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The Skinny Rules: The Simple, Nonnegotiable Principles for Getting to Thin

The Skinny Rules: The Simple, Nonnegotiable Principles for Getting to Thin

4.4 104
by Bob Harper

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With so much conflicting weight-loss advice out there to confuse your efforts, it’s no wonder you haven’t been successful losing weight and keeping it off. But with Bob Harper, superstar trainer and co-host of NBC’s hit show The Biggest Loser as your personal authority and


With so much conflicting weight-loss advice out there to confuse your efforts, it’s no wonder you haven’t been successful losing weight and keeping it off. But with Bob Harper, superstar trainer and co-host of NBC’s hit show The Biggest Loser as your personal authority and coach, you can and will finally shed the pounds—whether you want to lose two or two hundred!
Distilling Bob’s vast knowledge of nutrition, weight-loss strategy, and human nature down to twenty simple, nonnegotiable principles, The Skinny Rules will help you step away from a reliance on processed foods and the need for so much sweet and salt and step into a newly thin lifestyle. And Bob’s methods couldn’t be more straightforward.
Taking the guesswork out of implementing the Skinny Rules, Bob offers a month’s worth of menu plans and more than 90 delicious, rule-abiding recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks to keep you cooking and eating skinny for life. You’ll be happily astounded to see the variety and volume of the tasty food on your plate! He also includes terrific tips for what to stock in your fridge and what to prepare every weekend in order to set yourself up for success during your too-busy-to-cook weekdays.
A virtual GPS to your weight-loss goals, The Skinny Rules takes the mystery out of the process, offering the fastest route to your skinny destination.
Rule #3: Eat protein at every meal, making some kind of fish your go-to protein as often as you can. Take your weight and divide it by two—that’s more or less how much protein you should be eating in grams every day.
Rule #15: Eat at least ten meals a week at home (and cook them yourself). Restaurant portions are usually 40 to 50 percent bigger than what you’d serve at home—the more you eat out, the more you overeat. Set yourself up for success by preparing my turkey meatballs, hummus, and roasted vegetables on the weekend so that you will have go-to staples and no excuses!
Rule #18: Go to bed slightly hungry. Denied fuel for more than five hours, your body will start burning its own fat and sugar. Make a point not to eat after dinner and you’ll be burning fat while you’re sleeping.
Rule #20: Enjoy a splurge meal once a week. Unlike episodic bingeing, splurge meals are an ingredient in your diet. When you plan something, you are in control.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
So what recommends this diet book? The numbers. Host of NBC's The Biggest Loser, which draws nine million viewers per episode, Harper boasts 350,000 Facebook friends, 160,000 Twitter followers, and 80,000 unique visitors per month at mytrainerbob.com; more than 850,000 viewers have seen his YouTube videos. And his face will be appearing on 130 million Quaker Oats boxes in the months to come. Harper condenses the usual recipes, menus, tips, and techniques into 20 (dare I say) bite-sized pieces. In demand, no matter how many diet books there are.

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Random House Publishing Group
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Skinny Rules
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Random House
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Read an Excerpt



This has got to be the easiest rule there is. Which is a good place to start. But it’s also one of the most important rules there is. You simply must stay hydrated. At a minimum I want you to drink a large glass of water before every meal. But I’d prefer that you drink at least five glasses of water a day, the first one within fifteen minutes of waking.

Now, do I really need to harass you about this? I do. Because during the process of losing weight, nothing is so crucial to your success. Water keeps your organs healthy while you’re sweating, keeps food moving through the system, and makes you feel full.

Let me put this plainly: drinking water helps you lose weight. You can see this most vividly in very overweight children. Recently, a group of Israeli researchers examined the resting energy expenditure (REE) of twenty-­one obese children. REE refers to the rate at which you burn calories when you are sleeping, watching TV, or just simply sitting there and staring into space. The researchers gave the kids a large serving of cold water, then began measuring the REE every 10 minutes. The reaction was more robust than anticipated. Within 24 minutes, REE began increasing. By 57 minutes, REE had increased by 25 percent, and this effect lasted 40 minutes.

Did you get that? Just by drinking water, your body increases its burning of calories. The scientists estimated that, if you just do this, you’ll burn off an extra three pounds over the next year.

That doesn’t sound like a lot, but I’ll take it. Won’t you?

The contestants on The Biggest Loser are usually chronically dehydrated, and their collective experience shows another reason to drink lots of water. They are usually pretty big consumers of salt before they come on the show. They eat it unknowingly—­in the fried and highly processed foods that are their usual mealtime fare and that helped make them so overweight in the first place—­and knowingly; too many of them often add salt to whatever they are served. They are usually eating so much salt that they have begun to mess up the delicate mechanisms of chemical balance so vital to our bodies. When the kidneys are swamped with salt and without adequate liquids, you don’t get enough potassium. That and other minerals are absolutely key to weight loss.

And as my private fitness clients have shown me, drinking more water helps in other physical ways as well. When they start conscientiously drinking lots of water, their workouts improve. They get less muscle fatigue, they recuperate faster, and they don’t feel groggy in the afternoon.

Simple Hydration Tips

Make it your premeal policy: drink a large glass of water before every meal. No excuses.

End the day with preparation for a good start to the next: put a large, full glass of water on your bedstand every night and drink it when you wake up, every morning.

Get a little extra bang for your effort: mix a pitcher of water with a noncaloric vitamin and mineral supplement. I like ElectroMix (one little packet makes a quart), and having the pitcher all mixed and right in front of you will make it that much easier to pour yourself a glass when you open the fridge at every meal; I usually drink mine when I work out.



Caloric beverages steal your health and they steal great food from you. That’s right. They steal it because they are so heavily caloric themselves and will fill you up with all the wrong stuff. Think of the kinds of caloric beverages all around you.

Soft drinks: As you heft one of those cans or buckets of sugar water to your mouth, consider that you are actually eating the equivalent of what should be your entire lunch.

I came to this rule while working on TBL. When I reviewed their pre-­TBL meal plans I saw that most contestants were drinking Big Gulps or other massive jugs of soda that had 500 calories. Some people would nurse several of them during the day (that’s upwards of 1,500 calories of soda a day!). Think of it this way: all that corn syrup? It’s a bushel of corn! And remember, when factory farms want to fatten their cattle, what do they do? They feed them corn. So if you are drinking things with corn syrup, think about that. Are you a cow? No you are not.

Moreover, when you drink soda, you are ingesting what just about every legitimate medical authority in the world has named as suspect number one in today’s sprawling diabetes epidemic. A friend of mine tells me that his teenage kids really got the message a few years ago when their father was diagnosed. Now, when a family member asks for a soda, they cheerily reply: “Sure. What kind of diabetes do you want?”

Out of the mouths of babes.

If, like most Americans, you are used to drinking lots of liquid calories, cutting out soda might be a tough adjustment. But it’s essential that you kick your soda habit ASAP. If you’re a full-­calorie soda drinker, you’re guzzling empty and unsatisfying calories. If you’re a diet/zero-­calorie soda drinker, you haven’t dodged the problem. Hello?! You’re guzzling artificial sweeteners and, as you’ll hear again and again in this book, I don’t think highly of these at all. They only serve to whet your appetite for more sweet! Stop the madness. Kick the habit.

To help wean yourself from your soda habit, start experimenting with other flavored, noncaloric drinks that you can make yourself. Try seltzer water with lime or lemon juice. Stock up on unsweetened, naturally flavored herb teas. Make a quart or so at a time and keep it in the refrigerator to go with your afternoon snack. And there is my tried-­and-­true alternative—­the “soda eliminator” described in Rule 15. Check it out.

Juices and juice drinks: Most juices have exactly the same number of calories—­and the same amount of simple sugars—­as a cola. Oh, you’ll protest, but doesn’t the fiber in a “natural” juice obviate that problem? No. That’s just what you’ve been told. It is the same as drinking a soft drink. You want fruit? Eat fruit. The whole piece of fruit. Not the extracted and manipulated juice.

Yeah, well, juice smoothies are healthy, right? Maybe “healthy” if you order one with no preservatives or added sugar, but regardless, fruit smoothies that you haven’t made yourself (i.e., you have controlled the portions and know exactly what’s gone in it) will make you as fat as a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float—­just like a 32-ounce soda.

Energy replacement drinks: Well, yeah—­if you’re training for a marathon. Otherwise, look at the label! A 20-­ounce sports drink—­let’s face it, that’s how much you’ll “need” to quench that big thirst—­weighs in at 130 calories. Like a 12-­ounce cola, but without the nifty zing of bubbles and caffeine. I’ve always seen drinks like these as particularly insidious, because they are, in our heads at least, deeply associated with sports, which are deeply associated with health and fitness. You have to break that connection.

Artificial Sweeteners

Though the scientific jury is still out on whether there is a direct relationship between consuming artificial sweeteners and the urge to eat more sweet-­tasting things, I know this from experience with clients, with The Biggest Loser contestants, and with myself: the more “sweet” you eat, the more you want it. Another way to put it: when you taste sweet (even the tiny-­calorie, artificial kind), you are conditioning yourself to continue wanting and even craving that same sweetness. That continued craving isn’t going to help you lose weight—­ever. The biggest favor you can do yourself is to leave your sweet consumption to your splurge meal and learn to keep sweet indulgences in perspective: they are treats, not everyday affairs.

A latte on the way to the gym? Sorry. Milk also has a tanker-­full of calories. True, coffee itself—­which most of the world drinks without milk, by the way—­is turning out to be a positive dietary element, although it’s still unclear why and how much. I’ll get back to that later, but for now, no lattes or chais, frappes, or mochas. If you must get something Euro, get a cappuccino, which contains very little milk (if made the right way), or even an Americano, in which you can better control the amount of milk. And if you must add milk, opt for the low-­ or no-­fat varieties. No cream. No half and half. Whole milk? No again.

Alcohol: Although it might sound odd, if there’s one source of liquid calories that warrants some leeway in my no-­sweetened-­beverage world, it’s booze. Wine, particularly red wine, deserves a place on your shelf—­and on your table. But not when you are trying to lose weight! Until you are at your goal weight, it’s best to view alcohol the same way you would a Big Gulp. When you get to your goal, red wine is the thing. When you’ve kept to your goal, we’ll talk beer.

In the same way I want you to step down from soda, I want you to immediately lay off the cream or half-­and-­half in your coffee. Don’t even go for the whole milk. Step down, step away! Start putting 2% milk or nonfat (skim) milk in your coffee and ordering any coffee-­based drink that way too. Today.

Now, why am I so down on liquid calories? Most of us know the basics: sugary drinks contain, uh, sugar, and sugar is made up of molecules that encourage the formation of new fat cells, as well as keeping existing ones filled. This applies to all sugars, from “natural” ones like honey and juices, to the twin demon spawn of white sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Sugars drive up your blood sugar, which tells the pancreas to make more insulin, which makes you hungry, setting the whole process in motion again.

But what if I told you this: humans are simply not built to consume liquid calories.


That’s the growing consensus among nutritionists and medical researchers. In “A Short History of Beverages and How Our Body Treats Them,” obesity experts led by the preeminent Barry Popkin scrutinized our evolutionary history and tried to explain why our modern bodies handle them so poorly. Why, for example, do liquid calories make it difficult for our bodies to gauge when they are satisfied, or when to stop eating? After looking at the bodily effects of everything from beer to pop, they put forward a stunning conclusion:

“First,” they write, “humans may lack a physiological basis for processing carbohydrate or alcoholic calories in beverages because only breast milk and water were available for the vast majority of our evolutionary history. Alternatives to those two beverages appeared in the human diet no more than 11,000 years ago, but Homo sapiens evolved between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago. Second, carbohydrate and alcohol-­containing beverages may produce an incomplete satiation sequence which prevents us from becoming satiated on these beverages.”

Translation: when you drink lots of liquid calories, you’re fighting 200,000 years of human history!

You’re not going to win.


Mainly, because I like it! That rich, complex bundle of flavors and smells is comforting and arousing. It makes me happy. But the latest research shows that coffee—­in moderation—­seems to have all kinds of other benefits as well. Consuming a couple cups (black) a day is strongly tied to lower rates of diabetes, more robust anti-­inflammatory gene expression, and better and clearer thinking. It’s unclear why coffee does this, but one obvious suspect is caffeine. It is a stimulant, and stimulants generally dampen appetite and increase calorie burning. But . . . I drink it because I like it. As the smell of it wafts into my nostrils, I can close my eyes and envision being in Paris, which is a terrific image. Outside of France, here are some guidelines:

Drink espresso or black Americano only. Just do it! If you want a cappuccino, opt for nonfat or soy milk in the preparation. That’s how I enjoy mine.

Limit consumption to two cups a day, preferably before noon. Exception: you can drink it all day if you are indeed in Paris.

Decaf espresso is fine after lunch until around five. After that even the small amounts of caffeine will disturb your sleep.


Meet the Author

Bob Harper is a world-renowned fitness trainer and star of the NBC reality series The Biggest Loser, which finished thirteenth season in 2012. With several bestselling fitness DVDs, his own line of supplements, an online fitness club, as well as the inspirational book Are You Ready? to his credit, Harper still teaches a local spin class where he resides in Los Angeles with his dog Karl.
Greg Critser is a longtime science and medical journalist. The author of the international bestseller Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World, he lives in Pasadena, California.

From the Hardcover edition.

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The Skinny Rules: The Simple, Nonnegotiable Principles for Getting to Thin 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 104 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As expected, Bob has the best advice and this book really lets his personality shine through. He takes all the guesswork out of healthy living. He doesnt just tell you what to eat, he also tells you why to eat it, and includes simple recipes that taste great! Thanks Bob, you are such an inspiration and I have recommended this book to so many of my friends already!
Stef1 More than 1 year ago
I could not put the book down when I first got it. I have always been a fan of Bob's and I have been following him on The Biggest Loser and Facebook. A lot of what he tells you in the book is true, I mean I am not fitness expert myself, but about three months ago, I joined his website and tried a lot of the recipes he posted and the pounds started to come off. It's still a working progress, but with the help of this book I look forward to continue losing weight and keeping it off. Thanks Bob!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Why was it easy to give this book a good review? Because this book is straight to the point. Even if you already know something, Bob reinforces it towards you. The menu is very simple and easy to follow; there is no excuse for not eating healthy. While reading this book it felt as though Bob was sitting right infront of me giving me this advice first hand.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I appreciate that Bob gets rightdown to the facts of the does and don'ts. Was a very fast read and plan to read again just to double absorb his information. I can't wait to try his recipes. Absolutely great purchase for my nook! Sometimes health books don't include everything...this one does!!!
BMcKinley More than 1 year ago
LOVE this book! He is NOT kidding around, I like the no nonsense approach to eating right! Not a diet, but an eating plan to change your life! Buy it, you won't regret it!
Beccaboo77 More than 1 year ago
This book was just available yesterday and I have already read the entire book. Some of the rules I was already aware of but many of them are new. I love how simple Bob lays out these rules. Many of them are simple if you make it a priority to get healthy. If you have 20 or 200 pounds to lose this is a book for you! Thanks Bob for another great book!
LeeP1 More than 1 year ago
I love this book! Bob's 20 rules are very clear cut and doable! I am already down 5 pounds and I just started following them 6 days ago! Love, love, love Bob Harper!
JMorton2007 More than 1 year ago
Love this book!! Love Bob !! This book is so easy to read and understand. Tons of food options that I can personally say will NOT leave you hungry!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is very helpful. Cant go wrong with a trainer who shows results. Im a Bob Harper fan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I reead the book the first day it came out. It is really good trying to follow it. I think its a book for all to read. I bought it on my nook but now might gi buy it in hard copy.
Veuve_Cliquot More than 1 year ago
Finally, something that really makes sense AND WORKS!
mycute3 More than 1 year ago
I think Bob's book is FULL of great tips! It is a very simple format which makes it easy to read and to go back and look things up. The rules he mentions are also pretty simple to apply to your own life. I have added quite a few that he talks about in the book. Whether you want to lose 5 pounds or 200 pounds this book has something for everyone!
cp157 More than 1 year ago
I read this book last weekend and started the diet on Sunday.....it's now Thursday and I am 5 pounds lighter!....5 lbs in 5 days! I had to look the scale over really good and pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. I haven't been hungry and I am feeling good. I only had 25 lbs to lose in the first place. Be ready to hit the grocery and cook for yourself, drink your water, etc.....stuff we should be doing anyway. The recipes are easy and taste great!
tschikir More than 1 year ago
I got this MP3 book so I could listen to the rules on my way to and from work and when I went on road trips. I almost have it memorized, but it is so nice having Bob telling me what to do in plain English everywhere I go. Nothing happens overnight, but feeling better and feeling healthier started almost immediately. I've also purchased the book so I can highlight my trouble areas and use the recipes. With Bob coaching you through every rule, the only person in your way is you! So step away from that potato chip, put down your soda, and get ready to change your life!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading Bob's The Skinny Rules - he has a no nonsense approach and is very direct. The rules are straightforward - not so easy to follow - as he says this isn't easy but it it is necessary. Looking forward to seeing results!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think its a book for all to read. I bought it on my nook but now might buy it in hard copy.
chrissycew More than 1 year ago
Loved this book! Can't wait to get started!
nelsonwd More than 1 year ago
Loved it...couldn't put it down. That seems like an odd statement for a weight loss book. As you progress through the book you are thinking 'I can do this', what's next. Rules are clear, concise and reasonable. I intend to put these rules to practice, change the way I eat and think about food. Armed with all the knowledge I need, I can start my journey to permanent weight loss. Thank You Bob Harper for writing this book. I truly believe you will reach many and save many from a life style of obesity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great fast read that gives you the basics of what u need to do to succeed. Great job Bob!
pepsGA More than 1 year ago
this is a great read alot of information, very easy to follow.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Easy to read and the rules make sense. Now just have to apply them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book....I like the easy recipes. I personally don't like to cook...but these recipe ideas are quick and easy. All the rules make sense. Some things I already knew, but overall it is a great book. I am going to purchase his other books now....Thanks Bob...I am on my way to healthy and "skinny"....
Jenn44 More than 1 year ago
I ordered this book because I wanted someone to tell me what to do and how to do it. This book is great! Easy reading and great recipes. I learned so much in one book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Seriously. This IS the best diet book ever. I dont know if this is even a "diet" book. It's more of a nutrition book that will guide you to a healthy you. As for me, i weighed 260 lbs... I had a hard time exercising because of my weight. Now, i thought, what if i lose some weight before doing some exercise? So that's what I did. Bought this book last year. Good read. Easy to understand. Informative. Best of all, it has guides. Believe me, you will never shop like you did before... You will remember his rules when you go to the grocery or eat out... So following his rules made me 50 lbs lighter. I'm at 210 lbs. which is great!!!! So this is really a highly recommended book for those who cannot exercise yet because of your weight or even if you just wanna go back to healthy eating. Thanks Bob!!!!!  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I knew most of it but needed a reminder. Helpful tips.