Living off the fat of the land: the only people benefiting from diet books are the authors.

Author:Fumento, Michael

The only people benefiting from diet books are the authors

The American dieter surely hath no greater enemy than the American diet book. Like modem-day Ponce de Leons, tens of millions of Americans scour the landscape looking for the miraculous fountain. Each time they plunk down the $22.95, they think they may have found it. Each author is like Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown. She swears that this time she won't pull it away. Like poor Charlie Brown, the dieter finds herself sore and bedazzled. But Charlie Brown knows Lucy is to blame for his failure, while the dieter tends to blame herself. After all, the book sold a million copies. It must have helped a lot of people, why not her? Of course, that's just what the other million purchasers are telling themselves. Which is why after more than 30 years of best-selling diet books, Americans are fatter than ever and yet diet books continue to be best-sellers. In fact, sales figures for diet books, videos, and audio cassettes are projected to jump from about $600 million in 1996 to over $1 billion by the end of the century.

For any of you hoping to cash in on the diet-book craze, here's the formula for writing a best-seller:

* Be fat.

* Lose weight.

* Pretend that having lost the fat you are now an expert in the area.

* Come up with a gimmick that distinguishes your book slightly from previous diet books.

* Intersperse anecdotes from formerly fat people cured by your formula. Slap a slew of recipes or a fat-counter guide onto the back so your 15,000-word article now has the heft of a 75,000-word book.

* Keep the weight off long enough for the book tour and the appearances on the "Good Morning America" and "Today" shows.

* And--most important--don't forget to offer your readers something for nothing.

Whatever you do, don't tell people they have to eat less than they want to. In fact, if you want a really successful book, tell them that what they believe to be their vices are actually good for them and that if they indulge even more, they'll weigh less. This something-for-nothing promise is often in the titles themselves, like How to Become Naturally Thin by Eating More, the best-selling Eat More, Weigh Less, and the subtitle of the best-selling Lean Bodies, which is The Revolutionary Approach to Losing Bodyfat by Increasing Calories. One cover strains so far to convince the reader to do nothing uncomfortable that it carries the contradictory title of Fight Fat and Win: How to Eat a Low-Fat Diet Without Changing Your Lifestyle. Presumably if your lifestyle already included a low-fat diet, you wouldn't have any use for this book, but never mind.

Other books don't have a something-for-nothing promise in their titles, but it certainly appears in their pages or otherwise on their covers. Susan Powter in Stop the Insanity! says on the cover that the key to being skinny is to "eat, breathe, move," albeit in the right ways. What could be finer than breathing off pounds? Barry Sears and Bill Lawren's The...

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