Lose weight without dieting? Ah, well, we've all heard those claims before. And while we may have brushed them off, didn't some part of you deep down wish it were true? I'll be the first to admit: I sure have!
So, yes, I was intrigued by the funny little ads lurking around cyberspace for The Gabriel Method. But frankly I thought it was a bunch of malarkey, just another diet hoax about juice fasting or something, so I totally ignored it.
Then my good (mostly sane) friend Matt Stone reviewed the book on his blog and I realized The Gabriel Method wasn't just some run-of-the-mill weight loss scam. I figured, hey, why not? It couldn't hurt to read a little more about this non-dieting weight loss approach. And who knows? I might even learn something useful.
But I was slow to fork up the cash to actually purchase the book. So first I listened to Jon Gabriel's podcasts on iTunes to get a feel for what this was all about. And I started hearing things that really resonated with me: about why diets fail, about the famine response, about forced eating plans, about hormones like leptin, cortisol and insulin in relation to diet, lifestyle and exercise.... Some of the information was familiar to me and made a lot of sense. Some stuff was new and I had to turn it around in my head a few times before it stuck. But I was definitely hooked.
And since I knew I'd be reviewing The Gabriel Method on my blog, I went for the whole nine yards and bought every single item on the website so I could give you all the scoop on everything. So a couple weeks ago I received the book and several CDs in the mail, rolled my sleeves up, and dug right in.
Who is Jon Gabriel?
First, let me make one thing clear: Jon Gabriel is not some perpetually buff athlete who's never struggled with more than an ounce of extra fat in his life. No, Gabriel has lived and breathed obesity: before using the methods described in his book he was over 400 lbs. Not only that, but Gabriel had personally tried virtually every diet plan known to mankind with nothing more than temporary results. Eventually he always gained back what he lost and then some (I don't know about you but I can relate to that!).
So, yeah, he's a little familiar with what it's like to deal with weight issues. It eventually occurred to him that his body wanted to be fat and it was pointless to try and fight it. Instead he went about to change what his body wanted, which led him to the many principles in the book and eventually to a stunning 220 lb weight loss (with no loose skin to boot!).
Bullet Points from The Gabriel Method:
Weight loss is not about calories-in/calories-out. It's about figuring out why your body wants to be fat.
The FAT (Famine And Temperature) programs are the body's natural mechanisms for dealing with stressors like cold or famine, a series of hormonal and biochemical responses that result in cravings, hunger, lethargy and fat storage.
To quote from the book: "When you try to force yourself to lose weight while these programs are operating, you're violating your body's natural laws... When your body believes that it is safe to lose weight--or better, safer to be thin--your body will force you to lose weight. You will be working with your body's natural laws instead of violating them. Weight loss will then become automatic, effortless and inevitable."
More quotes: "Let's face it, if diets worked there'd be one diet (maybe two), everyone would go on it, everyone would lose weight, and that would be the end of it... If diets worked, the issue would be done. No one would be talking about it anymore. The reason everyone's talking about it is because the very premise is flawed, and every approach founded on that same premise is, unfortunately, doomed to the same fate."
You can stop the FAT programs when you: stop dieting; nourish your body; and eliminate the mental and emotional causes of obesity.
Gabriel puts a lot of emphasis on how stress turns on the FAT programs. The stress could be from the daily grind, lack of meaning in life or negative thought patterns, in addition to physical stressors like dieting, overtraining and toxins.
Visualization (something like meditation) is a key in the book, meant to help you develop positive mental habits and to communicate with your body in the only language it knows: pictures.
Don't let your body starve. Feed it well, but don't force a diet plan. Instead, work on adding the healthy stuff as you can, giving your body the nourishment it needs so it can finally stop craving the unhealthy stuff.
I don't go for everything in Gabriel's book. Some of it sounds quirky and even downright kooky to my ears (like uncovering past lives, for instance, is just not my thing). So, yeah. There's a few pages here and there you'd just want to skim over and take with a grain of salt. But there's some real gems in this book, so I still consider it well worth a read.
One thing I like about the book is that Gabriel is keen on making suggestions--not rules. He says ultimately it's about finding what works for you. This I can live with. And there are plenty of suggestions in the book that I found to be genuinely helpful, so I think it would be pretty hard to walk away from this one without at least one or two really good ideas to apply in your life. If anything, you come away with a very different perspective about dieting and losing fat.
The Gabriel Method's Diet Advice
Gabriel puts emphasis on three dietary gold mines that should be included in every meal: omega-3s, quality protein, and live foods. There's nothing particularly wrong with this in my opinion, though I might alter it to: traditional fats and proteins, with fermented live foods on the side. Put those in every meal and you'll be getting somewhere.
You could easily incorporate whatever eating plan that's ideal for you with the principles of this book. The point is to include nutrient-dense foods with every meal, without trying to force yourself into a dogmatic diet plan. To me this is a huge key to eating well: don't force someone else's diet onto your life. Do what works for you.
I wouldn't suggest anyone develop a nutrition plan based solely on this book, but then again that's not what the point of the book is. The book is about turning off the FAT programs so your body wants to be thin. And in that case diet is only part of the picture.
The subject of enzymes, digestion and how well nutrients are assimilated is an important one in the book, and I have to say I agree whole heartedly. Traditional cultures always placed great importance on foods that aided digestion and assimilation of nutrients. It's a must if you want to nourish your body. Otherwise you're just starving yourself, even if you think you're eating well.
Toxins are stored in fat. If our bodies are toxic, they will store more fat in order to store those toxins and keep them out of the bloodstream according to Gabriel. Gabriel talks about the toxins in our food--including additives and artificial sweeteners--as well as medications, vaccinations and radiation. He doesn't provide too much information about eliminating toxins besides eat organic and drink plenty of clean water, hence my investigation into how to detox this month. Reading The Gabriel Method is partly what got me interested enough in toxins to devote a whole month of blogging to it.
According to Gabriel, negative stressors that make the body want to be fat, while positive stressors make the body want to be thin. A positive stress would be something like high intensity interval training (but again, not overtraining) or some activity that gives you a rush like rock climbing.
The theory here is that these short-term adrenaline rushes are a positive stress, but chronic stress is negative. I can agree with this on some level, but I think it's easy for these so-called "positive" stresses to become chronic if you let them. Constantly seeking an adrenaline rush can put as much stress on the body as an aggravating work situation--it just feels a little better at the time.
At the end of the book, Gabriel also includes some testimonials and also an easy plan to help you gradually implement principles from his method into your life. Gabriel's book is a breeze to read, but it also includes plenty of references. Plus a great appendix for biology techies like me who want to hear about the actual hormones involved.
What about the CDs?
Like I said above, I ordered the whole shabang so I got the book on audio, some recordings from Gabriel's seminars, plus the visualization CDs and the SMART mode music (for visualization and meditation). Here's the gist on those:
Audio book: I like reading, so this wasn't a big deal to me. However, I did listen to it and found it extremely convenient to put on while I was cleaning or driving or whatnot. I got through the audio book in a couple days, unlike the real book which took me a couple weeks.
Audio seminars: I actually really enjoyed the seminars. The basic one was mostly information found in the book, but hearing it live made it a little more entertaining. The holistic seminar was totally interesting, too, but I think the seminar on kids and weight loss was the most telling (I wish I could give it to every parent I know!).
Visualization CDs: I liked the evening CD best (which you get to download for free with the book anyway). It's really relaxing to listen to before bed, and yes, it puts me right to sleep. Whether or not it will magically help with weight loss, who knows? But since sleep is connected to weight anyway, it can't hurt. The morning visualization and Living Goddess CDs are also decent, but I have to say I don't use them much. It's really overkill to try and get all the CDs. I would pick one or two and stick with those.
SMART mode music: I love this one. Yes, $19.98 is a ridiculous price for a CD but for this one it was worth it. Why? Not only does this put me to sleep, it puts my kids to sleep! I tend to find so-called "relaxation" music to be really annoying, so I'm quite surprised that I actually look forward to listening to this. And it's rare that I make it through the whole 25-minute evening track without falling totally asleep. There's also different tracks ranging from 5-20 minutes if you want to listen during the daytime for meditation or visualization, too. If you were going to get only one Gabriel Method CD, I would recommend this one.
My conclusion is that if you're reading diet books, researching eating plans and trying to lose some weight, you desperately need The Gabriel Method. I can't tell you that this book will give you all the answers, but it will help you keep your health and your diet in perspective. And there's also some great lessons to be learned about enjoying your life and discovering what's really holding you back. Although I myself don't follow all of Gabriel's suggestions, I have to admit that reading his book changed the way I look at my life, my health and my diet. And that's nothing to sneeze at.