STEPHEN SMITH: Diet Books Fill the Store Shelves
Back when I taught creative writing, students would introduce a racy or raw piece of writing by prefacing their reading with "This isn't about me."
Which meant, of course, that it was about them.
So here we go: this isn't about me or my waistline, but I've been reading diet books, and here's the current diet dilemma as I see it.
If you're slightly plump and you need to lose a few pounds, you can go on a form of low-fat diet or an amended Akins diet.
Both diets claim to reduce weight while improving your health. But there's a rub. If you're on a low-fat diet you can eat only foods with little or no fat -- cereals, grains, pastas, fruits and vegetables, etc. But you can drink an occasional cocktail, glass of wine or can of beer. If you're on a low-carb diet, you can eat steak, pork chops, eggs, cheese, etc., but you can't drink alcohol -- or not much of it. Either way, you're going to miss out on some of the pleasures associated with eating and drinking.
Amazon.com lists 191,932 titles under the search for "diet." And that's a pretty tall reading assignment. Like I said, this isn't about me, but here are a few of the diet books I've just happened to read lately.
Most diet books begin by attempting to explain to the reader why we get fat in the first place. Guilt is the primary emotion associated with any diet. Shame the reader enough and the pounds will just get worried away, at least for a while. "You: On A Diet: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management" (Free Press. 384 pages. $25) by Mehmet C. Oz (the author's real name, I swear) and Michael F. Roizen, seems to be the most popular diet book on the racks.
Roizen and Oz explain how "omentum" fat is the bad stuff in your body, especially in your belly. "Its goal is to, well, mess up your day -- and your life," as in type 2 diabetes. The diet begins with immediate lifestyle changes as in "Eat YOU foods": "In general, you will avoid foods with trans fats, saturates fats, high amounts of sugarand refined flour." Learn the YOU exercises: "Our 20-minute You Workout will stretch and strengthen your body foundation muscles."
Another popular diet book is Bob Greene's "The Best Life Diet" (Simon and Schuster 304 pages. $26). Greene is Oprah's latest diet guru. "You'll eat the same delicious food that Oprah enjoys, and, just like Oprah, you'll have Bob to encourage you at every step. Unlike a celebrity, however, you don't need to hire a staff of experts to aid and advise you, because Bob's plan, easily tailored to an array of tastes, lifestyles, and activity levels, acts as your personal trainer and private nutritionist. Just open the book and let Bob help you get started down the path toward your best possible life."
Hey, if it's good enough for Oprah, it's good enough for the world in general and you specifically. And you can feel as if you're a participant in the Oprahization of America. Is there a higher calling?
In third place is Ian K. Smith's (no relation) "The Fat Smash Diet: The last Diet You'll Ever Need" (St. Martin's. 160 pages. $12. 95 paperback). This is a diet used by Hollywood stars, so it ought to work in the Sandhills where everyone is a star. The Fat Smash Diet starts by cleaning the impurities out of your system. After the nine-day intro phase is complete, the other three phases promote significant weight loss, and in 30 days you'll be on your way "to a thinner lifetime of good health." There are no calories to count, etc.
Gosh, I'm out of real room here, but next week I'll review the two most popular diet books. Until then, eat less and exercise more. And keep in mind that these diet columns have nothing to do with me.
Stephen Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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