Author: Michael Thurmond
Publisher: Warner Wellness (March 1, 2007)
Reviewed by Meg Heinz, 3FC Mod and Certified Personal Trainer
Just when it seems like we may finally have put the era of fad diet books behind us and focused instead on sensible, permanent weight loss, along comes The 12 Day Body Shaping Miracle. The title practically screams FAD DIET and author Michael Thurmond doesn't deny it. He tells you in the Introduction that this is a book designed for quick, short-term weight loss: he claims 5-12 pounds in 12 days. Whether or not this is true, the book doesn't even pretend to be a program for lifetime weight management, something to keep in mind when you decide whether this plan is a good fit for your goals.
Putting aside the important question of what happens on Day 13, let's look at the 12 Day Body Shaping Miracle plan. To his credit, Michael Thurmond emphasizes exercise - both weight lifting (he calls it body sculpting) and cardio - as well as diet. In fact, unlike any other diet book that we can recall, the book spends far more time on exercise than on the diet itself. Only one of the eight chapters discusses nutrition and it's so brief, with so many questions left unanswered, that the eating plan is difficult to follow.
But let's say you have a big event coming up in two weeks and you want to give the 12 Day Body Shaping Miracle a whirl. What happens? The first thing you do is take a quiz to determine your body type. The book purports to let you customize your eating and exercise plans for five different body types. In reality, the five plans are almost identical, with only minor variations in exercises performed and quantities eaten. You're left scratching your head about why the book goes to so much trouble assessing body types if everyone ends up doing and eating pretty much the same things. Could it be that the 'customized plans' are - a gimmick?
The food plan has you eating around 975 calories per day, much lower than the 1200 calories that's considered to be adequate to meet daily protein, fiber, and vitamin needs. And, unlike most diet plans, this calorie level doesn't vary according to your current weight. Whether you have 10 or 200 pounds to lose, you're eating the same number of calories. Asking a 300 pound woman to drop her calories below 1000 a day is challenging as well as unnecessary.
But OK, to be fair - this is a diet designed for quick weight loss. Let's look at what you're eating. The food plan commendably emphasizes lean proteins and complex carbs but it's so afraid of fats that you'll think you're back in the '90s, eating Snackwell cookies. Michael Thurmond doesn't believe in good fats; he believes in no fats and consequently you end up eating only around 15 grams of fat per day (about 15% of your 975 calories). Oddly, the book seems to think that fruits and vegetables aren't carbs but are a whole separate food group of their own.
Your eating plan is laid out in a day-by-day grid. There isn't an exchange list so boredom might be a problem. After 12 days of eating 2 ounces of turkey and one cup of 'greens' (which are never defined - salad? cooked vegetables? mint chocolate chip ice cream?) for your midmorning snack, you may never eat turkey again. Even on Thanksgiving.
What about the exercise plan? When you read Michael Thurmond's glowing promises of a radical new approach to exercise, you'll think wow! these workouts must be something really fresh and innovative. But the workouts aren't anything new - they're cardio to burn calories and weights to build muscle. It's a winning combination - and one we heartily endorse - but certainly not one he invented.
All he's done to make them different is to turn several basic exercise principles on their heads. Recent studies have shown that maximum fat loss occurs with interval training - moderate cardio interspersed with high intensity bursts - rather than long, slow cardio done in an imaginary 'fat burning zone'. But Michael Thurmond insists that you slow down your cardio to 50 - 65% of your max heart rate. Perhaps that's as fast he thinks you'll be able to go on 975 calories per day?
He also wants you to lift weights using a short range of motion. He maintains that you can 'shape' your muscle this way but, in fact, lifting with less than a complete range of motion is a good way to injure yourself. And sadly, he perpetuates the myth that certain exercises - such as lunges - and heavy weights will 'bulk up' women. All in all, once you brush aside the glitter, it's a fairly routine and somewhat misguided program.
But we're impressed with the scope of the exercise plan. The book excels at its weightlifting descriptions and photos, especially valuable for a beginner or someone working out at home. Some of his assertions about women and weights are questionable, but on the whole, we have to applaud Michael Thurmond's welcome emphasis on exercise as a necessary adjunct to a diet plan.
In the end, the Miracle turns out to be an extremely low calorie diet plan combined with standard exercise recommendations. Let's say you've stuck it out for 12 days, done your slow cardio and eaten your turkey snack every morning. Hopefully you've lost a few pounds and are feeling and looking better. What happens next? See, that's the problem with fad diets - what happens when the diet is over? Going back to your old way of eating and (not) exercising is a sure recipe for weight regain, in probably less than 12 days.
Most of us have been around the weight loss world long enough to realize that there aren't any miracles. Or secrets. What's the point of dropping a few pounds in 12 days if it's all going to come back? Haven't we moved past quickie, miracle fad diets and onto sustainable, permanent weight loss?
If you visit our 3FC Maintainers Forum, you'll discover that permanent weight loss is the result of a diet and exercise plan that you can comfortably follow for the rest of your life. Most of our maintainers have created their own plans or tweaked existing plans to fit their many varied lifestyles. Unless you can see yourself following the 12 Day Body Shaping Miracle for the rest of your life, our advice is to skip the book.