Americans spend almost $600 million on self-help books each year, with diet books leading the pack. While self-help is big business, it is, alas, not always a scientific business. Of the estimated 5,000 self-help books published annually, the vast majority are published without any controlled research documenting their effectiveness as self-help. It’s a mess out there, friends.
But several strategies can help you select the best resources and avoid the clunkers:
- Don’t choose a book because of its cover or title. Publishers spend huge sums of money to create splashy covers and develop attention-grabbing advertising campaigns. Become an intelligent consumer by going beyond the glitzy cover and the fancy ads.
- Avoid books that focus primarily on celebrity testimonials. Don't purchase something just because Movie Star X hawks it. Is that how you would select treatment for a serious medical problem?!
- Select a resource that makes realistic claims. Most weight problems do not arise overnight, and most can’t be solved overnight.
- Examine the research evidence reported in the book. Hardly any self-help books, by design, contain elaborate research citations. However, authors of the most effective resources typically summarize their research evidence and list research sources in an appendix or endnotes.
- Favor self-help that has been tested as self-help. That does sound crazy, doesn’t it? But “clinically tested” usually means that the methods work in the hands of a professional -- we have no way of knowing whether those methods are effective on your own at home. The strategy, then, is to look for evidence that the self-help works as, well, self-help!
- Select books that recognize weight problems are caused by a number of factors and have multiple solutions. A variety of self-change methods will assuredly be more useful than a solitary technique.
- Choose a book that clearly explains its limitations. Effective self-help books clearly state their limits: which individuals should not use them and when their use is, in fact, contraindicated.
- Check out the author’s educational and professional credentials. Most of the best diet books and Internet sites are written by licensed professionals.
- Be wary of authors who reject the conventional knowledge. Some diet authors attack weight-loss professionals as being too conservative, too concerned with scientific evidence. Consider such attacks a red flag, and avoid these authors.
Americans spend almost $600 million on self-help books each
year, with diet books leading the pack. While self-help is big
business, it is, alas, not always a scientific business. Of the
estimated 5,000 self-help books published annually, the... More