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Your Body Knows Best by Ann Louise Gittleman

February 4th, 2008 · by Cyndi · No Comments

I like Ann Gittleman. She is the former Pritikin nutritionist who realized that ultra-low fat was not a healthy way to eat and took on her boss in the book Beyond Pritikin. Some of her ideas and viewpoints make a lot of sense and she is willing to forge her own path without getting bogged down by convention. Unfortunately, she tends to repeat many of the same notes, and they contradict each other.

Your Body Knows Best is really distillations of several approaches, stuck together as if they complemented each other instead of clashing. It’s a hard trick to pull off. Gabriel Cousens manages it (barely), but Gittleman misses the mark.

Her premise is a good one: that we each need to find the diet that fits our body the best, instead of trying to force ourselves into the diet of the year. But the way she goes about it is pat. This approach to food is great, she says, so let’s incorporate it. And this one too. With little quizzes and other ways of determining which blood type you are and if you are a fast burner or a slow burner and what your ancestors ate. Put it all together and ta da! you’ve got chaos.

She is still coming off of lowfat mania and she introduces the idea of moderating one’s carb intake as a radical concept. I realize the book was published in 1996, but Atkins was pretty well known even then. Unfortunately, the fat phobia she was taught is still well ingrained, as she says things like avoid tofu because it’s too fatty (a cup of tofu, plenty for dinner, has just 10 grams of fat, mostly polyunsaturated essential fatty acids).

Her idea of ancestral diets doesn’t make sense either. I like the idea…your genetics probably adapted to the diet your ancestors ate over the last few hundred thousand years. Only she suggests going back just a few generations. My ancestry is the same as hers: Eastern European Jewish, but a diet of goose fat and potatoes is not exactly what I would thrive on. Wouldn’t it make more sense to go back to, say, Northern/Mediterranean Africa?

Gittleman also has an agenda. It is: eat meat. Why? because when she was young she became a vegetarian for spiritual reasons and went on an extreme vegan raw diet that made her sick. So her conclusion is that everyone needs meat (she does concede that a few might not) and cooked foods and that spiritual reasons don’t count. Contrast this with Cousens in Conscious Eating who thinks that everyone can (and should) be a vegan and eat all or mostly all raw foods. I don’t buy either approach 100% but Cousens made a much stronger case. All Gittleman has for her argument is it didn’t work for her. Though, had she consulted Cousens, he would have put her on a much different type of raw vegan cuisine than she had been eating and maybe she would have done well (or at least better).

Some of the underlying ideas Gittleman discusses are sound but condensing it all to are you O, A, B, or AB, where did your grandparents live, and are you a fast or slow burner is so simplistic that it ends up not meaning much. She’s right that no diet fits all, but pigeonholing people into a handful of categories doesn’t work either.

Your Body Knows Best


Categories: Book Reviews · Food · Food Books · Nutrition Books

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