Super Carb Diet by Bob Harper with Danny Pellegrino (St. Martin's Press, 2017)

It's hard to go on a serious diet, one on which you expect to be successful and maintain a loss. Fortunately, in his new book Super Carb Diet, Bob Harper has given the weight watching world a sensible new diet plan to help achieve a healthy weight.

Harper, host of NBC's popular show The Biggest Loser, begins his informative book by describing the day on which he almost became “the biggest loser;” the day Harper had a nearly fatal heart attack. Despite having a career in physical fitness, on February 12, 2017, Harper suddenly lost consciousness as the result of a major heart attack. “Me, the fitness guy who works out every day, could not walk around the block without getting winded or dizzy,” Harper confesses after he began to recover. “It was a humbling experience, to say the least. Humbling and tough.” (p.xiii)

Sign Up for E-News

The type of heart attack that Harper suffered is referred to as “the widow maker,” and is caused primarily by a genetic condition, which causes high lipoprotein or Lp, a particle in the blood that carries cholesterol, fat, and proteins through one's blood stream.

Although Harper had eaten healthily prior to the heart attack, Dr. Dean Ornish, one of his physicians, created an appropriate diet plan to help Harper rehabilitate his damaged heart. By working with several doctors, Harper has devised a plan that is about finding the proper balance between diet and fitness; a plan which will help everyone develop a healthier life style. Harper is not shy about warning the reader that following the Super Carb Diet is hard work, but he asserts that the end result (Living a longer, healthier life) is well worth the commitment.

The four components of Harper's plan include Food, Sleep, Fitness, and Accountability. On the Super Carb Diet the participant is permitted three balanced meals per day and one “floater” meal, but the meal plan is devised to reflect the needs of the individual. If you were a teacher, you would call this plan “differentiated dieting,” and if followed, the dieter cannot fail to lose weight.

In the introductory section of the book, Harper defines “carbs,” including good carbs and “carbage,” (a term I just love). Harper's style of writing infuses humor and personal stories into the diet plan so that the reader can relate closely to the diet guru's struggle. Also, Harper's conversational tone makes the information easier to process and maintain as the reader navigates the diet plan.

After a brief explanation of the difference between good and bad carbs, Harper poses this question. “If carbs don't make you fat, what does? Simple. Overeating. Your body needs carbs for energy, but when you eat too much, the excess is turned into fat. Your body needs a certain amount of everything, not just carbs, and when you eat more than you need, it becomes fat! . . . The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that Americans eat 1,996 pounds of food per year.” (p.19) That's a pretty startling statistic, and it's no wonder that so many Americans are carrying around way too much poundage.

Two messages are reiterated by Harper throughout the section on the book that deals with the nature of what carbs are and then the actual diet plan itself. On nearly every page Harper insists that the consumer needs to read and understand the ingredients as the manufacturer lists them on the packaged food. It is by familiarizing oneself with the nutritional facts provided on those labels that the dieter can create a healthy plan that stays within the guidelines that Harper prescribes in the book. Essentially, Harper provides a formula whereby the follower of the plan can take the number of calories given from carbs, proteins, and fats on each level to figure out how much of that particular food a dieter can have to stay within healthy guidelines. As Harper states, “I probably should have called this book 'Read the Label,'” but that's okay; he makes his point clearly.

The second message that the reader sees repeatedly is that we need a combination of all foods (proteins, carbs, fats, and most particularly vegetables) in order to be successful. However, Harper advocates having vegetables at every meal, even breakfast. They are low in fat, taste good, and most importantly, fill the dieter with nutritional food that keeps our bodies fit and trim.

Chapter 8 of Harper's 90 Super Carb Diet is my favorite. Because it is so important, I have decided to quote the entire chapter, entitled “What Do you Do When You Want to Cheat?” Here it is:

“Don't.”

Although cheating is not advocated, Harper does factor in the stressful times when diets have to be altered some time and gives helpful hints as to how to work within the guidelines at such moments. He does state, “Your goal on the Super Carb Diet should be ninety days of uninterrupted meal planning and exercise. That's how you will get the very best results. However, I understand that life happens. It is my goal to give you all the tools you need to be successful.” (p.104)

Sleep is another important component to weight loss. Harper states, “You may have heard me on TV talking about the pillars of health. These pillars are what you need to have stability in your life: diet, sleep, exercise, and stress management. That second one is vital. We need sleep. It's going to give you the strength you need to get through this plan alive.” (p.113) Harper advocates for seven to nine hours of rest a night. This includes shutting down all social media, cutting back on caffeine consumption, and investing money in a bed that is comfortable from mattress to sheets. When people are sleep deprived they are likely to cave in to the daily stresses of family, job, and other obligations. By making sure the body and mind are well rested, the dieter will have more stamina to stick to a plan when the going gets rough.

The latter part of the book offers meal plans, exercise routines, and 25 pages of enticing recipes to try as part of the Super Carb Diet. Harper is a fan of tracking what one eats in order to stay honest throughout the 90 program.

Harper concludes the book with this statement, “The Super Carb Diet is everything I learned from that experience (his heart attack) as well as all my previous years in the health-and-fitness industry. Crafting this diet gave me a new purpose. I'm so excited to share it with all of you so you can be healthier than ever, and strong enough to fight off whatever comes your way. Life is a gift. Put the work in now so you can enjoy unwrapping it.” (p. 268)

With Valentines Day close at hand, instead of buying your loved one a big box of yummy chocolates, you might want to consider purchasing a copy of the Super Carb Diet instead. Giving the gift of protecting one's life with valuable diet and fitness information might be a better and healthier choice, and send a great message to the one that you love.