Part of what I consider market research is to periodically peruse the diet section of my local Barnes and Noble. No matter how farfetched a book’s concept is I like to familiarize myself with it. This past weekend, I grabbed a stack of seemingly interesting books and crouched in a window seat overlooking Broadway. I had zero intention of purchasing any of them and briefly thought of Borders going bankrupt and felt a little guilty but continued. I flipped through the first two books; incredibly bored I put them to the side. Next, I opened The Manhattan Diet. Twenty minutes later, I was still reading and decided to do the honorable thing and buy the book.
Eileen Daspin, the author, and self-confessed dieter since age 12, thought of the concept for the book when she heard that Manhattan was the thinnest of New York’s boroughs and the “skinniest of all the sixty-two counties in New York State.”  She proceeded to interview the city’s  svelte-est to distill their habits into something others could learn from or emulate.  I constantly hear from clients “I have a friend who eats _______.” this is a compilation of those vignettes. One reviewer on the back cover said, “The Manhattan Diet is French Women Don’t Get Fat meets Sex and the City.”
Some Manhattan Diet tenets:
Be a Foodie– Daspin describes New Yorkers clamoring for reservations at ABC Kitchen or Red Rooster and yet thinking about every morsel they eat. So we differ than the French in that weight is on the radar. However, the similarity is that much of the food Daspin describes isn’t processed, low fat or flavor free. As I read on though, the book seems to have trouble combining the concepts don’t deprive yourself and be extremely weight conscious. Is it “don’t deprive yourself” or “don’t look like you’re depriving yourself”?
Obsess (in a good way) some of the best parts of this book are the portraits of various New Yorkers and their eating and exercise regimes. There are a lot of different approaches but Daspin writes, “The single common thread I’ve been able to discern on this subject is the amount of time they [New Yorkers] spend thinking about eating.” I hear from clients that they wish they didn’t think about food and weight so much. I think this thinking is actually fine as long as it’s positive and leaves you feeling good.
Walk Everywhere– there is no doubt that urban living necessitates walking in a way suburban living doesn’t. Daspin talks about the amount of walking New Yorkers do to get groceries or the subway. She also notes that as you walk down a city street it’s natural to compare yourself to those around you.  I’m all for walking but have plenty of thin Manhattan friends who can make it through a full day while only logging a block or two “taxi please”.
Live in Tight Quarters– Daspin suggests than Manhattanites spend time outside and more active because living space is small. Additionally small refrigerators necessitate small containers that result in eating less. I was intrigued reading this but with talk of CEO’s and butlers in The Manhattan Diet are we really supposed to believe space is such an issue?
Work out when you’re not walking or working or eating at great restaurants many of Daspin’s profiles are of busy, accomplished women. One woman wakes up at 5 to do the Intensity DVDs and another takes three children to school crosstown on scooters. You also hear about the cult that is Soul Cycle and a description of that sign up process “it’s 11:45 in Monday morning and women up and down Manhattan are poised at their laptops. Hand on trackbar, each is clicking anxiously hoping to get a spot.” Exhale, Pure Yoga and Punch also get shout outs.  There’s an exercise as lifestyle message that was interesting to read about.
Choose Thin Friends– it’s well documented that you’re more likely to be overweight if your friends are. Well there’s such thing as positive peer pressure too. Daspin doesn’t expect you to dump your friends; she mentions group exercise classes and stores with communal dressing room to reap the benefits of healthy competition.
It may not sound like it but I enjoyed this book. It’s well written, thoroughly researched and entertaining. Daspin lives in my neighborhood so, like Sex and The City, when you see your markets, workouts and favorite restaurants dished about it’s fun. And just as people from far and wide fell in love with Carrie and her crew you don’t have to be a Manhattanite to eat like one or enjoy this book.
I do have a few issues (I’m a Manhattanite issues are mandatory). First, I don’t know this is a diet book in the sense that people will purchase it and follow it. It’s just a couple of days since I read TMD and I had to look back to recall the advice. The food’s suggested weren’t any I hadn’t heard of. Additionally, I’m not a fan of the concept of eating like someone just because they’re thin. I have thin friends who never work out or eat poorly or smoke (two friends you’ve been called out). Does the end justify the means? If the “end” is small enough, in Manhattan it just may. And finally, of course some Manhattan women get fat, please.
Have you heard of this book? If you live in Manhattan, can you vouch for Daspin’s tips? Do you observe the habits of your fit friends and behave similarly?


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