Chasing Cupcakes: How One Broke, Fat Girl Transformed Her Life by Elizabeth Benton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Loved, loved, loved this book. Loved the title, loved the book cover, and especially loved the content.
The book was written by Elizabeth Benton, a once 25o pound woman whose quest for weight loss ultimately led her to pursue a degree in nutrition that got her no closer to the transformation she craved than a lifetime of dieting.
This is a book about transformation, and as such doesn't simply apply to weight and weight loss but absolutely applies to weight and weight loss as it addresses the issues that prevent people from achieving the healthy, happy bodies they say they desire.
"Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open. "- Rumi
Benton does a great job of calling her readers out by reminding us that if we don't like where we are, it is up to us to embark on a journey that gets us to where we want to be. And while she acknowledges the importance of self-reflection for the purpose of identifying what we really want out of life as well as thoughtful planning as a means to get there, she makes it quite clear that it is action that actually propels us forward. Small daily steps. So stop living in the past, day dreaming in the future, and instead start living (aka acting) in the moment. And while you're at it, don't mistake effort for progress.
In a nutshell, the book is about accountability, taking control, and acting in a way that not only honors our goals but moves us closer to them. We are the authors of our story, and we alone have the ability to change it. As a health coach and physical therapist, I've learned that all too often the hardest obstacle for clients/patients to overcome is themselves. They choose to stay in the prison despite the fact that the door is wide open. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who is struggling to accomplish a meaningful change in their lives, health, career, or family related etc. Well-written, insightful, and useful.
Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book was first published in 1995 and it shows. The nutrition info seems a little dated. That said, for anyone trying to make long-term and lasting changes to your eating habits, it's still worth the read.
The authors, two nutritionists Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole, discuss their failures in helping clients. Frustrated by their clients' inability to maintain weight loss, they embraced what they call "intuative eating." Unlike "dieting" which is often synonymous with deprivation, calorie restriction/counting, and an emphasis on weight loss, "intuative eating" is a process by which individuals learn to respond to their body's natural cues. The primary focus is on nuturing the body but also includes accepting and celebrating the cultural and emotional context of food.
The consensus among experts is that diets don't work, or they do work, but only temporarily. Sadly, less than 5% of people who lose weight will gain it back within 2 years. Many individuals engage in a lifetime of chronic weight cycling, lose-gain, lose-gain. According to the authors yo-yo dieting is not a failure of the dieter, but a failure of the diet. Most diets are designed for quick results and don't teach people how to eat over the long term. Simply put, they are unsustainable or unrealistic. And because they focus primarily on calorie restriction and weight loss (the quicker the better) they can cause havoc with a dieter's metabolism, all but guaranteeing any positive results will be short-lived.
There's a lot to digest here, and I think most of it is pretty spot on. People trying to lose weight want to have lost it as of yesterday. And even the recommended safe weight loss of 1-2 pounds a week can be too much for a body that has evolved to survive famine. Tribole and Resch recommend throwing away the scale and our diet books. Instead, they recommend tuning into our body, something they admit may not be as simple as it sounds, at least not initially. Unfortunately, the only way to make lasting change is to make sure that food is our friend. And in order for food to truly be our "friend" we have to establish a positive relationship with it. Few will be able to permanently restrict calories or their favorite foods over the long haul, and who would want to? It's just not realistic or a rewarding way to live. However, we can learn to listen to our bodies. For example, it's not uncommon to eat out of habit rather than hunger. We let what is on our plate or in a package/ready-made serving to tell us when to stop eating rather than our feelings of satiety. Many of us eat because it is time to eat, or continue to eat something even when it's not that good.
We engage in emotional eating when we're sad, hungry, bored, angry, etc.
And if we are lucky enough to even recognize hunger we may eat when we're hungry. (They argue that many people don't even know what it feels like to be hungry.)
The key to intuitive eating is self-awareness, both physical (hunger, satiety, and satisfaction) and emotional (using food as a means of coping or avoiding uncomfortable feelings). We need to learn how to differentiate true hunger from emotional hunger and also learn to stop when we're full as opposed to when we've cleaned our plate as the two are rarely the same thing. We also need to put our food choices into the same context that we do other choices. For example, if we say we value health, then our choices should honor that value. What we eat is a choice, and by acknowledging this, we are less likely to feel deprived. It's not that we can't have the cookie or pasta or chips or fries, it's that we don't want those things as much as we want to honor our values. And they say, accurately so, that sometimes simply acknowledging the choice can diminish the power certain foods have over us.
The last quarter of the book addresses eating disorders like bulemia and anorexia. It briefly hints at binge eating which is a lot less clear cut, but a lot more common.
In conclusion, anyone who has struggled with weight and/or those who have an unhealthy relationship food would likely gain some valuable insight from this particular book. It really is a book that highlights the importance of our increasingly complicated relationship with food.
Food Freedom Forever: Letting Go of Bad Habits, Guilt, and Anxiety Around Food by Melissa Hartwig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Food Freedom Forever was written by Melissa Hartwig as a follow-up to her book The Whole30.
An elimination diet, the Whole30 is designed to help individuals identify food sensitives and to better understand how certain foods impact their health and how they feel.
As far as elimination diets go, it's nothing special, but for those who did not read her first book, the process is well covered in this book.
Ironically, I'm not a huge fan of elimination diets, although I can appreciate how they are sometimes useful in certain circumstances. As the mother of a daughter with Celiac Disease, I am all too aware of how detrimental some foods can be to some people.
That said, what I loved about this book was not her Whole30 program. It was everything else. Hartwig is extremely insightful when it comes to the pitfalls of dieting, and she offers some legitimate solutions to making sustainable dietary changes. For example, she encourages readers to stop making moral judgements about food, classifying them as good or bad. Instead she says that we should see our food choices as either consistent with our goals or inconsistent. She addresses slip-ups (or making unhealthy choices) and how to put them into context so that they don't spiral into the "What the hell" syndrome.
She talks about will power, its limitations and how to stretch it. She explains why having a plan (an "if/then" scenario) can make a huge difference in how we respond in different situations. She stresses the importance of remembering we have choices and that those choices should be made based on a benefit/cost analysis. What does eating this piece of cake cost? What do I get out of it? Is it worth it? I also love that she says you might be better off to throw away something you don't like, rather than eat it because you feel committed after you take that first bite. I tell this to my clients all the time. Don't use yourself as a trashcan. If you have left over cake from the party, give it away. If that's not an option, throwing it away may be better than wolfing it down simply because it is there daring you to eat it.
As a health coach, I find that many clients I counsel have an extremely unhealthy relationship with food, and the idea of "food freedom" is really what many of them crave and need if they are to ever truly achieve their goals. I also like the idea of a reset since we all need resets from time to time as it implies that eating healthy is generally an ongoing challenge, not something we master in 12 weeks.
In fact, I found her insights so helpful that I am going to have a client read it as homework for our sessions.
The Whole30 program is not for the faint of heart. It may also not be for everyone (or even most people). Elimination diets are not easy. And while they may be useful, they may also set you up for failure. If you really intend doing an elimination diet, I would highly suggest you do it under the guidance of a nutritionist or dietician.
However the Whole30 aside, this book is filled with great insight and lots of useful advice. For example, the last portion of the book which deals with support structures is extremely helpful. Her analysis of why some people may want to help you while others may seem less than helpful was spot on. Lots of good information.
Flavor: The Science of Our Most Neglected Sense by Bob Holmes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a hodge podge of information. The book starts off discussing the nuance between smell and taste as it relates to flavor and eventually morphs into a look at the science of flavor and its implications for the food industry.
The science geek in me appreciated exploring the science of flavor but was at odds with the avid reader who thought the author's decision to physically describe every person he interviews was bizarre. His descriptions not only did not add to the book, they detracted from it.
There were some interesting tidbits such as the fact that genes play a role in how we taste (surprise, surprise), but that still is only one small part of the equation. Professional wine tasters are surprisingly inconsistent when actually put to the test. (Really?) Price and expectations based on price influence our sense of taste. (Of course!) And at the end of the day, calories drive our reward system more than flavor, thus even food that once tasted bad and/or seems repulsive can begin to become appealing if we are hungry.
I did enjoy learning more about food flavorings, how they are derived, and how they impact the food industry and our food choices. A self-proclaimed foodie I also enjoyed the discussion of food pairings and why some foods just seem to go together while others not so much.
I didn't like the short detour he makes as he tries to link flavor to the obesity epidemic. Unfortunately, it was pretty much a road to nowhere.
Overall it was an interesting (and enjoyable) read that explores the emerging science of flavor and its significance as it relates to taste and our food preferences.