Weighty Tomes

22nd January 2010

January traditionally sees a ton of new diet, health and fitness books hitting the shelves. Grace Fuller reviews three of the latest, all promising to help you fulfil the perennial New Year’s Resolution: Lose Weight.

That first look in the mirror in January – that first honest look – can be quite a horrifying experience. It’s not surprising. This winter in particular we’ve all had plenty of reasons to stay at home comfort-eating…

…but now it’s time to dust down scales, tape measure and willpower and start to address the problem.

These new 2010 offerings each take a different approach. The latest publication by Richard Templar, for example, looks a sober volume (I must admit I thought the word Miserable in the title created a negative impression before I’d even opened it up) although it’s promoted as being full of ‘his usual mix of wit and wisdom, with… irreverent humour.’ It’s actually quite a light read: a hundred tips, such as ‘get more sleep’ and ‘buy a smaller plate’, on which Templar elaborates on the opposite page. His take is that dieting is about what happens in the head, not in the body.

There’s not much here that serial dieters won’t have already come across, but it is quite a useful collection of handy reminders of all the wisdom you once knew but have chosen to forget. It’s probably most suitable for those with a few pounds to lose, or as a kickstart to another diet (or regime change), but on its own it seems rather slight to me.

Mimi Spencer’s approach is not dissimilar, but it’s a much more substantial read. Despite looking rather frothy, there’s a wealth of information in here, and a philosophy that says that how you look is not only dependent on the size you are, but also on how you feel, how you dress, how you live. There are chapters on the art of illusion, on beauty, on how to dress thin (ideal for people like me who believe that just deciding to diet should have an instant impact on the appearance), as well as serious advice on reading food labels or waging war against hydrogenated fats. Spencer has an amusing turn of phrase, which makes the book immensely readable and her way of life aspirational.

Both Templar and Spencer promote their methods as a no-diet diet. Anna Richardson, by contrast, is not afraid to shout the words Diet and Rules from the front cover. Inside there are big pictures and big print, and a reductive approach with five basic instructions: no wheat, no dairy, no sugar, no carbs after 6pm and no alcohol. It sounds hard core – and you probably need to be in search of a serious solution to a long-standing weight problem to buy in to it – but it’s redeemed by page after page of delicious recipes, plus a fortnight’s plan to get you started. Of the three books on this page, this has the most traditional format, but it’s none the worse for that. Richardson doesn’t pretend to have a particular philosophy… this is simply the regime that worked for her – and, even allowing for the probability of airbrushing, her photographs do show her looking slim and fabulous. A great book if you want your hand held all the way: no thinking, just obeying.

Whichever approach you choose, though, the only way to lose those excess pounds comes down to the four words with which Anna Richardson concludes the introduction to the Body Blitz Diet: Eat Less. Move More.

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