June 08, 2006

How Not to Diet

A Very Special Beedoo’s Book Club:

Finished: Conquer Your Food Addiction : The Ehrlich 8-Step Program for Permanent Weight Loss This books sucks. I mean, really sucks. I feel bad saying that, since it took her so long to write it, but this is one of those instances where personal experience does not give you the right to tell other people how to live their lives, even if you are just trying to help. The whole thing just has a defeatist attitude to it—I started seeing food as the enemy where I never had before. She tells you to drink a cup of hot water instead of tea, like, wha? And no lemon, because then it counts as dessert. The HELL?

This is one of those diet books that make fat people decide that weight loss is impossible. I read that and thought “If a lemon is dessert, what the hell is the muffin I had for breakfast?” She makes it so much harder than it is, and it’s not an easy road to begin with. I understand that the book is aimed at an extreme—people who consume food until there is absolutely nothing left—but when those people can’t stop eating, this book would only drag them down.

Particular points I hated:

1. Drink hot water – OK, this is one of those ‘model behaviors’, like socially-acceptable puking and cocaine instead of food, that I find really sickening. If you deprive yourself of a frickin’ teabag because it has three calories, your weight is not your biggest problem.

2. Reminding yourself of your goals with the particular verbiage “I want to weigh ___ pounds.” A lot of diets have failed based on the obsession with the number on the scale, not to mention the number of eating disorders it engenders in people desperate to reach their ‘goal weight’. The book has no such disclaimer, however, since

3. Caryl Erlich is not a doctor. I don’t have a problem with non-professionals writing how-tos, but they should a) acknowledge that they are not, and b) remind us to occasionally visit those who are, especially if we are about to make drastic changes in our diet and exercise regimen. Whether out of ego or ignorance, she does neither, and but for the tiny disclaimer on the copyright page, she would be so sued.

4. “Overheard Conversations” – These little vignettes of non-wisdom are supposed to be… funny? They feature two women in a restaurant, having a conversation about (surprise!) Erlich’s Own Diet and Hating Yourself Plan, rationalizing their breadstick-eating and dessert-splitting ways. The stories don’t have a point, anthropomorphize food as a mustache-twirling villain (not in a good way), and make fun of the dieter. Comedy! Or not.

5. “Leave food on your plate.” CANNOT express how much this pisses me off. Aside from, you know, the people STARVING in third-world countries and all—what kinda morons cook their own food in their own home, then deliberately waste it? This book was written in 2002; I’m pretty sure Tupperware had been invented. Wrap it up and take it for lunch tomorrow. [Not to mention, I dunno--cook less food in the first place? Dry pasta will keep, people.] The only reason to leave or discard food is because you didn’t enjoy it—and even then, give it away. God, it’s so wasteful. Stupid American culture-of-plenty. I can’t believe she wrote that. I’m still all… Oooh! I hate it!

6. “The Program” – Again, can you really call it a weight-loss program if you’re not a doctor? I expected red ‘caveat’ stamps all over this one, but again, if you’re a desperate overeater and picked up this book, you don’t know this lady from Atkins. Lawsuit.

7. She can’t write. She can’t. At all. The sentence structure was confusing; there were tangents and circular reasoning that was really more ovoid in shape and sometimes she’d start a sentence and sort of forget to finish it. Now, she addresses the book to confessed addicts—people who need very little provocation to revert back to old behavior patterns. Know what doesn’t curb a craving? A nice long verb-hunt. Her faux-cheery and condescending tone makes me think she meant it to be plain-spoken, but it ended up more… unbearable. The ‘anecdotes’ portrayed her as shrewish and demanding, and her ‘subjects’ as mindless cattle. And to make matters worse

8. She never shuts up. Seriously. I understand you want to sell a book, and the points you have are fairly easy to convey in a couple of pages, but books cost more, so hey, padding; I just wish the padding weren’t the same words—verbatim—from the previous chapter. She has maybe one or two valid points, which are all but lost when she mixes them with cliches and tripe and pinch of drivel and then hits Copy / Paste to fill the remaining 200 pages. Except, of course, for the pages where she inserted ‘checklists’ and ‘worksheets’ to help you ‘track your progress’ (I’ll save you some time: How much water are you drinking? ___ How many times did you leave food on your plate?____ Add up your scores. If you get a number, you suck as a person. Don’t give up!)

I never wrote a diet book. Hell, I never read a diet book (still haven’t). But when I think just how bad this book is, I am absolutely inspired to write one. Here is my outline; I’ll make sure to add the two points from Erlich’s book that actually have merit.

Beedoo’s Not-Program for Healthy Eating and Living: Proven to Work for Her Personally, So Probably for You Too, Being as We Are Both Bipedal Humanoids, But I’m not a Doctor, so What Do I Know?

Drink water. This one is true. Drink a lot of it. I drink three liters a day, but two will get you by. It’s so good for you, you will be completely different person once you start doing it. [YOU “Yeah—one that pees all the time.” True. But hey—peeing all the time not only releases toxins, but also gives you way less chance of getting UTIs, bladder cancer, and kidney stones. Did I mention the cancer? Yeah. Drink water.] I don’t know if it’s “more effective than caffeiene at waking you up”, as health nuts have told me, and since I two-fist it every morning with the coffee and water, I may never know. The point is, the list of water benefits keeps on growing, and you can’t get fat off it, so drink it. The well-hydrated shall inherit the earth—you just watch.

You’re hungry. Yeah? Me too. In the first couple weeks, I was hungry all the time—because I wasn’t eating the four portions my stomach was used to. Give the stomach less, and it wonders where the rest is—aka growls at you like it’s still hungry, when really it’s just confused. Luckily, you can retrain your stomach to realize that; all parts of the body adapt pretty well—skin stretches, bones heal, wounds close. Your stomach will shrink back down to a normal size. Be patient. Just remember: Your dog will continue to pee on the carpet if you give it a treat each time it does.

Do I really have to exercise? OK: Yes. You need to, mathematically speaking, burn more calories than you take in to lose weight. Eat less, move more. You know that. You were just hoping I’d say no. Well, tough. Yes, you need to exercise, but more than that, your body needs exercise. All those times you ate because of stress, or because you were tired, or went out drinking because you were depressed? Your body totally wanted to go running instead. I hate it when people say “I hate my body.” After all the abuse it puts up with, what in hell do you think your body thinks of you? Your body doesn’t want a beer; you do. It doesn’t ever want several pieces of cake; you do. It does a lot for you, so be nice and give it some exercise—it likes it. People are equal parts brain and body; your body carts the brain around so you can do your work and live your life—would you really begrudge your car an oil change? Your body takes you places. Everybody, regardless of weight-loss goals, should exercise, or work out, or go running, or whatever you choose to call it. Your tired body deserves some frickin’ respect. The mind also feels better when the body exercises; I ran 3 miles a day during my senior finals week—my head would have exploded if I didn’t. True, some days it’s a bitch, I won’t lie, but nine times out of ten it will only make you feel better.

Is it hard? Exercise? Not when you get used to it.

No… losing weight. Sometimes. Again, I’m not all flowers and sunshine on this, so yes, it’s hard sometimes. There are times when I absolutely cannot work out, and I feel guilty. There are times when I overeat, and I feel guilty. There are times when the weight plateaus, where you were so happy because you were losing and now you can’t seem to go any lower and it’s hard and what’s the damn point of life? That happens. It never not happens. Roll with it. If it’s what you want, it doesn’t matter. There are more benefits to being a healthy skinny person than there are to being an unhealthy fat person—and the biggest ones are emotional. You can’t learn that weight isn’t everything until you’ve lost it, and unfortunately, nobody can lose it for you. I really think the biggest benefits are those you don’t even realize—not wearing tank tops because of jiggly-arms, hating pantyhose because they cut your woman-flab in two, looking like a floating head on a Jabbaesque body in your prom pictures—because they don’t happen anymore. When I get skinny comments, I don’t even know what to say now—but I don’t say it was hard, because when people tell you that you look better, it isn’t hard. When it’s thirty below, and you have to either walk to the gym or go home to some slippers and cocoa, then it’s hard. It’s a commitment. Sometimes those are hard. But if you get as much out of it as you put in, then most commitment is worth it.

That’s all I can think of at the moment. Would you read it?*

* It’s still better than Erlich’s. Hot water? GAH.

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