stuff with magnesium or clay or algae. (Yes, I’ve read a book on salt.) He also says that coconut oil is better than olive oil because olive oil becomes “toxic” when heated. Well, um, the book I read about olive oil said nothing of the sort. He also says that organic plants defend better against pests because they have more “minerals” from the soil. Again with the minerals, and again, not quite true. (Organic plants are bred to produce their own pesticides-that’s what disease resistance means–plants make their own bug-repelling chemicals.) He says with one breath that all sugar subsitutes are bad (I agree) and with the other, he says he uses stevia, because it comes from a plant and is “all natural”. Nicotine comes from a plant and is also “all natural,” that doesn’t make it good for you. In my mind, stevia=fake sugar. If it tastes like a fake sugar and it quacks like a fake sugar, it’s a fake sugar.
Hale also veers way into woo-woo territory when he starts talking about the things you should eliminate from your life if you want to avoid toxins. I’m willing to believe that you can inhale chlorine from your tapwater shower, and that maybe it’s better to get a filter. I’m also onboard with fluoride being not-so-good for your body (except the teeth). But microwaving makes food bad for you? Microwaving alters the chemistry of water? (Besides just heating it?) That’s somewhere between homeopathy and Masaro Emoto. He also, when mentioning toxins you should remove from your life, ignores the blindingly obvious one: alcohol. He also doesn’t quite get how birth control works, and his blase advice to “use other methods” is kind of facile and insulting. (I live in a first world country, and I have health insurance, and I still wasn’t able to get the non-hormonal birth control I wanted.)
Do I think this is interesting? absolutely. Do I believe him enough to start popping supplements (supplements=unregulated chemicals touting unproven benefits)? Not without additional research. I know, I know, supplements are “all natural.” Anyone dumb enough to think that natural=healthy can sweeten their organic oleander tea with the naturally sweet mineral beryllium. Does this mean I think that everything Hale says is bull? No. Doctors don’t have a monopoly on health information. And that’s the thing. I think half of what traditional medicine tells us is true, and half of it is false, but the question is, which half? Alternative medicine is the same way. Some things that this underground of althealth people are researching are ahead of their time. Some of it is useless and/or harmful. Plenty of people have come up with unconventional ideas. It’s hard to separate the good advice eg. “wash your hands before surgery” from the bad eg. “drink radium water!”
I think this book is fascinating to someone like me, who hasn’t ventured into this alternative health/nutrition territory before. It’s entertaining, if nothing else, and unlike many e-books, it has a table of contents with links, so if you wanted to re-read sections, you can go back.