Ditching Diets - Book Review

- POSTED ON: Mar 01, 2013

"Ditching Diets: How to lose weight in a way you can maintain" (2013) by Gillian Riley, is a revised and updated edition of “Beating Overeating (2009)… which was a condensed, revised, and updated edition of the original, longer book: Eating Less: Say Goodbye to Overeating (2006).

Ditching Diets is the third edition of a book containing advice of the author, Gillian Riley, who is an addiction counselor in the UK. It disagrees with the conventional Intuitive Eating advice ‘to eat when hungry and stop when full’. She uses the three core issues of Choice, Motivation and Temptation to introduce a way of different thinking about eating food and losing weight.

Cognitive techniques are explained in terms of brain function, showing readers how to work with what happens in the brain, instead of against it. The aim is to raise awareness of the addictive nature of overeating, creating a healthy, relaxed and realistically imperfect relationship with food.

The hope is that sustainable weight loss will be achieved through the elimination of overwhelming and persistent cravings, obsession with food, feelings of deprivation and rebellious rule breaking. Success with the plan would be successful weight-loss and maintenance while eliminating the need for “diets” – which Ms. Riley defines as restrictive eating plans devised by others.

The author, Gillian Riley, feels that the best way to lose weight is by developing a personal style of eating that one can live with, because such an eating style will be flexible and probably unique to that person.

She attempts to teach people to stop eating so much by changing their thought processes because she believes that the prohibitions normally involved within a “dieting mindset” contribute to the problem.

Gillian Riley Disagrees with advice such as:

  • to eat only when hungry and stop when full;
  • to overeat favorite foods to learn to get over them;
  • to find the right kind or combination of carbs, proteins and fats, or micronutrients;
  • to deal with one’s emotions in order to stop wanting to eat so much.


None of this takes into account what happens in the brain when one’s natural, survival drive to eat (and eat and eat) becomes activated. The purpose of this drive is to get one through the next famine, but in times of plenty the drive causes disaster. Therefore, nutritional advice often makes little difference. One can know what’s healthy, but can find it impossible to stick to “healthy” eating.

The author attempts to help people discover:

  • how to eat in ways they truly want to live with, rather than ways they later regret;
  • how to eat less without following any rules, either their own or those taken from others;
  • how to develop the motivation to make changes, and
  • how stay in touch with that motivation long term.

The author believes that this manner of thinking will eliminate:

  • persistent cravings and obsession with food
  • feelings of deprivation, misery or irritability when not overeating
  • an all-or-nothing relationship with food
  • rebellious overeating and bingeing.

 I bought "Ditching Diets" (2013) on my Kindle, and after reading that book through, and reviewing articles on the author’s website, I also purchased a hard copy from Amazon for future study, and ordered her CD and a copy of the original edition, Eating Less: Say Goodbye to Overeating (2006). I have not yet reviewed the CD or the first edition of the book, however, I've previously read the other books which the author recommends at the end of "Ditching Diets".

Frankly I was a bit surprised that I missed reading Ms. Riley's original book, however, in retrospect the year 2006 was when I reached my own personal weight-goal, and my focus was successfully working to maintain my weight-loss through conventional means. A few years later, when I began updating my reviews of various books, I suspect that I avoided it specifically because I clumped it together with the many “Intuitive Eating” books on the market, and later when I updated my research of books on Intuitive Eating concepts, I did not run across it.

  The author, Gillian Riley, has read many of the same books I’ve read, and on many issues, we share a similar point of view. Her online articles, Intuitive Eating 1, 2 and 3, are the first time I’ve seen a Professional Counselor precisely state many of my own findings, beliefs, and opinions about Intuitive Eating, and I will be posting copies of those articles here at DietHobby at a later time.

Ms Riley’s techniques are a bit different from those of a typical “eating disorder” counselor, although she appears to share the conventional negative definition and viewpoint of “Dieting”. My own personal definition is far broader and includes all forms of eating, including “unrestricted” eating. My own definition of “Diet” includes any “non-Diet” plan which doesn’t recommend specific amounts, or kinds of food, but still has recommendations on the issues of food and eating. Under that definition, I consider Intuitive Eating or Eating Disorder type plans as simply another form of Dieting.

Ms. Riley recommends a focus on “healthy” eating. I do agree with her definition of a focus on “healthy” foods being a focus on how specific foods make one feel. I praise Ms. Riley for not pushing her own food preferences onto others, which I find unusual for an “expert” who espouses a “real food” or “paleo” way-of-eating/ diet / lifestyle.

Ms. Riley recommends that people abandon the scale, calorie counting, or food restrictions. This conforms with the intuitive eating / eating disorder position – i.e. the belief that a calorie counting way of thinking/ eating causes a disconnect from one’s appetite and body, and makes an obsession with either eating or not eating. I disagree with that position, and think that weighing, calorie counting, and tracking food should not be abandoned by any person who is able to view these behaviors as merely useful and objective tools of measurement. Wishful thinking and Denial are often subjective side-effects of Intuitive Eating or Eating Healthy approaches, and the use of these objective tools tend to ground people in reality, and help them avoid Denial. For me, personally, the use of the scale and calorie counting has become a helpful and rather enjoyable habit.

I will be doing more research along this line, and plan to do some personal experimentation of Ms. Riley’s techniques. Of course, while doing this, I will continue to track my weight and all of my daily food intake in my software food journal… just as I have done successfully for the past 8+ years. I understand that these behaviors may not be advisable for those people who have never established them as enjoyable habits, however, I doubt that Ms Riley’s techniques and such habits are mutually exclusive.

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