Book Review: "The Four Day Win"

Friday, March 16, 2007 - 8:00am

By Katie Clark, MPH, RD

Instead of telling readers what to eat, Martha Beck's The Four Day Win strives to change the way you think about eating. The Four Day Win is a weight loss book geared towards compulsive overeaters and those who are looking to break lifelong obsessions with dieting and food intake. As a social scientist, life coach and someone who has struggled with disordered eating throughout her life, Dr. Beck's book presents a unique argument for the need to retrain your brain and its relationship with food.

Four Days at a Time

The "Four Day" concept is a series of 34 mental exercises that seek to increase awareness about your emotional relationship with food and other stressors. Dr. Beck's theory is that if you tap into your psyche, simplify your goals, and complete these goals for four consecutive days, you are likely to stick with a weight loss and exercise plan. This chunking strategy is used to help the reader gain control over things that contribute to being overweight, including barriers to exercise, family relationships, binge-eating, and helplessness.

Stages of Change

The Four Day Win outline follows the well-established Transtheoretical Model's approach to addiction. Dr. Beck takes the reader through the seven stages of weight loss: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, relapse, and celebration. Each stage contains chapters that address a certain problem related to unhealthy relationships with food, exercise, and self-image. She proposes exercises that help you get in tune with the realities of these relationships, and then finishes each chapter with a contract outlining small, realistic goals that you agree to do for four days.

How to Eat, Not What to Eat

If you are looking for a regimented diet plan that promises to shed pounds in days, this is not the book for you. However, if you are interested in challenging yourself to revisit your unhealthy relationship with food, weight and self, The Four Day Win is a good option. The book has a very real tone. Dr. Beck shares her own personal struggles with overcoming food-obsessions and she provides entertaining and believable vignettes from her years of counseling clients with similar problems.

The book actually recommends other popular diet books and eating plans for food suggestions. It is refreshing to read a diet book without pages of lackluster recipes or prescribed phases of eating and other fluff. Because this book is geared towards lifelong yo-yo dieters, the author assumes that as a reader, you are already familiar with what you should and should not eat. Her intent is to get you to realize that you have the power to make that information applicable on a daily basis.

A Place of Thinner Peace

The ultimate goal of The Four Day Win is to put you in a "Place of Thinner Peace". This is done by completing each chapter's mental exercise and writing everything down. One of the book's strengths is its individualized approach. You can choose to read it straight through and practice every exercise, or jump back and forth to different topics. Another option is the "Jump Start Plan", a selection of key chapters laid out as an appendix that condenses the book into an intense four-day journey towards rewiring your brain's thoughts about food.

The Four Day Win bills itself as a comprehensive approach to redesigning your reality and relationships with food and fatness. While many of the mental exercises are unique and no doubt thought provoking, it would be quite a time-consuming effort to put most of them into practice in any given day.

With The Four Day Win, you will need to be knowledgeable about a well-balanced diet and able to develop a healthy eating plan on your own, a challenge that may turn some readers off. However, if you are the type of person who already knows what you should eat - as most dieters are - but want to learn more about how you can make that information "stick", then The Four Day Win may be the approach you need to break out of your unsuccessful dieting cycle.