By C Doussett MPH, RDN
Good news for anyone currently writing or planning on writing a diet book. There is enough consumer confusion and low-powered studies on so many aspects of diet and nutrition, that a well-thought out title and one celebrity endorsement is all you need. Is that to say that diet books don’t work if you work them or have their place on our bookshelves (or mobile reading device)? Certainly they do, as long as we recognize universal patterns of weight loss techniques and subscribe to the notion that anything we are told to do is temporary, as we work out personal habits that lead to lasting change.
There are two aspects of almost every diet book sure to be present and in congruence. The first is the ever-so-imperceptible, yet ubiquitous introductory caloric deficit. Rapid weight loss is the hallmark of diet books and is attributed, at first, to caloric restriction and water loss. This weight loss is rarely fat loss (desired target), as it tends to be primarily water due to carbohydrate (carbs) restriction. Focusing on carb reduction does two things; firstly, many carbs we eat are water rich themselves either inherently or via water preparation and cooking methods. Secondly, once carbs are digested in the body they are stored with three times their weight in water along with ingested fluids. Lose the carbs and water follows! After carb restriction we factor in the prescribed “permissible” food recommendations which limit our food choices; thereby reducing total fat and sugar percentages and protein sources. Everyone seems to be in agreement that sugar consumption should be reduced, but fat intake percentages is a very personal number that needs to be arrived at dutifully. Diet hack alert: while most non-dieting Americans get enough protein from eating pizza, grain-based desserts, and chicken nuggets, most dieters do not. Dieters should prioritize protein either by eating some with every meal or, more exactingly, calculating how many grams are needed daily and ingesting larger amounts in fewer sittings (1/2 to 1-1/2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight is an excellent starting point).
The second diet-book “trick-up-the-sleeve” is the imposition of order on chaotic eating patterns. Simply put, most of us tend to eat in a disorganized manner according to the dictates of our wants and not our goals. Choosing four or five nutritious meals and rotating them allows us to assess more accurately how we feel, how we perform, and how we sleep; all important outcomes when assessing our diets. Or we can learn about meal choices when eating out, or how to shop the periphery of a super market, or how protein in the morning tends to balance sugar cravings during the day. All very orderly impositions on our often hectic, chaotic, and stressful daily life.
Finally, since consumer trends have proven we like diet books and will continue to purchase them, here are some well-researched and easy-to-read book recommendations you may want to consider adding to your collection.
- “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living”, Volek & Phinney. This is for individuals who may have become disenchanted with other approaches to weight loss and are looking to shake things up.
- “The Hungry Brain”, S. Guyenet. For those looking for a little more science in their reading. Spoiler alert: carbs are not the enemy
- “Always Hungry”, D. Ludwig. For individuals diagnosed with prediabetes or have a family history of diabetes or obesity: contains delicious recipes.
- “The Complete Mediterranean Diet”, M. Ozner. This alluring diet has been well tested and modern day iterations provide excellent eating templates.
- “Fork over Knives: The Cookbook”, D. Sroufe. Plant-based recipe book, companion to a thought-provoking documentary.
As always, have healthy day!