The Manhattan Diet Controversy

by Dani Stone

A new diet book is slated to hit store shelves on March 20, 2012 and the buzz surrounding its release is already ripe with controversy. Eileen Daspin’s The Manhattan Diet: Lose Weight While Living A Fabulous Life is filled with interviews from Eileen’s fit friends and promises healthy recipes from famous chefs including Tom Colichio, Eric Ripert and Mario Batali. Although the general idea surrounding the book seems to be eat fresh, eat less (a lot less) and move more, it is the “tone” that seems to be rubbing people the wrong way.

Eileen, who lives in Manhattan and is married to executive chef Cesare Casella says her inspiration for the book came after reading a story in the New York Times about Manhattan being the thinnest borough, and in fact, skinniest of all 62 counties in New York State. Having been, “on a diet since the age of 12,” she was no stranger to “food obsession” and set out to find like-minded friends who might share their tips and tricks for healthy living.

There is a modicum of information in the book that is sensible including buying fresh vegetables, planning meals ahead of time, cooking good food in bulk to have on-hand, eating smaller portions and keeping food triggers out of the pantry. The author even advocates giving in to cravings once in a while, but the women interviewed described their “cheat foods” not as cupcakes or buffalo dip but rather tidbit cheats such as a single Tootsie Roll pop or 3.5 Twizzlers.

Eileen says the key to being Manhattan-svelte lies also in the amount of physical activity it takes just to live and maneuver on the island. New Yorkers have to WALK. To subways and bus stations, to lunch and back to the office, they’re burning major calories even before they go to their “competitive spin class,” another tip from the book.

Other nuggets of advice from actual Manhattan women include douse your leftovers with water so you won’t eat them, dilute alcoholic drinks with water or seltzer, stick to fish and chicken when dining out, grill your waiter about how the meal is cooked, and order all dressing and oil on the side. Manhattan Diet Tip #38, directly from the author on Twitter (@eileendaspin) “Don’t eat too much of whatever it is you’re eating.” Alrighty then.

Early reviews for the book tend to skew toward the negative, primarily for the mean-girl tone and frequent use of the phrase “food-obsessed” and “neurotic,” causing many people to claim the tips, tricks and tendencies of the Manhattan women interviewed are eerily similar to pro anorexia sites. The Manhattan Diet may have been sincere in conception but the result may be more of an indulgent Real Housewives read than a helpful weight loss approach.

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