With an estimated 108 million Americans launching their first diets of the year this month -- and most of us set to make another three to four diet attempts before the year is out -- it's no wonder that the $20 billion weight-loss industry is going strong. Obesity statistics are staggering, diet fads are plentiful and theories about the best ways to lose weight abound.
This year offers no shortage of diet and fitness advice books. Here's a glimpse at eight options with varying premises, approaches and appeal. Perhaps one will give you the assist you need as you jump back on the back-in-shape bandwagon. We culled the stacks for appealing titles that might supply needed direction and inspiration
"Thinner This Year: A Diet and Exercise Program for Living Strong, Fit, and Sexy"
By Chris Crowley & Jen Sacheck, Ph.D.
With more than 300 pages of small print, this is heavier fare than most diet or exercise books, but the authors, an exercise scientist and a writer who gave us the "Younger Next Year" series, make it worth the effort with a cheerful delivery and bite-sized chunks. Chris Crowley and Jen Sacheck hold our hands through a chatty review of concepts like static stretching, strength training, fast twitch and slow twitch muscle movement, metabolic pathways, etc., then deliver A LOT of nutritional know-how in a non-preachy way.
Crowley acknowledges that this paperback is "a longish book ... full of complex information," but, for those who take it to heart, his promise is this: "You will be radically thinner, radically healthier, more energetic, cuter, and way more fun for the rest of your sweet, sweet life." $12.95, Workman Publishing.
"The Sugar Smart Diet: Stop Cravings and Lose Weight While Still Enjoying the Sweets You Love!"
By Anne Alexander with Julia VanTine
Just when you think you've gotten smart about your food choices, the editors of Prevention magazine come out with "The Sugar Smart Diet" and the reminder that even our favorite healthy food choices are heavily processed and laden with sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and "sugar mimics," which have the same negative impacts on the body. So, it's not the most uplifting book, yet it's probably one you'll quote and share with loved ones, repeatedly.
Even if you don't dwell on the idea of having a "sugarjacked" life and you don't count yourself among the masses who ingest 2/3 cup of sugar each and every day, learning some of the sugar smart tenets will surely encourage a more thoughtful approach to the number of heavily processed grains, cereals and snacks you're fond of, and, without a doubt, you'll become a much better label-reader after only 15 minutes with this edifying volume. The 50 recipes may catch your eye as well. $21.50, Rodale.
"The Fast Metabolism Diet: Eat More Food & Lose More Weight"
By Haylie Pomroy with Eve Adamson
As a wellness consultant with a list of celebrity clients on her resume, Pomroy calls herself a fat metabolism whisperer and cheerfully sets about the process of reassuring readers that she doesn't believe in silly stuff like counting calories, worrying about fat grams, managing food rotations or subsisting on low-carb or high-protein diets. This is all happy news, and she spends almost 90 pages documenting the fool-proof success of her metabolism rehabilitation program, which keeps people eating lots of food, five times a day.
Her disciples follow a three-week program, eating endless carbs and fruits for the first week, proteins and veggies the next, and both, plus fats and oils, for the final week. Unfortunately, once you've bought into this idea, she introduces her list of nonnegotiable no-nos, among them, wheat, corn, dairy, soy, sugar, caffeine or alcohol. Sounds very likely to work, but it's clearly not for the faint of heart. $19.90, Harmony.
"The Start Here Diet: Three Simple Steps That Helped Me Transition From Fat to Slim ... For Life"
By Tosca Reno with Billie Fitzpatrick
Like a conversation with a big sister or trusted confidant, the author of "The Eat Clean Diet" and 14 other books offers yo-yo dieters a comforting, empathetic and gently prodding discussion of what worked for her when she set about the process of dropping 70 pounds. As a nutritionist, trainer and motivational speaker, Reno applies her I-know-what-you're-going-through manner to three concepts: Dive Inward, Uncover Your Hidden Foods and Move a Little, and seeks to help readers plan for diet success.
Unlike several other books on this list, the book's core theme veers toward "be gentle and forgiving with yourself," while the move-a-little section unapologetically labels household chores legitimate ways to incorporate daily activity into your life. A sampling of "start-here recipes," ranging from corned beef and cabbage to chocolate chocolate chip zucchini cake, has a strong be-good-to-yourself component, too. $18.54, Ballantine Books.
"The Juice Cleanse Reset Diet: 7 Days to Transform Your Body for Increased Energy, Glowing Skin, and a Slimmer Waistline"
By Lori Kenyon Farley and Marra St. Clair
If you've been feeling curious-yet-cautious about the whole juicing craze, this is your ticket to understanding what it's all about, and becoming more nutritionally knowledgeable in the process. Authored by the founders of a program called the Ritual Reset Cleanse, this matter-of-fact guide outlines the many differences between the processed foods we eat today and earlier versions that were grown in the ground instead of manufactured in labs and factories, then suggests what nutrition-conscious folks might do to reset their taste buds and make positive changes to metabolism, weight and more.
Despite the book's quick-fix, appearance-focused promise, it mirrors much of what you'll hear from anti-cancer specialists about long-term eating habits, what constitutes "real food" and the advisability of favoring alkaline-forming foods (rather than acid-forming). It also presents a more-reasonable-than-you-might-think program involving pre- and post-cleanse phases for optimal results. You may pick this up because of the seven-day promise, but it's likely to become a reference manual for far longer if you truly have a desire to improve your eating habits and nutritional know-how for the long haul. $15.99, Ten Speed Press.
"The New Atkins Made Easy: A Faster, Simpler Way to Shed Weight and Feel Great -- Starting Today"
By Colette Heimowitz
Capitalizing on the ongoing success of the Atkins Diet and the 2010 book "The New Atkins for a New You," Colette Heimowitz, of Atkins Nutritionals, continues the company's quest to guide people to weight loss and fat-burning through carbohydrate control. Rehashing Atkins' hate-those-carbs campaign and the belief that dieters need only reprogram their understanding of how proteins, fats and carbs fuel
the body, the 2014 book personalizes the practicalities with a step-by-step system of counting (and limiting) net carbs.
The information accompanies a barrage of ultra-personal success stories from Atkins dieters, and includes detailed shopping lists, week-at-a-glance meal plans and advice for sticking with the program at the office and on the road. Extra support may be found with a free Atkins mobile app that reportedly minimizes the pain of planning meals, tracking progress and keeping weight-loss goals in sight. $10.19, Simon & Schuster, www.atkins.com
"Sleekify! The Supercharged No-Weights Workout To Sculpt and Tighten Your Body In 28 Days!"
By Michael Olajide Jr., with Myatt Murphy
An ode to jumping rope and shadow boxing, former middleweight boxer Michael Olajide Jr.'s "Sleekify" takes a straightforward approach to pursuing muscle definition with an old-school boxer's workout regimen. He gets a brief glamour infusion with the boast that several Victoria's Secret lingerie models credit his six-day-a-week exercise program with keeping their bodies angel wing-worthy, but otherwise, he offers an intense, no-surprises guide to eating clean and devoting oneself to aerobic and strength-training workouts.
Outlining his career highlights and the impact of boxing moves on balance and muscle definition, Olajide Jr. zips through his clean-living view of nutrition, then charts and demonstrates the "aerobox" exercise moves that he claims will turn us all into supermodels. From the pictures, it's clear this over-50 boxer practices what he preaches, and the pairing of his six-pack photos with the promise of a no-weights, do-anywhere regimen just might boost jump-rope sales in 2014. $16, Random House.
"Younger Next Week: Your Ultimate Rx to Reverse the Clock, Boost Energy and Look and Feel Younger in 7 Days"
By Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN
A diet book with a feminine focus, "Younger Next Week" by registered dietitian Zied refers to "post-traumatic 40 disorder" and touts a Vitality Diet that she claims will help women with the goals of making friends with food and eating with an emphasis on increasing nutrients and reducing stress (rather than calories). Unlike most of the books on this list, Zied's book starts off with a forgiving view of starchy carbs and actually offers bread lovers a couple of reassuring studies that link higher carbohydrate consumption to healthier diets and body weights. She's also a fan of Omega-3s and fats found in nuts, plus protein sources that often get a bad rap, like soy and beef.
All that said, her favorite foods are fruits and vegetables because she loves the nutrients and antioxidants found there, and her advice is quite traditional as it applies to caffeine cutbacks, the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation, the stress-reducing effects of regular exercise and why we should all be eating more greens. The book also includes 30 heavy-on-salads "vital recipes" that won't offend. $16.95, Harlequin.