Diet books may be depressing, but no one said their titles had to be

Story by Valerie Phillips
Mon, Apr 22, 2013
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When it comes to the marketing, I think the dieting world takes the (fat-free) cake for having the most catchy titles.

Just looking on my own bookshelf, I can see some books I’ve written about in the past — “Tipping the Scales in Your Favor” by Dian Thomas, “Miracle Pill” by Tres Hatch, and “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Fattening” by Devin Alexander.

As a food editor for nearly 20 years, I wrote about dozens of diets and diet books. There was the fat phobia of the ’90s, followed by the Fen-Phen drug fiasco, then the low-carb frenzy of the early 2000s. There’s The Zone. Paleo. Pritikin. Cabbage Soup. Subway Sandwiches. Sugar Busters. Dr. Atkins. Dr. Phil. South Beach. Beverly Hills.

(Notice that diet books use glamorous locations for a title. Never Fargo, N.D., or Billings, Mont.)

And books such as “French Women Don’t Get Fat” — prompting one reader to comment, “No, they just smoke a lot and get lung cancer instead.”

Despite their catchy titles, many diet books start out in the same discouraging way — with several pages bemoaning the epidemic of obesity and how most diets fail.

Then the authors swoop in with the news that THEIR diet is different from all those other diets that don’t work. Because their diet isn’t really a “diet,” it’s just an “eating plan” or a “lifestyle.”

But by then, I’m already discouraged by the doom and gloom. Why bother struggling through another program if it’s that hard to succeed? Why not just buy a size larger swimsuit and be done with it?

There are people out there who have successfully battled their bulges. The National Weight Control Registry, begun in 1994, has enrolled more than 4,000 people who have lost weight and kept it off for years. And they used a wide variety of diet plans, which underscores the idea that there’s no one “right” way.

So it’s likely you may find the diet book that’s right for you. But if the first few pages start depressing you with talk of diet failure and the obesity crisis, well, just skip that first chapter.

On the weight-loss website, I found a thread where people posted ideas for a catchy diet book title. I added to the list some diet-related headlines of my past stories (yes, newspaper editors also have a thing about catchy titles). These offer a good chuckle — and possibly a future best-seller:

“The Alabama Diet: Just Run Forrest, RUNNNN”

“Salt, Fat and Sugar: A Woman’s Guide to Staying Single”

“How the Waist Was Won”

“The Weight Is Over”

“The Fats and the Furious”

“My Medical Condition: A Severe Case of Overactive Fork”

“How Green Was My Broccoli”

“Losing Weight Is Fun and Easy ... Not!”

“One and Done: A Story of Portion Control”

“A Fridge Too Far: The Battle of Overeating”

“365 Celebrations for the Dieter Who Only Overdoes It on Special Occasions.”

“Rip Your Arms, Not Your Pants”

“Does This Butt Make My Jeans Look Fat?”

“There’s a Thin Woman Inside Trying to Get Out (But I Keep Her Quiet With Twinkies)”

“Results Guaranteed, Or Your Old Body Back”

“What’s the Fun of Fun Size Candy Bars”

“Just for the Health of It”

“The XL Files”

“Everything You Wanted to Know About Lettuce But Were Afraid to Ask”

“The Good, the Bad and the Tofu”

“East of Eat ’em”

“There and Back Again … A Hobbit’s Yo-Yo Diet Tale”

“Fifty Ways to Lose Your Blubber”

“Blood, Sweat and Lettuce”

“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Blubber”

Valerie Phillips blogs at

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