Review by Tess Tabak
I have a confession to make: even though I’m not trying to lose weight, I’m somewhat obsessed with books about diet. My Life With(Out) Ranch by Heather Wyatt is a fairly fun, uplifting read. She writes about how to be kind to yourself while also working towards making healthier decisions.
Born out of a blog of the same title, My Life With(Out) Ranch is told in a bloggy, conversational style. The book is structured through chapters which each focus on a different aspect of the weight-loss journey such as self-worth, romance, exercise, and dealing with the judgement of others. Wyatt includes a few tangentially-related recipes at the end of every chapter, ranging from the healthy (zucchini noodle pad thai) to lower cal versions of junk food, like ranch dressing cut with buttermilk.
Though this book is about Wyatt’s weight loss journey, anyone who’s trying to change their eating and exercise habits for health can use her motivational and relatable advice. In the chapter on exercise, for example, she shares the story about how she went from never having run at all to completing a half marathon. She wrote about the training with humor, including her train of thought on her very first run:
OMG my ribs hurt, I wonder if that’s normal.
Holy shit, my shins, OH MY GOD MY SHINS!
Can you break a shin?”
I’m not in great shape myself – I actually run at the same pace as Wyatt, about 14 to 16 minutes a mile, barely faster than a brisk walk. I wouldn’t have thought someone like me was capable of running a half marathon. However, Wyatt’s story motivated me to pick up the Couch to 5K app again. It’s simple advice, but hearing her talk about how she shifted her mindset away from negative thinking (like replacing “I’m pathetically slow” with “I’m going to do my personal best”) and tackled it one day at a time was inspiring.
She also provides advice about how to keep yourself strict on a diet while still not going crazy with rigidity, that I found helpful. Wyatt includes practical tips for staying on a diet, such as how to stick to your guns when people are nasty to you about what you will or won’t eat. She also understands that even on a diet sometimes a girl needs room in her life for cheeseballs.
At times the prose is a little unpolished – she’s prone to run on sentences, like “I wish there was a pill that turned our pumpkins into carriages, that we were suddenly the exact size we needed to have the perfect amount of confidence needed to survive in this body image obsessed world, but there’s not.” However, the grammar wasn’t too distracting – you can read a lengthy excerpt on Amazon to see it for yourself.
One thing this book suffers from is a perhaps a lack of editing. The book reads a little like a blog, with some personal stories that go on a little too long, and some out of place or odd comments that maybe should have been edited out or written with more nuance. For example, Wyatt provides some strange commentary on Roxane Gay’s memoir Hunger, saying that she was offended Gay wrote a book about trying to love yourself in spite of your weight, since Wyatt was already planning to write a book on the same topic. I think the comment may have been meant as a joke, since she follows it by noting that she had mistakenly been reading Gay’s book as a self help book, but it doesn’t really come across as such.
Overall however Wyatt provides a funny and relatable book about developing a healthy relationship with food, exercise, and overcoming negativity. The recipes are a fun bonus. There’s a definite Southern bend to the recipes chosen – they include things like a catfish steak and a tater tot casserole with ground beef and cheese. The recipes are mostly meat-and-dairy-heavy, so as a vegetarian, I’m probably not the best judge. However, the vegan recipes sound good – I’ll definitely be trying the zucchini and potato swirl. Wyatt provides some funny commentary throughout about where the recipes came from and substitutions or additions you could make.
The Furious Gazelle received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.