I have been following Dr. Freedhoff on Twitter and on his blog, Weighty Matters, for years. When I heard he had a book coming out, I knew I had to read it. That was back in October of 2012 -- I know because I have an email exchange with him where I asked about a review copy (and was turned down, very politely -- Dr. Freedhoff tweeted me to say that if I had asked when the book was closer to print, I would have had better luck). I had hoped that by the time that I could read it, I would be able to enjoy it but would have solved my own weight issues.
Ha ha. I am a smart person. I even have a PhD, which may or may not prove that I'm intelligent, but definitely proves that I have the ability to sift through lots of information and persist through long, difficult projects. To be honest, this weight project has been one of the longest and difficult ones of my life. And though I have used various techniques to successfully lose weight, it doesn't stay off. I'm not a junk-food junkie -- I don't even like fast food, and I gave up soda long ago. I'm not a sloth -- I have participated in dozens of races and triathlons. My body, however, when left to its own devices, seems quite content hanging around on the border between overweight and obese on the BMI scale.
When I ordered this book, I was toying with the idea of trying Intermittent Fasting (though I knew I couldn't stick to it), rejoining Weight Watchers (though I have rejoined and quit at least ten times), or biting the bullet and being the last person in the weight loss blogging community to try Paleo (though the entire idea of it makes me clench my teeth in frustration). I knew that none of these would really work for me because I could barely tolerate the idea of starting any of them, let alone making them my new permanent lifestyle. Since I rebranded it, this whole blog has been devoted to my search for something that make me thinner without making me completely nuts in the process. I wanted something that I could really do and enjoy for the rest of my life.
I am, in short, a sufferer of what Dr. Freedhoff calls "Post-Traumatic Dieting Disorder" (PTDD). My weight, or my insecurity about it, has strained my relationships and made me uncomfortable at races or even just walking around in the world. And I comfortably fit into one airplane seat and can shop in "normal" stores, even if they often choose to stock only one or two items in my size. I know there are a lot of people out there who have it much worse.
At first glance, this book has nothing revolutionary to offer. The basic strategies are what you already know to do: Eat differently, exercise, keep a food diary. Dr. Freedhoff is an obesity doctor and assistant professor at Ottawa's Bariatric Medical Institute. Maybe because he already has a day job, he doesn't need to set himself up as THE diet guru with THE answer the medical establishment doesn't want you to know and a custom line of protein shakes and bars (though that didn't stop Drs. Sears and Agatson).
What is revolutionary is that instead of blaming people for not being able to stick to diets, Dr. Freedhoff blames the mythology of diets themselves, especially the myth of the "ideal" weight.
In every other area of life, people are comfortable with their personal bests as wonderful goals. Why is it that with weight people strive to be "ideal," often at the expense of a livable life?He compares this to an average runner deciding that success meant he had to qualify for the Boston Marathon. This comparison hit a little too close to home, because my self-flagellation for not being a "good enough" runner or triathlete is the only thing that comes close to the way I talk to myself about my weight. But the idea is that by setting unreachable goals, dieters miss out on all the benefits of a healthy lifestyle because they can't feel successful. And rather than blaming the goals or the crazy diets that got them into this mess, dieters blame themselves.
So what is the answer? "To succeed in the long term, to actually keep the weight you lose off, I think you need to genuinely like your life with fewer calories. . . That said, I'm guessing too, that there's probably room for your life to be healthier and still enjoyable." To this end, he offers his ten day "Diet Fix" to help survivors of PTDD "reset" themselves and change their relationship with food, "to teach you to use food to help you control it, rather than let food control you." This is accomplished through a lot of strategies, including a food diary, regularly-spaced meals and snacks, and "minimums rather than maximums" for protein and calories.
More importantly, Dr. Freedhoff wants dieters to change the questions they ask themselves. Instead of "What's wrong with me? Why can't I just do this? What's my problem?" he wants them to change the dialogue. When they notice themselves start to blame and shame themselves, he wants them to ask, "What can I do right now that I can be proud of? What can I do right now that will help a little bit?"
I felt differently when reading this book than when reading all of the other diet books. I didn't feel that manic excitement of, "This is it! This is what I've been looking for!" Instead I felt a little sad, thinking of all the time and energy I have put into an activity that has only hurt me, the mental gymnastics of trying to fix myself. But I also felt relieved that there might be a way out of this mess.
My husband and I are going to be doing "The Diet Fix" together. Over the next 10 days, I'll report back with my thoughts and experiences.