Recommended Resources: Starve Mode by Leigh Peele

I first heard of Leigh Peele in reverent whispers from other trainers I admired. It usually went something like “Oh Leigh? Yeah she’s great. Smart, excellent resource.” Yet, I hadn’t heard much about her. Unlike yours truly, she doesn’t smear herself all over social media. Yet, her body of work, and the respect she garners from top coaches, her clients, and other trainers is large and convincing. The more I read her work, the more I liked it. When you read her work, you get that familiar, warm feeling….you know, that feeling of someone who really knows what they are talking about, who explores all aspects, delves into the research and garners high respect for her knowledge and advice.

If you can’t bring yourself to read this whole review, please scroll down and you will see select quotes categorized under topics. These are some of my fave quotes from the book. They stand for themselves without my liberal praise. Links for book purchases are at the bottom as well. Like her page here too:

Leigh’s Facebook Page 

Public selfie

Public selfie

With her new book Starve Mode, Leigh contacted me (among others) to review it, and spread the word. I was very flattered to be included in her network, and to also get a free copy. I was even happier once I started reading it (actually I mostly listened to it as an audiobook)! It explained a lot about the metabolism, metabolic disorders, macronutrients, hormones, etc that I wanted to increase my knowledge on, and addressed topics that were highly relevant to a lot of my clients. Topics like negative metabolic adaptations, calculating energy expenditure accurately, reviews of popular calorie tracking devices, all about water retention and cortisol, unexplained weight gain, and long-term adaptations in under/overeating, hormones and their role/influence on body composition… Stuff like that. The stuff people seek out a diet consultant for. The stuff that frustrates and confuses weight loss clients. The stuff that can be seemingly “contradictory” when trying to help someone lose fat. How often have you heard “But I’ve been eating in a deficit for so long, and can’t lose fat.”

Any stranger that has happened to pass me walking to and from the subway, or on the subway to work the last couple months, may have noticed a girl standing for long periods of time, furiously texting on her iphone, while pausing her iphone over and over, and looking up into the distance quite focused.

That was me, taking notes from Starve Mode.

I’ve splashed around in the puddle that is explaining “metabolism”, macronutrients, and fat loss/gain. My knowledge is a muddy and murky puddle in contrast to Leigh’s. She is swimming in a fucking Olympic pool. Her knowledge is deep, and presented clearly. From reading her book, and studying it, my knowledge puddle grew to a wading pool. And its a bit less murky. You can at least see your toes. 😉

Good progress if I may say so myself.

So, now that my gushing praise and horrible metaphors are over, let me get to some specifics in this review.

What is Starve Mode about?

Screenshot from starvemode.com

Screenshot from starvemode.com

As a trainer, I have often felt quite tongue-tied trying to thoroughly explain the vast topic that is diet and nutrition ESPECIALLY when someone comes to me with their arsenal full of misinformtion. Since diet is  such an integral part of changing body composition and reaching goals, I feel that it is needed. I have to address diet, even with clients who only work out with me. Yet the area of “diet” is so rife with long-standing intimidating beliefs, fads, pseudo-absolutes and subjective claims, that attempting to steer someone towards evidence-based practices and principles is often daunting. I certainly agree that it can often be much easier to just say “don’t eat this, that, and that, and drink your water.”

I’ve come to a lot of my knowledge on nutrition through my own studies (textbooks, research reviews, blogs of certain people etc), and the help of much bigger names in the industry who *do* have all the proper titles and vast bodies of work. I was surprised to find out that Leigh too is largely self-taught and does not have a degree. Don’t let this fact lower your opinion of her. Judge her by her work, her clients and her reputation for excellence and integrity. She is completely open about her sources, conclusions, recommendations, and thoroughly researches and supports all her work. She respects context. Whether the context is complex, (as in biology and physiology it often can be), or simple (as narrowing down recommendations for particular situations). Leigh describes herself as a layman researcher. In this book she throughly bridges the gap between science and experience to explain the physiological, biological and psychological mechanisms at play with your metabolism and that all ties into to what you are experiencing in fat loss/gain or dieting frustrations. She continues how to use your new understanding of it all to craft a plan of action for yourself and then finishes the book off with two such plans.

Leigh’s writing will not confuse you. It is not tedious, and is often amusing. Neither does she attempt to oversimplify truly complex topics. Physiology, biology, etc are not “simple” topics. This doesn’t mean there’s no hope for you unless you are a rabid researcher. To the contrary, you just need to know what is important, and how to determine a course of action. This book will help you do both.

One of my favorite parts was how to calculate energy expenditure accurately. She goes into great detail here, and reviews various tracking devices, their pros/cons and accuracy level. As quoted below, when figuring out what information about yourself to act on, you must be picky in your evaluation to avoid problems further down the road requiring you to backtrack to square one. Reminds me a that quote “a lazy man works double”. I also really enjoyed the chapters on water retention/weight and macronutrients! These are two hot topics. They both touch on the relationship between diet and hormones, another very hot topic.

I have no doubt that if you buy this book to understand diet, metabolism and metabolic damage, hormones and diet etc, and have struggled with questions or frustrations on the topic, you will find yourself nodding along and going “hmmmmm” out loud and scaring strangers in public. Like me!

Below are several quotes from various chapters that I really liked, as well as a link to purchase the book. If any of these excerpts resonate with you, please buy the book. There’s way more where that came from. For fellow trainers…we are often not well-educated in nutrition and diet and just regurgitate the same stuff over and over. Do yourself a favor and gain a better understanding of macros, metabolism, metabolic disorders etc, as this is the stuff that really impacts whether we can get a client results.

Below are quotes that really hit home for me. They are only a sampling of what this book talks about, so please don’t take them out of context. I can’t post whole chapters (duh). The “on” sentences are my own categorization of these quotes from common questions/topics.

On “Do calories matter?” and the whole energy equation thing:

“The big take home is that energy matters. And this is always going to be what matters.”

“You never know the journey of your physical being, no matter what you believe in the sense of spirituality, one thing can be for certain. The cycle of your body will never end. I find that oddly comforting . That no matter what, I might one day be the dirt that covers a happy dogs bone. I’m ok with that. And when you understand that this is the process of living and there is nothing you can do about it, you understand that energy just doesn’t implode.”

“The global energy balance is essential to (body) composition.”

On figuring out a plan:

“When you’re having problems you can either work in the art of insanity or an evaluation. Proper evaluation is the best way to remove mistakes. Make sure you’re not just screwing something up that is much easier to fix.” (!!!)

On figuring out how many calories we actually burn:

“Sadly we don’t burn as much as we think. Especially women. Know your movement!”

On counting calories:

“Better to be anal for a few days then frustrated for years.”

On carbs being responsible for gaining fat, and how carbs are not the enemy:

“The fact is, it doesn’t take carbohydrates to store fat! You can store fat off of protein or fat intake.”

“If stalled and depressed, carbohydrates are your friend.”

“Carbohydrates: Raise leptin levels without fat gain. Offset drops in T3 or increases in RT3. Blunt excessive cortisol. Replenish glycogen and aid in protein synthesis. They are the primary macronutrient that can relay crucial regulation signaling to the hypothalamus.”

“Long term restriction of any one macronutrient can lead to a decrease in optimal metabolic function.” (!!!)

“People say that carbs make you fat. Well they don’t. Fat makes you fat. The key is to put carbs to work by pulling them into muscles through training. Go for plump (muscles) not (a) bloated (body).”

On aging and exercise:

“It is said that 1% of motor units are lost after your thirties and can increase in loss rate after your 60’s for the average population. Can the rate of motor unit loss be deterred by physical activity? The answer seems to be yes. While most research has been done on rats, one study shows that “these results show that lifelong high intensity exercise could potentially mitigate the loss of motor unit associated with aging well into the seventh decade of life.” Even in untrained subjects there is a benefit to starting late”

On obesity and is it a disease?:

“Labeling obesity as a disease is still highly controversial. Going against the theory of this being a disease, there is only a small percentage of the population in this country who are obese due to conditions beyond their control. Normally obesity is caused by a alack of understanding the caloric content and need of food. While there are environmental, genetic, and emotional factors which can lead to a higher probability of weight increase. End cause is still an excess of caloric consumption for their need. Basically, overeating.”

On the need for education:

“The ability to have control over your body composition brings real peace over being able to eat an entire box of donuts for dinner could bring. Many people end up conquering their demons not because they get their dream body, but because they know how to achieve any body type that they want. They don’t feel lost to the situation or helpless. That is the point.”

“I don’t think you should solve all or nothing behavior with all or nothing behavior!”

On negative metabolic adaptations, or when you just can’t lose fat no matter what:

“The body doesn’t defy laws. It simply creates a shorter road to obeying them. The human body is constantly in desperate need of fuel. Take a moment to think about how much work that is. Think about the energy and intelligence it takes for your body to perform the functions needed in order to work at a optimal capacity. And the only thing that keeps your body operational is food and water. When you look at your body as a vehicle of energy and not just as a port for personal pleasure you start to see the serious game you are playing with your health at every turn you take….addiction starts from need, not want in this instance. (referring to damaging habits involving orthorexia, binge cycles, compulsive overeating, severe macronutrient restriction etc.)

“Long term eating below maintenance leads to a cascade of negative hormonal reactions. For some this is a mild or short term issue. For others it feels like a lifelong battle.”

On water retention, water weight, and cortisol:

“Decrease the stress, and decrease the water (your body is hanging onto).”

“What do you think you’re going to look like if you’re overtraining, undereating and lost your menses? Body go puffy.”

“Utilizing macro specific restrictive diets can lead to more problems with reintroduction in the future. Some may argue “I’m never planning to reintroduce starch or sugar based carbs” and if so it is possible you will be met with long term water imbalance (that can make you look bloated and fat).”

On reversing metabolic damage or improving your metabolic capacity to reach your goals:

“The only way you are ever going to know your body’s potential is to treat it like the machine it can be. It can build, break, lift, and carry it’s way to success if you know how to manipulate it. On the flip side, it can be broken down if you don’t take care of it. Not feeding the body and putting it through unnecessary strain will never produce a positive result, so it won’t be easy. That being said, the quickest way to conquer physical vanity is to take care of your body, not punish it.”

Starve Mode is a valuable book. Leigh also wrote The Fat Loss Troubleshoot, which is sort of “part 1” to Starve Mode. Both books can be purchased at the links below. I am not an affiliate.

Leigh is also available for consults. I have spoken to several people who have paid for a Skype consult with her and the reviews are overwhelming positive. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars and countless hours of frustration, consider a consult with her. Follow the links below for the book purchases, or to read her articles on her site.

The Fat Loss Troubleshoot

Starve Mode

Leigh’s Website

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