Sunday, August 28, 2011

Review: Two books by A.J. Rochester

Note: This is an unsolicited, uncompensated review. I purchased both books myself.

When I bought Confessions of a Reformed Dieter by A.J. Rochester as my latest Audible purchases, I didn't realize that the author had also been the host of Australia's version of "The Biggest Loser." I had just been looking for a book to keep me inspired in my weight loss efforts.

I enjoyed the book, and even bought its sequel, The Lazy Girl's Guide to Losing Weight and Getting Fit,and then did some research online just for fun. It seems from her blog "Chasing Oprah" that she has been hounded by the tabloid press over some weight ups and downs since her books. I guess she has that in common with Oprah.

There was a lot to love in both these books. A.J's story is really compelling. Confessions of a Reformed Dieter describes her dramatic weight loss -- from 130 kilos (287 pounds) to 69 (152 pounds) in less than a year.  In the process, she gives a very honest account of her struggles and her work to learn to work through the pain in her past so she doesn't need to stuff down her feelings with food. She does this with the help of her psychiatrist ("Nutcase"), personal trainer ("Crusher"), and to a lesser extent, her nutritionist ("Beansprout" doesn't get much press here).  She really gets into some deep territory, and really delves into the reasons she felt safer when she was overweight and why she struggled so much every time she came close to a new weight loss milestone.

What I didn't appreciate was the very lame fat jokes that she sprinkled throughout the text. I know she's a comedian and wanted to make the book funny, but talking about how she had to watch out for whaling boats when she was on the beach or "had more chins than a Chinese phonebook" was really not the way to get laughs. First of all, those jokes are old, unoriginal, and unfunny (and she even repeated the same jokes in The Lazy Girl's Guide to Losing Weight and Getting Fit instead of coming up with new ones, so I guess the title is accurate). Secondly, one minute she is telling women that they need to love themselves, whatever their size, but the next, she is yukking it up about how fat women need to lose weight so they can stop "breaking chairs." Definitely some mixed messages.  Loving her new thin body does not require making fun of the woman she used to be.  I would have rather she showed some respect for the former self, who was, after all, the one who created the "new and improved" A.J.  I loved it when Jillian Michaels pointed that out to a contestant on "The Biggest Loser." Besides, listeners (or readers) who are the size A.J. used to be don't really need more ridicule. She also makes a lot of hostile comments about thin and fit women, which is strange. It gives the impression that the only acceptable size to be is whatever size A.J. is.

She also seems to divide foods up into "good" and "bad" categories, suggesting that it is the end of the world every time she hits a fish and chips shop or wants some chocolate. There is no reason that those foods couldn't have been incorporated into her calorie allowance. She seemed to have no trouble fitting in alcohol.

It was interesting to hear that A.J. had so much success with a low-fat, higher-carb diet, especially since protein is currently reigning as the Macronutrient King.  It really goes to show that the real secret is calorie restriction and exercise, not some magic ratio of fat to protein to carbs.  The real value to Confessions of a Reformed Dieter is that it is honest about A.J.'s struggles and setbacks and shows that regular, healthy meals and snacks were her big secret to success.

I am about halfway through The Lazy Girl's Guide to Losing Weight and Getting Fit, and so far it hasn't wowed me.  It doesn't seem to have added a lot of new information not found in the other book, and as I mentioned above, it recycles a lot of the jokes I didn't enjoy in the first book. It adds a few dumb quizzes where the answers are in the format A) I'm hugely fat and happy that way, B) I am the model reader A.J. envisions for this book, and C) I am too skinny to need this book and I'm smug besides.  After the third or fourth go-round of this, I was really sick of it, and I'm sure there are more of them to come.

Warning to U.S.-centric readers: Yes, you will have to hit up Google if you don't know how to convert kilograms to pounds or don't know what "sultanas" are (I was guessing tangerines, but those are "mandarines." Sultanas are raisins) or what a "Pluto pup" is (I figured out from context clues that it's what we Yanks call "corn dogs.") It's not really that difficult, and I enjoyed the Aussie-isms. 

All in all, I would recommend Confessions of a Reformed Dieter if you are feeling alone in your struggle with weight and want some company and some proof that it can be done. Along the way you'll learn a few useful strategies and get some nuggets of wisdom from A.J.'s team of consultants.  The Lazy Girl's Guide to Losing Weight and Getting Fit is helpful if you really want the nuts and bolts of A.J.'s particular diet plan and you don't mind a repetition of some of the stories and jokes.

After listening to both, I have a strange urge to watch Biggest Loser Australia and see what A.J.'s personality is like on screen.


  1. As an Australian, I appreciated your reviews of Ajay's books. I have skimmed through them in a bookshop (but not read them cover-to-cover) and agree with your impressions.

    I wouldn't bother watching The Biggest Loser to get an idea of Ajay's personality. She doesn't get to express any of it on the program - just say badly-scripted lines.

    Re the Aussie-isms, "sultanas" are what Americans call "golden raisins", and a "Pluto Pup" is like a corn dog, but has no corn - just batter (also known as a "battered sav", "sav" being short for "saveloy" which is a cocktail-sized frankfurter.)

  2. Thanks for the translations! And I'm glad you warned me about TBL.


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07