As a high performance diet and lifestyle coach, I get asked all the time…“What books do you recommend to lose weight?”
My response? Well, it’s not what you’d expect.
There are a few books that, among a sea of others, I view as essential “must reads” for anyone looking to cultivate a new mindset and deepen awareness. Approaching this whole dieting thing from a new perspective, you will understand that success goes far beyond the food you eat.
I suggest you start with these books and you will learn how to lose weight (even though they teach nothing about weight loss):
1. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Aurelius was one of the great emperors of Rome, known to many as the Philosopher King. But despite being the most powerful man in the known world, he struggled with all the same things you and I do. This book, which was never supposed to be published, is a journal of his thoughts on struggle, adversity and dealing with pain. It’s a cornerstone of stoic philosophy, which can help you detach from life’s less important things (like messing up one night on your diet) and puts all of life into perspective. As a practicing Stoic, I recommend this book to anyone embarking on a new endeavor in life.
2. Mindset by Carol Dweck
Mindset is a simple idea discovered by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck in decades of research on achievement and success—a simple idea that makes all the difference. In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They’re wrong. In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.
A growth mindset creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment and success at any endeavor — including your diet! Teaching a growth mindset creates motivation and productivity in the worlds of business, education, and sports. And now, it will enhance your relationship with food and yourself. When you read Mindset, you’ll see how.
3. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Pulitzer Prize–winning business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the cutting edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. The key to being successful at just about anything is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our health and our lives.
4. The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin
Waitzkin is the chess prodigy about which the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer was created. He’s also a world champion martial artist. In this book, he breaks down everything he’s discovered about how to learn more quickly and how to go from average to elite in any discipline. He explains in clear detail how a well-thought-out, principled approach to learning is what separates success from failure. Waitzkin believes that achievement, even at the championship level, is a function of a lifestyle that fuels a creative, resilient growth process (hello growth mindset!).
Rather than focusing on climactic wins, Waitzkin reveals the inner workings of his everyday method, from systematically triggering intuitive breakthroughs, to honing techniques into states of remarkable potency, to mastering the art of performance psychology. Through his own example, Waitzkin explains how to embrace defeat and make mistakes work for you. This is so important as you learn how to master a new lifestyle and your diet: making mistakes is part of the process, so grow comfortable being uncomfortable!
5. Mastery by Robert Greene
The book crystallizes lessons from the world’s most prolific artists, scientists and entrepreneurs, then distills their teachings into actionable insights that you can directly about to learning the process of mastering your diet. I like to think of healthy living as a skill that you can train. Just like a new piano player who wants to learn how to play the piano, if she’s serious she’s going to recruit the instruction and discipline of an expert, and every day she’s going to show up and move her fingers up and down the keys, take instruction, learn how to read the music, and develop a new language internally to relate to the piano. That’s exactly how we’re going to approach your diet. Like learning the piano. Which is why understanding the path toward mastery is crucial to your learning.
6. Deep Work by Cal Newport
Taking all the above books into account, Newport, a PhD professor at Georgetown (represent!), synthesizes the concept of focus. Why is it that some creatives and professionals can get volumes of work done at a high level, while others can barely struggle to get anything done at all? Does all of society just need more Adderall, or are we misunderstanding some fundamental ideas about focus? Cal goes deep. There’s only so much time, attention, money, and energy we have to spend on life’s pursuits. Success requires effort and concentration, and that’s not a bad thing. Better to spend your resources and energies on what you really care about, like mastering your diet and repairing your relationship with food.
7. The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer
Who are you? When you start to explore this question, you find out how elusive it really is. Are you a physical body? A collection of experiences and memories? A partner to relationships? Each time you consider these aspects of yourself, you realize that there is much more to you than any of these can define. Spiritual teacher Michael Singer explores the question of who we are and arrives at the conclusion that our identity is to be found in our consciousness, the fact of our ability to observe ourselves, and the world around us. By tapping into traditions of meditation and mindfulness, Singer shows how the development of consciousness can enable us all to dwell in the present moment and let go of painful thoughts and memories that keep us from achieving happiness and self-realization.
Remember this and remember it forever: “you are not your thoughts inside your head, you are the witness behind those thoughts.”