I am an intermittent Oprah watcher – as I check the TV Week listings every Monday (yes, books are not my only weakness), I check out Oprah’s topics; months go by where I have no interest and then I find myself watching a couple of shows a week. Several years ago, through watching Oprah, I learned about the RealAge test, which was created by Drs Roizen and Oz. I think the test and the site are a great combination of solid information and good humour, managing to bypass extremes for a realistic middle road approach too often missing when it comes to lifestyle (ie diet and exercise) suggestions.
Although You on a Diet (follow up to You: The Owner’s Manual) is subtitled The Insider’s Guide to Easy and Permanent Weight Loss, and bannered with “Lose up to 2 inches from your waist in 2 weeks”, the contents are a refreshing blend of scientifically-based recommendation, holisticism, hints and moderation. While the central theme is certainly weight loss, the underlying ethos is about sustainability and the long-term picture for lasting better health.
To that end the guide includes not just standard sensible diet advice (like small plates for smaller portions, a high water intake, and moderate alcohol), recipes and a meal plan, but also information about specific foods to include, reduce or avoid. We should all, for example, opt for foods high in anti-oxidants, and incorporate nuts in general and walnuts in particular; reduce intake of red meat, fats in general and saturated fats in particular, but not eschew fats altogether; and avoid trans-fats, white and wholemeal breads and pastas – always chose wholegrain.
There’s a section on ensuring better sleep and why that’s important, an exercise regime, suitable for pretty much everyone, that incorporates cardiovascular work (walking) with stretching to promote flexibility, and meditation.
The information is well supported with evidence, and complicated information (like how satiety works and why it sometimes doesn’t) is not only clearly explained but also illustrated with cartoons. Rather than specific numbers, the authors focus on healthy weight ranges for height, and prioritise waist circumference over weight altogether. There’s also a strong acknowledgment that slips happen, and that the focus should be on ‘taking the next safe You-turn to get back on track’ rather than giving up entirely.
Scattered throughout are common myths, and why they’re being debunked, and each chapter ends with a précis. There are a couple of quizzes to help the reader determine which areas are the most challenging for them, links to online sources, and a generally reassuring overall tone. The program is sensible, sustainable and aimed at improving quality of life in the long term, a striking contrast to the more usual immediate-future-focused approach I encounter.
I have a strong health science background and have read my fair share of diet and nutrition books. You: On a Diet is one of the best I’ve read. I particularly like the moderate and reasonable approach, the fad-free content, and the well-supported advice. It’s a little indigestible if read in one sitting, but spaced out over a few days the whole is pretty impressive. I’ve already started to make a couple of changes, and printed out the website’s stretching routine. I’m also going to check out the first in the series. - Alex