Forget about Atkins. Don’t give South Beach or any other fad diets a second thought. Here’s the crème-de-la-crème for you: The Dorm Room Diet (Newmarket Press, $16.95, 240p.) by Daphne Oz ’08, without any of those fancy letters after her name denoting medical credentials and expertise. But don’t worry, she’ll help you succeed and make a killing doing it. And here’s your chance to get inspired, get informed, get started. And she even has a grandfather named Mustafa, to boot.
This is a brilliant literary pastiche of epic prose, nimble poesy, cathartic advice. Oz manages to transcend the typical self-help oeuvre, filled with books that provide merely the means to succeed, without valid end results. Oz, however, expects triumph and achievement, for, as she says in her subtitle, this is “the 8-step Program for creating a healthy lifestyle plan that really works.”
And what an asset The Dorm Room Diet remains to Princeton’s literary tradition. She marks herself as the best since Eugene O’Neill, Edmund Wilson, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and they would certainly be so proud of her with the sort of worldly advice she imposes upon us.
But why just praise her publishing and athletic writing style when so much more glory exists? As is highly advertised on the back of her tour-de-force, she has had a whole new area of success: “In her first semester of college, she not only skipped the proverbial Freshman 15—she lost 10 pounds.” In her book, she offers eye-opening tips, such as the fact that too many cookies and donuts may yield excess weight.
And Oz, in creating an 8-Step program, becomes peer with the man who oh-so-long-ago said let’s slice the bread before we sell it. Her tips are far from the obvious. In fact, they are mostly arcane, esoteric, and, as such, ingenious, as she leads us through her book (anything but a corporate sell-out) to show us how to “stop eating out of emotional need, navigate the most common danger zones at school…get the exercise you need, even in your small dorm room, relax and rejuvenate amid the stress of college life.”
And she assigns justifications to those who overeat with her assertion that we certainly have an emotional crutch and a fear of success – so convenient, because now if we have an eating problem, we don’t have to find the source of the problem or a solution. We have hers.
The front cover by Joel Holland remains charming in the way that the leaky marker drawing of a snot-nosed second-grader can be charming. But the serious style of the prose forms a contrast of great aesthetic merit to the puerile sketches that lay laden within the pages.
And if the book itself doesn’t do it for you, then at least you’ve gotten your Clinique motivational stickers adorned with punchy statements that tell you to “Get Motivated,” “Get Great Skin,” “Get Happy,” “Get Skin Typed,” “Get Custom-Fit” along with other tidbits of inspiration.
Oz has enough street cred that she doesn’t really need the puffed up foreword by Dr. Mehmet Oz, her author father and a cardiologist at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center; however, he does provide some wit, some pithy remarks. He discusses how this country’s weight problem, which manifests itself in the sort of cardiac conditions he must treat, makes his daughter’s book worthwhile in its quest to create healthy eating habits. He says, “We’re a country of big portions, super-sizing, and deep-frying, and our clothes have more X’s on the label than an adult video.”
Oz’s father tries to be clever, and never comes out gauche when telling how it is mere altruism that his daughter and he try to change the eating habits of our youth so that they will have better health in the future. “By educating young folks,” he writes, “we have an advantage. Kids translate knowledge to action incredibly fast. Adults don’t. So if we get you young, we’ve got you for life. (Sometimes I sound like a cigarette manufacturer.)” Oh, Mehmet. He’s so wily in appealing to our young sensibilities, even referencing American Idol, to get the sort of pop diet feel he wants to achieve in this book.
And how convincing his words are when he forces us to buy her book, with a reliable pitch: “Trust me – she knows what she’s talking about.” We’re young and impressionable, and he has seized us. (He convinced me until I returned the book to the U-Store at the conclusion of this review.)
Through Oz’s struggles with weight, she has amassed the information that her father and both grandfathers gained on their paths to becoming heart surgeons. Also, she has an uncle who is a neurosurgeon, she writes, so she gets much knowledge of weight loss from his cerebral expertise. Her grandmother is a specialist in homeopathic remedies and complementary medicine, and Oz acknowledges that she learned much from all of her medical family members during the process of writing the book.
But Oz shed some thirty pounds she was “lugging around once I stopped treating food as an emotional crutch and put it back into perspective as the fuel that it is.” For this, she deserves extreme praise. And now she can promote her book around the country in true form. And what a tour she has.
The excitement to her tour of enlightenment came when, even before its Sept. 6 publishing date, the book had made two trips to the press for a whopping 40,000 copies. In a move that would make the Borgias proud, Newmarket publisher Esther Margolis learned about Oz from her Oz’s father, who is colleagues with Margolis’s husband. For the book, Oz has been featured in The New York Times, People, U.S. News and World Report, Reader’s Digest, and Teen Vogue in addition to her appearances on television programs including Good Morning America and Fox & Friends. Even after her Sept. 20 appearance at the U-Store, she has a full line-up including stops at Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, American, George Washington, and Columbia – booked until Feb. 7 as part of her promotion tour.
And it seems Oz has been qualified for many years in the gynecological sector. So multi-talented.
Even taking on the daunting task of alleviating menstrual cramps, Oz faces up to the task and offers suggestions such as Vitex, Magnesium, or Evening Primrose Oil. In this book, she also offers advice on how to cure your insomnia and urinary tract infection. Forget about vaginal suppositories; Oz tells you to treat your yeast infection by eating less bread. She can even cure your constipation as she sweetly offers that “ideally you want your poop to look like a banana, pretty much the shape of your large intestine.” And of diarrhea, she says with terse and expert trim, that “you get diarrhea when the beneficial bacteria in your intestines die because of an infection or virus; consequently, there is no ‘flora and fauna’ to …well, hold your poop together.” She adds an occasional “Pretty gross, huh?” here and there so that we don’t think her overly pretentious tone and eloquent style are too above our level. She’s kind in that way.
Oz writes that she knows “what it’s like to be ‘the big girl,’” and she’s going to do everything possible in her immense powers to make you improve your life. The pitch overworks the lachrymal glands. She was the fat kid, twisting and turning in her bedroom, making the mirror work extra hard to reflect her changing angles, the soft epithelium of her lips pouting and curving to her frown as she examined her love handles.
But trust her as the Daphne Oz pictured on the back cover. Don’t be scared: Marxist propaganda alchemized into diet fads certainly doesn’t proliferate through this book. It’s a pure piece of literature with the smiling Oz – beautifully done-up with rouge and eye shadow – sporting a new lip and eyebrow wax, new blond streaks in her hair, a blue cable-knit sweater, an aquamarine Polo nipping its way toward her (not overdone) flowing locks, her washed-out jeans that she caresses ever so slightly and lasciviously with her hands pink from the cold stone of Mathey College that serves as the background for the photo, which almost outdoes the book itself.
Princeton should be proud. Though it’s far from obvious in her picture, Oz seems to be quite the spa girl in advocating meditation, aroma therapy, and reflexology as ways to pamper yourself and stay happy in a quest to weight loss. She also advocates, in lieu of a late night snack, drinking some sparkling water, because the bubbles will fill you up.
Let’s get something straight, Princeton: Oz is not the victim of parents trying to form a nifty familial self-aggrandizement ploy by having their daughter confess her weighty struggles. I mean siblings Arabella Oz, the palindrome child Zoe Oz, and the alliterative Oliver must be listed on the back of her book for a reason. The Cliffside Park, New Jersey native was not pressured by her parents and connections to write for ELLEgirl magazine while in high school, and she took it upon herself in her own initiative – not that of her health-nut parents – to change Dwight Englewood Academy’s lunch menu from processed cafeteria food to whole grains and raw foods. Oz wasn’t teased at this juncture, but rather lauded, bowed down to; all of her classmates let fall an obeisance from their posture, and many a paean for Oz rang from their vocal cords. At Princeton, she must deserve the same exaltation.
Skewering is never quite as painful in satirical form. Getting torn a new one, though, is. I support Daphne Oz and her erudite cacademia.