I’ve always liked Al Roker. I like him even more now. Here’s the doughboy review of Never Going Back.
I have to split the book itself into two sections. It isn’t laid out in a clear separated way like this, but for a reviewer coming from my point of view, there are two components of the book.
1. diet and exercise advice
2. the story of what it is like to be obese
On the first count, I really shouldn’t say much in opposition. A year ago I would have bought into every word of it and nodded “uh huh, that’s the conventional wisdom.” And I would have felt like a failure for not following it better, and resolved to follow the example of someone who toughed it out. And that may very well be the catalyst that gets many currently obese people to get moving, and eat better. That’s great. But now that I’m immersed in a different paradigm, I wonder how much difficulty Al might have in maintaining the extremely low-fat, high carb diet. He had been through a gastric bypass before making further changes that he lives by now. I am not well-versed in the needs of people who have had the procedure, though I have met a few. So I can’t objectively say much about his plan. It works for many. It is a recipe for frustration and failure for many others. But if a person has the kind of personal stamina to tough it out through the deprivation model, it can indeed work, and has for many. Unfortunately, the success stories tend to be the exception rather than the rule. Al also seems bent on pushing the specifics of his personal trainer’s detox plan, and I have become more and more skeptical of “detox” in general. Name a toxin, and how a special diet gets it out of you any more than normal functions. I’ll wait here.
So OK, the specifics of how he got to where he is are not the same as how I believe I will get to a better state. If this were all he were printing, I’d toss it on the same pile of re-hashed books that all advocate the conventional wisdom, demonize dietary fat, and push high carbs.
But the other aspects of this book are so excellent, I can enthusiastically recommend it.
Al talked about the book on the Today show (what a tough spot to nail down for him, am I right?) and I immediately downloaded it to my kindle and iPad. It has definitely had some press attention, mostly for an embarrassing anecdote from the book that he shared on air. All anyone seems to be able to talk about is the story of his post-surgical adjustment time when he had a systematic failure at the White House. It’s an AP story. Mad magazine had an online post called Al Roker’s Upsetting New Book. In addition, articles titled More Shocking Revelations list some items from his book that apparently people find, well, shocking.
Well let me tell you folks, not one of his “shocking” revelations is any bit of a surprise to a person who is or has been morbidly obese. I have tried, from time to time, to write on this blog about the emotional, social, and physical realities of obesity. For those who know it well, I hope that talking about it publicly provides some solace that you are not alone. For those who are not familiar with these things up close and personal, maybe my sharing can provide some education that leads to empathy.
Al’s book provides the kind of blunt insights and experiences that I am trying to do here. It wasn’t at all shocking to me, so it’s hard to know how it sounds to someone else. I made a rough list as I read it, of things I could relate to. My notes look like this:
making jokes about yourself as a defense
people who don’t really want you to change
when you gain or regain, no one says a thing to you, or denies it when you admit it
low self-esteem=self-sabotage. when you don’t think you deserve to be lean, you make yourself stop losing
being in the public eye (on a very different scale of course) and being ashamed while also putting yourself in a position to be viewed a lot
weight regain brings massive guilt, even when you’re still well ahead of where you started
people can come into your life at the right time when you are open to listening
closet eating is rampant, as in, most of the over eating is done when no one can see you
secretly hoping a skinny guy gets fat if you don’t like him
being an exceedingly slow runner
Al uses a few more salty words than one might think, but then so do I. It is often a sign of honesty. Anyone remember Eddie Murphy’s early stand up where he cautioned parents “if you thought I’d be up here in the buckwheat wig and brought your kids, you’re in for a real $$$#### surprise.” The jolly TV persona is part of Al, but not his whole person.
So yes, I recommend this book highly. As I said, the standard tough-it-out diet advice is debatable, but the emotional side, the struggle, the things no one usually says out loud: it’s all there. All but broken toilet seats, which Al spoke of on air if not in the book, and I know all about.
Thanks Al, for your honesty. Be open to the dietary research and modalities that buck the norm. Either camp will eliminate the processed and synthetic stuff that made us both fat in the first place, but finding the natural solution that jives with us may be a trial and error process.