Not everyone is ready to give up on diet culture, but if you are, I wanted to share some wonderful books to help you out with that. Diets overwhelmingly do not work. Weight loss is almost never sustained long-term. Most people gain back everything they lost, and so many of us gain back so much more every single time.
Don’t believe me? Just search for the phrase “do diets work?” and look at the long list of articles, both from scholarly journals and pop magazines that tell you something like this, from Ohio State University:
ACCORDING TO THE LATEST WEIGHT-LOSS RESEARCH, 95% of dieters end up regaining the weight they lost within two years. Calorie-restricting diets are often successful at helping people lose weight, but they’re very unsuccessful at helping people maintain that weight loss.OSU Health & Discovery
If you are one of the many people who are finally ready to give up dieting, for good, but you don’t know if you can, or if you should, or how you would even go about doing that (because it is so ingrained in our culture and our psyches), there is help available! These are some of the books that have helped me on my anti-diet journey, and I hope you’ll find them useful, too!
1. The F*CK It Diet (Eating Should Be Easy)
by Caroline Dooner
I’ve lost and gained hundreds of pounds throughout my lifetime. I’ve struggled with disordered eating and mental health issues around weight and food and health. I’ve starved myself and when my body could not take starving even one more day, I would return to eating things that I wanted, that I loved, that I had been craving for months. I started looking into the idea of intuitive eating and body acceptance work many years ago. I even worked with a couple of coaches, a couple of times. But I always went back to diets because that is just what we’re supposed to do, right?
About three years ago, I just was so sick of everything, again. My own body, going on diets, trying to figure out “the best way” to eat, the negative thoughts that ran through my mind constantly. So, I went on the internet, yet again, trying to find SOMETHING, anything, that might help me. There had to be a book or a philosophy or a coach or SOMETHING that could help.
To my surprise, I found what would ultimately become one of the best, most life-changing books I had ever read. The F*CK It Diet by Caroline Dooner. It was a pretty new book, very recently published. And it changed my life. I’ll never go back to dieting again. My mental health is much too important for that.
Here’s a quote from the inside dust jacket of the book:
Caroline Dooner tackles the inherent flaws of dieting and diet culture, and offers readers a simple path to healing their physical, emotional, and mental relationship with food. What’s the secret anti-diet? Eat. Whatever you want. Trust that your body knows what it is doing. Oh, and don’t forget to rest, breathe, and be kind to yourself.
I realize that sounds scary. Many people think that’s bad advice. For me, it has been the best advice of my life. Caroline Dooner goes into great detail in this book about the science and the studies behind her advice and explains quite deftly how dieting doesn’t work, and why, and why trusting our bodies is the better choice, than trusting the diet books.
I hope you give this book a read (or a listen) and I hope it helps you as much as it has me.
Secrets From the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet Again
by Tracy Mann, PhD
Do you want to get your science on? This is a terrific book for that. This book is filled with all kinds of facts and information from scientific, peer-reviewed, and scholarly research. This is the book where I learned that weight is determined greatly by genetics, just like height is!
Need some information about Tracy Mann’s credentials? Here’s her mini-bio from the dust jacket:
Traci Mann, Ph.D. , is professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota and is an expert on the psychology of eating, dieting, and self-control. She was a tenured professor at UCLA before moving to the University of Minnesota, where she founded the Health and Eating Lab. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Aeronautics and Space Association (NASA).
This book will arm you with facts to help you keep on the anti-diet train. It will help you to get a real handle on the lies we’ve all been told so much about dieting in this society. The diet industry is one of the largest money-making institutions in our country. It is so hard to break away from dieting and diet culture because it is so pervasive. It is literally in every nook and cranny of our popular, medical, familial, and societal world. For most people, diet culture and weight stigma are internalized very deeply. This book will help you to start finding a way out.
Read (or listen to) this book! In case you need more information, here is how the book jacket describes this book:
In Secrets from the Eating Lab, Mann challenges assumptions—including those that make up the foundation of the weight loss industry—about how diets work and why they fail. As Mann explains, most weight loss plans are reliant on the notion of willpower—and willpower is an illusion. Moreover, even when we are able to successfully lose weight, our bodies fight our efforts, seeking to regain the weight we’ve worked so hard to lose. In the end, we become chronic “yo-yo” dieters, destined to lose and regain the same pounds time and again. The diet industry is well aware of these facts and has tellingly built their business model on the concept of the “repeat customer”; they know we’ll be back.
More Than A Body (Your Body is an Instrument, Not an Ornament)
by Lindsay Kite, PhD, and Lexie Kite PhD
Drs Linsay and Lexie Kite are twin sisters who have spent the greater part of their adult lives researching and studying body image and media. They have become the leading experts in body image resilience and media literacy, having their original research cited by authors and researchers in this field.
This book is not strictly about how to give up dieting, but it is more grounded in why it’s time to give it up. It helped me to feel less alone in my body image issues and it has helped me to feel more secure in my decision to never diet again. It is a wonderful book for personal growth in the areas of diet culture and body image.
Here’s a little bit from the back cover of the book to help you see how reading it might help you, as it has helped me:
Our beauty-obsessed world perpetuates the idea that happiness, health, and ability to be loved are dependent on how we look, but authors Lindsay and Lexie Kite offer an alternative vision. With insights drawn from their extensive body image research, Lindsay and Lexie—PhDs and founders of the nonprofit Beauty Redefined (and also twin sisters!)—lay out an action plan that arms you with the skills you need to reconnect with your whole self and free yourself from the constraints of self-objectification.
The Diet-Free Revolution
by Alexis Conason, PsyD
The subtitle of this book is 10 Steps to Free Yourself from the Diet Cycle with Mindful Eating and Radical Self-Acceptance. It’s filled with stories that I found to be very relatable and that kept me tuned in. The author gives case studies, lessons, and practical ideas to help you end dieting once and for all. She includes meditations and activities and puts everything into a ten-step program that is easy to understand and to follow.
If you are still unsure about the truths about diet culture, dieting, weight loss, and health, Dr. Conason’s book will help you become more grounded in what is really real about all of that.
Here’s a little tidbit from the back of the book that can tell it better than I can!
Clinical psychologist Alexis Conason debunks the myths we’ve been sold about food, nutrition, health, and weight loss, and offers an antidote to the pain and harmful health consequences that result from yo-yo diets, untenable food regimens, and quick fixes. Conason, who is also an eating disorder specialist, shows readers how radically shifting our relationship to food and our own bodies can be incredibly healing, nourishing, and can help us to better love and care for ourselves.
Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight
by Lindo Bacon, PhD
Need more science? Need more evidence that diets don’t work? Need more inspiration to get off the diet train? Need to be convinced that weight is not an absolute measure of health? Then, this is the book for you. Lindo Bacon is one of the OGs of the mainstream anti-diet culture. This book will help you keep on track with your anti-diet journey.
Wondering what Dr. Bacon’s credentials are? Here’s an excerpt from their mini-biography:
Dr. Lindo Bacon (formerly Linda) is a researcher and former professor, and for nearly two decades taught courses in social justice, health, weight and nutrition. They have also conducted federally funded studies on health and weight and published in top scientific journals. Dr. Bacon holds a PhD in physiology with a specialty in nutrition, and Masters degrees in psychology and exercise metabolism.
This book has some things that are maybe a little problematic in today’s culture, language, and understanding, but you have to consider that it was written in 2010, which was 13 years ago, now. Also, someone with certain types of eating disorders may want to avoid this book. However, overall, I think it is definitely a positive and helpful look at diet culture and how weight and health are not inextricably tied together.
There is a great little graphic from the marketing of this book that I’d like to share with you because I really think it speaks volumes about what this book will help you to understand. Please be clear that this is not my graphic, and that it is from this book.
Dr. Bacon has moved on in their career from focusing on weight, but this book should remain on the reading list for anyone wanting to break free of diet culture and weight stigma.
So Many Books…
Obviously, there are many books I can and do recommend in the area of weight stigma and anti-diet culture. I chose these books for this particular list because of their focus on anti-diet messaging. I have other lists that focus on other messages, too… but we’ll save those for another day. In the meantime, I hope you get as much help from the books on this list as I have! Happy reading!