Monday, January 26, 2009

Never Say Diet by Chantel Hobbs (review)

Never Say Diet by Chantel Hobbs
Copyright 2007
Waterbrook Press - Fitness/Self-help/Christian
223 pages
Author's website

It's time to refuse the scam and let it be known that diets don't work! Temporarily, yes, but not for the long haul. A 2007 Stanford University study took 311 women, who averaged forty years old and 189 pounds, and put them on one of four diets: the low-carb Atkins and Zone diets, or the low-fat Ornish and LEARN diets. After six months the Atkins dieters had lost 13 pounds, the others 6 to 8 pounds. But then all the dieters started to regain what they had lost. After a year the Atkins dieters had regained 3 pounds, the othere 3 to 8. Why the rebound? Because none of the dieters was able to stick to the plan. And even if they had, they would have trimmed only a handful of pounds.

Don't depend on a diet program to change you. You are the only one who can make the necessary decisions and then follow through to change your life. You can become as fit, toned and healthy as you want to be. It isn't easy, but if you really want it, you will make it happen.

I'm having a bit of trouble formulating my thoughts about this particular book, so let's start with the basics: Never Say Diet is part memoir and part fitness/weight-loss advice. Author Chantel Hobbs was morbidly obese and loved to eat. She developed bad habits early and was overweight even as a youngster. Eventually, she reached the point that she realized the way she lived was likely to reduce the length of her life. She made the decision to overhaul her lifestyle and lost a significant amount of weight -- nearly 200 pounds. The author began simply by going to the gym, where she forced herself to exercise for 30 minutes each day. Gradually, she began to increase her workouts, study nutrition and alter her way of eating -- and even became a marathon runner.

What I loved about this book is that in many ways I agree with her philosophy. The best way to lose weight and keep it off is to change the way you think about food and exercise. Eat good foods, build muscle and take in fewer calories than you're burning and you will lose weight. She calls altering the way you think about food and exercise making a "brain change". I don't necessarily agree with how she went about her own weight loss -- particularly the fact that she started by doing workouts that could easily lead to injury because she didn't gradually ease into exercise, instead throwing herself into 30-minute recumbent bike rides at a [probably expensive] gym, leaving her with rubbery, sore legs and drenched in sweat. She could have easily ended up with an injury and shut herself down cold.

However, the thought process is great and it's my personal opinion that just about nobody can lose a significant amount of weight and keep it off unless they're ready and have the mindset that they want to lose weight for themselves. Dieting for other people isn't motivating enough.

The book is written from a Christian perspective as the author is a Christian. She considered God and the strength she gained from praying and leaving her life in God's hands a crucial part of the process. I don't think it's necessary to be a Christian to read the book and get something out of it, but there's plenty of God between the covers. Because I'm a Christian, I liked her thoughts about turning things over to God.

There were a few things I didn't like about the book, all essentially minor. One is that she is critical of all diet plans. I do believe there are other available programs that emphasize nutrition and lifestyle changes; it's a little harsh to throw all diet plans into one bucket and fish out the word "scam" to broadly describe absolutely every diet plan in existence.

The author does have a point that a lot of diet plans are expensive and they aren't necessarily educational. You can end up spending a tremendous amount of money to have meals provided and not learn a thing about how to eat right because someone is doing the thinking for you. But gym memberships generally are pretty costly, as well, and the author began by working out in a gym. It's a little two-faced to say, "Don't choose this expensive option, but -- hey, I chose another one that hits the wallet just as hard." She does, however, make some suggestions for other ways to get going. There are some photographs and exercises, all of which are performed with a large exercise ball and may include hand-weights or a medicine ball.

The author claims that the best way to initially handle a change in perspective about eating is to make food boring -- and then she advises against eating specific foods. Pickles, in particular, surprised me. They're extremely low in calories and I personally think they're a great snack alternative for those times when you're craving something salty with crunch. I also truly believe healthy food doesn't have to be bland or boring. Taste has to be relearned if you're accustomed to high-fat, salty or sugary foods but with the right spices good food can taste amazing. Fortunately, she does list some excellent "premium fuel" alternatives.

Finding balance is the important thing. I've tried hard to introduce family times that make physical activity fun and natural. My kids like to have swimming relays, hula-hoop contests, and their own cheerleading competitions in the living room. By making exercise such as walks, bike riding, hiking, skating, or shooting hoops a family fun time, you're changing up the movie-and-ice-cream afternoons and adding a health benefit.

Oh, yeah. That I agree with. I'm all about finding balance. We don't have movie-and-ice-cream afternoons, though, and never have. I kind of hate ice cream. You wanted to know that, right?

I got this book and the accompanying Never Say Diet Personal Fitness Trainer to read for a blog tour (you can read an excerpt of Never Say Diet, here). I'm not sure what I think of the Personal Fitness Trainer, in general. It's essentially a journal with blanks for specific information -- room to list everything you eat, records of how much you've exercised and to places to describe your feelings. There's a little rehashing of her story, some encouragement, scriptures and added advice. There are a couple of brief recipes for easy, healthful protein drinks to use as breakfast substitutes or snacks and other food recommendations. I guess my overall impression is that it's not a necessity but it could be helpful for those who need added guidance. I won't personally use it . . . at least not right away. That's because I'm involved in a very nicely structured exercise program, though, and I don't want to confuse the two.

If you choose to read the book and adopt the author's methods, I'd caution you to ease into exercise rather than following her example of throwing yourself into a vigorous routine right off the bat. I don't think she advises mimicking her early choices, but it's still worth mentioning. In general, I think Never Say Diet is a very good book that is easy to read and offers some good advice.

Coming up next: Reviews of Grace for the Afflicted by Matthew Stanford and Written in Blood by Sheila Lowe, as well as my next giveaway. I can't predict when I'll get to those posts, but I'm shooting for As Soon As Possible.

Just walked in: Voices Under Berlin by T.H.E. Hill and The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp by Rick Yancey. Plus, a half-dozen pairs of double-layer running socks for my husband. I was so relieved when I discovered the postman didn't merely come to my door because I was weighing down his truck with books (again). He likes to rib me about that.

Cat and I sat on the porch and read, again, today. Our high was somewhere around 70. Lest you turn green with envy, be aware that any time it gets into the 60's in Mississippi we end up swatting away mosquitoes. Still . . . it was darn near perfect. I wish those of you who are dealing with icy weather a very safe week!


  1. Someday, when I look like that, I'm going to write a book. Hmmmm . . . I wonder if that's possible for a 58-yr-old? Like I say - I'll write a book when . . .

  2. I've never actually gone on a diet before. I know I don't really need to, I just need to start eating right and excercising but for someone who never needed to her whole life until recently it's kind of hard to find something to stick to :( My eyes usually glaze over at the mention of diet books but this one sounds kind of interesting!

    I'm telling you this up and down weather here in Mississippi is killing me and my immune system lol. I wish the weather would make up its mind!

  3. Booklogged,

    Well, I'll tell ya . . . she's always been really pretty but after she lost weight, the author had flabby skin and flat boozies, so she's had some enhancement. That's a little unfair, isn't it? And, she's still pretty young. You never know, though. 58 is young to some people. ;)


    I think I started dieting at 16. I definitely didn't need to, but teenagers can be really weird. Yeah, I think this book is probably a good one for someone who hasn't ever been sucked in by a diet program. While I think there are some good ones that work for people (Weight Watchers was great for my mom and eventually she reached the point that she no longer needed the encouragement, recipes, etc.) I like her idea about rethinking how you look at food.

    Oh, I know, isn't it awful? One day it's in the 30's, the next day 50's, the next day 70's and then rain. A little consistency would be nice. But, I'm still going to enjoy every moment on those 60-70 degree days, mosquitoes and all. When summer hits, I know I'll miss the nice days.

  4. Anonymous10:25 AM

    Hi! Waving hello and trying to imagine your weather since my window shows snow. I'm a little tired of this winter and would like to trade for yours.
    As to the diet? no comment. I cheer you on in your quest to do that marathon or part of one or just to get moving. I need to get back on my treadmill... OK, I guess that's a comment afterall.

  5. Wow, stunning amount of weight she lost. I definitely agree that one has to change the way he/she looks at food to lose weight. I'm in the midst of trying to do that and it's tough, but possible! Balance, balance, balance!

  6. Care,

    You'll have to rethink our weather because we're back to cold and rainy. Yuck.

    I yearn for a treadmill, but I have no room for one. Lucky chick. I've got another diet book to read and review, here, and then I think I'll get off this topic for a while!


    Yeppers. And, you've done very, very well. I'm hoping the same thing will occur to me like the last time I ran -- when I'm running regularly, I crave good foods and can't even bear to look at anything high-fat or sugary. That hasn't happened yet, though.

  7. Anonymous1:23 PM

    Dieting is such a mind game. Even if it's called eating healthy and excercising. I do my best if I "play" in the gym and I hate having a personal trainer, something that most gyms don't get anymore. What happened to the days of leaving you alone?

    It's true though, the more exercise I get, the healthier I seem to eat. Hmm.

  8. Oh that terrible thing called a brain. My husband tells me that I need to stop thinking about food as a pleasure item and more of a necessity item. It's true. I LOVE food. I went stalking through the office this afternoon in search of chocolate (Laura, if you read this I will *not* tell you where I found it). I would prefer to go to a big fancy shamncy dinner for my birthday/anni than get flowers. I'm not far from my ideal weight, but I just can't get over the food. I.Love.It. Wait, what does this have to do with your review? Without having read the book and knowing exactly what it says, I have to agree that I think diets are a load of crud. Work out and watch what you eat--from what I've seen, diets tend to be a "moment" thing rather than a change the way you think thing. Crap...still rambling.

  9. Carrie,

    That's why I don't like gyms -- I vant to be a-loooone. So, I walk in the park or pop in a workout video. I think you have to do whatever works for you. That includes eating. When I was craving good food because I ran, I also did allow myself a single square of chocolate on occasion, one coke every 2 days, etc. Deprivation can backfire, you know?


    See, now I just want to know where you found the chocolate because I'm sure Laura's looking over your shoulder and saying, "Nuh-uh, you have to tell," and that's what makes these conversations so fun. LOL You were in ramble mode, for sure. I love it. And, I agree -- very much a "moment" thing. That's how some folks make megabucks. She's right that most don't work in the long run (but I disagree that they're *all* scams -- healthy eating has to be taught to some people). In the end, it's all about calories in, calories out. Eating right will mean a lot fewer "in", exercise helps the "out".

    I do think some people burn calories more efficiently than others. The skinny side of my husband's family -- they actually have to work to not lose weight, lucky stiffs. If you know yourself, eat right, burn what you need to . . . the end result is good.

  10. The thing that has worked the best for me is moving to an Asian country, following their diet, and not having a car.

    Chantal does look fab, although I don't agree with all she says.

  11. Bybee,

    You've hit on the two things I believe are our biggest problem in America -- fattening foods (especially those that are convenient) and driving everywhere. We actually live in a place where you have no option to walk, apart from the downtown area or the two places that are made for walking (walking path in the military park and a track at the YMCA). A walk to the store would be a death sentence -- there aren't even shoulders on our roads. No wonder Southerners are so hefty.

    Yes, she does look terrific, doesn't she? I don't agree with everything, but I did like some of her basic philosophies.

  12. In case you are curious, I do now know where the chocolate is hidden in mine and Trish's office. This is not a good thing for me because I seem to have a terrible lack of self control when it comes to chocolate...or any food, for that matter!

    By the way...aren't you training for a marathon? How's that going? (sorry if I've mixed you up with someone else...)

  13. Laura,

    Actually, I was kind of dying to know if you'd found that chocolate. I have a slight bit of trouble with chocolate, too, although I'm okay if I just don't bring it in the house -- then, I forget about it.

    Yes, hubby and I are both training for a marathon and it's going great. They start you out verrrry slowly in this program so we're only doing 20-45 minutes of walking, three days a week, and then 1.5 miles on Saturdays with the group. Friday is rest day and the other days (subtracting -- uh, two days, Sunday and Wednesday) are X-training days. We're really loving it. Being "in training" gives us an excuse to walk together. I've started a blog dedicated to our training, but I don't have a link in the sidebar so just go to my profile page and click the link to "Runfoolery" if you'd like to see it. :)


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