A long overdue anti-perfectionist trend is overtaking the fitness world. Being overweight isn't always unhealthy. You can think yourself thin—and you don't need to spend hours in the gym. Feel like crying with relief over your stack of New Year's resolutions? Read on.

Count calories, sure, but keep weight off with different thinking. Dr. Judith S. Beck uses the power of the mind to push dieters to lose once and for all in The Complete Beck Diet for Life: The Five-Stage Program for Permanent Weight Loss. Daughter of pioneering cognitive therapy founder Aaron Beck and director of the Beck Institute of Cognitive Therapy, Beck (The Beck Diet Solution) is a diet coach who helps dieters feel in control and remain motivated while losing at a steady rate and still eating favorite foods. The "getting ready to lose" section is a mental and emotional workout, followed by beginner and maintenance phases of her "Think Thin Program." Each section includes "In Session with Dr. Beck" counseling scenarios, food plans and sidebars like "Reality Check" and "Success Skills." Beck knows you'll make mistakes, or even decide that enjoying a few more calories is a fair exchange for a few extra pounds. But her mantra is: you will turn mistakes into opportunity, you will maintain your weight loss. Sample daily menus, recipes for healthy meals and snacks, a bibliography and plenty of charts and graphs for amateur scientists and left-brainers round out this authoritative guide to getting off the diet-go-round.

Fitness through the years
Weight creep as we age isn't a given. Orthopedic surgeon Vonda Wright, director of PRIMA (the Performance and Research Initiative for Masters Athletes), believes that a sedentary lifestyle rather than biology accelerates the "aging" process. Fitness After 40: How to Stay Strong at Any Age is an approach to post-midlife fitness through the F.A.C.E. system of flexibility, aerobic exercise, "carrying" load-bearing exercise and achieving equilibrium and balance. Illustrated exercises, chapters on healing and avoiding injury when exercising as well as hydration and good nutrition are about as dry as a physical therapy pamphlet, but reiterating the basics will doubtless ensure you don't become "merely a bad sequel to your 20-year-old self."

It's not you, it's your genes
If you want to be a size zero, "choose your parents well," says Dr. Linda Bacon in Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight . Bacon—a therapist and recovering "weight obsessive" with an ironic name who holds a doctorate in physiology and specializes in eating disorders and body image—looks at the disconnect between modern food processing, diet culture and the actual science behind the "moral imperative" to lose weight. She disproves the assumption that being fat equals being unhealthy and deconstructs food and fat politics. There are plenty of thin people among McDonald's regular customers, according to Bacon, who explores why diet and exercise programs often don't work, and offers practical advice on how to recast the "weight problem" by helping the vulnerable respect their bodies and souls, taking care of real hungers and changing taste in the process. The best way to lose is to give up the fight and turn control over to your body, according to the book. "You will find that biology is much more powerful than willpower," Bacon writes. "Body weight might be a marker for an imprudent lifestyle in some people but its role in determining health . . . is grossly exaggerated."

Motivation in pictures
That's a "fattitude" heartily endorsed by comic-strip creator Carol Lay in her intriguing graphic memoir, The Big Skinny: How I Changed My Fattitude. The L.A. based writer and creator of the WayLay comic strip that has appeared in The San Francisco Examiner, L.A. Weekly and Salon.com, is a "born eater." After learning unhealthy eating—and dieting—habits from her parents, Lay spent her college years in denim maxi dresses, gorging on home-baked bread and fake cookie dough, followed by addiction to amphetamine-based weight-loss pills. She starts the action with a comic strip featuring a hostess greeting her recent self with "You've lost so much weight! You look great! How did you do it?" "I count calories and exercise every day," she answers, followed by a trio of wordless panels showing the hostess dumbfounded for seconds on end. Her seriocomic weighty adventures have a fresh Californian vibe while communicating slightly self-righteous weight-loss tips, but before you hate this cool chick for her steely self-control, she draws a panel about the dangers of emotional binging after a breakup. On a holiday. Or imagines how the Devil would tempt her in the so-Hollywood "Day in the Diet" fantasy strip, which features George Clooney arriving unannounced with hot sausage biscuits, hash browns and a double chocolate chip "crappicino" from Mickey D's. Handwritten calorie charts (her recommended plan only provides about 1,350 calories, a bit low for healthy weight loss), eating plans and recipes and lists of "dodgy foods" round out this quirky but useful motivational tool for achieving thinner peace.

No time? No problem!
Weak-willed? Time-strapped? Get The 90-Second Fitness Solution: The Most Time-Efficient Workout Ever for a Healthier, Stronger, Younger You. New York trainer Pete Cerqua probably got sick of clients moaning about their desire for defined tank-top arms without having a minute to do a thing about it. His brilliant 15-minute-per-week workout promises to beat cardio at shedding pounds and reduce bodies by a half-dress size without changing food choices. His simple illustrated exercises, which only require resolve, a wall and a floor, are done in 90-second reps using pauses and holding weights in key positions rather than slow movements. Busting myths up and down the fitness spectrum, Cerqua advocates four simple secrets to success: short workouts, simplified eating, fewer supplements and a stress-proof life to eliminate time-consuming symptoms, not to mention life-altering illness. Bright, clean and breezy with its "Ask Pete" sidebars, real-life 90-Second Success Stories, speed reader's synopses, lightning-fast gourmet recipes and oversized exercise scorecards, this is the trend-setting fitness guide for the rest of us.

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