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65 of 65 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Funny BUT I Have Some Concerns, March 9, 2011
This review is from: The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything (Paperback)
The idea behind this book (and the author's blog, The Great Fitness Experiment) is that the author spends a month testing twelve different diet and exercise programs to let us know what works and what doesn't--thereby saving us from using a diet or exercise plan that doesn't work. Sounds good, right? I thought so too, and it was with considerable excitement that I picked up this book. I was very curious to see if Jillian Michaels's plan was worthy; if the kettleballs I keep seeing at Target are something that I should be messing with; if karate would float my boat; if there was some magical 10-minute, eat-what-you-want-and-lose-weight program out there that I'd somehow missed.

However, I discovered that the book wasn't quite what I anticipated. Here is a bit about what I liked and didn't like.

What I Liked

* Charlotte is hysterically funny. (After reading her book, I feel I can call her Charlotte. She is that kind of writer.) She has a wonderfully irreverent sense of humor that endeared her to me immediately. I dare you to keep a straight face when reading about how her experiment with the TRX suspension system ended up with her looking like she was having a gynecological exam at the gym. Even if you have zero interest in reading about fitness, her sense of humor and snarky pop culture references makes this book a fun, fast read.

* Charlotte is brutally honest. A variety of personal essays (dealing with topics such as body insecurity and making peace with your tummy) are interspersed with the chapters on the various experiments. In these essays, she shares some very personal information (including her experiences with eating disorders and past sexual abuse) that add some balance to the book's overall light-hearted and fun tone.

* The workout were varied. Although I hadn't heard of every plan she uses in the book, I was somewhat familiar (and curious about) Jillian Michaels, the workout devised by trainer to the stars Tracey Anderson (who gets mentioned in almost every issue of US Weekly) and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which I had high hopes for before I really knew what it was. She also explores veganism, double cardio, karate, kettleballs, CrossFit and something called the Primal Blueprint (which involves eating and exercising like our caveman ancestors).

* The highs and lows of each diet/workout is explored. As she says in the introduction, the key to a successful diet/workout plan is finding one that fits your needs. What works for me might not work for you and vice versa. (Just for the record, nothing has worked for me. Just saying.) For each experiment, Charlotte provides detailed information on what the workout involves, who it might appeal to, and what type of results to expect (e.g., this workout bulks you up, this workout focuses on overall toning).

What I Didn't Like

* Charlotte is a self-professed overexerciser. Charlotte writes candidly about her lifelong problem with exercising too much. When she described how she views exercise as "fun" and something she'd do up to 4 or 5 hours a day, I realized that we were not coming from the same place. If this is a woman who regularly lifts weights and does 45-minutes of cardio each day at a minimum, how can I trust her assessment of a workout? (After all, I'm out of shape and starting virtually from scratch as far as exercising so her take on a workout and my take on a workout would be like comparing apples to oranges.) When she writes that a particular workout pushed her to the point of seeing stars and vomiting, that was enough to convince me that I could not even CONSIDER that particular program. Once I realized where she was coming from, it occurred to me that perhaps none of these programs were feasible for me. Once I realized this, I started reading more for entertainment purposes and less for information.

* Writing about the workouts without proper training or equipment. Several times, Charlotte says that she "modified" the program to fit her needs or didn't learn proper techniques. In fact, for the HIIT experiment, she misread the intervals and did the workout wrong for the entire month. She also evaluates a workout that uses a special type of slider thing without buying the actual sliders and ends up using plastic plates instead. Although this makes for some funny writing, it did make me question how effective these experiments were if she wasn't doing them as designed.

* Getting results for someone who has a very low BMI. Throughout the book, Charlotte shares the results of the experiments as far as pounds and inches lost. She then writes about how she was in the throes of an eating disorder while writing this book and that her BMI was dangerously low. (In other words, she barely has any body fat.) To me, this skews her results. How can she accurately judge a diet/workout when she really doesn't have weight to lose in the first place? Although I think her brutally honest sharing about her exercising compulsion and "disordered" eating is something that SHOULD be discussed and shared, it made me leery that the information she is providing isn't coming from the healthiest place.

My Final Recommendation

Although I think Charlotte has a wonderfully funny approach to writing and life, I'm not sure I would be so quick to accept her judgment about dieting and exercise programs, which, of course, is what this book is about. By her own admission, she is a compulsive overexerciser who has struggled with eating disorders her entire life. Although I applaud her for sharing her struggles and attempting to get healthier, I'm not sure she is the best person to get advice from on this topic. This led me to have conflicted feeling about this book and prevents me from recommending it as a diet/exercise book. I do think she is darn funny though. In fact, I wish that she would write about more general topics as I enjoyed her take on life.

It also makes me wonder if someone like me (a chubby, out of shape middle-aged woman who hates exercising and has little or not willpower) has written a book in this same vein as I would LOVE to read it. If not, perhaps it is something I should work on myself.
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Comments

Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 25, 2011 6:40:40 PM PDT
publishermom says:
Yes, maybe you SHOULD write one yourself! I bet it would go through the roof in sales, because there are so many women in this same boat. You are also very articulate, and your opinions are well thought out. Go for it!

In reply to an earlier post on May 31, 2011 5:49:22 PM PDT
Jennifer says:
Thanks for your kind comment. If I just had the gumption to do these exercise programs, I would write the book I had HOPED to read.

Posted on Nov 23, 2011 11:04:00 AM PST
L. Magill says:
Very valid points. Since most of our nation suffers from high BMI numbers, it is hard to relate to someone who has trouble keeping hers in a healthy range from the low end. I, too, would be very interested in a book written by someone with whom I could identify.

Posted on Mar 6, 2012 12:30:12 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 6, 2012 12:30:47 PM PST
Joyce James says:
SUPER HELPFUL REVIEW, thanks! Your instinct is correct - the book you wanted this to be is the one I hoped it was as well when I read about it. And there is a market for it! Pretty much every woman I know, for starters. I suppose it's the ultimate irony that the book that needs to be written would have to be done by one of the individuals least likely to do the things the book would be about!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2012 8:46:02 AM PDT
Jennifer says:
You said it perfectly!! I've thought about trying to write a book like I described ... but my very nature prevents me from actually doing it. We can hope that someday, it comes to be.

Posted on Nov 14, 2013 7:03:24 AM PST
Jennifer, YOU ARE ME! Or I am you. Or some such.
If you had not written this review, I might have bought the book, and TOTALLY wasted my time. If you DO find the book we are both searching and hoping for, PLEASE let me know!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2013 6:23:23 AM PST
Jennifer says:
I have yet to find the book I (I mean, WE) are looking for! If I ever find it, I will let you know!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2013 8:50:35 AM PST
Thanks!
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