It’s Fat Season For Diet Books


Larding On The Advice

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 38 percent of American adults are technically obese (with a body mass index over 30), up from 35 percent in 2011-2012 and 32 percent in 2003-2004.

That’s Robert Paarlberg at The Washington Post in a new commentary, Why Can’t America Get Its Obesity Crisis Under Control? Paarlberg’s message is that the States needs to look at how European cultures tax junk food and regulate ads for “foods high in fat, salt, or sugar.” Some countries restrict such ads aimed at children. Other nations ban them outright. Paarlberg:

Because of these unique barriers to a strong obesity-prevention policy, the United States has drifted toward a second-best policy of acceptance and treatment. Rather than imposing the taxes or regulations needed to discourage excess calorie consumption, we try to live with that excess by providing physical accommodations and ramping up spending on medical treatments for the health risks associated with obesity.

The spreading bottom line is that we’re in trouble as a society. We’re a fat nation, too feckless to speak frankly even to our best friends who are eating themselves to death—it’s not considered “nice”—and too worried about free enterprise to curb the advertising of products that can kill us.

And while the publishing industry takes a lot of heat these days for having lost its marketing moxie, nobody can say that publishers don’t know what to do when faced with the special displays of gluttony we enact during the holidays. The diet dump truck is backing up right now—beep, beep, beep. That’s a new load of lipo-lit you see piling up on an Amazon sales page near you. This is the diet industry’s big moment of the year, as we waddle between our Yuletide feeding frenzy and the New Year’s cocktail of calories.

When I looked for diet books released in December alone, I got nine pages of results at Amazon, most of them self-published efforts. A husky 42 of those titles are from the busy Darrin Wiggins, who seems to be contributing more, pound for pound, to the genre than anyone else. His titles include Weight Loss Salads: 52 Single Serving Sized Salad Recipes for Getting Ripped and Sugar Addiction Mastery: Sugar Detoxing For Weight Loss, Increased Energy & Healthy Living

The month started with a 4 December listing of Betty Moore’s Eat Fat And Lose Weight Diet Cookbook: Recipes To Help You Reset Metabolism, Stress, Hunger, Sex Hormones, Fight Aging And Loss Weight Permanently. It comes with several glowing reviews including this four-star howler: “This is [a] super cool diet. I haven’t tried it.” Aren’t you enjoying the age of consumer reviews?

Here at the other end of the month, Mike Berland’s Fat-Burning Machine: The 12-Week Diet from Regan Arts is one of the highest ranking new releases in Amazon’s Top 10, standing at No. 2 at the time of this writing.

Diet books offer a particularly broad range of contradictory and outlandish consumer reviews because various reviewers will have such different experiences. Despite our best efforts to get machine-grade responses from our bodies, we’re still organic creatures and our species’ metabolic performance is all over the map.

There’s an irony here here for publishing people too.

Diversity for our industry, as you may know, is as elusive as a svelte slip of a thing when it comes to issues of race, gender, and ethnic criteria.

But diet diversity? Well, you’ve come to the right place. This groaning board of diet books holds something for everyone, steaming, with gravy.

As the 17th-century English nursery rhyme has it:

Jack Sprat could eat no fat.
His wife could eat no lean.
And so between them both, you see,
They licked the platter clean.

And the goal of the industry is to sell something that will sound like a sexy, tight fit to every Jack and Ms. Sprat out there.

This is the striking moment, right now. while the Sprat household is horrified by what it sees in the mirror. It might appear cynical to some that this explosion of diet material is produced to pace the anxieties and insecurities of the Overeating Season. That, however, is considered good business in the chubby hands of publicists whose press releases for these books arrive with stray sprinkles from their Christmas cookies.

This Week’s Venti

Tuesday is the standard release day in the US market for new book titles. And on the last Tuesday of December, we see the following books going to market, per Publishers Weekly’s calendar. I’ll include for you the number of print copies that the publishers are reporting they’re running. Just keep in mind that industry insiders never believe these numbers from each other. These initial press-run figures are considered to be fattened up for the purpose of making it appear that the publishers are weightily invested in these new releases. The phrase cooking the books has so many interesting interpretations, doesn’t it?

Of that lot, I’m happiest to see Fat Dad, Fat Kid, for several reasons:

  • We all know how obesity runs in families. You have only to look around on the planes this time of year to see fat families and skinny families. It’s unusual to see the issue addressed as this book is doing it.
  • We all also know that the overwhelming majority of diet books are aimed at women. This is one for men, written by not one but two guys. Good on them and good on Atria.
  • The Butlers can capture a lot of other guys’ attention. Shay Carl Butler is known on YouTube as Shay Carl and one of the family Shaytards. Among entrepreneurs, he’s known as the co-founder of Maker Studios. The book chronicles a father-son 30-day weight-loss challenge.

If you’re interested in the Butlers’ approach, you can get in on a new 30-day challenge with them starting on 1st January. There’s info here in this video:


‘Cravings’, Two Months Early

Speaking of “diet” in the wider sense, as in food and our love of it, so popular is Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings: Recipes For All The Food You Want To Eat from Clarkson Potter that it’s listing at #79 in the Kindle Store on the #SpecialOccaision chart—and it doesn’t release until 23 February. Food sells in the bookish world, whether it’s getting a green or a red light.

Want to see fast results? Since its release three days before Christmas from Hachette, Extreme Transformation: Lifelong Weight Loss in 21 Days by Chris and Heidi Powell has gone to No. 18 in the Kindle Store’s Diets category, timed with eggnog-consumption precision, huh?

And this is by no means a comprehensive list of what’s new in the year-end diet derby. The listings are flabby with the stuff, from fastidious fasting to juicing junkets, paleo pig-outs and carb countdowns.

The one kind of reduction we can trust the industry not to get into is in subtitles. We love us some hippo-sized subtitles.

For example:

  • Top 30 Insanely Good Adrenal Diet Recipes For Hormonal Balance, Relieve Stress And Lose Weight Naturally (Main title: Adrenal Reset Diet To Die For) and 
  • The 5-Day Food-Cycling Formula That Resets Your Metabolism To Lose Up To 5 Pounds A Week (Main title: The All-Day Fat-Burning Diet).

In so many cases like this, the main title alone is plenty, much like the main course. But the tradition is to follow a lean title with a pudgy, fudgy dessert of a subtitle. And you know how tradition works in the book business: if one title of this kind sells well, 120 titles of this kind would be better, right?

So with such a serious chow-down of content on the subject, how can you possibly choose the right diet book to read?

I’ll give you a hint: the best diet book of all is the one you read on the eliptical machine at the gym.

Have a healthy new year.