Search for “diet books” on and you’ll get more than 150,000  results. Another website will tell you that an estimated 45 million Americans diet each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a healthy weight site with advice and the USDA's website has information about food, supplements, and nutrition. There’s even a website with diet, health, and fitness cartoons to buy.

So, if everyone is talking about dieting, why did my colleague Charlotte Markey,  a professor of psychology at Rutgers University-Camden, write a book called Smart People Don’t Diet that a reviewer in Scientific American called “possibly the best book on weight loss ever written.”

I had to interview her and find out:

Why did you write this book?

After many years of doing research on these issues and teaching students about them I just couldn't get away from the fact that the general public is really misinformed about dieting and healthy weight-management. I really wanted to do something to correct those misperceptions.

Shouldn't everyone who is overweight be on a diet?

No. If you look at the current obesity rates (64% of adults are overweight or obese in the U.S.) and the current amount spent on products purported to help people lose weight (one estimate is $60 billion or more a year), it seems pretty clear that all of these diets don’t seem to be helping people. There is a good deal of research suggesting that at the end of a year on any given diet people have lost an average of zero pounds – nothing at all! All of the science continues to confirm that diets just don’t work in the long run.

If diets don't work, what does?

The data show that to lose weight, people need to make a commitment to changing their lifestyles in minor, sustainable ways. They don't necessarily need to purge their pantries of every palatable food they have, but they need to make smarter choices most of the time. The idea is to change the way they think about food and the way they think about weight management. The scientific evidence shows that the typical approach to weight loss – the typical diet – is counterproductive. What works are realistic goals, and "getting back on the wagon" after a stretch of bad eating.

What I want to tell my readers is this: dieting is not the answer. Diets are short-term, quick-fix, unsustainable approaches to altering our eating habits. My book is intended to get people to think about the big picture – to think about their health long-term. And it is not about foregoing all the foods you like, but learning how to adopt an evidence-based, moderate approach to e


So, have you ever been on a diet?

Of course! I care about how I look and I care about my health. I have a fairly extensive history of dieting from a young age (as a ballerina) that ultimately brought me to the science of healthy weight management and led me to study eating behaviors and body image as a PhD student. I've now been studying these issues academically and teaching college students about them for nearly 20 years. With this book I hope to reach an even bigger audience.

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