Shape up for a healthier you
Transformation can be hard work—really hard work. Whether it’s losing weight, getting healthy or staying motivated, we could all use a little nudge to succeed. A new crop of books aim to help.
In The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick, author Gene Stone shares what he believes are “the most worthwhile secrets to your health.” A journalist who has written about—and participated in—everything from bone-density scans and EKGs to acupuncture and reflexology, Stone says that after two decades of work he still didn’t know why the “common cold is just as common as it was eons ago.” In search of an answer, he set out “to find people who didn’t get sick, to find out why they didn’t get sick, and then to see if their secrets were valid for others.” The 25 secrets Stone settled upon range from the familiar—chicken soup, Vitamin C, regular exercise—to the unconventional—napping, cold showers, eating dirt (yes, soil). These secrets, Stone explains, “are ones that seemed destined to remain interesting over time, had the firmest basis in scientific fact, and were endorsed intelligently and articulately by their proponents.” His experience in the field of health and wellness shows as Stone easily synthesizes the arcane historical fact with the modern scientific one. More than a how-to for staying well, The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick is an entertaining—not to mention informative—lesson on health, history and human ingenuity.
THE DIET PUZZLE
Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds, and Lose Inches is the newest offering from Cynthia Sass, co-author of the New York Times bestseller Flat Belly Diet! Unlike most other diet plans, Sass assures us that her new weight-loss strategy does not involve counting calories. The focus instead is on “meal timing, portions, combinations of foods, and food quality.” Plus there’s a daily dark chocolate requirement—yes, requirement (we like this plan already). Every meal is a carefully constructed “puzzle” consisting of a whole grain, a lean protein, a plant-based fat, produce and seasonings. Among the 100 recipes included in the book are vegetarian- and vegan-friendly options, and Sass shows her readers how to follow the plan not only at home but in restaurants, too. Hoping to create order out of “diet chaos,” Sass has come up with a plan where “you won’t feel like you’re in reform school or diet boot camp.” Rather, you will learn to avoid processed and artificial foods, eat four meals at structured times throughout the day and discover how to replace butter, sugar and salt with a variety of healthful—and delicious—herbs, seasonings and spices. Following the plan for 30 days seems doable, even for the truly diet-challenged, and we can certainly agree with Sass about the benefits of sticking with it: “No matter what else is going on, taking charge of your body will make you feel like you can conquer the world.”
PICKING THE RIGHT FOODS
In Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, author Gary Taubes returns to familiar territory, arguing as he did in 2007’s Good Calories, Bad Calories that today’s “nutrition and obesity research [has] lost its way.” While Taubes’ earlier book presented readers with nearly 500 pages of dense scientific research and heavily annotated explanations, Why We Get Fat simplifies his arguments against the conventional wisdom on obesity. It’s not too many calories and too little exercise that are making Americans fat, he says; it’s too many of the wrong calories, specifically calories from refined carbohydrates and sugars. “These carbohydrates literally make us fat,” Taubes writes, “and by driving us to accumulate fat, they make us hungrier and they make us sedentary.” An award-winning science writer, Taubes is set on sharing this message with a nonscientific audience. In clear and accessible prose, he lays out the history of America’s obesity epidemic, asking questions that push both him and the reader to consider possible solutions (a carbohydrate-restricted diet) and their implications (how would a subsequently increased dependence upon animal products affect the planet, our health, our society?). Taubes is intent on exploring the answers, and his conviction alone makes Why We Get Fat well worth considering.
MIND OVER MATTER
Dr. Marie Pasinski shares seven steps for developing a “better, smarter, younger you” in Beautiful Brain, Beautiful You: Look Radiant from the Inside Out by Empowering Your Mind. A neurologist and Harvard Medical School faculty member, Pasinski believes that “your brain is the key to improving every facet of your life.” Focusing specifically on women who want to feel and look their best as they age, the doctor aims to show readers that there’s more to brain health than memory games and puzzles. “While these might be helpful,” she writes, “I encourage you to embark on a wider journey that includes optimizing the lifestyle and health factors that impact your brain function.” Pasinski explains “how physical ailments, mood disorders, hormones, and medications directly affect brain performance,” and advises readers on which supplements to take and which to avoid. Pasinski’s tone is encouraging and her seven-step plan is specific enough to give readers workable goals. Whether it’s taking a new route to work, working in the garden or changing your diet, she says, “even the smallest changes will begin to transform the way you think and the way you look and feel.”
KEEPING IT OFF
In The Life You Want: Get Motivated, Lose Weight, and Be Happy, Bob Greene, best known as Oprah’s personal trainer, helps readers lose weight and shows them how to stay motivated to keep it off. Too often, it’s this latter part—“the psychological side of weight loss”—that’s ignored, even though it’s typically the mental and emotional components that determine how long weight loss lasts. Greene is determined to change this, helping readers take a deeper look at themselves and their relationship with food. Most of all, he says, his goal is not “just to get you to make changes; my goal is to get you to make changes that last.” More than a book about weight loss, The Life You Want is a treatise on deciding what’s important in life, setting goals and achieving them—lessons that can benefit almost everyone.