The brutal truth
Sick of feeling overweight and unmotivated? Struggling with inertia? Ruth Field has an answer for you: ''Run, fat bitch, run.''
It's the title of her new how-to-get-fit book, which argues that if you're unhappy with being overweight and want to get thin, you need to ply yourself with ''negative affirmations''.
''When I want to lose a few pounds urgently, I look in the mirror early in the morning … with my entire naked body entirely in view,'' Field writes, ''and I repeat to myself, over and over, 'You fat bitch.''' (This, she says, disgusts her enough to get out the door and go for a run.)
Toto, we're not in I'm OK, You're OK territory any more.
Field's tome is just one of several new self-help books that take a tough-love approach.
Following in the wake of If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You (by celebrity PR woman Kelly Cutrone), there's The Hardline Self-Help Handbook (by American life coach Paula Renaye) and Augusten Burroughs's This Is How, which suggests that the key to overcoming any problem is to quit the ''pep talk'' and simply do the very hard thing that you do not want to do.
For instance, about quitting alcohol or cigarettes, Burroughs writes: ''Feeling like you cannot stand one more minute doesn't mean you can't. You can, actually.''
This is something Jill Cohn-Winer, a 38-year-old social worker, learnt the hard way.
Depressed and lethargic after gaining 20 kilograms following the birth of her second child, Cohn-Winer found the only thing that got her moving again was the tough-love approach of an online support group that ''shut down my excuses about exercise, reminding me that all I need to do to go for a walk or a run is shoes and a caregiver at home''.
She is now a committed runner who has lost the weight and completed two half-marathons.
What didn't work? The well-meaning reassurances of friends and family, who ''kept reminding me that I was busy with two kids, that my hair and make-up and clothing looked great''.
Still, not everyone's a fan of books and groups that eschew positive reinforcement and call people out - bluntly - on their mental and physical laziness.
''I'm horrified that things like [Field's book] keep coming out,'' says Louise Adams, a Sydney clinical psychologist.
''I see a lot of people who are struggling with weight and health and looking after themselves, and one thing they're not short on is negative self-judgment.
''They all hate themselves and are very aware that society hates them and you know what? That doesn't motivate them.''
She advises ''self-compassion'' instead, which she says leads people to want to make positive changes.
Field, however, argues that, if anything, more people should adopt her approach - cultivating your ''inner bitch'' to be disgusted by your own inertia - which she says teaches discipline and can be used to tackle everything from house cleaning to challenging professional goals.
Cushy Western society, Field argues, has made twentysomethings, in particular, ''soft''.
''I think, 'Wow, what's it going to look like in 10 years' time; how are they going to be able to deal with a really big crisis?''' she writes.
There are signs that Australians could be early adopters of the tough-love philosophy.
Pat Dellagiacoma, a 48-year-old endurance cyclist and computer programmer, says a phrase he and his Sydney cycling mates often bandy about, if someone's whingeing about going up a big hill, is ''harden the f--- up''.
''Some people need that sort of motivation,'' he says. ''It's got a bit of traction [because] all those boot camps with commando trainers sort of use that philosophy.''
And when, late last year, Melbourne shop Someday Store received a shipment of buttons printed with the phrase ''Get Your Shit Together'' - accompanied by a picture of a steaming turd - they sold out within a few hours.
''I think maybe it's kind of a generational thing,'' says store manager Chris Nolan, referring to the mainly twentysomethings who bought it. ''It appeals to them.''
This could bode well for Field's follow-up book, due out next year.
Its title? Get Your Shit Together.