Books that take a forgiving approach, editors say, give readers more control over what healthy means to them.
Even as the ketogenic diet, with its hard-and-fast rules and esoteric rituals, gains traction, several forthcoming health and fitness titles suggest a countervailing sensibility. Clean Enough, Eat What You Love, and Do What Feels Good: these books, with their qualifiers and embrace of fallibility, suggest some consumers are seeking more livable, less punishing health programs, and that publishers are happy to meet their demand. What emerges from these books is an expanded definition of healthy: one that makes room for indulgences, shortcuts, backslides—even love handles.
Go with Your Gut
Several of these books are aimed at readers who find conventional diet advice not only rigid but also confusing. Clean Enough (The Experiment, Jan. 2019) by Katzie Guy-Hamilton, a former pastry chef and brand ambassador for Max Brenner and now the director for food and beverage at Equinox Fitness, avoids so-called superfoods and modish kitchen tools and focuses instead on whole ingredients—meaning unprocessed, unrefined foods.
Jennifer Kurdyla, the book’s editor, says, “In this moment, when we’re saturated with diets that range across the whole spectrum, it’s really confusing to know if carbs are evil, or protein is evil, or fat is evil, or fruit is evil.” Guy-Hamilton’s approach, which she calls “diet-agnostic,” can seem like a low-risk bet by comparison, since it accommodates most ingredients and can be applied to any diet.
Importantly, the book makes room for dessert. “A lot of people are looking for permission to indulge,” Kurdyla says. By making desserts with whole ingredients, readers can avoid some of the health drawbacks of traditional sweets. A similar idea guides Eat What You Love: Restaurant Favorites (Running Press, May 2019), the fifth book in registered dietician Marlene Koch’s Eat What You Love series, which has sold 302,000
print copies. Koch offers recipes for dishes including General Tso’s chicken, and for Starbucks-inspired coffee drinks that use whole ingredients and are low in sugar. According to Jennifer Kasius, editorial director at Running Press, the book is “for people who want to make healthier choices but still get their comfort foods.”
Books that take a forgiving approach, editors say, give readers more control over what they eat and, ultimately, what healthy means to them. “There are a lot of ways to make healthy eating overly simplistic or boring,” Kurdyla says. Some diet books, for instance, simply offer a list of rules to follow. In contrast, a book like Clean Enough, she says, puts some of the decision-making on readers’ shoulders, helping them “to be intuitive about what they need.”
Other books interrogate the very concept of dieting. In Dressing on the Side (Grand Central Life & Style, Jan. 2019), Jaclyn London, a dietician and the nutrition director at the Good Housekeeping Institute, takes aim at weight-loss fads—detoxes, nutrition supplements—that, in her view, have no scientific foundation. She advises her readers to get out of what she calls the “info jungle” by seeking information from reputable sources—and discarding the rest—and by establishing boundaries that prioritize their mental, physical, and spiritual health.
Caroline Dooner adopts a similar stance in F*ck It Diet: Eating Should Be Easy (Harper Wave, Apr. 2019), which is based on her blog of the same name. Dooner, a yoga teacher with a background in theater, asserts that bodies are hardwired against diets, that such eating plans skew what it means to be healthy, and that they serve the multibillion-dollar diet industry more than they do their practitioners.
The book, Harper Wave editorial director Julie Will says, touches on the ways in which “wellness has become a little out of control. Instead of self-care being something women do to care for themselves and feel good, it’s become another standard by which we’re judged.”
Harper Wave is also set to publish Do What Feels Good (Jan. 2019) by Hannah Bronfman, a brand ambassador for Adidas with more than 475,000 Instagram followers. Bronfman’s childhood experiences—she grew up a competitive ballet dancer, and her grandmother died of an eating disorder—prompted her to “respect her body and not punish it,” Will says. In Do What Feels Good, a compendium of recipes and self-care practices, she enjoins readers to do the same.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article gave an incorrect subtitle for Caroline Dooner's F*ck It Diet. We've corrected the error.