Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Does S*A*S*S Yourself Slim Measure Up?

A few months ago I was contacted by a publisher and book tour operator who asked if I would read and blog a review of a weight loss book being released under a new title. There would be no compensation (except for a copy of the book) and I am free to write my review based on my thoughts and feelings, be they positive, negative or just bland.

The book is S*A*S*S Yourself Slim, by Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD. Her website is The original title of this book was Cinch!: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches. This is my first experience with this author's work. My review is based completely on my opinion of the current publication and what I think of the methods and suggestions in contains. 

If you had asked me in the first twenty or so pages what I thought of her book  the review would have been a bit snippy and unfavorable.  I got past my objections and continued reading. By the time I finished the book I was suggesting it to several people as a weight loss maintenance reference tool.  I see things in this book helping me with the next thirty years of keeping the pounds off. I think it is a good read for people who want to be in maintenance and not bouncing around regaining their pounds. In that way it joins Refuse to Regain as a book I will continue to reference over and over on my journey maintaining my weight loss. Coming from opinionated, smart-ass, know-it-all me, that is great praise for a book. 

I recommend it as a weight maintenance aid. I do not necessarily recommend the book as a weight loss method. I did not loose my weight this way and I do not agree with Sass' 5-day Fast Forward Plan.  From my experience EVERY diet plan - EVERYONE OF THEM starts off with a way to quickly jump start and lose weight. Anyone who sticks to a strict eating plan for one or two weeks is going to lose weight - ANY PLAN.  I do not understand why the people giving testimonials in the book were talking about one week or two weeks or a month using the S*A*S*S Yourself Slim plan but there was very, very little from people who have done it for months or years. 

Remember Cynthia from
any of the morning news
shows or Dr Oz? 
Cynthia Sass has many good ideas that are practical and interesting. She is very vegan-friendly and in her 'writing voice,' never talks down to the reader. Even though I have already lost 220 pounds, I found things in S*A*S*S Yourself Slim that I am adopting into my action plan of eating and if they work, I may be doing them for the rest of my life. 

The title of the book is not just a fancy use of the author's own last name. S*A*S*S stands for Slimming and Satiating Seasonings. Sass strongly recommends the use of natural flavors and seasonings in place of sugars, artificial sweeteners and sodium. In fact, S*A*S*S-ing up food is an essential part of the plan. Up until I read this book it never occurred to me to add citrus zest and cinnamon to fat free Greek yogurt while leaving out the Splenda. I have done this a few times over the last two weeks and my Splenda consumption is down to one packet a day and I have given up sugar free gum as a side bonus. I have been adding more herbs and spice to my vegetables - real herbs and spices, not the store bought Mrs Dash variety. 

Another idea I received from reading S*A*S*S Yourself Slim was in packing a better 'emergency food kit' for traveling. Sass offers several suggestions and I have already bought a few of them for my upcoming trip later this month. Then there is the coconut oil. Can we talk coconut oil a minute? 

OMG where has this been all my life. Yeah, I know, until recently coconut oil was not in the mainstream vernacular, but I have been reading about it for over a year and still I never thought to try it until I read about it in this book. I am now hooked on it, in a good way. For the past few years my average daily intake of fat grams has been too low. I do not generally eat milk fat, I gave up real peanut butter, I rarely use cooking oil, rarely eat egg yolks and my meats and poultry are always very lean. Coconut oil has been a tasty addition to my meal plan, along with avocados.  I use the coconut oil in breakfast smoothies, a salad dressing, a fat free ricotta dish and a chocolate concoction - without artificial sweetener or added sugar. 

Speaking of chocolate: the S*A*S*S has a mandatory daily chocolate indulgence. When I first read this I was ready to chuck the whole book because a daily indulgence goes against everything I do in my maintenance life. But then I thought about it. Indulgence does not have to be a bad word. The choice of the indulgence still needs to be healthy. It is not a daily cheat. Sass includes recipes for chocolate truffles that she suggests for the chocolate indulgence. She uses semi sweet chocolate chips, (the only processed sugar I recall anywhere in her plans). That could still be too much sugar for my addict mind, so instead, I have used cocoa powder or an 85% dark chocolate bar, which contains much less sugar. But what about the people who are allergic to chocolate? What about the people who do not like chocolate? (are there such people???)

One thing I did not like was the use of less-than-motivating 'success stories.' As I stated earlier, every diet written with the possible exception of the Eat-Everything-All-The-Time-Plan, has a week or two at the start where you drop lots of weight and inches. This book has before and after photos/stories sprinkled throughout. The problem is the before photos and the after photos are not much different. In the first before/after photo, the woman lost 10 pounds in thirty days. There isn't much different about the photos that cannot be explained by a different cut of clothes and a different stance. Thirty days? I want to know how she did after 6 months or more. There is a continuation in her story. This person wrote about how she went from size 10 to a size 4 - but there is no photo and no mention of the number of pounds lost. Why no updated photo? 

Two stories later in the book is another person who lost 11.25 pounds. Maybe it is just me but I do not see any real difference in her before an after photos. She is wearing the same clothes and in a different position. This happens again in a later story and again and again. Lots of people lost around 10 pounds in thirty days. But these stories were in the originally released book. If you are going to do an update it is a great chance to show what those people look like now, isn't it? She didn't do that. Instead, Sass added seven new S*A*S*S losers with their stories (only 5 of them had photos). As someone who likes visual evidence whenever possible, I would have preferred to see more concrete examples. What better way to show that your plan is successful over the test of time then to have testimony and photos taken a year or more apart? 

I am taking from S*A*S*S Yourself Slim the parts I like and leaving the rest behind. I liked more than I expected. I am looking forward to trying more recipe and S*A*S*S suggested herbs and seasonings. I have been working toward getting off the artificial sweetener (again) and the S*A*S*S plan for flavorings has really inspired me to really incorporate those changes on a permanent basis. Hopefully the inspiration will not wear off after thirty days. I will write an update at the end of May on the subject. 

I am a food addict. My experience was my school, my continued weight loss is my degree.  I do not agree wholeheartedly with her chapter Conquering Emotional Eating. I think it is too simplified and does not properly address food as addiction on the level of alcohol and drugs. I respectfully suggest that addiction to food is more than emotional eating. We are seeing more and more medical professionals publicly acknowledge that food addiction is real, without an easy answer or cure. This is one of the things I love about Dr. Barbara Berkeley's book. She suggests a 90-10 plan BUT she respects that addicts are addicts. She states in her book that 90-10 is not an excuse to pick up the addictive foods. If you are an addict you still must refrain from your addictive foods. 

Sass has a Masters in Public Health and is a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant. She consults for multiple professional sport teams.I readily concede that Cynthia Sass knows what she is talking about regarding food and nutrition and her years of counseling people have given her great insight on food issues. I also think there are people for whom this book will be the right thing at the right time. I can't offer you my copy of the book: I am going to be using it in my journey of Keeping the Pounds Off.

 We will talk about it again next month.

In your eating plan, are your foods filled with a variety of satisfying and satiating seasonings? If not, why not? 



Vickie said...

she should have had you read/review before it was reprinted. Your points are very valid.

Healthy fats are something I did not really understand in weight loss and did not properly incorporate until maintenance.

Mine are avocado with breakfast every morning and walnuts with my cottage cheese/yogurt each day.

Do you know NOT to heat oils? There are links on my side bar under 'nutrition tracking links'. I think there are 3 oil links and all were written by Hanlie. They are titled Hanlie Fats Part I, etc

Jane Cartelli said...

Your links lead me to do my own research a few weeks ago, which lead me to not heating my fats, which the exception of the spray in the pan with my eggs. I have not given that up yet.

Sandrelle said...

I had not heard of this book. Loved your thoughts and great points. I have been using coconut oil for a while now and love it in certain things. Great idea about the citrus zest too! Thanks!

Carbie Girl said...

I love reading the reviews lately from those of us who chose to take part in this book tour. So many different points of view and you touched on a lot of things I didnt get to in my own review. I agree about the success stories. In the back of my mind I was like "Most of these people aren't THAT fat" and though thats not really fair of me to say, my inner fat girl couldn't help but thinking it... I too was left wanting to see updates on where they are now on the plan (if at all). For the most part though I found the book pretty life changing and am also going to be incorporating it in the upcoming months. Its interesting to see what different people, at different levels of health can take away from this book. Great review, will be looking forward to hearing more about your p.o.v :0)

Leslie said...

Thanks for this review, Jane. I've been reading Carbie Girl's Sass blog and finding it interesting. I just looked it up on Amazon and read the reviews and would like to check it out. Why don't public libraries get books like this???

I also appreciate your open mind alongside your commitment to self care that comes from knowing the true nature of your food addiction.

Maren said...

This is a great review, thank you for sharing!

Unknown said...

Hi Jane! I've read that book and found it not very meaningful. I'm glad I only took it out of the library.

I honestly think those people should have asked *you!* to write a book. You do say meaningful things that make me think. And, unlike that author, you actually have experience in taking off and maintaining weight loss.

:-) Marion

Jane Cartelli said...

CarbieGirl - I wanted to wait until my review was written and published before I read any of the others. I will be spending some time tomorrow doing that. I look forward to reading yours, too. I am glad I am not alone in finding the success stories very untried. Oh, I made the balsamic truffles - Love them.

Leslie - Yeah, that food addiction thing can suck the life out of ya'. I must keep sharing the message I have learned. There is an answer! (I know you know it).

Maren - I like your new photo.

Marion - Really? I know she could not tell you anything in the physical exercise side of the equation of course but I thought some of the food things would have been interesting to you. You are going to be hearing them from me for awhile. I am trying out some stuff that is not on my red light list.

sixty-five said...

Thanks for bringing this book to my attention. I was able to get her book "Cinch" from the library - I believe it's essentially the same book and information. Agree with you that there is much of value there. After losing substantial weight over the past year doing my own version of "low carb/paleo" I've been stuck for a while at a point that's about 20 pounds from what I'd call "thin". I'm going to try the "SASS" system.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

My son has a ton of food allergies so we discovered coconut oil a few years ago since it was one of the few oils he could use - it is FANTASTIC, isn't it?!

Thanks for taking the time to read and review this book for the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.