Penny Book Review: The Jerusalem Diet

All the time, people ask me, “Emily–how do you maintain your girlish figure?*”  To which I bat my eyes and reply, “Oh, diet and exercise, I suppose.”

Which is a lie. My father-in-law has called me a dough belly in the past. I could eat toast and butter for breakfast every day, if I allowed myself. I hope there will be unlimited pats of Kerrygold butter (nope, no endorsement there) and a big basket full of steaming rolls upon which to smear it at the great feast in Heaven.

And don’t even get me started on sweets. No, I will spare you.

What it really comes down to is this: The Jerusalem Diet. That’s a book title, not me emphasizing my diet’s name. Although, I guess it could function as both.

“Hold up,” you are saying. “The Jerusalem Diet–written by Ted Haggard, that megachurch pastor who got himself into all that trouble some years back! Why should I take his diet advice?” How astute, dear reader. Yes, Ted Haggard wrote the book. And maybe he wrote it because he was losing all the weight from the meth and had to come up with an excuse fast. Whatever. The diet works.

I found it on the New Arrivals rack of my library right after my freshman year of college, just the absolute perfect time for me. No, I don’t think I gained fifteen pounds that year. But I had already hated my body since I was, oh, eight years old, and was ready to lose the baby fat plus the extra five or so freshman lbs. Only, I had no idea how. My dorm-neighbor, Becky, had gotten us started on the South Beach Diet, but yeah right. All I remember of that is eating tomatoes and cheese and feeling miserable. And besides that, how was I supposed to lose weight with cafeteria food?

Ted’s principles are super simple. And? They work. Here they are, the secret to weight loss:

  1. Get yourself a good scale. He wants you to spend like, a hundred bucks on a super nice one. I just got one for twenty bucks that reads my weight in .2’s of a pound. You’ll weigh yourself every day–yes, every day on it.
  2. Weigh yourself. I weighed something like 143 lbs that first terrifying weigh-in. Nothing close to obese, but tipping the higher end of the healthy BMI for a 5’4 1/2”-er like me. (Yes, that extra half inch does make a difference, don’t argue with The Author.)
  3. Subtract one pound from that starting weight. This is your Target Weight for one week from today. So for me, my first weight-loss goal was 142 lbs. The time period to lose that pound? Seven days. Do-able, for sure.
  4. Each day you are over your Target Weight for the week, you have a Fat Day. What is a fat day? It’s a day where you eat nothing but fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds; and drink nothing but water. In addition, you exercise for one full hour. (Full disclosure: I’ve never been especially disciplined with the “full hour” thing.)
  5. After seven days, adjust your Target Weight down one pound, and repeat. Until you’ve reached your complete and final goal.

Do you get it? Hypothetically, you’ll only have one Fat Day per week. Then, when you’ve reached your Target Weight for the week you just have to maintain it. You can eat whatever the heck you want. You don’t have to even lift a toe from the couch. But: keep in mind that if you go .1 lb over your Target Weight, you have to work it off with another Fat Day. And Fat Days are no fun, no fun at all. Fat Days are the days your co-workers decide to spring for sugar-topped biscuits with apple butter-butter dip. You spend your day munching on carrots and almonds and weeping inside. And if you really and truly complete a Fat Day without cheating (fuller disclosure: I have a tendency to cheat) you should be down to your Target Weight the next morning.

What it comes down to is this: Haggard believes that small adjustments will lead to big changes. Eventually, you won’t always be reaching for Mr. Ben and his friend Jerry before bedtime, because you know that tomorrow you’ll pay. Eventually, you’ll learn to eat healthier and to maintain your weight. Not sure about the exercising part, though. No one learns to come to love exercise with this diet, really. Unless the line of thinking is, “Oh, geez. I just ate an entire chocolate chip bagel with cream cheese and butter, and if I don’t do my workout today, I’ll be back up to 128 tomorrow, and I really should be at 126 this week…” (Yes, this conversation happened in my head just this morning.)

All-in-all I give the book four shining stars. At times it feels like a brochure expanded into full book-length. I grasped the principles five minutes in–no need for Haggard to make me dizzy with his ecstatic descriptions of Mountain Dew and Ho Ho’s. That said, the book has stuck with me for the last eight years. I still turn to it after the holidays or when I’m feeling too flabby for my own good. And as you can see from the paragraph above, I’m on the diet now–and it’s working for me, yet again. Which I’m happy about. I wish Mr. Haggard all the best in the future.

*This is not remotely true.

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