Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Book Review: Tim Caulfield's The Cure for Everything

If you don't feel like reading the rest of this review I'll summarize it by saying, Tim Caulfield's The Cure for Everything is the perfect antidote to the idiotic glossy paged world we're stuck with and is a definite must read.

In fact I enjoyed reading it so much, that a few pages into the copy Penguin sent me, I headed over to Kobo and ponied up my own dough and bought an e-version so that I could read it that much more often by using it to make my recumbent bike interval training, not just bearable, but something I even kinda, sorta looked forward to.

You see Tim's book is something I'm not sure I've ever read before. I'd describe it as an "evidence-based romp" (words that I'd never thought I'd string together) and his clean writing and his truly delightful and delicious self-deprecating brand of humour makes you want to pick it up again and again.

Tim covers a fair bit of ground in his personalized debunking of the scads of bunk we face when considering self-improvement projects like fitness, diet, genetics, and chronic disease prevention.  And when I say personalized, I mean it in that Tim takes himself through his own anecdotal n=1 journey through celebrity trainers, dieting (back to that in a moment), colonics, personalized gene testing, accupuncture and homeopathy.

I actually bookmarked huge swaths of the book with the intent of sharing with you some favourite passages, but sitting here now and writing this review, I don't want to.  Not because I'm lazy, but because I don't want to spoil your read.

I will however point out the one area where the book and I disagree rather conclusively.  Diet.  I say, "the book", rather than Tim, because Tim and I met last October at the Canadian Obesity Network's conference and we took the opportunity to chat quite a bit and over the course of our discussion, I think I may have swayed him some from the success=suffering formula presented in the book.  Personally I don't believe in white knuckling through hunger and cravings on an ongoing basis and rather encourage consuming the healthiest diet you can actually enjoy, and not striving for the healthiest diet you can tolerate, while simultaneously using time, macronutrients and sufficencies of calories to try to turn off physiologically driven dietary drive.  I also think he gave Canada's Food Guide pretty much a free pass, though to be fair, weight loss was more the focus of the chapter than formal evidence based nutrition.

Diet notwithstanding, the book's undeniably fabulous.  I couldn't recommend it more highly.

Tim, in a tribute to where you spent much of your time writing, close at hand while writing this review was an ice cold beer.

(If you'd like, you can follow Tim on Twitter)

[If you're in Canada, here's the link.

If you're in the USA, you can pre-order on Amazon over here]

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  1. Anonymous8:26 am

    I so wish you posted this yesterday! I just placed an order via Chapters for a few books including the one by Alex Hutchinson that you recommended a few posts back. Sigh. Oh well..guess I'll have to do a separate order for this one.

    Since my WLS I've been absolutely fascinated with books on health and exercise - especially those that debunk myths and tell it like it really is!

  2. You had me at "evidence based." Thanks for the recommendation; I'm pre-ordering now.

  3. 2 things:
    1. Dr. Yoni, you should write the chapter on weight loss that Tim Caulfield should have written for The Cure for Everything...
    2. My own version of the cure for (practically) everything is much shorter than this book:
    Water, Ice, Exercise. Am I right?

    1. I don't want to spoil the answer Linda! It's worth reading.

  4. This looks like an interesting read. I may just have to check this one out. Also, I see that the author is from the University of Alberta - very cool!

    Given that you disagree with the section on diet, would this be a book you would recommend to your clients?

    1. Not as a means to help with their weight, no - though it's not a complete and totally unshared path he takes. But as a great read, absolutely.

  5. Loved this book! Bought it last month (did you tweet about it?).

  6. Kassul12:34 pm

    mmm, my concern is that the area that you're most informed on, issues of diet, is the area you think is weakest in the book.

    I wonder if that's simply coincidence, or do specialists in the other areas the book covers also have reservations about what's wrote in those bits?

    I know I always get nervous when I read an article I really like in a newspaper or such, but I recognize several flaws in areas I know something about. Perhaps I'm just not seeing the mistakes in the other bits?

    1. Tim's book is a survey of "evidence based" research so it goes fast, but it is great background material to then make your own choices. For example: 50% of what you eat should be fruits and vegetables... not too nuanced but accurate!

    2. Tim's book is a survey of "evidence based" research so it goes fast, but it is great background material to then make your own choices. For example: 50% of what you eat should be fruits and vegetables... not too nuanced but accurate!

  7. Wait a second, I heard that n=1 projects were a waste and provide no useful information...I think I heard it on Dr. Oz a few years back.

    Will definitely get a version, likely of the "e" variety. Thanks for the review! Cheers -- Mark :-)

  8. This book is a complete waste of your time.

    I've studied and read almost every book out there on nutrition, diet and chemicals in our food for over 30 years. I was a child of the 50s, and grew up on the then-standard unhealthy diet of cereal/milk/white bread/PB&J/Rice Crispy treats/TV dinners (when my mom didn't cook). No salads, fresh veggies,fiber...

    It took me a decade to realize why I felt totally fatigued, couldn't concentrate in school, had dry skin and hair, and no energy. It was purely my diet. So, starting in my 20s after marriage I began to cook, research, and started to see my health take a complete turn-around.

    I am now 64 and in better shape now than in my teens. I weigh 114, a little more than my high school days. My skin is clear, firm and young-looking, and my hair soft and shiny. My energy is off the charts; I'm busy all day. I NEVER diet, ever. There is simply no need for it. I balance my day with fiber, nuts, organic eggs, wholegrain bread, fish, loads of water & tea, cheese, fruits & veggies, and of course "cheat" with sweet things occassionally. I've totally stopped any white sugar/flour/bread from coming in the house long ago. Sweeteners are strictly coconut sugar, agave or Manuka honey. Eating this way I can indulge often, and we eat out at least 4 times a week. Meat is not on the horizon, except for maybe once a month. It just doesn't digest well, and is full of antibiotics & other undesirables that are injected into the poor cattle. No, thank you. I haven't had a simple cold in well over 10 years, and when I feel one coming on I dose it in one nutrition..and it's over.

    Mr. Caulfield rounds up some clearly idiotic people in the "health and fitness" arena and then tells the readers, "See what I mean?" Where are the dedicated and truly holistic leaders in the industry? Not in this book, because then the author might have to tell you that perhaps some of their plan actually works, and that's clearly not his plan here. He wants to uncover quacks and laugh at everything that truly is good.

    Does nutrition have to do with health? EVERYONE should know this by now! Do your own research. Read every single label of every processed food you buy. Know your chemicals. Buy organic whenever you can, but always for eggs, grapes, and apples...ALWAYS. What goes into the chicken goes into you, and research a bit what a company like Perdue feeds their can be sure it's GMO feed! Almost the entire corn industry is now GMO. Apples have pesticides sprayed from the moment they're a blossom to the end product, so the chemical cannot be washed away.

    Why not give people the basic, simple healthy things to do every day? Like adding flax, chia, nuts, moringa and more every single day? Even eating poorly, these will boost your levels of fiber incredibly. High fiber is incredibly important.

    The back of this misleading book states:

    Myth: Granola bars are health food.

    Really? Most people know this. In addition, they're a dense food, so use them only to carry with you if you can't stop for anything else.

    Myth: "Yoga will help you gain strength and get in shape."

    Yes...actually, it will, and add balance, as well, and keep you peaceful, which is very important to your overall being.

    This goes on and on, and by the end of it, the author is still more clueless than before he wrote this. He ends his drivel with "eating hot dogs and cake with electric green icing, and loving it" at his son's birthday party. Hot dogs should never, EVER be eaten, period, and certainly not served to youngsters! They are full of nitrates & nitrites, and are proven to cause cancer, especially in young children.

    Mr. Caulfield; you should be totally embarrassed.