FitLit: The 5-Factor Diet

There was a time in my life when I devoured diet books like many consume celebrity gossip rags on vacation or cheap T-shirts at Old Navy. I could spend hours reading the latest weight-loss book at Borders, scribbling notes on a pad of paper so that I, too, could drop 15 pounds in 14 days without the $19.99 sticker price. Oh, how much time I wasted, fixated on how I looked instead of how I felt and what this fit bottom of mine could do.
Nowadays, I’m in a much better place; I’m happy with my body, my diet and my workouts, sans the obsession to be perfect. However, I still enjoy perusing the diet section of the bookstore now again, just to laugh at the unrealistic promises—and my naïve self. And there are some good books out there that can really help people.
I recently bought an iced coffee and snuggled in Border’s comfiest chair (old habits die hard) with Harley Pasternak’s recent offering, The 5-Factor Diet. A follow-up to 5-Factor Fitness, I think it’s safe to say that Harley is stoked about the number five. The whole plan is based on el numero cinco. You eat five meals a day, there are five components and ingredients to each meal, prep time for food is just five minutes, and you work out—you guessed it—five times a week.

Harley has a solid education in fitness and nutrition, and a long list of celebrity clients. He doesn’t let you forget it either. The book is sprinkled with tips from stars, and he does some serious name dropping: Halle Berry, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Mandy Moore…the list goes on. He even says the diet is “Hollywood’s hottest eating plan.” He’s not a humble man, I’ll put it that way.

The book does include good information on nutrition. There’s an entire chapter on popular diets and how they falter. There’s also a healthy-eating shopping checklist, recipes and a detailed exercise plan with Harvey performing the exercises. It’s an easy book to read, but it’s not dumbed downby any means, and he touts the importance of eating regularly and getting your nutrients from food, not supplements.
Despite this, a few things bothered me. I’m no registered dietitican, so this is only my fit-bottomed opinion, but he recommends a “cheat” day, where you can eat whatever and whenever you want. I know many people allow themselves a cheat day, and it works for them. But for me, when I restrict what I eat for six days, on day seven I freak the heck out and eat and eat and EAT. Also, he says to include five things in each mini-meal: protein, carbs, fiber, healthy fats and a sugar-free beverage. However, his recipes don’t always include these five components. What’s up with that, Harley? And don’t even get me started on how his fitness plan barely includes any cardio…
In five words, here’s what I love about Mr. Pasternak’s book: It’s not a dumb diet.
In five words, here’s what I disliked about Mr. Pasternak’s book: It’s still just a diet.
Feel free to leave your own five words (or more!) below. —Jenn

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  1. Marcy says:

    Oy, I cheat all day every day. No wonder I gain LMAO!

  2. Jess says:

    I feel the same way about cheat days. If you tell me I can cheat, I will run to the nearest sweet shop and buy everything in sight haha.

  3. Erica says:

    Thanks for the reviewww! Sounds like an interesting read at least! Although I’m sure the whole full of himself thing must get old fast!

    I am an everything in moderation kind of person. Sure there are days that moderation of some items gets….lets call it out of control, but I try to do my best. I think one of the most interesting things is that people in the US as a whole use to be healthy when we ate whole, real foods in moderation and were active! I agree with him that you should eat foods, not supplements if possible! Sorry for the rant 😉

  4. c says:

    “cheat” days turn into cheat weeks and cheat months. I like to stick to my 90/10 rule.

  5. Marsha says:

    At Green Mountain at Fox Run, we’ve long discouraged the idea of ‘cheating.’ What’s cheating? Eating what you want? Then let’s call it eating what you want and do it in a way that makes us feel well, not guilty. Loved your last words at the Five Factor Diet!

  6. Marsha says:

    oops. meant to say “…your last words about the Five Factor Diet.”

  7. Rachel says:

    Haven’t read it but you sound right on. I’m reading strength for life now and I think PHillips program is solid. no shortcuts, eat clean but he does give you a day off each week to eat what you want and not exercise..but his philosophy is that if you won’t want to eat a bunch of crap because it makes your body feel bad.

  8. Erica says:

    check my blog 😉

  9. Jenn says:

    Marcy: Yea, but you’re working out a ton. And, dude, running gives me the most intense cravings.

    Jess: Oh, I’d plan out my whole cheat day ahead of time to get it all in. Breakfast out, lunch out, then sleeping off a sugar coma. Not fun!

    Erica: No, it was a good rant. So, rant away! (p.s. A big thank you!)

    Marsha: I SO agree. There are no bad foods or good foods. Just food. Yes, some has better nutritionals than others, but when you start labeling things as off limits, it only makes them more enticing. It’s like telling your kids not to touch something. What are they going to do? Touch it!

    c: Yes! I am all about the 90/10 rule! Although sometimes it’s more of the 80/20 rule. 🙂

    Marsha: I got your gist. Thanks! 🙂

    Rachel: I tried Body for Life in college and liked the workout plan, but didn’t follow the diet for long. The whole cheat day did make me feel like poo, but I never really learned my lesson. I hear it works for some though!

  10. Mark Salinas says:

    Thanks for the review! 🙂

  11. Irene says:

    I’ve sad it before and I will say it again…

    Diets Don’t Work!

    I eat what I want, when I want. I just make sure I eat smaller portions of it. Why is that so hard to understand? If you have to “cheat”, then something is wrong.


    At least the guys gives some good nutrition advice.

  12. Jenn says:

    Cheating isn’t a good idea.

    Those are my five words.

    That was five more words.

    Now I need to stop.

    But thanks for the review!

  13. Sagan Morrow says:

    Every time I come across a book or magazine that says ANYTHING about health, especially in regards to nutrition and fitness, its in my hands within seconds. I don’t believe in diets but that doesn’t stop me from eagerly grabbing for diet books to read through them. They completely intrigue me. Even/especially when they all start to meld together because they all say virtually the exact same thing.

    Thanks for reviewing this book- I have a feeling if I see it in a store it’ll jump off the shelf and I’ll just have to flip through it for a few minutes before going on my merry way:)

  14. Bridget says:

    I haven’t read the 5-factor Diet, but I read 5-Factor Fitness a couple months ago and thought pretty much what you did. Also, he uses the number 5 waaay to much for it to be truely scientifically-based. Seemed a little to much like a gimmick to me.

  15. Jenn says:

    Irene: You said it! Diets don’t work. Lifestyle change does.

    Jenn: Just five words is hard.

    But you did it — kinda! 😉

    Sagan: So, glad I’m not the only one with this strange fascination!

    Bridget: Very gimmicky, I agree. I wonder what he did on 5-5-05? Throw a huge party?!

  16. DelightfullyHealthy says:

    I’m glad someone said it already – diets don’t work! And food is just food, neither good nor bad. If you have to be allowed to “cheat” then something’s missing from the other six days, it seems to me. (Which is one of the reasons that diets don’t work. Who wants to feel deprived all the time?) Just my two cents. Thanks for the review!

  17. MizFit says:

    dang. great post and GREAT comments.

    me? I have to have a treat day.
    if I DONT then everyday becomes the treat day.

    (Im still waiting to hear back from my friend…FYI)