Book Review: Disease Proof

When I think about the people in my close environment I find it striking that quite a few of them are sick on a regular basis. They are sick not just once a year, but much more often, say at least once in three months. They do not exercise regularly, they look all puffed up, and they overwork. And right now I’m talking about people from upper class society, can you imagine. During my first movements within the Nutrition Twitter domain (since the start of my  nutrition blog) I stumbled upon David Katz’ columns now and then. Compared to most of the other stuff I encounter on the Web, I find his views refreshingly down to earth and always ringing true to me. In the book Disease Proof he explains, written with the help of Stacey Colino, how optimal health is achievable for everyone, no magic bullets required.

In general, the book is a complete guide for people struggling with their health and who are lacking the skills to overcome their health related problems. Nothing fancy about that, I hear you say. But in today’s digital world where people are constantly overblown by all sorts of too-good-to-be-true super diets, it is remarkably refreshing to read a book about health and nutrition that is actually trying to teach people an evidence-based approach to tackle their health problems. I must say I do not fully agree with all nutritional advice that is given in Disease Proof, but this is merely a question of details.

The most powerful formula for getting and staying healthy is to use moderate amounts of willpower with a heaping dose of skillpower.

Of course, the book is about healthy living and deals with nutrition, exercise and it doesn’t forget to take into account other important health factors. David Katz builds a case for the argument that we can reduce our chance of ever getting any chronic disease during our lifetime by an astounding eighty percent, independent of the genes you were born with. You can determine for yourself how you put your genes to use and move your life into a healthier direction.

Will power needs skill power to last

Before people change something in their behaviour, they need to start caring. The next point made by David Katz in Disease Proof is a crucial one for people to understand before they can make a successful attempt to take up more healthy behaviour. You need both willpower and skillpower to change. When you want to lose weight, which most overweight people do, that’s great. However, the problem is that most people lack the knowledge of what constitutes a healthy diet and how to adopt one. This is, after all, the reason that got them overweight in the first place. Without the skills you need to eat more healthy, even the biggest will to lose weight will get you nowhere. Therefore, according to David Katz: “the most powerful formula for getting and staying healthy is to use moderate amounts of willpower with a heaping dose of skillpower.”

Sensory-specific satiety??? This varied, nutrient-loaded mezze platter will keep you satisfied until your next healthy meal!

After having read the first couple of introductory chapters I got a little bored with the book. As someone who on a daily basis reads the most fantastically complex articles about nutrition research at a molecular level, I was a bit disappointed with the content of the chapters that constitute the backbone of the book: what is healthy nutrition, how to shop and cook healthfully, how to make healthy choices while eating out and how to move your body and fit more exercise into your already too busy days. The realization came about halfway, when I understood that I was getting a bit bored because all of this content was so extremely familiar to me. Yes, I thought, this is what it takes to live a healthy life. This is exactly what I’m doing, and I’m doing it completely right! Let me tell you this, when you are having problems with your health and you don’t have a clue about living a healthy lifestyle, then Disease Proof is the book for you!

Circling the drain

After all these ‘boring’ chapters, I got very interested again while reading chapter 12, ‘The Whole(istic) Truth’. In this chapter David Katz describes the metaphor of circling the drain, a downward spiral of decreasing health, in which each malady worsens another. The reverse of this negative vicious circle is also achievable, by overcoming one health problem at a time. I agree completely with David Katz that health is essentially holistic. To achieve optimal vitality you need to get all health determining factors right. You need to eat, sleep, exercise, relax, socialize and care well to reach the top of the staircase and live your life in optimal vitality.

Each step you climb puts you in a better position to climb the next one, and it brings you closer to the luminous prize at the top: vitality.

Down the drain or up the staircase, it is your choice to disease proof your life or not!

The book is very well written and full of valuable information for anyone willing to make lasting changes in order to improve their health. There are a lot of words though and it can get a bit of dry; a couple of images, infographics or the like would not only have improved the readability of the book, but also the information transferability. The nutrition section appears a bit outdated now and then, and I am not in complete favor of the approach taken, but all in all the book delivers its promise one hundred percent. After all,  the field of nutrition is too fuzzy to worry about a couple of details, it is all about adopting a healthy food pattern and Disease Proof will certainly help you to achieve just that!