The Best Diet Books for 2021
Yes, this is clickbait. I think the best resolutions are those that alleviate pressure, rather than add more. So I figured there was no better time than the encroaching new year to help you shed the concept of dieting all together.
I stopped dieting last year. After years of therapy, I realised I needed to let go of the controls I had put in place to keep up a semblance of normalcy so I could actually feel my way around what I’d like my life to be like.
One of the things I realized I really needed to let go of was my desire to be thin. I needed to stop all these disordered eating habits thinly disguised as ‘diets’. I wanted to step away from the cycle of punishment and starvation versus treats and binging. And I needed to stop participating in fatphobia.
It’s still a struggle, but allowing myself to just eat has diminished some of my self-loathing. Which has created space for other, mostly better, feelings.
Eat Up! Food, Appetite and Eating What You Want – Ruby Tandoh
The first book I read that made me aware just stopping was even an option, was Eat Up! Food, Appetite and Eating What You Want by Ruby Tandoh. I’d gotten it on a whim because I enjoy her writing. But I hadn’t really taken note of what the book was about. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down.
In Eat Up! Ruby reminds you of how much fun eating can be. She explores where our issues with food come from, sharing her own experiences and some recipes along the way. The chapter on seasonal foods alone is worth the price of the entire book and is probably one of my favorite pieces of food writing ever.
Eat Up! doesn’t delve too deep, so if you don’t feel quite ready to let go of dieting and want to ease into the concept of being a happy eater, I’d say this is the book for you. You can order Ruby’s book at Bookshop.org if you’re in the UK or in the US.
The Bad Food Bible: How and Why To Eat Sinfully- Dr. Aaron Carroll
I’ll admit the first thing that attracted me to The Bad Food Bible was the beautiful cover. But the inside is even better.
In The Bad Food Bible, Dr. Aaron E. Carroll, explores and explains various ‘bad’ food myths. From butter to meat, from eggs to artificial sweeteners to MSG and more.He explains how these foods were came to be viewed as ‘bad’ and why they really aren’t.
The most important part of the book is its introduction. It lays out how nutritional research works (or should work) and gives you an excellent tool for scanning food ‘news’ for bullshit.
- To do proper research you need proper control groups. In modern times this impossible since you cannot lock people up and have a 100% control over their diets for a long period of time, because ethics
- To do proper research you need to study large diverse groups over a looooooooooooong period of time, see above
- Funding for research is expensive and scarce. Most studies that are conducted are funded by ‘Big Food’ who have a conflict of interest when it comes to results or even to which studies get funded and which don’t
- A media landscape running on clickbait will run with whatever (mangled) conclusion makes for the most exciting headline
Studies you can trust compile results from various related studies. The conclusions of these types of meta-studies tend go along the lines of: “Yeah no but maybe?”. Definitely never exciting enough to make the news and generally never very scary or disturbing. If something super shocking ís discovered governments are generally very quick to intervene and take a product or ingredient off the market.
TL;DR: If a study was conducted over short period of time among a low amount of people who roamed freely across supermarket isles, restaurants and kitchens you can pretty much dismiss it.
Of course there’s more to it than that. But if you want to feel less anxious about food and ‘all the things you read about these days’ The Bad Food Bible is the book for you. Since I’ve read it I’ve been more than happy to stick anything in my gob that’s sold as food. You can order The Bad Food Bible here if you’re in the US.
Just Eat It: How Intuitive Eating Can Help You Get Your Shit Together Around Food – Laura Thomas Phd
I have to admit I have a strong dislike for self-help books, because I think the self-help industry is akin to the diet industry in that it is a by and large a scam. At the same time, I understand that professional help is expensive and hard to come by, which makes some people dependent on these types of books.
Just Eat It by Laura Thomas was incredibly useful for me to get off the diet bandwagon and a self-help book I can recommend. Note: because I’m trying to stop micro-managing myself, I didn’t follow any of her steps.
Laura provides a clear history and scientific background to the diet industry and how they garner more than 70 billion US dollars (!!) in annual revenue by manufacturing self-loathing. She explains why the BMI is bullshit. Why diet products are bullshit. And why diets tend to be damaging rather than helpful. More over she consistently reminds us that if we spend less time feeding this industry we can spend it on things like smashing the patriarchy, creating true equity and whatever else fun stuff we could be doing rather than making ourselves sick and filled with self-loathing. You can order it here in the UK or here in the US, under a slightly different title.
The Fuck It Diet
This book focuses more on internalized fatphobia, which is very important. But for me Just Eat It felt much more grounded in the history and science. It helped me understand why our ideas about being fat and losing weight are wrong. Both books focus on why our ideas about being fat and weight loss are wrong, but The Fuck It Diet is more of an angry emotional book. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just found it less convincing.
Fair warning: both Just Eat It and The Fuck It Diet focus on so called intuitive eating. Be weary of who use these terms. Eventually all anti-diet terminology is hijacked by the diet industry and intuitive eating is no different.Ultimately: any source that focuses on weight loss and not self-acceptance and Health At Every Size The Wrong Source. Order it here in the UK or here in the US if The Fuck It Diet sounds more your speed.
Fat is A Feminist Issue
One book I would avoid is Fat is a Feminist Issue. While historically it played its part in tackling diet culture and self-loathing, the books main premise is that we need to let go of men’s expectations of our bodies in order for us to lose weight. If you read the above books you’ll understand why we shouldn’t focus on weight loss at all (unless a fat positive medical professional gives you a good and proper reason as well as the tools to do so).
Finally: I would love to see a book like this from an actual honest to god fat person. None of the above authors are fat. This doesn’t mean they aren’t qualified to write about these issues. Ruby, Laura and Caroline all elaborate on their own issues with weight and they all explain why it’s problematic why they get to write these books while fat people don’t, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem.
I hope that you read at least one of these books to help you make space in your head for new fun things in the new year. If only that new thing is to rest and relax.
Zoek je deze post in het Nederlands? Ga dan naar VetteSletten.nl voor De Beste Diëetboeken voor 2021.