Is there any time of year that is more full of possibility than New Year's?
Apparently not, if you're in the business of publishing diet books.
My desk is in danger of collapsing under the weight of the latest releases. How, I wonder, does the aspiring diet author distinguish herself or himself in this competitive field?
I cannot vouch for the science in any of these books (full disclosure: neither time nor desire allowed me to read them all), but the creativity to be found on the covers alone is awesome. A few that caught my eye:
• The Physique 57 Solution: The Groundbreaking 2-week Plan for a Lean, Beautiful Body, by Tanya Becker and Jennifer Maanavi. This one gets its name from the authors' conviction that 57-minute workouts, along with "an effective eating plan,'' are the path to glory. Kelly Ripa claims in the accompanying press materials that after following this plan, her "butt is higher.''
Why not 56 minutes? Or 58?
And how does one determine the height of one's butt?
• The Petite Advantage Diet, by Jim Karas, is "the specialized plan for women 5'4" and under.'' It promises to help petites "create a sexy curvaceous look that taller women only wish they could have.'' And it promises to help petites "achieve that long, lean look.'' So talls get to envy smalls, and vice versa. Standing as I do at nearly 5'5", perhaps I can referee.
• Eat Your Way to Sexy: Reignite Your Passion, Look Ten Years Younger and Feel Happier Than Ever, by Elizabeth Somer. What a title! What sweep! I believe it covers everything except my biggest eating-related challenge: how to get my dog to stop gobbling disgusting stuff off the sidewalk. Has anybody figured that out?
• Bread Is the Devil: Win the Weight Loss Battle by Taking Control of Your Diet Demons, by Heather Bauer and Kathy Matthews. Much as I love the title of this book, what's even better is the cover image: a slice of bread with a horned devil burned into it. Made me think of that grilled cheese sandwich in the news a few years ago whose creator claimed it bore the image of Jesus Christ and sold the crusty relic to a Vegas casino. Who knew bread carried such messages of good and evil?
Now, I am the last person to suggest that losing weight is simple, easy or unworthy of libraries full of books. And if the promise of dramatic transformation is your thing, then go for it.
But I'm more convinced by the promise of subtler change.
There was an interesting study published this year in the European Journal of Psychology that looked at what it takes to create a new habit. Turns out the most successful habit-changers are people who pick one habit that's most important to them and also within their grasp.
You need persistence — the median time it took volunteers in this study to form a new habit was 66 days, though one hardy soul needed 254.
So if you usually start out the year with a long list of resolutions that lead nowhere, how about picking just one and working at it? Think about your biggest health issue — Extra pounds? Smoking? Stress? Fresh vegetable avoidance? — and consider how you might make life better for yourself in that area.
Maybe you won't have achieved a miraculous transformation worthy of the bestseller list, but you might score the personal victory you wanted most.