book review :: the incredible shrinking critic

There isn't anything really new in this book, but it is funny (at times). This isn't a how-to lose weight book, but more a how-I-did it book.

Jami Bernard is a movie critic in New York. And when she set her mind to lose 100 pounds (she later changed her goal, which could change again) she chronicled her progress in the paper. While many people wrote to wish her luck and share their own stories, many also wrote insulting mean-spirited and discouraging letters. It was really sad to see how cruel people can be, although I suspect most were reacting to their own fears and insecurities.

I checked this book out from the library after the awful 3-hour plus tag-team by B's parents which focused on weight loss (among other things). I think this is my favorite line from the book:

They assume you're fat because you're stupid, lazy, and morally bankrupt, as if you made a choice one day: You know, I think I'll get really fat so I'll suffer health problems, have trouble finding a job, be the butt of jokes and cruelty, court diabetes, endure society's wrath, and die young. That's the life for me!

I also loves how she pounds (no pun intended) some of the other diet books out there on the market. On Guiliano's French Women Don't Get Fat, she says:

I'm not inclined to take diet advice from a woman whose sole credentials on the topic are that she gained 20 pounds, when she was nineteen. Who doesn't gain 20 pounds at that age?

I can't be sure she was talking about Kevin Tredeau's, The Weight Loss Cure They Don't Want You To Know About*, but on diet books that claim to share nutritional secrets the government is suppressing:

The government can barely build a levee, let alone keep a burning secret about supplements or drugs that allow you to lose weight, cure cancer, and do window.

And lest you believe that these crazy weight loss books are a new thing, she points out that No More Alibis, a New York Times best seller in 1934, offered some of the following advice to the overweight:

Don't swim if you are fat, it will only develop you more. She (author Madame Sylvia) also claims you can get rid of a double chin by slathering cold cream in upward strokes.

So what can you do? There is a two page Cheat Sheet on pages 270-271 of the book. I think these are my favorite take aways from there:

  • Lasting weight loss is about strategy, not willpower (plan for contingencies).
  • Weight loss is a by-product of healthy living, not an end in itself.
  • Being connected to a healthy lifestyle to some degree at all times is more efficient in the long run than being "perfect" a fraction of the time.
  • Act as if you believe in yourself, and it will become so.
  • Weight loss isn't about numbers, it is about change.
  • You've reached your goal not when the scale hits the sweet spot but when you embrace the behaviors it takes to keep you there.
  • Unwise, better, best: Losing weight involves a series of choices along a sliding scale.

Bernard is also a big fan of keeping a journal of everything you put in your mouth. She doesn't believe you have to weigh every ounce of food, but you should learn what a serving size is, and try and get it to equal your portion size. Finally, while it is possible to lose weight by calorie control alone, adding movement (aka exercise) to your daily routine not only helps with losing weight but also has several other good benefits.
*Tredeau's book came out after this book, although it is possible she got her hands on an advanced copy. It remains among the top sellers on Amazon despite that in phase two of the program readers are encouraged to get regular injections of a drug that is not approved by the FDA, although for a fee, you can go to the Tredeau's website and gain access to doctors who are willing to nevertheless provide it.

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