You’ve been sold a lie.
It’s a lie that makes its proponents millions, if not billions in revenue.
And the amazing thing about this lie is that, despite it staring us right in the face, pretty much everyone involved in it hasn’t got a clue that they are lying or being lied to.
There’s no grand conspiracy here; it’s just the age-old combination of wilful ignorance pushed on by the dangerous mix of greed and desperation.
That lie is the diet book industry.
A quick perusal of the annual non-fiction bestseller lists in the UK will show you the preeminent position of “healthy recipe” books and fad diet manuals. They aren’t just big business, they are often the publications that publishers live and die by.
Just look at the rampaging success of Joe Wicks’ 2015 title Lean in 15 which shifted a whopping 77,097 copies in its first week, setting a new record for cookery book sales. Wicks is hot right now; you can expect plenty of copycats to follow.
My publisher (who may never again speak to me after writing this article) wanted me to be one. Last year, I wrote a book called Your Ultimate Body Transformation Plan, focusing on exercise to bring about positive health change. I was asked to follow this up with a book about dieting. I declined.
The fat loss equation is very simple: consume fewer calories than you need and you will lose weight
My problem is not that diet books are bad per se – if you enjoy them and like cooking their recipes, fair enough – but rather that they just aren’t fit for the purpose of losing weight and bringing about optimal health.
Here’s a question for you to ask yourself: if these books really worked, why do we need so many of them every year, and why does each one have to have a new angle? The answer is all about commerce and nothing about helping the readers nail their weight loss problems once and for all.
There’s an element of over-complication that goes on here. Fundamentally, the fat loss equation is very simple: consume fewer calories than you need and you will lose weight. (You’re welcome. That will be £12.99 please.)
Okay, we can get more involved; more granular, than that. But try as I might to dress it up, I can never improve on the statement that you should “take in fewer calories than you burn from foods that a farmer, not a manufacturer, would provide, and do the things that make the diet sustainable for your lifestyle”.
Others are more creative. There are diets out there that say you can “eat more and lose weight” (bulls**t), or offer a magic set of ‘superfoods’ that will be the panacea to your diet woes (good luck on that). Yes, there are the outliers whose weight loss will benefit from eating more food or only eating purple fruits on Wednesdays, but the chances are that you are not quite that special. You just need a small sprinkle of common sense and a generous dollop of perseverance.
Why do we need so many of them every year, and why does each one have to have a new angle? The answer is all about commerce
If you really want to master your diet so that over time it becomes second nature, many of you will benefit from approaching it as if you were learning a martial art. I’m talking about creating patterns and habits in your own behaviour.
The best way to do this is to plan ahead and leave nothing to chance. Make meal plan guides that lay everything out for you, leaving no room for the bad habits of closet snacking and binge eating. Then, once you mastered how to eat healthily while following these meal plans, you can take the stabilisers off and start eating intelligently without lazy bad habits or food and diet neuroses
And what do those meal plans look like? Fewer calories than you burn; good food from a farmer; lifestyle choices to match.
Sorry, publishing industry, but it really is that easy.