Mann wants us to give up on dieting. They don't work and they can be harmful.But does that mean binge out or never eat vegetables? No. “Giving up dieting means eating in a sensible way most of the time, without extensive rules or restrictions.” (187)
Mann shares her research about optimal health. She suggests we have a set weight range and should aim for the low end of it. We can do that by eating sensibly and exercising regularly. It does not have to be our life's work.
She gives loads of insight into weight loss studies. For example, dieting causes stress because of having to count calories or continually having to say no. In studying longevity, overweight people do not die any younger than normal weight people. I was surprised that eating comfort food does not make you feel better. Of the surprising results of her study, she says, “This is exactly the kind of experiment we like to conduct in my lab – one that questions a 'fact' that everyone assumes to be true.” Comfort food is a myth (and besides, you feel guilty for eating it).
She reminds us of the importance of regular exercise. It does not have to be anything complicated – just something as simple as walking will do. She has some good suggestions for a strategy to maintain an exercise habit. She also has really good suggestions for creating the habit of eating healthy foods.
This may be a bit of a controversial book. But those of us who have struggled to reach and stay at a weight ten or fifteen pounds lower than our body likes will breathe a sigh of relief after reading this book. I did.
Traci Mann is professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, where she founded the Health and Eating Lab. She is an expert on the psychology of eating, dieting, and self-control. She and her husband, also a professor of psychology at the U of M, and their two sons live in Edina, Minnesota.
Harper Wave, 255 pages.