Saturday, June 5, 2010

All my favorites....made easy.

Lately there has been a rush of people asking for my advice - what do I cook, which DVDs do I do, where do I shop. I love it! I have tried to summarize the products I use here. All can be purchased on Amazon but almost all the items are available at either a library or Netflix. For the sake of full disclosure Amazon will send me a few cents if you purchase them through my blog, but I just put the list in place because it seems convenient for shoppers. Personally, I bought most of the DVDs but got most of the books from the library. In all categories - workout DVDs, cookbooks, apps, nutrition and food system books - there is just so much out there. It's impossible to review it all and I don't pretend to even try. There are plenty of web sites devoted to reviews, and I also like the reviews on the product pages.

Rather than being a comprehensive review of dieting products, this list just represents some of the items I found helpful. I also did a bunch of things not listed - a million web searches for recipe ideas and nutritional info, pestered my PhD epi colleagues about nutritional epi studies, browsed tons of other books in the library or book store, downloaded free exercise videos on on-demand exercise-tv, exercised outside, in the stairwell....there is no magic bullet except to decide you will workout, you will cook and eat well and you will count your points or calories. That decision is 80% of the battle. Logistics are the other 20% and the list below may help.

Workout DVDs 

My all time favorite - and my friends pretty much agree. Most effective way to spend 20 minutes, hands down (up to 60 minutes if you want). I still enjoy listening to Jackie tell me what to do, how to correct my form, why each exercise is important and joke with her trainers.

I have recommended this to umpteen people and we all love it. I have been doing it for a year progressing from 3 lb weights to 10lb weights. I can just now do the core routine. Lots of modifications for advanced and beginners. Jackie is big on not doing a lot of cardio as a weight loss tool. To lose weight you need to build the big muscle groups and up your metabolism - this DVD will do that for sure.

Not bad...I prefer the first one because it has cardio and weights mixed together, but others find it fast-paced and efficient. Hot trainers and calm demeanor. Less chit-chat and more formal. Stomach section is kind of repetitive and boring. I find this DVD goes slowly but my friend Indya thinks it goes really fast. Go figure.

Really hard in a good way. Jillian is not as bombastic as she is in some others but of course has her moments. Professional trainers, lots of motivational speaking, all over body work out.

I love Bob. I really find him positive and demanding at the same time. I don't love working out with the tubby Biggest Loser contestants, but this is a great workout. The pattern is harder to discern than the other DVDs, thus making it seem long - I can't figure out what's coming next... but maybe I'm just being thick.

I don't love this one, but I only tried level 3 one time and never tried levels 1 and 2 - I gave it away to a friend. I do like the idea of her 3-2-1 combo of weights, cardio, core, but I find her personality grating. However, I know several people who really like this one so I'm listing it anyway.

I love this one, for winter especially. It's pure cardio/plyometrics. Lots of jumping, squats, etc. Very hard. No weights. All you need is a few square feet of space and a TV for a great workout. Typical Jillian personality issues.

When I first got this I was totally addicted. It's very fast-paced, every exercise is 30 seconds long so you can't get bored. There is a pattern to discern but it's not repetitive. It's also really hard, especially if you do all three segments. Now I still like it, but it's definitely more about burning calories and less about building muscle, than say a Jackie DVD - but it's still good. Same old problems of unappealing Biggest Loser contestants and Jillian screaming, but this time she's so over the top she's almost a little tongue in cheek about her meanness.

Best integrated yoga DVD I've done, but of course I still don't love it. But she takes yoga poses and adds some movement into it, thus making it faster-paced. Yoga-lovers might enjoy, or might find her grating personality incompatible with the practice altogether.

I did a lot of reading on the topic of health, weight loss, nutrition. It helps to make the sacrifices go down more smoothly when the greater health benefits are understood. The quest becomes less about vanity and more about leading a long healthy life. Your kids need a healthy mother! I tried to put the books in the order in which I recommend reading them, but of course it doesn't really matter.

A bible of sorts. Very helpful reference about just what the title says - what to eat. Are organics worth it? Is fish safe? When every other study refutes the one before it helps to have a sensible expert distill the blather. Her main thesis is that there is no natural food group that is particularly evil or especially essential. You can find any nutrient in more than one food. It's an extra helpful book for moms trying to feed families as kids are so susceptible to toxins. I wish I had read this first but didn't learn about it until a few months ago.

A long read. Parts are boring, but it will get you thinking for a long time and will probably change some habits. Kind of a necessity for anyone really wanting to learn about our current food system. All of Pollan's books have been endlessly reviewed so I will not add to the fray, but I would put this in the must-read category.

I read this years ago and have eaten few hamburgers since. It's a pretty tough read, but an important one. This book was quite influential when it came out and covers a slew of interesting topics. Highly recommended if you haven't read it already.

A short read, but certainly worth it. Important to read What to Eat first, as this book left me confused. Confused but thinking more analytically about what I put in my body. Still it's one of my favorites.

This book focuses on the neuroscience of food addiction, and why we overeat in general. Sounds corny but you probably really are addicted to sugar salt and fat. It is possible to break the addiction. The end of the book suggests how (create rules, want something else more, follow a program, keep track of what you are eating, replace food with exercise). This book was so interesting to me because it came out just as I was finishing losing, and I read it and realized I followed the directions of the book to a tee - even though it hadn't been published when I was doing it!

This book explains epidemiological trends around the world towards obesity. The author teases out causes. He looks at where the extra calories eaten and not expended actually happen (soda, snacking, portion size of pizza). He looks at this country, Mexico, India and China mainly. It's really interesting and pretty sad. It's hard to think about all those obese kids around the world-and the starving ones too.

This is a great book if read with a grain of salt. Not literally! I don't like the basic concept, that 14 foods will change your life, but it's more 14 food groups, and the nutritional information is interesting. I also find the portion size information in here helpful as well. He's kind of a traditionalist - not into red meat, animal fat in general, but there is lots of good information mixed in with a bit of overzealousness.

Kind of dumb....really bad recipes.....but has some useful exercise tips. Worth browsing in a book store more than an actual purchase. Jillian has some equally dumb but worth-flipping-through books.


Used this at a friend's house and every recipe was delicious. After making a few recipes some ideas about getting lots of flavor from minimal calories starts to click in (fresh citrus, lots of spices). This is just one of a genre. There are a lot of fancy spa cookbooks.

This is a TV show. The recipes are available online at the Lifetime TV channel if you don't want to buy the book. I find the recipes a bit too complicated but there are some good, transferrable ideas about ingredient swapping.

I tend not to use cookbooks but rather to do web searches, or searches on I look up a lot of recipes and cobble together how I want to make something. But if you do like cookbooks, there are SO many and some of them are even good. I  am sure there are great cookbook review web sites out there. Read some reviews and treat yourself to some new ones.


Similar to Fast Food Nation in its impact. Well done and extremely effective. Much has been written about this as well. I'm sure you can find reviews with a quick Google search. Even though I wasn't a fast-food junkie, this book certainly had long-term impact on my thinking.

This movie is a short cut of Fast Food Nation and the Omnivore's Dilemma. Since I had read both books I found it kind of boring, but it gets the point across faster than reading two books!

iPhone apps/websites
With the exception of cookbooks, most apps have a corresponding website. You can create an account and sync up depending on if you're on the go or at a terminal.

I put cookbooks in quotes as these apps are so much more than cookbooks. They integrate with web sites, auto-generate shopping lists, create favorites. They really are a huge step up from cookbooks or even cooking web sites as you have access to them in the grocery store. The advent of bar code scanners  built into the 3Gs is just mindbending! I need to upgrade now!

How to Cook Everything
Best cookbook app I've tried. Integrates with a shopping list - has lots of variations, simple instructions.
If you like cookbook apps there are tons more out there, but I tend not to use them. But it is a nice idea to see an artichoke in the store and instead of wondering what to do with it - you just look it up, find a recipe you like and buy the ingredients right then.

This app is free and excellent. It's just every recipe you would ever need.

Counting/tracking apps
Counting your calories, writing down every thing you eat...admitting that you need to take this step is a huge impediment for many people, myself included, but there is ample evidence that not taking this step will result in meager results. Turning this treacherous, onerous task into a video game is the best thing to happen to dieting in a while!

Best of breed, I think. Calorie or POINT counter, bar code scanner for easy inputing, huge wiki-library...lots of nutritional info...endless features. I believe calorie tracking is essential for real weight loss and this is the easiest way to do it hands down. Integrates nicely with a web app, and syncs. The bar code scanner enters everything for you (supercool!) - just pick the portion size - but only works with 3GS.

Similar to above, but no POINTS, and as far as I know doesn't have a bar code scanner. Does have lots of great nutritional info though.

There are so many more...the Spark has some apps.

As for what to buy at the supermarket - that will need to be another post.

1 comment: