A cult is defined at a high-level as, “a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing.” Cults exist for nearly anything or anyone, and they do not have to be religious focused. Matt Fitzgerald intention with his book “Diet Cults: The Surprising Fallacy at the Core of Nutrition Fads and a Guide to Healthy Eating for the Rest of Us” is to point out the many different diet cults, their leaders, and why so many people blindly follow them with little or no long-term success. The book is quite well narrated by Stephen R. Thorne who has narrated other diet books along with a variety of other genres on Audible. If you are a person who gets swept up by every diet fad or craze that comes along, this book will help show you that every one of them has been just that, a fad that has died and quickly replaced with something else. Often it seems that is the intent of such cults, make their money and move on to the next. What is even more surprising is the level of effort and marketing that food companies will go to allowing them to quickly cash in on the latest diet craze.
Questions around dieting and the importance of things such as protein, carbohydrates, olive oil, sugar, fasting, juicing, sports drinks and many others are discussed in this book. We also see research around the super food industry and how it is often touted as the food that will save us all. Foods such a wine, chocolate, and even coffee are just a few of the ones covered in the book. We also see things like pomegranates and acai fruits as the new high priced wonder food we are all told to consume to make us healthy. Mr. Fitzgerald does a decent job with his research into the people and reasons many of these fads took off as they did. He provides various reasons why a given diet or practice can often be debunked when we look at science of how the body works and burns calories.
As with many religious cults, the author points out that most diet cults also have a set of “must” and “must nots” that define the given cult. You can only eat like a cavemen (paleo), you cannot eat carbs (Atkins), you must eat a specific amount of oils (Mediterranean), or you must not eat any refined sugars (sugar busters), etc. People in general want to have a system telling them what they can and cannot eat, and most of the diet cults do just that. They provide a list of the “dos” and “do nots” so people are better able to measure their progress or success when compared to the cults standards. The author, in this book, concludes that there really is no “best” diet for any one of us. There are many internal and external factors impacting our ability to put on and take-off weight that a single diet cult may work for some for a period of time, but not others. There are genetics, regional diets, family upbringing, etc. All of these items influence in one way or another how we consume and process what we put in our mouths.
I will say I found some of the book’s research to be quite biased in his conclusions and at the end he provides his own ideas for the best way people should eat. These are not really a diet per se, but more guidelines that may help people to make informed decisions with selecting foods to eat. There is no food excluded, but as with Weight Watchers point system, the authors system has a similar food weighting scale. I do have a few issues with the author’s use of the Bible and his lack of theological context or his use of proof-texting to make his point; mostly this involved the Jewish diet or their wandering in the desert when God provided them mana to eat. I also wanted to point out that there were a few placed in the book where vulgar language is included, these relate to quotes from others and not the author himself. However, these could have been removed from the book as they were unnecessary.
What the book seems to conclude in that there is no single diet that works for everyone. Each person needs to find the right foods and exercise that helps them achieve their weight goals. Can you take the best of each of these cults if they work? I think the author says yes in this book. He is claiming that a single diet cult that cuts a specific thing (carbs, sugar, etc.) may not be enough for long-term success. However, increasing exercise, reducing overall calorie intake, and eating foods that can be broken down and processed by the body are all good things to accomplish. Losing weight is difficult and it takes time and effort, there is no silver bullet that will get you to your weight goal while eating pizza and ice cream in front of the TV.