Saturday, January 26, 2008

Write Away Your Excess Weight? A Book Review

I've read more than enough diet books during my lifetime, from the sensible to the faddish, from the scientific to the ridiculous, without solving my weight problem. After absorbing the "wisdom" of all those books, I swore to ignore this year's diet book crop.

Then, I discovered Julia Cameron's The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right-Size (Jeremy P. Tarcher / Penguin, 2007). With a title like that, how could I resist?

It seems that Cameron, author of The Artist's Way and much more--non-fiction, fiction, plays, poetry--teaches a twelve-week course in "creative unblocking." As her students became more creative, they astonished their teacher by becoming slimmer as well. She observed that "weight loss is a frequent by-product of creative recovery." Apparently, "Overeating blocks our creativity [and] we [also] can use creativity to block our overeating."

This book is divided into two sections, "The Tools" and "Situations and Solutions." The tools begin with "Morning Pages": basically writing three daily pages of a journal. This is the same mind-clearing, self-revealing journal exercise I've long recommended and frequently practiced. "Writing Morning Pages, our mindless lives are behind us." These pages are great places to examine all relationships, including that to food. The Morning Pages evolve into full-fledged journals, by this time addressing eating matters for those with weight concerns. Other useful tools include walking and finding a "body buddy" to cheer one on, among others.

The "Situations and Solutions" of Part Two cover more than thirty common food situations, generally with writing suggestions and/or examples. For "Scaling the Scale," Cameron quotes a student who writes, "I feel the scale is all that stands between me and disaster. I can only imagine what would happen if I tried to go a month without its input." The cure for bathroom scale panic, according to the author, is to weigh oneself monthly, not daily.

In "Eating to Please," the author points out that many believe that food is love, so we eat what a loved one eats and join in extravagant meals. We may eat to show our appreciation for "Aunt Helen's cheesecake" or other festive goodies. The suggested writing task to overcome this tendency is to "write out the worst scenario you can imagine if you refuse a dining experience." Use humor; what will happen if you stand up for yourself? "How would it feel to stick to your own agenda and even lose weight during the holiday season?" That would be great, but it's never happened to me.

This is an interestiong book, and I suspect that any fledgling or would-be writer who completed all the suggested writing tasks could develop a better relationship with food, a better figure, and some additional creative skills as well.

While the sheer number of situations and writing tasks intimidates me a bit, this book is full of cleverly-written common sense. This is a book that requires action. It does not suit the couch potato style of reading for escape or entertainment, so put down that bowl of chips and pick up a pen!

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne


Dorothy said...

Great idea, I'll type instead of eat..although I admit, I have figured out how to do both..

My best,
Dorothy from grammolgy
remember to call gram

seniorwriter said...

Thanks, Dorothy. Unfortunately, I can eat and type at the same time too. This dieting approach probably works better for the younger set.