September 20, 2007

Guest Post: Mary on Diet Books!

You may know Mary from her great comments here at Cranky Fitness, or for her funny and insightful blog, Sheesh. If you haven't found it yet, be sure to visit as soon as you are done here!

And yes, Crabby is squandering a precious Guest Post which she should be hoarding for her vacation. But she's running a bit behind these last few days with her negligible and mostly imaginary Numerous and Important responsibilities. Rest assured, h
owever--she has left you in excellent hands. And Crabby will be back tomorrow with the usual silliness.

And now, here's Mary!

Diet Books: Useful Sources of Fiber?

I decided to look into the South Beach diet, mainly because of the amazing success of Pasta Queen, who lost almost 200 pounds through following this diet and sensible exercise. (Amazing pictures on her blog. Check them out!) I read the book. If you accept the premise that everyone has the same insulin spike when they eat high-glycemic foods, then this diet should work. I did like the section on Why People Fail on this Diet. It's refreshing to read someone admitting that no diet is 100% successful for everyone all the time.

Then I read what the experts had to say about the diet. Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter rips into the South Beach diet, while the DietBlog didn't think it was that bad. Dr. Weil's opinion was somewhere in-between.

It's the same all over the place. Pritikin, Ornish, Atkins, every popular diet book is touted as a)The Best Diet Book Ever and b)Total Crap Written By a Dangerous Moron. It's both confusing and discouraging. I'm starting to think that the best thing to do is toss all these books over my shoulder. Or just eat them. Fiber is good for you. (Is ink is toxic?)

Cookbooks, sure. Always good to find a new way to cook something while staying healthy. And general books on nutrition can be useful; once I understand the why behind something I should be eating, it's much easier to do it. But diet books are an uneasy hybrid between the two; they leave out too much detail behind their specific Diet Philosophy, they generally lack very much variety in the recipes, and they all spend Far Too Much Time trying to sell you on their particular diet. Sheesh. Enough already.

Reading books on health, diet, exercise can be extremely helpful, because they help train the most important part of your body: your brain. I used to be a complete and dedicated carnivore, but after reading book after book about how much better my life would be if I ate vegetables, I tentatively, gingerly, with all the confidence of a timid maiden dipping one toe into a cold pool, actually Bought A Vegetable. And even ate it. I would never have done that if I hadn't read up on healthy eating. Reading good books is a useful motivational tool. But reading specific diet books? Bah. Tailor a diet to your own needs, and make sure it's something a) healthy and b) something you'd be willing to do as a lifetime adjustment rather than a quick fix.


  1. I have the same problem with diet books--there are usually some really sensible suggestions in there, but there are often more arbitrary restrictions than seem strictly necessary. And so few seem like something you could maintain in the long run! South Beach seemed better than many, but I can't personally imagine being on it the rest of my life.

    But I agree about the usefulness the books have sometimes as a motivational tool.

    Great post, Mary, thanks!

  2. I think that's the issue-- in order to stay healthy, it's For the Rest of Your Life. Cabbage Soup anyone? (ooh, retro diet.)

    Though I have to admit, I do like the cabbage soup in the cabbage soup diet. My dad went on it once ten years ago and it worked for him long enough to get a "great, you're losing weight!" from the doctor and then he gained it back.

    One angioplasty later, he eats better and goes to the gym about three days a week! He's lost weight and gained energy and is in better shape close to 60 than he was ten years ago when he was close to 50. I'm glad he gave up both the grapefruit diet and the cabbage soup diet and found the real way to do things.

    Also, I bet ink's not toxic. Thing of all the kids who drool and chew on books. They're still alive. I bet cooking pages down wouldn't be so bad. Or using them like tortillas. Low carb!

  3. I've looked at diet books but they always seemed to be too good to be true. And I get hungry, that sort of defeats the purpose.

  4. Totally. I have to agree. Though, I can't admit to ever actually reading a diet book. Or even reading reviews of diet books, or even be able to quote you the main premises and ideas behind most diets. I've only just started "reading" cook books. (I hate to cook.) I tend to just try to make sure my meals seem healthy and balanced. And good. I have to like the taste.

  5. The word "diet" is just wrong. To me it implies a temporary state. And then real life kicks in. Much better to do all the things we know we're supposed to do. Healthy food choices. Smaller portions. And exercise. That seems to be common denominator to all "diets" anyway.

    It's just the motivation that lacks sometimes..

  6. I still have the first and only diet book I ever bought (the Scarsdale Diet - talk about retro!) I have used it (twice) to lose 30 lbs each time. The problem is that it is too restrictive to stay on for the rest of your life, so you end up gaining the weight back, eventually. But any time I want to lose weight, out comes that tattered old book...
    I think ink IS toxic, and they use bleach in the paper-making process, but probably rolling the pages around veggies, then deep-frying them would counteract the toxicity ;)

  7. i've tried two diet books and one half ass, that one being south beach. i couldn't hack it the lack of carbs and plethora of cashews the first few weeks and quickly fizzled out. the other one i gained the weight back over two years. oddly enough, i have no books with WW and i've kept my weight off for 1 year and two months :D

    I do agree that each diet book does have common threads in that they try and give common sense tips and tricks but it's how you adapt them to every day life that becomes the challenge and whether or not you make them successful in the long run.

    otherwise they look pretty on your shelf. i did like the colour of the south beach one :P

  8. I only ever bought one diet book. It was "Cook Right 4 Your Blood Type," and that was for its recipes. Completely useless. I paid 50 cents for it at a garage sale and I was hosed.

    We also have "The Wild Weekend Diet" (!!) which is...umm interesting and "Diet For a Small Planet" which isn't a diet book as such. Both are from garage sales and I can credit my husband for claiming them.

  9. Hillary, I totally agree, I don't like the word "diet" either because of the temporariness it implies.

    Myself, I kind of follow a loose South Beach, but I got into it after reading The New Glucose Revolution, which is all about glucose spikes from carbs. I've lost 10 lbs since changing my eating. I eat plenty of carbs, but all multi-grain. But I'm not strict about it. I think the only way to make a "diet" book work, is that you can't follow it like gospel, because then you just end up craving this or that and then going off the diet. I just follow vague principles and try to eat healthy, but I eat some bad stuff too (just not too much of it).

  10. I think it's interesting that many of these diet books are best sellers and then end up at garage sales. Forget trying to win the lottery. I think I should write a diet book instead :)
    (Dieting for people who can't be bothered with exercise and vegetables)

    Thanks for letting me vent on your site, Ms. Crabby!

  11. Yeah, I've got a love hate relationship with diet books. I've learned a ton and disgarded a lot too. The ones I trust a little more seem to be those that make it clear that this is for life. The long haul. And those that acutally deal with behavior modification and emotional eating have helped me too. (Once I lose weight, am I going to keep it off? Or fall back into the same patterns?) Like Crabby, I like the sensible suggestions but am wary of too many restrictions.

    Great Post Mary!

  12. The problem is, most people are intimidated by the idea of figuring out their own ideal dietary/fitness regimen (myself included) and thus turn to Experts Who Will Do It For Them. Many of us crave simplicity above all things when it comes to our food and our workouts; it's not so much laziness as it is other priorities (and sometimes laziness). If it's a choice between seeing your doctor/determining your ideal weekly menus/measuring just how out of shape you are/working out frequently even if you don't like doing so/balancing "good" and "bad" foods/realizing there aren't many really bad foods, you just have to eat carefully...

    ...or buying a $20 book and doing Whatever It Says, wa-hey, guess which one most people will pick!

    My mom is an avid South Beacher, and on the one hand I'm glad she's happy with her weight loss and pays more attention to what she eats, but on the other I wince any time she goes "oh, I can't eat any of ____ for a week."

  13. Thanks for the great post, Mary!

    A couple months ago I decided it was time to make some much-needed changes in my life and I came across "The Beck Diet Solution" and I just cannot say enough good things about this book. It is not an eating plan, but a six-week program that uses cognitive therapy to reprogram how your brain thinks about food, weightloss, and maintaining it once you get there. I followed that book up with "Confessions of a Former Fat Girl", which uses a lot of the same "mind over matter" techniques, in a less serious way. I've also quite enjoyed "You on a Diet" for all of it's easily digestible (pun intended ;)) scientific information about our bodies relationship with food and eating (although I haven't finished it).

    I've found all of these books to be educational, motivating, and ultimately empowering, which is really what I think I needed. Because, let's face it, most of us have done enough dieting to know HOW to lose weight, it's just a matter of staying motivated and sticking to the program you've chosen. I keep all all three of these books on my bedside table and pack them when I travel so that I can refer to them when I need a little help... and as reinforcement even when I don't.

  14. That was a good guest post, thank you, both Mary and Crabby!

    I think that diet books can be good inspiration (and sometimes even informational), but are to be read with a critical mind. The problem is that you need quite a lot of know-how and courage not to follow The Rules set up in them to the last syllable.

    A diet can be a good jump-start, but as everyone says, one must get a normal, healthy lifestyle afterwards. Therefore I will now leave the computer for an hour of weight lifting. Dinner? Brown rice, brussels sprouts and fried fish with some mayo. Mmmm. (Oooh, how I love myself ;-))

  15. Excellent post, Mary!

    The only diet book I've tried is South Beach, and I thought it was really great. However, I really value autonomy in weight loss. Give me broad general principles that I can follow with lots of motivation and I'm more successful.

  16. I think Annie summed it up. "Let's face it, most of us have done enough dieting to know HOW to lose weight, it's just a matter of staying motivated and sticking to the program you've chosen." In which case it doesn't matter too much which program you choose.

    So write your brand new, super-duper diet book on deep fried diet book pages, Mary, and I'll follow it - for a while!

  17. Maybe Leah should describe the Wild Weekend diet in greater detail. I don't think I've run across that one before. (Not the "diet" part, anyway ;)

    I think South Beach is more sane than a lot of the diets I've seen out there (the Cookie diet springs to mind here). I didn't mean to single it out for disparagement; I just was struck by the virulent opposition to South Beach by the Tufts website.

    And when (if) I publish my forthcoming tome: "How to fry a diet book - healthily," I will have to include all of you in the acknowledgments. Great comments!

  18. Hi Mary,

    Thanks for the post. I have to agree, all diet books have real value for two reasons: 1. recipes and 2. reading them makes me think about what I'm eating, if only for a little while.

    Great post.



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