Most diet books start out with several pages on how most diets fail, how obesity is an epidemic today, and how society pushes us to overeat and underexercise.

Then the authors swoop in with the news that THEIR diet is different from all those other diets that don't work.

But by then, I'm already discouraged by the doom and gloom. Why bother struggling through another program if it's that hard to succeed? Why not just buy a size larger swimsuit and be done with it?

Well, there are people out there who have successfully battled their bulges, and they are regular people, not just celebrity spokespeople such as Valerie Bertinelli or Sarah Ferguson. The National Weight Control Registry, begun in 1994, has enrolled more than 4,000 people who have lost weight and kept it off for years. And they did it in numerous ways, which underscores the idea that there's no one "right" way.

So maybe you've already been through the fat-phobic '80s, the fen-phen fiasco of the '90s and the low-carb frenzy of the early 2000s. Not to mention South Beach, the French Woman diet, The Zone, Atkins, Cabbage Soup Diet and the Blood Type Diet. This year has another bumper crop of diet books, and you might find one that works for you. Or, in some cases, one that might give you a good laugh.

But if the first few pages start depressing you with talk of diet-failure and the obesity crisis, well, just skip them and get on to the good stuff.

"Neris and India's Idiot-Proof Diet: A Weight Loss Plan for Real Women," by India Knight and Neris Thomas (Wellness Central, $24.99). You could call this "Bridget Jones' Diet," considering the diarylike entries of the two women and the irreverent British humor. This is the first diet book I've seen that uses the R-rated curse word.

The food plan is low-carb, high-protein, with an emphasis on the emotional aspects of eating and coming up with strategies to get around them.

"Perfect Weight America," by Jordan Rubin (Siloam, $24.99). Rubin is a health crusader who wants Americans to realize that they are killing themselves with their knives and forks at staggering rates. (What did I say about doom and gloom?) He tested his program with 126 participants in Toledo, Ohio, with an average weight loss of 13.5 pounds per person in 11 weeks.

His list of off-limits foods is pretty long: white flour, white sugar, all pork products, all shellfish (such as shrimp and lobster), processed meats and hydrolized soy protein, hydrogenated oils, pasteurized skim milk, soft drinks and high-fructose corn syrup.

"Does Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?" by Peter Walsh (Free Press, $25). Walsh, an organizational guru, says people need to clear out the excess consumption in their lives, kitchen, plates and bodies. Who knew that cleaning out the basement could make you thin?

"The Spectrum," by Dean Ornish, M.D. (Ballantine Books, $26.95). Ornish made a name for himself in the 1990s with a super-low-fat diet that helped reverse heart disease. But in this book, he's trying to prove that he's not the Nutrition Police. You have a "spectrum" of choices that can help you customize a diet you can live with. "Foods are neither good nor bad, but some are more healthful than others," he writes. This biology-class-in-a-book also emphasizes stress management and joyful living.


E-mail: vphillips@desnews.com