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Resolutions to the max: What to know before trusting a self-help book

Kristen Meinzer (L) and Jolenta Greenberg cohost the podcast,
Kristen Meinzer (L) and Jolenta Greenberg cohost the podcast, "By the Book."

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Even outside of making New Year's resolutions, Angelenos are known for striving to better themselves, whether it's through exercise or mindfulness or diet. It's just part of the LA lifestyle.

But what if, taken to the extreme, trying to improve yourself through some self-anointed guru pushes you to the brink?

Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer cohost the podcast "By the Book," where they follow one self-help book to a T for two weeks.

They tried following the diet in French Women Don't Get Fat, which advises "resetting your palate" by eating only leeks and drinking leek water for two days.

"I was crying everyday. I was calling Jolenta up sobbing saying, I can't do this anymore," says Meinzer. "In the end, Jolenta and I decided for my mental health we would not, on the show, ever again do a diet book."

"I learned a rather hard truth," adds Greenberg. "For myself, at least, I think there is no such thing as a 'sane diet.'"

There may be merits in eating healthfully or being more mindful while eating, but they believe that a book is not worthwhile if it suggests you get skinny through restricted eating.

"I think diets are designed to catapult you into feeling successful in the beginning," says Greenberg, "and then you always fail and end up needing another diet."

Both of them also tried to declutter their homes by following the tenets of the wildly popular Marie Kondo, who has given sold-out talks in Los Angeles

In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Kondo suggests holding every household item and questioning whether it sparks joy. The stuff that does, stays. The stuff that doesn't is donated or discarded.

"I loved the purging and just really doing an inventory of all the stuff you've accumulated," says Greenberg.

But then there's step 2: Household items must be placed out of view when not in use.

"You weren't allowed to have soap next to a sink. It had to be in a drawer," says Meinzer. "It was joyless and it was time-consuming."

Kondo also said that dishes must not be drying on a rack next to a dish. They should be left to dry outside on a fire escape.

"Oh my God, it was insane! It made no sense at all," she says.

But they understand why Kondo's and other guru's self-help methods are popular.

"I think of Southern California as a dream-making place," says Meinzer, "and the idea of self-help being popular out there does not surprise me at all because that's so much of what Southern California is."

Subscribe to "By the Book" on Panoply, iTunes or Google Play.