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Book Review: The 9-Inch Plate "Diet"

Alex Bogusky and Chuck Porter are partners in the advertising firm that's responsible for the successful, and shocking, anti-tobacco campaign known as the truth. Now they've turned their polished and hard-hitting techniques toward American eating habits in the form of a book called The 9-inch "Diet."

Note the quote marks around the word diet, because this isn't really a traditional diet book. It's not about what you eat at all, it's about how much you eat. As two experts in the persuasion industry, the authors trace the dramatic increase of portion size, and plate size (hence the title) over the last 40 years. With anecdotes and statistics to back up their claims, they make a logical, clear, and cogent case against this overlooked American culinary phenomenon.

For example, we learn that the average person eats more than 300 pounds of additional food today, compared to 1970. The authors share personal stories too, such as when they worked on the IKEA advertising account and found that the Swedes were perplexed about why flower vases were selling so well in the US compared with other countries. Then they realized that Americans thought the vases were drinking glasses and were buying them in sets of 4, 6, or 8.

This book is also remarkable for its design and tone. The publishers went with an odd trim size--the size of a 9-inch plate--and the layout and illustrations are striking. There are two-pages spreads, dramatic pull quotes, and many other devices used to great effect. It's exactly what you'd think a technical manual written by two advertising guys would look like, but it actually works. If only more books about "dry subjects" took this much care to be compelling and beautiful, perhaps non-fiction in general would sell better.

The 9-Inch Diet is a quick read and one that many will enjoy. It has a powerful message, but even if you're not looking to drop a few pounds or change your eating habits, there is a lot to enjoy for the wit and the insightful sociological and cultural tidbits. It's a fulfilling read that won't leave you wanting more.

Comments

Craig Conley

Terrific review, Gordon! I love the anecdote you shared about the flower vases! And that's a great zinger ending to your review.

Cindy

The Truth was paid for by Tobacco companies...who is paying for this book, the bacon companies? How much you eat is important, but what you eat still matters, too. Saying it doesn't matter all all is a bit far fetched...

Gordon Meyer

Hi, Cindy - You obviously haven't read the book. Nobody is saying that what you eat doesn't matter, that's just not the focus of this book, unlike most diet books. Yes, it's true that the Tabacco companies paid for The Truth. But they did so as part of a court settlement, it's hardly a big conspiracy as you seem to be implying.

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