How can I tell if a diet book will help me lose weight?

 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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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?!
  3. Select a resource that makes realistic claims. Most weight problems do not arise overnight, and most can’t be solved overnight.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Check out the author’s educational and professional credentials. Most of the best diet books and Internet sites are written by licensed professionals.
  9. 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.
Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions

More About this Book

Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions

Is there a scientific formula you can follow to change your life? Change is hard. But not if you know the 5-step formula that works whether you’re trying to stop smoking or start recycling. Dr....

Continue Learning about Dieting For Weight Loss

Is That Obesity Calling? Or the Smartphone Diet
Is That Obesity Calling? Or the Smartphone Diet
Actress Emma Watson (Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series) compares her social media use to counting calories. “It’s so important to keep an ey...
Read More
Who can benefit from a prepared meal delivery service for weight loss?
Int'l Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA)Int'l Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA)
See if you find yourself on our top 10 list of people who might benefit from a meal delivery ser...
More Answers
5 Ways to Actually Stick to Your Diet This Summer
5 Ways to Actually Stick to Your Diet This Summer5 Ways to Actually Stick to Your Diet This Summer5 Ways to Actually Stick to Your Diet This Summer5 Ways to Actually Stick to Your Diet This Summer
How to make healthier choices, even at BBQs, pool parties and beach vacations.
Start Slideshow
The Best Nut Milks for Your Coffee
The Best Nut Milks for Your Coffee

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.