The Hacker’s Diet: FitnessMantra Book Review

by FitnessMantra on October 8, 2007

The Hackers DietThe Hacker’s Diet is not your everyday diet book and neither is its author, John Walker, your everyday diet-book author. As the founder of AutoDesk (a company known primarily for its AutoCAD engineering design software package), Walker is neither a doctor nor a nutritionist (there’s your disclaimer right there). Another fairly unique feature about this book: it is freely available to read online or as a downloadable PDF file (1.4 MB zip file). But what makes this book a must read is not either of these things – it is that the principles outlined in the book are hype-free, cold, hard facts that are easy to understand and if implemented properly, almost guaranteed to help you lose weight.

First of all, you must know that being an engineer, Walker brings a host of engineering principles, math, statistics and analysis into the book although you certainly don’t need a mathematical bent of mind to appreciate the content or understand its principles.

At the core of The Hacker’s Diet is the same underlying principle that FitnessMantra has propounded throughout its existence:

Fad diets and gimmick nutritional plans obscure this simple yet essential fact of weight control: if you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight; if you eat fewer calories than you burn, you lose weight.

In fact the book goes so far as to reduce the human body to a simple rubber bag, the size of which depends on two simple criteria: what goes in and what goes out. It begins with the introduction of a mythical device called “The Eat Watch”, a device that magically tells you when to start eating and when to stop so that if you mindlessly paid heed to it you would achieve your targeted weight. You are then introduced to all the facts and tools you need to “create” such a tool for yourself.

Right upfront you are presented with this startling fact: close to 70% of “what goes in” and 80% of “what goes out” is water! If only all those “daily-weight-checker” types knew this simple underlying cause behind the sometimes wild fluctuations they see on the scale everyday! From there, Walker takes us on a whirlwind tour of body types, the “hand you were dealt” as far as metabolism goes, engineering terms like feedback, signal and noise, graphs, moving averages and what have you and finally brings them all together, closing the loop on how all this applies to your losing weight.

Interspersed with all the technicality (it is a “hacker’s” diet after all!), Walker also shows a penchant for humor keeping the reader engaged in a lively fashion. A particularly hilarious section of the book outlines what would happen if a researcher finds a link between a dietary component like fiber and an aspect of your health like cholesterol levels: as the news spreads, marketers all over the place try to capitalize on this finding leading to ridiculous consequences:

Oat-this and oat-that breakfast cereals begin to vanish from the supermarket, displaced by the arrival of Peachies, Fuzz-chex, and Teenage Mutant Fuzzy Ninja Turtles. Soon, the whole supermarket looks like it’s been sprayed with minoxodil. Whole grain cookies enriched with peach fuzz. Fuzz-tab supplements. Fuzzy toothpaste. “Fizzy fuzz” peach champagne.

The website also provides a set of supporting tools (mostly Excel spreadsheets) that can help you along the way. There is also a “Hacker’s Diet Online” site that you can create a free account on to track your progress online from anywhere.

Although the book places slightly less emphasis on exercise than I would like, the fact is that food does have a greater impact on your weight than exercise alone. There is a still a chapter on exercises that you can perform everyday whatever stage of weight-loss you are in.

The book and website are not only just recommended, but I would say they are required material for anyone seriously interested in losing weight.

[tags]the hacker’s diet, diet, weight loss[/tags]

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