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from a really average woman who lost 100 lbs.
and works every day to keep it off.


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Monday, January 26, 2004  

Living the Low Carb Life
Jonny Bowden's field guide

First, understand who Jonny Bowden is. He's a nutrition and fitness writer, educator, and advisor, the weight loss coach on iVillage's popular diet and fitness site. And if you asked him to draw a map of the contentious and fiery world of nutritional theory, he would not only draw it, but could clearly demarcate all the borders, rivers and passages, reveal the history of the indigenous tribes, name all the treaties, disputes, wars and skirmishes, pillagers and peace makers. And if you asked him where he fits into the picture, he would place himself in a pirate ship running the borders of this warring continent, gathering what riches each country offers, and giving them away.

If you don't mind me mixing a few metaphors.

He doesn't mind being on the fringe. He abhors inertia, politics, loses patience with policy and protocol. He can smell an agenda on the slightest wind, and will call it out. He doesn't pull punches, he doesn't always adore the same people I do, he doesn't agree with some people he respects and doesn't respect some people he agrees with, and he's never unclear about any of that. That makes him an awfully fun read.

With all of that, he's just the nicest guy. On paper and in person. I mean, for a pirate, he's just awfully peace-loving.

What he always is, what I trust him to be, is fair and clear. And funny. And kind. And smart enough to sort good research from bad, and clear results from unclear, then distill it into useful, doable things for those of us who can't possibly predict or dodge the magma of nutritional science that flows forth daily.

And in Living the Low Carb Life (Sterling, 2004) he's done what we needed someone to do. He has gathered up all the most popular of the Low-carb diets and created a field guide.

You know the field guides we use to tell one bird species from the another, the edible mushrooms from the poisonous ones, the groundhogs from the woodchucks? Yes, well, here Bowden draws out 14 low carb diets, from the earliest ones that far predate Atkins, all the way up to South Beach. You'll read the difference between the Zone and Somerciszing, the Paleo Diet and Neanderthin and recognize a Gittleman from a Schwarzbein at 20 paces.

He lays out the structure, history, influences of the diet, describes its essential principles, and then gives his opinion and rating of each plan. It's enough to give you a sense of which plans might fit your lifestyle best.

And that was a lot of good work, alright. But what I like best about this book is the fore- and after-matter. His first two chapters give the history of the low carb movement and the clearest description of why low carb diets work and for whom that I've ever enjoyed. His last chapters are a terrific guide to nutritional supplements (the value of this advice far exceeds the price of the book), great chapters on myth-busting and FAQs and tips, and a useful description of eating when you eat this way.

Finally that last little, innocuous looking chapter. Sneaky little bugger wrote his own low carb plan, all of 14 pages, and snuck it in to the back of the book. This little plan is all the low carb diet anyone really needs. Combined with his resources section (Yes, full disclosure, SDP gets a plug in there.), these last chapters will guide you to a low-carb way of eating that is the closest description to my own way of eating that I have ever seen. It's not dissimilar to the one he described in his popular Shape Up! Diet and fitness program, followed by many thousands through iVillage and many thousands more who buy and use his books. That one was the most useful book I read while losing my 100.

He also posits his own eating-and-lifestye pyramid, suitable for photocopying and taping on your refrigerator door.

Smart, sensible, clear-eyed, funny, warm, and doable. I like this guy. I recommend the book.


Living the Low Carb Life

Jonny Bowden's Practice

Shape Up!



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