Like any autobiographical work, a diet memoir offers the voyeuristic thrill of peeking into someone else’s life. And if that person is a celebrity, so much the better.
This season’s diet memoirs include a few written by people already in the public eye, including Thinspired: How I Lost 90 Pounds—My Plan for Lasting Weight Loss and Self-Acceptance (S&S/Gallery/Hunter, Dec.), by ABC News correspondent Mara Schiavocampo, and To the Fullest (Rodale, Apr. 2015), by actress Lorraine Bracco.
Bracco, author of a previous memoir, On the Couch (Putnam, 2006), gained weight while taking care of her parents, who died within days of each other. She subsequently lost 35 pounds working with coauthor Lisa V. Davis, a life coach who put her on a liver cleanse, then a no-sugar/dairy/gluten diet. Physician Fred Pescatore, whose books include The Hamptons Diet (HMH, 2005), vetted the program and wrote the foreword. Bracco has maintained her weight loss for more than three years.
When readers find motivation in a diet memoir, says Jennifer Levesque, editorial director for Rodale, they want to try what worked for the author. Books like Bracco’s, she says, combine a personal story with practical information. Rodale conducted
a 16-member test panel, including Levesque’s sister, who undertook the diet for six weeks with success, Levesque says. The panelists participated in a private Facebook group, with Bracco cheering them on. Their stories are woven throughout To the Fullest, which shares menu plans, exercises, and recipes.
Sue Roegge, co-owner with husband Brian of Chapter 2 Books in Hudson, Wis., believes that fans of the general memoir will be interested in diet memoirs, regardless of whether they are trying to lose weight: “I read memoirs that are not necessarily my own life experience,” she says.
Chapter 2, based in Minneapolis–St. Paul, is planning a party on December 4 for local author Keith “Temple” Trotter and his 100 Small Steps: The First 100 Pounds You Gotta Think Right (Morgan James, Jan. 2015). Trotter, founder of a small-business consulting firm, blogged about his weight-loss journey to keep himself accountable and lost more than 150 pounds, which he has kept it off for three years. The book’s appeal, Roegge says, lies in its “conversational style and the author’s willingness to be vulnerable.”
Karen Rinaldi, senior v-p and executive editor at HarperWave, says it’s inspiring to see somebody repeatedly try and fail before ultimately triumphing, which is a theme of Embrace the Suck (Dec.), Stephen Madden’s account of a year in Crossfit. Rinaldi had worked with Madden at Rodale, where she was publisher and general manager of the books division and he was international editorial director and editor-in-chief of Bicycling magazine. “We used to talk as he grew obsessed with Crossfit. I said, ‘You should write a book about this.’”
After she moved to HarperWave and he to an Internet startup, she continued to encourage him to do the book, which she ultimately acquired. In it, Madden writes about turning 50 “and pushing his body to see what he’s made of,” Rinaldi says. He struggled with his weight and fitness when younger, she says, and though he later used sports and training to increase his self-esteem, he continued to question whether he was strong and fit enough. Rinaldi says men typically don’t discuss their body-image issues as openly, singling out Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection, by A.J. Jacobs (Simon & Schuster, 2012), as a notable memoir about body image by a man. That book has sold almost 47K in hardcover and paperback, Nielsen BookScan.