Thinner This Year

Thinner This Year is a recent book by Chris Crowley and Jen Sacheck, PhD. Chris Crowley is the retiree who co-authored Younger Next Year with Dr. Henry Lodge. It turned into an international best-seller. Now he’s teamed up with a top nutrition expert to co-author another good book.

Thinner This YearDr. Jen Sacheck, Associate Professor of Nutrition at Tufts University, has a deep understanding of nutrition and exercise. In addition to her PhD in nutrition science and a master’s degree in exercise physiology from Tufts, she completed a post-doctoral fellowship in muscle physiology at Harvard Medical School.

It’s clear that her knowledge isn’t simply theoretical as she applies it to her own life very effectively. She is a serious masters rower, having been an Academic All-American rower at Syracuse, and she’s also a runner, skier, and yogi.

Crowley and Sacheck write their chapters from different perspectives. The combination of Crowley’s brash humor interwoven with Sacheck’s science is effective in getting their message across. I enjoyed reading this book. Most of it is excellent, though I didn’t agree with it totally.

My main caveat has to do with the title. I don’t like it because it makes it sound like the book was written to promote some kind of fad diet. It’s only because Crowley’s first book was so solid that I decided to get this one. I’m glad I did, because despite the title, this book is full of good information.

Like most cutting-edge nutritionists, Sacheck deplores the highly processed fast foods that dominate the average American diet today. She calls this “Dead Food” or “Bad Stuff” because it supplies little nutritional value. Yet this is over half of what most Americans eat today.

Instead, Sacheck strongly recommends that the food we eat should be at least 50 percent vegetables and fruit, with another 25 percent being whole grains. These are the true sources of rich nutritional value for us. Sacheck is not vegetarian, but cautions about the dangers to health posed by too much meat and dairy. Here is what she says:

“Cut back radically on meat, especially red meat, which should become a relatively rare treat. Animal-based food should be cut back radically. There is a drumbeat of persuasive studies showing a clear correlation between eating animal-based food and sickness.” She goes on to add, “I do not go the all-veg route… there are some wonderful things about animal proteins. But I have sure cut back. Way back.”

Sacheck goes on to comment that good foods are chock-full of nutrients and fiber, but very low in calories. They are superb for health, and they make it much easier to lose weight for the person wanting to do this. Swapping good food for bad takes care of most of the reduction in calories that is needed to lose weight in a healthy way. Exercise can do the rest.

The chapters in the book on exercise are excellent. I won’t go into all the physiology involved, but it provides great insights into why exercise is so valuable for life and health. The chapters on “The Warm-up” and “The Twenty-five Sacred Exercises,” with the associated instructions and picture are marvelous. They are worth the price of the book by themselves.

It’s worth noting that Chris Crowley wrote these chapters with the help of two top experts in aerobic and strength training. Riggs Klika and Bill Fabrocini have devoted their lives to training people how to move well, as opposed to doing muscle-training. Their clients have included top athletes in a variety of different sports. The exercises they designed for this book are simple but superb.

I’ll conclude this review with another quote from Jen Sacheck: “Being fit truly does wonders for your health. All my years of study, research, and practice have proven that good nutrition and serious exercise result in a good life for everyone.”

I agree. This is an excellent book for anyone motivated to work towards this goal.

Be Well!
Ed Dodge, MD, MPH