UNSOLICITED ADVICE: Don’t Buy That Diet Book

Get a pizza instead.

Jul 7, 2011 at 11:02am | Leave a comment

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In 2006, my husband and I moved into a swanky new condo. The building had a nicely-outfitted exercise room, and since I didn’t have a convenient space in our new home for my bulky Proform treadmill, I decided to put it on Craigslist. For free.

I just wanted it gone, and didn’t want to pay to take it to the dump. My free listing went ignored for a week. I was astonished.

On a hunch, I deleted the free listing and put a second listing up, exactly the same, except I priced the thing at $20. I had four responses within an hour.

The woman who eventually bought it was so thrilled at her bargain I didn’t have the heart to refuse her money. I took the $20 and ordered a pizza.

As well-trained American consumers, we are naturally suspicious of free things. Because if it’s free there HAS to be something wrong with it, right? And if something costs money, it must have value, even if that value may not be immediately apparent.

My marvelous xoJane editor Emily forwarded me a press release this morning for a new! diet! book! which will, like all diet books, totally revolutionize how you diet and magically turn your adult metabolism into that of a caffeine-addled five-year-old.

Here’s the fair promotion part: the book is interminably titled “TurboCharged: Accelerate Your Fat Burning Metabolism, Get Lean Fast and Leave Diet and Exercise Rules in the Dust” and it’s written by Dian Griesel, Ph.D. and Tom Griesel.

Here are the reasons why you shouldn’t buy it, or really any diet book that promises you “revolutionary” results. Much of the promotion for this particular diet book seems to fall on the shoulders of Dian Griesel, Ph.D., a self-described “serial entrepreneur” who is also an expert in marketing and PR. Lest you think this hurts her credibility as a diet guru, I can assure you this is exactly the sort of background a successful diet-book author ought to have.

Ultimately, diet books are about selling you something that you already own: the existing conventional wisdom of how you can lose weight.

There is nothing revolutionary, “myth busting” or “rule breaking” about this particular book, which, in the press release, promises to astonish you with such radical advice as “Reduce refined carbohydrates and high sugar, processed foods from your diet. Then build health, energy and strength with a Nature-based foundation of whole fruits and vegetables along with fresh fish, meat, chicken, cheese and nuts.” Also exercise!

Holy crap, this is amazing! Why didn’t anyone tell us this before? Dieting is a massive business, one that generates over $58 billion in profits every year. It’s also an industry built on incompetence, as numerous studies have determined that weight-loss dieting has a failure rate of around 90%. This is actually a brilliant setup, as the diet industry convinces people to repeatedly dump money into an effort with a one in 10 chance of long-term success.

It does this by telling us that the 90% of people who fail just messed it up somehow, and that the concept of dieting itself is perfect and blameless. Smart, huh?

In order for this to work, we need diet gurus who are charismatic, inspirational, and PR-savvy. We are willing to trust people like Dian Griesel, Ph.D. (or any number of other diet “experts” with possibly-unrelated degrees after their names) because we are desperate for a permanent-weight-loss answer. People like Griesel, Ph.D. keep writing these books because exploiting that desperation is incredibly profitable.

In this particular example, it’s difficult to argue that “eat right and exercise” is a plan that "flies in the face of just about every other diet and exercise method ever developed,” as “Turbocharged”’s press release promises.

Such a book is not selling you a revolutionary answer to all your diet woes; it’s selling you the same old crap in a new cover, one that promises that THIS TIME you’ll be among that lucky 10 percent who experience long-term diet success.

I am sure Dian Griesel, Ph. D. is a lovely woman in private life. And let’s face it, girlfriend’s gonna make money on this pap no matter what I say, because so many of us are positively hungry to believe that someone out there has a simple answer to getting thin. How many people clicked on those absurd “OBEY ONE OLD RULE FOR A FLAT STOMACH” ads? (Never mind, I don’t want to know.)

We will pay whatever it might cost, either in dollars, or in damage to our long-term health, both physical and emotional. I’m giving you this advice for free, knowing that this means it probably has less value to you, but hey, that’s the kind of friendly radical anti-diet zealot I am. (Or you can send me $20. I wouldn’t mind pizza tonight.)

See, the real diet revolution isn’t in a book; it’s when we all decide to stop giving this towering 58-billion-dollar monolith any more of our money in exchange for making us feel like crap about ourselves. If you MUST buy a book, buy a book that might actually help you be healthier, not one that makes promises it can’t keep. This is a choice we can make. For our own good.