The Venus Factor by John Barban is unlike any other diet plan or exercise program in the world—and I should know!
Like too many women, my struggle with weight and body image has been a nearly lifelong one. I was a naturally skinny kid; as such, I never thought about what I ate. During my junior year of high school, though, something changed: I gained 20 lbs in a year and couldn’t understand what was happening to me or why.
My mom challenged me to go on a diet with her, as a sort of competition—probably the worst thing you can do to a teenage girl with blossoming body-image issues! Worse, I had no idea how to eat right, so instead I’d try to live off two apples a day for as long as I could. As you might imagine, “as long as I could” was not very long, and every few days I’d end up bingeing on takeout Chinese, feeling terrible about myself, and eating more to make myself feel better… you know how it goes.
In desperation, I started secretly buying “magic weight loss pills,” cellulite brushes, “top-secret fat-burning” workout videos (etc., etc.); I was smart enough to know they couldn’t possibly work, but desperate enough to try anyway. This desperation is, of course, what the weight-loss industry feeds on, if you’ll pardon the pun.
There have been ups and downs weight-wise over the years since then (the “downs” always short-lived and always unhealthily attained)—but, like too many women, I don’t remember what it’s like to feel comfortable in my body.
And then I found it.
What’s so different about This Program?
Naturally, I was highly skeptical at first: I’ve tried just about every fad diet, crash diet, weight-loss supplement, and magic fitness regimen known to (wo)man. As I scoured their website, though, something felt very different than my past desperate experiences.
First, there were no magical-thinking guarantees: no “lose 30 lbs in 30 days,” no “lose weight with no diet or exercise,” no “special foods that melt away belly fat,” etc., etc. Instead, I was reading information that made sense, about possibilities that seemed . . . reasonable.
Rather than saleable “sciencey”-sounding jargon, the website is backed up with over 50 scientific studies and journal articles. It’s not all vague “studies have shown” talk here; instead, you can find full bibliographic information for each article mentioned or referenced (including research from the author’s own graduate studies!). I even looked some of them up to confirm that they’re real—I have access to university databases and, as mentioned, I’m quite skeptical about most weight loss claims.
The VF system offers a three-pronged program:
- Custom nutrition guidelines and assistance,
- Structured workouts and diet plan
- Community support.
I recorded the video below because when I purchased the program, I wasn’t sure what I was going to get. I hope this review can help you decide if this weight loss system is right for you or not.
No magic supplements, no non-FDA-approved “appetite suppressants,” no laxatives, no obsessively articulated meal plans (e.g.: breakfasts of half a grapefruit and black coffee; lunches/dinners of no-sodium chicken broth; snacks of celery and fat-free cottage cheese—you know what I’m talking about). Instead, there’s real help, real action, and the opportunity for real results.
Despite my litany of past failures, there were four standout elements pushing me to try the diet plan.
First, I had never before seen a diet/exercise program that was designed specifically for women. Honestly it’s ridiculous that this wasn’t something that had been considered before: we’ve known for years that a woman’s metabolism functions differently than a man’s, that a woman’s natural body fat percentage is higher than a man’s, and so on.
Second, you’re not just given a fixed meal plan like the one sketched above. Instead, you’re given nutrition guidelines that are customized to you as an individual, taking into account your height, weight, age, body shape, fitness level, and amount of daily activity. Even better: as your measurements change over the course of the program, your nutrition guidelines change too!
Third, the workout program, too, is individually customized: it’s developed to work with your tailored nutrition guidelines as well as any individual abilities/limitations. After a serious injury several years ago, I lost some range of motion and was forbidden by my doctor to participate in certain exercises. However, the VF exercise program is customized for your individual needs—modifications and substitutions are included so that people like me can still successfully reap the program’s rewards.
Finally, I read through every single user testimonial I could find. The before and after pictures are almost unbelievable—every single woman pictured (and there are so many!) looks absolutely fantastic. The women’s “after” pictures don’t look skeletal; there’s no sagging skin from unhealthy, rapid weight loss. Instead, every single woman is not only thin, but muscular (in a lean, sexy, feminine way!).
What excited and impressed me most about the testimonials, though, wasn’t the jealousy-inducing bikini photos, the jaw-dropping numbers of pounds and inches lost, or even the wide range of ages and body types; it was the agreement across successful Venus women that they finally felt comfortable and happy inside their bodies after too many years, that the Venus Index community of support and understanding is invaluable, that the true Venus program isn’t a 12-week punishment course but a lifestyle: one that’s simple—enjoyable, even—to maintain.
Tempted by these four elements described (combined with the promise of an understanding, caring, and helpful community), I came across the VF Guarantee: if you don’t feel or see results within 60 days, you can get a full refund, no questions asked. If this program was a scam, I thought, there’s no way they’d offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee—everyone would just ask for their money back after a few weeks!
At this point, I had to face facts: I had nothing to lose and everything to gain (except more weight!). After vetting the program as thoroughly as I could, it became clear that the only thing preventing me from signing up was fear: fear of yet another failure.
And fear isn’t a good reason to pass up a chance to change your life.
After starting the program, I feel better than ever about my decision. The first thing I did was download the 12-Week Fat Loss System manual and read the whole thing cover-to-cover. (I’m a nerd; I appreciate understanding absolutely everything about a project before I embark on it!) Like the website, the manual doesn’t just lay out an ideology and expect you to believe it: it lays out the science behind the results in clear, reader-friendly prose.
The author, John Barban, divides the system into two main components: weight loss and fat removal (dictated almost entirely by diet) and muscle shaping and toning (any changes dictated almost entirely by weightlifting). I’ll talk about each in turn before getting to my favorite part of the entire program—the community.
The Role of Leptin in Weight Loss and Fat Removal
There are several issues focused on in the nutrition portion of the guide: for example, differences between men and women metabolically; differences between men and women as far as healthy body fat percentage is concerned.
The most groundbreaking discovery for me, though, was the discussed difference in leptin sensitivity between men and women. I had heard of leptin mentioned vaguely before: the hormone that regulates fat loss, that’s being studied in multiple weight-loss drug clinical trials, etc. I had absolutely no idea how critical leptin—and your body’s sensitivity to leptin—is before reading this guide, though! I’d never heard about the massive differences in leptin sensitivity in men and women. Well, of course I hadn’t, because most weight loss programs are developed by men, for men. In addition, male test subjects are much more common than females (this is true even of lab rats), meaning most clinical results that are interpreted as an effect on people should actually be interpreted as an effect on men.
Apparently, leptin doesn’t just control the release of body fat; it also plays an integral role in maintaining your metabolism, responding to food input and exercise output, etc. Now, because women have a higher healthy body fat percentage than men, we also naturally have almost twice as much leptin in our bodies. Based on this simple fact, the author (who, yes, is a man, but one who understands and cares about women’s wellbeing!) notes that, since leptin plays a crucial role in both diet and exercise, a diet and exercise program for women should be tailored toward our extra leptin. It sounds so simple, and yet I’d never heard anything like this before.
As I kept reading, I was shocked by how accurately John Barban describes my experiences with attempted low-calorie, high-exercise diets—that after a few days, my body would “crash” and I couldn’t keep it up anymore; I’d eat one piece of “bad” food and give up on my diet for the rest of the day, etc. Because we women a) have more leptin in our bodies naturally, and b) are insensitive to leptin as compared to men, our metabolisms seesaw all over the place on calorie-restricted diets (leading to the aforementioned crashes), while men’s bodies are able to maintain a more or less steady metabolism since their naturally low leptin levels tend not to vary as much as ours do.
But what does this mean—that women can’t lose weight?
A resounding NO from the author; we women just have to take our leptin levels into consideration in order to prevent metabolism crashes, hunger, and cravings. How? By increasing our sensitivity to leptin—mainly through a strategic nutrition and exercise plan. Instead of maintaining a calorie-restricted diet constantly, “eat-up days” (very different than the “cheat days” accompanying most diet plans!) once or twice a week allow our leptin levels to settle rather than crash.
Also, the Venus Virtual Nutritionist analyzes your individual measurements and lifestyle to determine roughly how many calories you need to maintain your current weight, and how many calories you need to eat to lose weight safely. As you lose weight and gain muscle, your calories actually increase because you’re losing fat stores from which to pull energy. In addition, by the time you’ve reached your goal, you’ve also reached a caloric number that’s not restrictive, that fits into your lifestyle, and that will maintain your goal Venus weight indefinitely.
I won’t go into the specifics of the weekly plans; they’re cleverly crafted, though, to
a) let you eat whatever you want (as long as you do so in moderation, within your calorie range),
b) to combat leptin crashes with periodic “eat-up” days (where you eat the number of calories needed to maintain your current weight), and
c) intersperse higher fat, carb, and protein days to teach your body to more effectively use each particular macronutrient.
In addition, calories are counted by the week rather than by the day, meaning that if you “slip up” one day, it’s not the end of the world; in fact, you haven’t ruined your diet at all (as long as that slip-up doesn’t slide you back into old habits). Moreover, this means that you’re free to go out to restaurants with friends as long as you take this into your weekly calculation. There are some sample meal plans included in the guide. As a vegetarian, I can’t follow most of them, but it doesn’t matter: Venus allows you to eat what’s right for you, and the included meal plans help to show how delicious and varied a restricted-calorie diet can be.
Ok, enough about calories. There’s a lot more to talk about, obviously, but I’m running out of time! On to Part 2, muscle shaping and toning.
Muscle Shaping and Toning
The VF workout program focuses on weight lifting rather than cardio—a huge relief for me personally as I’m not allowed to run anymore! Even better, you can start out with at-home exercises that use your own body weight as resistance (this is what I’m doing to start, anyway!). There are videos and instructions to ensure that you maintain the proper form and understand what each exercise is doing for each muscle.
Honestly, the one part of the 12-Week Fat Loss System Manual that disappointed me at first was all the talk about ideal shapes and golden ratios toward the end. At first, I thought the author was pushing all women to look the same; to develop the shape that is, on average, most attractive to men. I realized, though, that he allows for a great range of variation. Moreover, the target goals you’re given are merely numbers to work toward: as you approach them, you can individually decide if your arms need more toning, if you want a more muscular butt, if you’re happy with your shape as is, etc. Thinking about body shapes in this way is actually freeing: instead of being told that what we have is what we’ve got forever thanks to the genetic lottery, we women are given the tools we need to change our body shapes—just through smart, carefully designed weight-training programs!
The Amazing Community and the Venus Index
This is where my very favorite part of the VF system comes in: its massive, supportive, friendly, helpful, and beautiful community. After reading the manual cover to cover, I actually spent hours reading and listening to strangers’ stories through their blogs and podcasts; I watched them go from where I am—uncomfortable in their bodies, nervous and simultaneously excited about the journey to come—to strong, confident, beautiful Venuses. I want that, I thought—not just their bodies but also their lives and their enthusiastic approach toward living. Wait a minute, I thought, I can have that!
The VF has provided me with a clear path toward feeling good about myself: eating less is simple when you have guidelines instead of absolute rigidity, when you know you won’t have to face massive leptin drops and associated misery, and when you have a caring community who’ve been there supporting you the whole way. Shaping your body into the body you want is simple when you don’t have to do hours upon hours of cardio to think you’re getting somewhere, when you know how each exercise affects your muscles, when you have measurements to aim for but can tailor them to your preferences, and when missing a day or two at the gym doesn’t throw you off the wagon for good.
I have all of these tools now: I am a Venus, and you can be one too!