Pros: A helpful, common-sense (and no-nonsense) approach to losing weight
Cons: The easier recipes tend to be bland and underwhelming
Rating: 4 out of 5
Review book courtesy of The Countryman Press.
The EatingWell Diet: 7 Steps to a Healthy, Trimmer You is not a book for those who aren’t yet ready to make a serious commitment to losing weight. This isn’t a book full of empty cheerleading and excited promises. As such, many people who want to lose weight won’t be able to make full use of its suggestions. Those who are ready to make the serious commitment needed, however, may find this book to offer one of the more promising roads to healthy, long-term weight loss, and even those who aren’t will find useful suggestions to get them started and improve their diet.
Dr. Jean Harvey-Berino is the Professor and Chair of the department of nutrition and food science at the University of Vermont, and she developed the “VTrim Weight Management Program” upon which this book is based. Her background as a researcher shows—you’ll learn plenty in the pages of this book about what long-term studies have shown to be truly effective when it comes to health, nutrition, and long-term weight management. It’s a very readable book, however, with fascinating tidbits of information and nifty quotes.
Become Your Own Weight Coach
Dr. Harvey-Berino believes very strongly that you must track your calories, food intake, weight, and exercise if you truly want to succeed at weight loss. I can see why she believes this; as she says, people tend to eat more and exercise less than they realize during a day. It’s very easy to allow your portion sizes and sugar, calorie, and saturated fat intake to grow and grow without realizing it if you aren’t paying attention. If you aren’t ready to go whole-hog with the calorie tracking thing, at least try to track yourself for a week out of every month or a couple of days out of every week—even having that small reminder of where your limits should be is very helpful.
Become Food Wise—Then Make the Right Moves
The EatingWell Diet includes many tips on eating mindfully, eating better foods, knowing what a good-sized portion looks like, shopping carefully, and so on. While I feel I did learn a lot of good information from The South Beach Diet with regard to the value of different sorts of foods such as whole grains in place of processed carbs, I think The EatingWell Diet is a bit more realistic. For example, it doesn’t rely on the assumption that you’ll simply be able to substitute sugar-free foods for sugared foods, which is a blessing for those of us who can’t stand the taste of sugar substitutes.
The book then eases us into the idea of exercising. While there are many ideas in this book that match up with programs such as Weight Watchers (like the fact that losing just 10% of your weight can make a significant difference to your health), one key difference is that you aren’t encouraged to eat more when you exercise more—instead you’re asked to realize that you’re probably already eating a bit more and exercising a bit less than you think you are, and allow your exercise-burned calories to offset that.
Trip-Ups and Living Well
The EatingWell Diet doesn’t just try to walk you through losing weight. Despite the name of the book, the nutritionist who came up with the program firmly believes that it isn’t about ‘dieting’—it’s about adopting a healthy lifestyle. As such, there are plenty of tips for facing and handling everyday temptations and slip-ups. There’s also an entire chapter on maintaining your weight loss once you’ve lost it.
The Cookbook Side
Despite all of the fantastic information I’ve already mentioned, more than half of this book is actually a set of calorie-calculated menus and accompanying recipes. Some of the recipes are full-sized recipes, while some are quick little things often listed 5 or so to a page. The full-sized recipes I tended to enjoy, such as a “loaded spinach salad” with egg, carrot, toasted nuts, and blue cheese dressing in it. However, I was disappointed with all of the little mini-recipes I tried. Each one seemed to start with a basically good idea, such as sweet potato oven fries, or brown rice with Asian flavors, but they all came out tasting very bland and uninteresting. Diet food just doesn’t have to be bland, and it’s my own opinion that the fact that so much of it is designed this way is what makes folks think diet food is torture.
Mind you, I’m aware that there are plenty of people who like bland food, so you folks can ignore that particular complaint of mine and consider that you will likely enjoy the cookbook side of this book more than I did. One of the things I did like was the balance between slightly more complex dishes and simple ones. Many folks want easy things they can make on a weeknight, but being a cooking addict myself, I appreciate having some more complex things I can make as well.
All in all, I think this is a solidly practical guide to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Just be mindful that there are no easy answers, there’s a lot of hard work involved here, and you’re going to need a serious commitment to your health to make full use of this book.