EAT TO SUCCEED: The Haas Maximum Performance Program. By Dr. Robert Haas. Recipes by Hilarie Porter. Rawson. 342 pp. $15.95.
BOOKS LIKE THIS make me crazy. They promise that if you eat what they prescribe, you will achieve financial success, find sexual satisfaction, discover inner mental peace and maybe even lose a few pounds -- by the time you reach the last chapter.
This latest string of the-check-is- in-the-mail promises comes from Robert Haas, who is not a medical doctor, even though he uses the "Dr." before his name, but rather the holder of a PhD in nutrition from Columbia Pacific University in San Rafael, California. Columbia Pacific, however, is not a university in the traditional sense since it has no professors or students on campus. It is not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Nor is it accredited by the State of California, although it is "authorized" to operate while it seeks accreditation.
Haas, who does have a master's degree in nutrition and food science from Florida State University, has written this as a sequel to his best- selling Eat to Win, which was on the national Advice/How-to best-seller list for 35 weeks in 1984 -- 28 weeks as number one.
And Eat to Succeed, of course, is the new, improved version. "Exciting nutritional discoveries since the publication of Eat to Win now make it possible for you to reach new heights of performance and success, at work and at play, with the new Maximum Performance Diet and Weight Loss Program and the scientific use of nutritional supplements."
Only the hyperbole truly reaches the maximum.
Eat to Succeed starts in the finest tradition of this genre: anecdotes about how the rich and the famous -- including Cher, tennis ace Ivan Lendl,and the rock group REO Speedwagon -- have found true success because they used this approached. Haas even takes credit for Don Johnson's success on Miami Vice. T
HE HARDEST thing
about books like Eat to
Succeed is separating
scientific fact from fiction. By cloaking his discussion in scientific language about nutrients and blood chemistry profiles, Haas presents a mixture of both.
For example, he suggests Americans eat too much meat. That's true. But he then he goes on to say that vegetable proteins are good proteins and animals proteins are bad proteins. "Vegetable protein possesses an amino acid pattern that is actually superior to animal proteins for promoting health and vitality."
Unfortunately, proteins are proteins, no matter what the source. The body breaks them down into their constituent amino acids which are then used to build new muscles, enzymes and other tissue. It is the other stuff in meat, primarily the fats and cholesterol, that cause problems.
The heart of his diet depends on a blood test to evalute total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, a carrier molecule for cholesterol), triglycerides (the back- bones of fatty acids), sugar, and uric acid.
The initial measurement tells you what group you fall into -- Level One, Two or Three -- with the aim of reaching "Maximum Performance Level Four." The scientific justification for this blood testing approach, however, is not described in the book.
The good news about the 28-day "Eat to Succeed Diet" is that it probably won't hurt you. Haas wants readers to get between 60 and 80 percent of their daily calories from cereals, grains and vegetables. That's good because that lowers the amount of fat and cholesterol normally consumed in most American diets.
The recipes which make up more than half of the book look pretty standard, although some of them slip in nutrition supplements from TwinSport of Ronkonkoma, New York.
This blatant promotion of TwinSport products throughout the book -- Haas is constantly referring the reader to Appendix I which lists TwinSport-produced vitamin and mineral supplements -- is incredibly objectionable. He uses the book to promote these products which were made to his specifications by a company specially set up to make them, and a company for which he consults. "I presently consult with them (and get paid for it) and I recommend their line of nutritional supplements to anyone interested in improving their health and achieving peak performance."
Although he does raise serious issues of nutrition, Haas also gets into the scientifically absurd by introducing concepts such as "high- tech proteins", amino acids to which he attributes fat-dissolving powers, and "high-tech water," which is basically a mixture of water, sugar and salt.
He also modifies the basic diet to produce his own 14-day, "800-kilocalorie per day Maximum Weight- loss Plan," a diet to protect against the dangers of in-flight radiation, ozone and cigarette smoke during airplane trips (all based on TwinSport products), a diet to save you from the dangerous malnourishing meals served in hospitals, a special diet for colds and flu, how to eat if you expect to succeed as a woman, and how to eat so you are fit for the office.
Books about magic diets sell because they offer hope, quick success and easy solutions. The mystery is not in how these wonder diets work -- because they don't, so there is no mystery -- but why people continue to buy these books and believe them.