How to write a diet bestseller
By Richard Glover
It's diet book season and there's no reason why you too should not pen a New York Times bestseller. Just follow these simple instructions and your book will fit seamlessly into this booming and financially rewarding genre.
First up, remember to demonise a particular food and blame it for all the ills of the modern world. Milk would do, or perhaps fruit. Or maybe you'd prefer to attack leafy vegetables. Just make sure you choose something most people thought was good for them. You should then list all the ailments for which you are blaming this substance, being sure to include diabetes, dementia, cancer and global warming.
You should include a blizzard of footnoted statistics on the growing prevalence of these conditions, hoping to a) fill the space and b) add a specious sense that you have statistics on your side.
Next add a list of good foods and bad foods, but make sure it's entirely baffling and hard to remember, forcing readers to refer back to your book. Coconut oil should be glugged from the jar, while olive oil is terrible. Or vice-versa. Bananas are amazing, while avocados are killers. Whatever.
Next include a spurious metaphor in which you compare the human body to a car. Or a computer. Or a house. Tell your reader that they need to do regular repairs and that's all your diet represents. Also point out that your diet does not involve self-denial. No one wants self-denial. In your diet, the evil food - let's say it's peas - is replaced with something delicious but unlikely. For example: the fat off the edge of a lamb chop, plus a side order of fairy bread.
Now we are getting somewhere. The Fairy Bread and Lamb Fat Diet ("remember to reserve the lean meat - and throw it away") will be proved effective by reference to a number of studies, all of them published in prestigious journals.
Remember, it is considered ungrammatical to use the word "journal" in a diet book without first inserting the word "prestigious". No way do we want citations from "the relatively well-established" Journal of Diet and Exercise, or the "really quite dodgy" Food Science Monthly.
The word "prestigious" should also be attached to any medical facility mentioned, including the one that supplied your own qualifications, garnered as they were "from the prestigious Tennessee School of Dental Hygiene".
You're now ready to write chapter two, in which you tell heart-warming stories of patients who have been transformed by your diet. People such as Bill, a 43-year-old mechanic who thought he was doing the right thing eating lean meat and peas but was suffering blinding headaches and a loss of sexual function.
Just two weeks on, The Fairy Bread and Lamb Fat Diet changed Bill's life. The headaches disappeared and he was enjoying energetic all-nighters with his wife of 20 years, Lorraine.
Point out that it's these success stories that make worthwhile your lifetime battle against the medical establishment. Sorry, that should have read "the stuffy medical establishment".
Next it's time for chapter three, in which you note that the human body was not designed for modern foods. The caveman didn't have time for peas! Just give him his fairy bread and lamb fat and he was happy. Try not to mention that all cavemen died by the age of 27.
At this point assert that "this is not just another diet book". Every diet book must say "this is not just another diet book". You are also a scientist, not just a diet-book author, but have decided to "come out from behind the microscope" and "open up your extensive files". Indeed, it's remarkable you've had time to write the book at all, since you help your patients "day in and day out" and have studied the science of lamb fat and fairy bread "on a daily basis" for 30 years.
Despite your efforts up to this point, some readers may still be sceptical that a diet of lamb fat and fairy bread really will cause us all to live forever. It's at this point that you may need to sow a little fear. Point out that incidents of momentary forgetfulness are almost certainly signs that your reader is about to tumble into dementia any second now. Younger readers can be encouraged to sign up by suggesting that their future offspring will develop schizophrenia, myopia and bleeding gums if denied access to lamb fat and fairy bread in the womb.
All this, you should note, can be overcome with a "few tweaks of the diet". These "tweaks" are then outlined in section two, which contains "Daily Meal Plans" of such staggering complexity they look like battle plans for World War III.
Hopefully, this will result in a diet impossible to follow for more than three weeks, leaving your ever-fatter readers in the market for an expensive new miracle food book the following year.
Prawn cocktail and jelly beans? If I were you, I'd get writing now.
First published in the Sydney Morning Herald, February 22, 2014.
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