A weight loss guide that takes a wide-ranging and philosophical look at its subject.
In this updated edition of her 1980 nonfiction debut, Bryan looks at the concept of weight loss from a different perspective than other authors in the genre do: “What we really want is not the latest weight-loss technique, or anything to do just with weight loss,” she writes. “What we’re after is a new way to see the world, for good.” On the one hand, weight loss seems like a simple goal, involving having the strength of will to maintain a caloric deficit over a prolonged period of time. However, its attendant personal and societal complexities have kept a multimillion-dollar weight-loss industry churning out books and seminars for decades. Bryan’s book seeks to cut to the core of the issue by talking more about psychology than diets’ marching orders. “The whole name of the game is better, more sensitive balance for the body,” she writes. “When your tissues are healthy and you are eating right, your brain is well-nourished and you are fine.” She warns readers of the “cultural blind spots” in other dieting books, as they often see obesity as simply a capital-P “Problem.” Bryan, by contrast, presents it as something closer to a geometry equation that can be governed and solved via learnable rules. As a result, there are no graphs in this book, nor are there charts of forbidden or encouraged foods, and there are no worksheets to record one’s progress or the lack of it. “Lies never helped anyone with anything,” Bryan declares at one point in this book. “Only the truth, only reality, can help anyone find a lasting, meaningful solution to a problem.” This essentialist approach runs through the entire book, making for consistently thought-provoking reading. The author draws from a much wider array of sources than other dieting books do, touching on works as different as Timothy Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Tennis (1974), Shunryu Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (1970), and the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous in order to help readers become aware of the “Habituated thoughts” that might be holding them back. “When you don’t understand the principles of the diet book you are reading at the moment,” she points out, “you are forced to be unnecessarily literal-minded about following the method, which feels like walking along a very narrow footpath in the dark.” Bryan can be tough on some specific methods and practices; for instance, she calls the use of diuretics to combat water retention “worse than the original problem,” pointing out that bodies usually retain water as a response to a diet too rich in sodium. Her main strength, though, is in her broader view that successful dieting is, first and foremost, a mindset—a different way of looking at the world. Her prose is rich in allusion, and her refreshingly complex approach appealingly acknowledges readers’ intelligence, and the likelihood that they’ve been disappointed by dieting books in the past.
A powerful, thoughtful guide to achieving a new dieting perspective.
Pub Date: March 8, 2017
Page count: 220pp
Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2019
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