As I revealed in a post about Reinvention in September, one of the key pieces to my 70-pound weight loss was to read a book for every pound — 70 pounds, 70 books. The books supported my healthy lifestyle and, so, many of them were diet books. Yep, my expertise is in the least-respected section of nonfiction, self-help, and the most-maligned sub-section of self-help: diet books. Like most experts, I can be both apologist and critic. So, let’s see if I can increase your respect for diet books while offering a caution.
First, let’s dispense with the statement “diets don’t work.” That depends entirely on your definition of the word diet. Its broadest definition, the food a creature eats, renders the statement nonsensical. We all have diets. Pandas eat bamboo. Modern Americans eat fast food, junk food, and other processed food.
The question is whether or not the diet is suitable for the creature consuming it. For bamboo-eating pandas, their diet is suitable. For the nearly 70% of overweight and obese Americans, the Modern American Diet (MAD) is clearly failing us. Those of us who don’t function well on MAD need to check out of the American food culture in significant ways. It’s difficult to sustain an alternative eating style and many of us require some structure to make it easier. That structure might be labeled a “diet.” Many diets have books that motivate, instruct, and provide structures and techniques for sticking to the plan.
The first part of any diet book, sometimes as much as the first half of the book, is devoted to convincing you that this is the Best Diet Ever. Common techniques include anecdotes about successful dieters, descriptions of compelling scientific research, and logical arguments to support the underlying theories of the diet. Don’t knock this motivational patter. Every diet success begins with believing that it will work for you and that you can do it.
The problem, of course, is “What if it doesn’t work?” If the motivational patter was too convincing, the dieter is likely to blame herself rather than the diet. After all, the book said it was the Best Diet Ever. Here’s where the advantage of reading 70 books comes in — it’s obvious pretty quickly that there are many ways to lose weight, so if one doesn’t work, then try another. One of my favorite books, The Beck Diet Solution by Judith S. Beck, has you choose two diets from the beginning. One to start and a back-up plan in case the first one fails.
I’m still reading books to support my healthy lifestyle because I still struggle sometimes. What are your favorite diet or healthy lifestyle books that I should add to my list?
This post also works for Weekend Cooking. Check out Beth Fish Reads on Saturday for more links to food posts.