The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
What I didn't like:
1. I thought much of the book was semantics, particularly when the author denigrates multi-tasking. It was as if he was trying to give us some earth-shattering insight by making a point that really wasn't a point. Many people can multi-task effectively. Obviously, trying to do too many things at once, particularly tasks that take lots of mental effort, isn't a good thing. That being said, there are lots of ways to multi-task that actually lead to greater productivity.
2. I have to believe that Gary either doesn't have kids or has somebody at home taking care of them. Unfortunately not everyone works in corporate America and can simply tune out the rest of the world for four hours a day. I get what his point was, but I don't think it was particularly helpful or instructive.
3. While I like the concept of "the one thing," I think he takes it way too far. Again, I felt as if we were getting sold a feeling/idea that sounds good on paper but doesn't translate well to the real world.
What I liked:
1. There were a lot of inspirational quotes in the book that were worth writing down.
2. And while this book really is "much ado about nothing," I like the idea of thinking big and starting small.
3. I gained a few new insights, but not nearly enough to give this more than 3 stars.
Science of Flexibility by Michael J. Alter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have the 3rd edition.
I read this (or most of it) in preparation for a course I'm teaching.
Definitely not for the novice. Heavy on muscle physiology and research up to this point (much of it based on animal models that extrapolated the findings to human beings). The later chapters do get into the practical applications, which I think is what the average person would be interested in.
This is basically a textbook and thus it reads like one. So, it is what it is...
Would recommend this to Physical Therapists, Chiropractors, or other health practitioners who have a strong background in the life sciences and an interest in flexibility and stretching as it relates to joint mobility, health, and athletic performance.
The Adrenal Reset Diet: Strategically Cycle Carbs and Proteins to Lose Weight, Balance Hormones, and Move from Stressed to Thriving by Alan Christianson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Aaah...this was just okay.
The premise behind Christianson's approach is that an inability to lose weight is often secondary to a poorly functioning adrenal gland and an inability to maintain "healthy" cortisol levels throughout the day.
While there is some good info here, I felt as if something was missing. He repeatedly reminds us that measuring cortisol in the body is difficult, but then cites studies, many his own, in which he monitors cortisol as a means of determining if there is a problem and what if any effect his diet, which times carbohydrates, has on those levels.
Not sure how the average person would put any of this into to practice other than to eat a diet of whole foods, avoid processed foods, environmental toxins and stress when able, and try cycling their carbs as recommended and then hope you lose weight, keep it off, and feel better.
The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time by Arianna Huffington
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this book, not necessarily because it provides a detailed step-by-step process of how to get more sleep, but more because I felt it was an interesting and thorough look into the history of sleep, our emerging attitudes about its importance that often seems at odds with our corporate, capitalistic structure, and the general discussion about why and how to make sleep a priority.
I've always believed sleep was important, so on that front there was nothing earth-shattering about this particular book. Still, I feel the majority of us struggle with how to balance sleep with our ever more demanding schedules.
A mother of four who gave birth four times in five years, my thirties can be characterized as sleep deficient as I spent the better part of seven years pregnant, nursing, or both. I honestly don't think I slept well until my early forties, and now I protect my sleep with the ferocity of a mother bear protecting her cub. Bottom line: if you value your life and your phone (in the case of my teens) you don't wake mom once she entered la-la land.
Ironically, I generally don't have trouble falling asleep. To the contrary, I often climb in bed with the intent of decompressing with a quick game on the Kindle, only to fall asleep with Kindle in hand. And for the most part, I sleep soundly, waking up once to use the bathroom and then right back to bed. I average about 6.5-7.5 hours a night, sometimes a little less, occasionally a little more.
Yet every once in a while, I will get awoken shortly after I've fallen asleep, usually because one of the kids decides to get up and use the bathroom, or heads to the kitchen for a late evening snack. On these rare occasions, I sometimes struggle to fall back asleep. I stare up at the dark ceiling, filled with anger and anxiety, especially on nights where I am scheduled to work a 12 or 13 hour shift the next day. And the more I fret about sleep, the less likely it is that I will. Finally, about 2 a.m. I'll head down to the medicine cabinet for a couple of benadryl, which more often than not helps the process along.
Based on Huffington's book, I'd have to say, it sounds like I'm doing better than a number of people out there, still, as someone who prides herself on caring for her body, I figure I can always do better. So, the night after finishing the book, I head up to bed an hour early. Make sure that lights are out by 10, determined to get at least 7.5-8 hours. All seems to be going as planned until I get woken at midnight. I immediately begin to stress. Not only do I have one of my horrendous long days ahead of me, but now more than ever I am convinced how important getting those precious ZZZZs are. And the more I stress, the less likely it seems I am going to fall back asleep.
I do eventually. Fall asleep. Sometime around 3 a.m. Yet in a cruel twist of fate, I think part of my difficultly came from reading this damn book. I've never been too concerned about sleep as I generally feel pretty energetic. But now? Now, I'm worried.
And to add insult to injury, it happened again just last night.
Luckily, I realize that this is just a phase that will surely pass. That said, view this as a cautionary tale and read at your own risk. LOL.
In my role as a wellness coach I am constantly encouraging clients to eat more fruits and veggies. How can I not? Filled with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and health promoting phytonutrients, they are nutrient dense, super foods. Yet while a number of my clients claim to like a variety of fruits and vegetables, most are not even close to eating the recommended 4-5 servings/day each (total of 10 servings) of fruits and vegetables.
So in addition to simply to doing the obvious, eating an apple or adding a mixed salad to your daily menu, I recommend slipping in these nutritional powerhouses whenever you can. Below are just a few examples:
The majority of my clients report that adding fruits, vegetables, and herbs and spices to foods they are already eating is easy and results in a dish they enjoy more thanks to the added color, flavor, and texture. A win-win because not only do the meals taste better, because any added fruit, veggie, herb or spice increase the nutrient density of a meal.
Always the Fat Kid: The Truth About the Enduring Effects of Childhood Obesity by Jacob C. Warren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a somewhat strange book that never quite lives up to its title. That being said, the authors still make some valid points that will resonate with anyone interested in obesity and the risks it presents not just to the individual but to society as a whole.
The authors strike an odd tone between the importance of calling out obesity early on for its role in various poor health outcomes (even calling it an epidemic) and avoiding the stigmatization of fat and fat people (especially fat children). Interestingly, this is an ongoing issue many health practitioners face. How do you address the known associated risks of obesity and overweight without minimizing and/or stigmatizing the person who is obese or overweight? As a health care professional, that really is the million dollar question, one that I'm not sure the authors ever address, or at least not adequately so.
I mean how do you separate the behaviors that lead to obesity from the person who is obese?
As a PT, I often see patients whose weight, even if it is not the sole cause, is generally a contributing or aggravating factor for the issue that is being treated. How do you not discuss weight when treating knee pain? Orthopedic MDs will tell you each additional pound you carry is like an extra 4 lbs through the joint. That's pretty significant. There are even docs who will encourage a patient to lose weight before they perform certain surgeries because they are worried about poor outcomes.
In my own practice, I've always tried to be empathetic and diplomatic when bringing up weight. I might offer it as an aside when discussing contributing factors. And I'll never forget the day a patient literally exploded when I mentioned weight.
Apparently, she was tired of being told that she was fat. Not only, fat she said. No, she was obese. Obese. What an ugly word. She wanted to know why was it that every problem she had was blamed on her weight.
I sat and listened as she vented. It was clear her words were not a rebuke directed toward me as much as a general rant about what she perceived as personal criticism. She hurt and she hurt because she was fat. And the underlying implication is she was fat because she chose to be fat. Or at least that is what everbody seemed to think. And she was tired of hearing how her weight was the root of all her problems. After all, wasn't it possible that she could have a medical condition that wasn't a direct result of her weight?
Once she finished, I took a deep breath. I told her I understood her frustration. I agreed that there were thin people who also experience knee pain and that extra weight absolutely wasn't not the sole cause of her condition. However, as a medical professional my job is to determine not only the cause of her pain, but factors that can impact her pain, and her extra pounds were likely a factor whether she liked it or not.
More recently, I've read several books that have challenge the assertion that fat is indeed unhealthy. The authors point to studies on mortality that have shown that it is better to be overweight and fit than thin and unfit. They claim that the death rate for overweight and obese is only significant when you enter the morbidly obese categories. They also argue that the "fat shaming" that is inevitable when you associate weight with a particular medical condition is not helpful. Instead it leads to feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing. It certainly doesn't inspire or facilitate change.
And the truth is there is still some debate about the role overweight and obese play in the development of disease. Some overweight people don't experience the associated conditions like diabetes and heart disease, while others do. On the other hand, there are medical journals filled with research that has established a correlation between too much stored fat and the development of disease, even if there are other factors at play.
Furthermore, the absence of health is not necessarily death but disease. And while disease may or may not contribute to a premature death, it generally affects the quality of life no matter how long that life is.
In the end, it's tough to wage a war on fat without wounding those carrying the extra pounds in the process. Then again, normalizing "fat" is also dangerous because it is a known risk factor for just about every lifestyle disease we have. And it really doesn't matter whether it is the excess fat itself or the behaviors that led to the increased fat stores because the outcome is the same.
To further complicate this issue, we are now dealing with children, too many children according to the authors, children who are often affected psychologically even if they are one of the lucky fat kids that becomes a thin adult. Obviously, it's a sensitive issue. How do you police weight with children? Their bodies are growing. Norms are not only hard to identify but constantly changing. You certainly don't want to contribute to poor self-esteem or negative attitudes about food and eating. Yet the threat is real, one needs only to look at the sobering statics surrounding childhood obesity to recognize it is a far greater risk to our children than many other risks currently on the radar.
At the end of the day, I'm not sure Warren and Smalley tell us anything we don't already know. That said, their book does challenge readers to take notice of the threat and start pursing a course of action. And there are some other bits and pieces of wisdom scattered throughout that are likely to inspire some internal or external dialogue on the topic of fat and the medical, social, cultural, and personal issues that surround it.
Mini Habits for Weight Loss: Stop Dieting. Form New Habits. Change Your Lifestyle Without Suffering. by Stephen Guise
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If I had written a book about making successful lifestyle change, this would have been it. I mean seriously. Guise and I are so in synch with our thoughts and attitudes that at times I felt as if I was listening to myself while talking with a coaching client.
So, yeah. 5 stars!
Basically, Guise advocates for change through the implementation of mini-habits, small consistent changes that are doable even on our worst days.
Change is hard and in the past (at least from a survival standpoint) may have threatened our ability to thrive. We resist it because it takes work, conscious effort, motivation, etc, and we prefer the devil we know even if it is an evil little bastard.
The key is to fool ourselves by making the change so small as to go under the radar of the "change police" (my phrase not his).
In between, he gives lots of great advice about diet and exercise. He clearly knows his stuff. There is also a worthwhile discussion about the limitations of willpower and the tenuous nature of motivation that is not just spot on but extremely helpful for those who have felt the sting of failure when they've come up short at the end of a long hard day.
I was given this book by a client who hoped we could read this together. She is in the process of trying to make healthier lifestyle choices, new habits to replace other more destructive and deeply ingrained behaviors. For her, the idea of the mini-habit, aka the mini-effort, is very appealing. She also feels as if Guise has provided clear strategies as opposed to just an overall theory about the do's and don'ts.
I would definitely recommend this book to my clients as it reinforces many of the themes in the coaching process.
Look Younger, Feel Better
Aging is a perpetual uphill battle in an ever-raging war with mother nature. And this fight to look and feel young has resulted in an impressive and often expensive arsenal of weapons. From an endless array of lotions, potions, pills, and even surgical procedures, the collective “we” spend billions of dollars a year on the latest and greatest anti-aging breakthroughs, laboratory tested and scientifically proven (refer to the fine print) to keep us looking forever young.
But what if our best defense against aging doesn't come in a bottle or a tube, won't qualify for Prime shipping from Amazon, and can't be purchased from the beauty counter at our favorite department store? What if in our never-ending search for eternal youth we need look no further than the produce aisle or our local walking trail?
What if the secret, really isn’t a secret? What if the key to defying age is and has always been within our control?
Unlike the scientifically unproven youth-in-a-bottle solutions that fill the shelves of our corner drugstore and that promise us the sun, the moon, and skin as soft, supple, and radiant as a toddlers bare bum, all for the very reasonable price of $9.99 plus tax, there are some new (but actually old) strategies gaining more ground as the real way to keep us spry and wrinkle free. Daily practices like eating a diet loaded with whole foods such as fresh fruits and veggies, getting regular exercise and a good night’s sleep, and finding time to unwind, destress, and recharge.
It would seem Mother Nature isn't the real enemy after all. It's a fast life, filled with fast-food, supersized meals of highly processed junk, coupled with inactivity or insufficient physical activity, too little sleep, and too much stress.
Unfortunately, changing our diets, getting regular exercise and regular sleep, and destressing often requires real change. And change is hard, even when it is in our best interest.
Health and wellness coaching is a process designed to help you not only win the battle but to win the war. Diabetes, heart disease, high-blood pressure, and, yes, even wrinkles are heavily influenced by our lifestyle choices. And it's increasingly clear that simply knowing what we "should" do isn't enough. Making a lifestyle change is no walk in the park. And that's where coaching comes in. A good coach can help you develop the internal and external resources you need to be successful.
The One-Minute Workout: Science Shows a Way to Get Fit That's Smarter, Faster, Shorter by Martin Gibala
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Though this book could have been better organized and about 100 pages shorter, Gibala's overall mission, which was to show that heart-healthy exercise doesn't require a huge time commitment, is accomplished.
HITT is an acronym that stands for high intensity interval training, a somewhat old approach to training that has recently gained a lot of attention mainly because the science (as to why it works) has finally caught up.
Traditionally, it was believed that the only way to improve heart health was through prolonged moderate-intensity activities. There were several reasons for this prevailing idea of the time. But thanks to researchers like Gibala, we now know better.
With respect to reaping the cardiovascular benefits of exercise, it would seem that interval training (bouts of higher intensity exercise mixed in with recovery periods of low intensity activity) is not only equal to but even superior to training at moderate-intensities. And the best part is that it takes significantly less time.
Gibala goes into the physiology briefly, which is still in need of some clarification. He also takes on the naysayers who claim that high intensity is either too dangerous or too intimidating for those who need the cardio benefits the most. And he provides a section with specific programs, all of which have been tested in the laboratory and shown to improve cardiovascular health.
The big takeaway here is that the best way to improve the system is to tax it. The body responds to overload by becoming stronger and fitter. The greater the stress, which in the case of the heart is higher intensities, the bigger the adaptation or improvement in fitness as a result. And because high intensity/vigorous activities are not only hard to sustain, but not much fun either, interval training can be a way to reap the benefits of higher intensity exercise while minimizing the pain, but also reducing the time required by moderate intensities to reach the same goals.
He also points out that higher intensity means different things to different people. After all, what feels like a vigorous activity to someone who is significantly deconditioned is substantially different than what taxes the cardiovascular system of a conditioned athlete. The point isn't to perform some arbitrary exercise, but rather to complete exercise at an intensity that sufficiently taxes your cardiovascular system.
In truth, interval training isn't new, however, the findings of researchers like Gibala have given us new evidence that bouts of higher intensity exercise, even if it totals no more than a minute, is an effective strategy for improving cardiovascular health, not only as good as moderate-intensity exercise, but better. Gibala's hope is that people will be more likely to engage in exercise if it isn't a huge time commitment.
He's certainly right about one thing. There are a lot of people who use lack of time as an excuse for not exercising. I hear it all the time, pun intended.
The main weakness of this book is that the information feels poorly organized. It's relatively short and could have been substantially shorter. Maybe in an attempt to make the book more substantive, he drug things out. Maybe. Personally, I'd rather read a short book that gets to the point, than a long one that feels repetitive and unnecessarily so.
All in all, still a worthwhile read in part because Gibala really is an expert in his field.
The Longevity Code: The New Science of Aging by Kris Verburgh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As a health and wellness coach dedicated to helping people make healthier lifestyle choices how could I not enjoy yet another book that espouses the benefits of eating a balanced plant-based diet and getting regular exercise.
Some other reviewers commented that there was nothing new here, which I think is part of the point. The recommendations haven't changed much even though our understanding of why those recommendations work does. While Verburgh does talk about some up and coming anti-aging treatments that work at the cellular level to defy what has always been assumed to be the inevitability of aging, the reality is that at least for now, the best defense the masses have against aging is to eat whole foods, mostly plants, and move regularly.
Verburgh also delves into the science and physiology of aging in a way that is not overly technical. For example, he doesn't just say why heavy protein diets can contribute to aging, he explains why and I think that's important. He also questions the assumption that aging is unavoidable by describing anti-aging jelly fish and immortal polyps. He even references human reproductive cells that seem immune to aging in order to make a point. According to Verburgh, life expectancy continues to increase and a few of the youngest among us may actually live well beyond a 100 to 135. Unfortunately, we live longer but are sicker during those years thanks to age-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer and the like.
Though much of the book does focus on nutrition and a little time is given to exercise, sleep and stress management barely get an honorable mention. Though unfortunate, there is still much here for both the novice and those with a deeper understanding as the book (even if only superficially) lays the groundwork for the "what's next" phase of anti-aging medicine.
The weakest part of the book is undoubtedly the section in which he argues in favor of living longer, mainly by refuting the arguments against living longer such as overpopulation or boredom with life in general.
For someone who believes in the power of a healthy lifestyle, the book is both validating and empowering. Living to 1,000 years aside, I think we would all like to believe that we can lessen the effects of aging both on the outside and the inside. It is only fitting that today I read an article in Women's Health about a 71 year old grandmother who just set a new world record for a half-marathon in her age group...1:37:07. Age really is only a number and how we age can and is impacted by our daily choices.