Every now and then a new weight-loss book is advertised that seems to undo all the hard work of the ‘anti-diet’ movement…this is one of them.
I saw this advertised on breakfast TV this morning and had to look it up and see for myself – to be honest, I was completely horrified by what I saw. I don’t like the title to start with – ‘Die Fat or Get Tough’ (I’m not a fan of scare tactics)…and I certainly don’t like what is on the first page inside the book: “Americans have been programmed to believe diets don’t work because of the inability of the average person to stick to them, and their unwillingness to take responsibility for their own failure. Make no mistake:many diets work very well. Because an individual lacks the mental toughness to stick to a diet doesn’t make the diet any less effective.” If the average person cannot stick to a diet, then dieting is not an effective solution for the average person!!! Of course many diets are effective if you stick to them long term, everybody knows that – the problem is that most people cannot stick to them! That’s why books like this are so incredibly frustrating…rather than looking at dieting as the problem, they blame human weakness and leave people feeling like failures (yet again).
My second shock came on page 4 of the book. At the Shape Your Mind clinic, every single person that comes for help has what we call an ‘all-or-nothing’ thinking style. This is the thinking style responsible for thoughts such as “I ate (something that wasn’t on my diet plan) after lunch, so now that I’ve blown it I may as well keep eating today and I’ll start again tomorrow”, and “I’m going out tonight so I’m not going to be able to stick to my plan, therefore I might as well write off today and be extra good tomorrow”. Sound familiar to anyone?? A big part of the work that we do in therapy is to try to find the middle-ground instead of being so black-and-white. That way, even if you slip up, you can get back on track without beating yourself up and/or overeating. But not according to Mr Siebold, oh no. On Page 4 of his book he has actually highlighted this quote (he calls it a ‘Fat Loser Quote’. Seriously.): “99% compliance is failure. If you’re going to get fit, it’s all or nothing.” In my experience, that kind of thinking is exactly the problem. It’s that kind of thinking that makes people throw in the towel when they have actually made significant improvements; it’s that kind of thinking that makes people feel like failures when they are really just human; it’s that kind of thinking that lowers self-esteem and reduces people’s belief that they can ever succeed at reaching a healthy, comfortable weight.
Finally, while I don’t believe in political correctness for the sake of it, I do take offence at the generalisations that this book is based on. Every chapter (and a multitude of sentences within each chapter) begins with “Fat People…” as in “Fat people believe diets don’t work” or “Fat people believe 99% is good enough” or “Fat people don’t take responsibility for their own behaviour”. Fat is not a personality type!!! Not to mention the fact that his statements don’t even seem to typify the thought patterns of people struggling to reach and maintain a healthy weight. He has a small disclaimer at the bottom of his website to say that his book is not suitable for people with eating disorders or any other psychological disorder, but I have met and treated many people who are above their most comfortable weight who do not have a disorder, but for whom this book would be incredibly harmful. At least from the 5 (free) chapters that I have read. I won’t be buying the book to read any more.
But hey, I could be wrong – maybe this kind of thinking is very helpful for many people. I’d love to know your thoughts – do you think that this book would help and inspire you to start treating yourself well and reach a healthy weight??