Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Book Review: Diet Recovery

While troubleshooting my adrenal problems, Matt Stone's work has been recommended to me.  Matt Stone is an independent health researcher who blogs at 180 Degree Health, and he gave a talk about metabolism at the last Wise Traditions conference of the Weston A. Price Foundation. His latest book is called Diet Recovery: Restoring Hormonal Health, Metabolism, Mood, and Your Relationship with Food.

Diet Recovery is an easy read and, true to Matt's style, there is a bit of humor thrown-in (sometimes funny, sometimes crude, sometimes self-deprecating).  The book contains lots of really good information that has me thinking about health, diets, and metabolism in a whole new way.  Matt wrote,
"With age our metabolism starts its slow descent into oblivion... we become ever more prone to develop heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and other degenerative ailments.  The secret is to protect and prolong the number of years your metabolism is at its highest.  When you manage to do that, you keep a higher ratio of lean body mass to body fat, have greater functionality, more strength and mobility, more energy, and more zest for life in general."
Health and metabolism
Matt pulls on research from people like Broda Barnes, Diana Schwarzbein, and Stephan Guyunet to paint a very convincing picture that metabolism is one of the keys to vibrant health.  When the metabolism drops, all sorts of problems manifest in the body including problems with weight, fertility, adrenal and thyroid glands, sleep, cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune disease. 

Matt outlines a program to raise metabolism that sounds shocking at first, but really struck a chord with me: eat more, exercise less, and rest more. The reasoning is that any stressors (including overwork, not eating enough, not getting enough nutrients, and even exercising) can lead to a lower metabolism.
"...mammalian physiology has a general response to stress that is virtually the same no matter what the stressor.  In this sense, deficiency of any essential substance needed for the body to function correctly - including most certainly vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates, and proteins... was enough to induce [the] same stress chain reaction - ultimately leading to enlarged adrenal glands and atrophied thyroid gland, thymus gland, gonads, and so forth."
What to eat?
In Matt's program, people should simply eat as much nutrient-dense food as possible, and not limit any carbs, proteins, or fats.  This means that you should literally eat as much as you can to feel full (or even a little past fullness), and don't skip meals!
"...disease and dysfunction of all kinds is typically not cured through hard work and depriving yourself but by doing the opposite - flooding your body with the tools it needs to repair and rehabilitate itself."
Matt recommends intuitive eating.  That means that, if you are craving ice cream, you should eat some ice cream.  This is something I have found to be really interesting, as for years I have been over-thinking my food choices by focusing more on nutrition content than what my body wants. But really, since I only eat nutrient-dense foods (95% of the time), it makes sense to me that I should follow my body's cues for what to eat. 

Rest? What's that?
An integral part of Matt's program is resting adequately.  He even goes so far as to recommend at least 30 days of no intentional exercise, and sleeping as much as possible. Lots of health gurus say that rest is important, but this is something I've never paid much attention to.  But Matt's descriptions in Diet Recovery have really convinced me that rest is something I need to pay more attention to.

I've never been the type to rest much; I tend to keep busy all day every day and I haven't slept more than 4 hours straight in over five years (my daughter didn't start sleeping through the night until she was 3 & 1/2 years old, and by then I had her younger brother to contend with).  While I don't think I overdo the exercise (usually only 2-3 times per week, a combination of sprints, yoga, and strength training, plus some walks), it is interesting to me that the body reacts to all stresses the same, and that means that, with my already overtaxed adrenal glands, exercising could actually be contributing to my health problems!

After so many years of paying inordinate attention to what I am eating, and more recently being on the GAPS diet, the ideas in Diet Recovery really feel like liberation. Just eat as much nutrient-dense food as possible, rest as much as possible, and relax about it.  And the fact that this could actually help my health sounds too good to be true.  One thing is for certain: it is worth a shot! 

I'll be blogging about my experience following Matt's plan in the coming months.  I'll also be giving away a copy of Diet Recovery in February.  If you are interested in learning more, check out Matt's free Rehabilitive Rest and Aggressive Re-feeding ebook. 

Does the advice in Diet Recovery strike a chord in you?  Or does it sound too good to be true?

This post is part of Fat Tuesday, Monday Mania and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways!


The Voogts said...

Thanks for doing this review!!! I have been reading lots of Matt's stuff lately too. And just like you've I've been straying from GAPS for the last month. It is so freeing. It's really helping with my OCD to not obsess over every piece of food I put in my mouth or worry about getting the exact nutrients for the day. If I want more fruit one day, that's fine. If I'm craving veggies another, that's fine. If I need extra carbs one day, that's fine too. I'm not at the point of not exercising and eating a ton. But I'm really enjoying eating a lot more carbs again, including grains and potatoes. I've had 2 ice cream cones in the last few days...the first cones (my absolute favorite food) since last April!! It was homemade ice cream...lots of good stuff in it.

I actually looked into 180 DH over a year ago, downloaded the stuff...and then forgot about it :P I wish I would have further investigated sooner. I'm anxious to hear your results. And I'd LOVE to get the book. I just checked...our library doesn't have it.

Lori said...

Thanks for covering this! But with so many of us that have adrenal fatigue along with leaky gut, I do have a hard time leaving the GAPS camp. He may be able to fix some people's metabolism, but how is that possible with some of us having leaky gut? I'm totally with him on rest, refeeding and nutrient rich food, the leaky gut thing has me stopped in my tracks from researching more about him. Maybe he is more applicable while not in the middle of leaky gut?

Nicole said...

Thank, Sarah, for the review. I think I'm going to buy the book. My head is starting to spin, though, between GAPS, The Perfect Health Diet and Diet Recovery. I'm also confused about the whole craving thing. My son and I have had Candida issues for a long time and I always thought that any sugar/carb cravings on GAPS was the yeast -- not me. I can see, too, how easy it is to become obsessed with food. Despite this whirlwind, I'm excited to read this book and then synthesize all this to make a choice that works for us. If I learned anything from my vegan days it's that being dogmatic about food only gets me into trouble! :) Thanks for the review.

Sarah Smith said...

Yeah, I'm not quite sure how it ties in with leaky gut either. As a general rule, if the metabolism is higher, than cells are regenerating faster and more healing can occur quicker. But my guess is that it would not heal a leaky gut.

Malenksha said...

Definitely will consider this when we have healed our guts! Three of us are still absolutely needing GAPS and with the improvements we've seen I'm not ready to veer from the course. Or, rather, I'm ready for some starches in my life again but not until I'm sure I don't undo all the work we've been doing. :-) Thanks for reviewing this... I'd not heard of it at all.

Monica said...

Hi Sarah,

I was wondering if you could tell me how to enter your giveaway for Matt's e-book!


Sarah Smith said...

Hi Monica,
The book giveaway will be in a couple weeks. You will just need to comment on that post to enter.

Molly said...

I too tried Togo off Gaps and try oatmeal and a few slices of sourdough bread ...too soon. Bad reactions. Matts ideas are not for me yet

Anonymous said...

I'm curious if you've been following his protocol and how that's working for you. I was shocked to read the description. It's like he was talking about me! While I love GAPS food, I've developed IBS symptoms, hair falling out, crabby, etc. Before doing GAPS/low carb, I think people really need to assess if they NEED it. All health food without proper balance can make us sick, physically and psychologically (being afraid of grains/carbs,etc.). I'm transitioning to a more balanced healthy diet out of necessity. But, I don't have time to sprout and grind grains for baking so I'll probably stick to your recipes with coconut flour for that. : )

Sarah Smith said...

The off-GAPS transition has been interesting. I went straight into Matt Stone's RRARF/Diet Recovery program (focusing on eating lots and resting lots), and was going crazy with the starches for a month. But sadly, I started getting some joint pain back towards the end of the month. So now I'm back to GAPS, although probably only 95% since I'm eating potatoes at Sunday dinners at my mom's house. But now it is GAPS with lots of homemade ice cream.

I wrote to Matt about my results after one month on RRARF (some good changes in my menstrual cycle, but my temps hadn't started to change yet), and he recommended ice cream for breakfast as a way for me to get the most out of the program, especially since I am still nursing. It blows my mind how certain foods can be great at different stages of life and then at other times abstaining can be good. I'm happy to be at a point where ice cream is doing me some good! It is so strange to be eating so much ice cream after years of trying to reduce sugar consumption, but my energy levels are SO much better with the ice cream! My temperatures really started coming up once I started eating more ice cream, but I still have more to do to get my temps up all the way to where they should be.

My only complaint with the program so far is weight gain. From what I understand, some people gain weight on the program and some do not. I have maxxed out my jeans (and now have a little muffin top), and am really hoping to not gain any more. It is hard to decide it is okay to gain weight, even if it does mean that my body gets healthier over-time. I feel like it is a bit of a catch 22. From what I can tell, many people get their temps up after just a couple weeks on RRARF; mine are taking longer because I am nursing (which is a huge drain on the metabolic system). In the last few weeks, I've started to add exercise back in, but have learned that it is really easy for me to over do it (as my temps will start to fall back down if I work out too hard). It is a bit frustrating, but I am very glad to have such an easy measure of my progress through checking my temps.

Have you started trying any of Matt's programs?

Anonymous said...

No, I haven't. I haven't decided if he's someone to follow or not...some of the profanity seems a bit unprofessional. But, he is funny. I've been following Dr. Cate's books ( and plan to have a phone consult with her. I agree...low carb makes one feel horrible...I don't understand why the paleo/low carb is so attractive. I may go back to GAPS and just increase my carbs on it. It's just so much work; I want to be convinced that it works. Thank you for your perspective. I appreciate reading someone who is neutral and not trying to sell anything. : )

Anonymous said...

If you just do brisk walking, does your temp. change? I haven't had the energy to run or do hard workouts so I just walk and occasionally swim.

Sarah Smith said...

Yeah, his profanity can definitely be a little off-putting. But then, he doesn't have kids, and I know I didn't watch my on language very well before kids.

Oh, I also wanted to mention that the symptoms you mentioned really sound like you may have been having die-off reaction.

Sarah Smith said...

I'm not sure. Walking for me includes carrying a 25-pound toddler on my back and potentially pushing my eldest in a stroller or pulling her on her bike (if we're going any significant distance). So I haven't tried getting back into walking yet. I did one high-intensity interval workout each week (which is only about 20 minutes total, with only 4 minutes of hard working out). I seemed fine doing running sprints, but last week I tried to o burpees/squats/pushups for the intervals and my temps totally plummetted (and are still low, sadly).

Anonymous said...

How much have you gain from that "diet" I am thinking about doing this too.

Sarah Smith said...

About 10 pounds in 2 months. Then I slowed down on the eating a bit (but still made sure to eat enough and not skip any meals, plus really listening to what my body wants instead of what I think I should be eating). The weight is slowly coming off now. I'll write a blog post giving the recent details soon. You may be interested in this post that describes the first two months on Diet Recovery.