Book review: Eat Your Way to Happiness

My sister recommended Eat Your Way To Happiness to me (written by the author of Food & Mood: The Complete Guide to Eating Well and Feeling Your Best) and it couldn’t have come at a better time. It made me step back and examine my motives for this new journey that I’m on. While on one hand I really want to lose weight and look better, I know that the real reasons why have more to do with being happy and having a permanent change in my fitness, physical and mental health than any number on a scale (sorry, scale).

Author Elizabeth Somer doesn’t cover new ground for those of us who know a fair amount about health and nutrition, but her presentation was effective and I really enjoyed reading the quotes from folks who’d applied these principles in their lives and reaped the rewards. Before and after stories are always appealing to me and there are many scattered throughout the book.

Her 11 secrets  to “improve your mood, curb your cravings, and keep the pounds off” are:

  1. Eat Real 75% of the Time: The basic whole foods vs. processed garbage manifesto
  2. Follow the 1-2-3 Rule: A chapter mainly about the importance of breakfast and making sure you combine foods optimally (1-3 services of a quality, high-fiber carb), 2 servings of fruits or vegetables, and one protein)
  3. Choose Quality Carbs
  4. Adopt the 6% Solution:  A chapter about sugar and how 6% of your calories should come from sugars
  5. Sprinkle It with Super Mood Foods: A chapter listing super mood foods we’ve all heard of like dark, colorful vegetables and fruits, nuts, some dairy, broth soups, legumes, wheat germ, and antioxidants.
  6. Embrace the Good Fat
  7. Get Smart with Supplements
  8. Choose the Right Thirst Quenchers
  9. Indulge the Right Vices: Yay for dark chocolate!  Boo for alcohol except red wine in moderation!
  10. Eat Right at Night: How to get better sleep
  11. The One Habit You Must Embrace to Be Happy, Fit and Healthy: Exercise

Then she includes a 14-day Kick-Start Diet, recipes, and a list of 100 products that meet most of the real-food guidelines.

The biggest adjustments I made after reading this book were to add some foods back into my diet, like 100% fruit juice (my previous attitude was that juice was empty calories) and more carbs (I’d been limiting these to the point of unhappiness) and I have a clearer picture of the vitamins and minerals I need to ingest and how to tackle getting the optimal amounts.  It’s taking an Excel chart to figure it out where I’m deficient and it’s nice to have a clear discussion of where I should be and why.

There are a few bones I’d pick with Somer: her overall tone was sometimes condescending (“You and everyone within a million-mile radius knows moving is absolutely critical to mood, health and a reasonable waistline” – really?  Million-mile radius?) and some of her food suggestions seemed hypocritical.  She has an entire chapter on eating “real” foods, yet in her recipe section includes fat-free dairy products, artificial sweeteners, and soy. I have no idea what’s in fat-free half-and-half but somehow I doubt it qualifies as a “real” food. The diets currently in vogue (primal/paleo) would disagree, saying fats from animals are ok but soy and processed carbs are not.  Who is right?  I’m certainly not an expert so I’m not going to weigh in on that debate – just surfacing it.

In all I think it’s a pretty good book, especially if you don’t know much about nutrition and are just starting out on a quest for better health, or you need a little inspiration along your journey.

Book Review: “Half-Assed: A Weight Loss Memoir”

I read Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir last week and found it really inspiring.  It traces the weight loss journey of Jennette Fulda as she went from 372 lbs to 180 lbs over 2 years. The book was funny and poignant and I found myself engrossed in her story.

While not everyone knows what it’s like to be morbidly obese, many of us can identify with what it feels like to live with intense shame and fear. Her stories of being publicly humiliated by her peers in high school or finding herself in awkward situations with family and friends are cringe-inducing. The details about the food she ate were equally so – spoonfuls of Tang! Drinking maple syrup! However, I’ll admit to eating batches of frosting back in high school myself so “there but for the grace…” As she says, if we lived in a magical fairy land where there were no calories in cookie dough, why wouldn’t we eat it?  And I loved the part about throwing away perfectly good chocolate, even though we know there isn’t some “bundt cake relocation program” out there to solve our problems.

It was fascinating to hear how her own weight was normalized in her mind (along her day she saw other people, not herself), while at other times she felt as though it was an insurmountable problem that might as well be tackled tomorrow.  I can definitely relate to that, even at this weight. “Wake up call received. Snooze button pushed.” What was new to me was what it was like to be relegated to shopping online because you don’t even fit into Lane Bryant clothes.  Her relating of the victory of just shopping at normal stores was really gratifying to experience with her.

I was so happy that she stuck to her eating and exercising plan and I felt her victories as she dressed up and looked great (and ate cake!) at weddings.  I loved reading about her cooking adventures – and misadventures.  She has a section on her blog called Lick the Produce about different foods she tries.  Produce has is a hard sell – there are no promotional taglines or instructions on it!

One of the ways she got support was through a blog she started, even though she didn’t tell anyone about it at first.  Once she had some traction with her weight loss she started sharing it and it took off like a rocket, which is what inspired her to write the book. While I have more modest hopes for this blog, I do wish to give value to readers and receive support.

Check out this video she made:

How to lose 192 pounds in 7 seconds from PastaQueen on Vimeo.