I’ve been doing a lot of summer reading and below I briefly review three books I recently read and enjoyed very much.
My Fat Dad is the touching memoir of nutrition consultant and New York Times writer Dawn Lerman. If you’ve seen any of her “fat dad” blog posts, you will know that she was raised by a father who was seriously overweight and food-obsessed and spent most of his life cycling through every imaginable fad diet until a stage-3 lung cancer diagnosis forced him to finally turn his eating around. His food issues traced back to his mother, Beauty, who was a fabulous Jewish-style cook. Since Dawn’s mother was a creative,
free-spirited type who found mothering and cooking a burden, Dawn gravitated to Beauty who adored and doted on her and imparted her with her passion for food and cooking. Lerman tells her life story—which includes really neat elements like how she launched her younger sister, April’s, acting career, and her teenage midnight sneak-outs to Studio 54 where she became a regular—interspersed with recipes from each era. The book is super fun to read, and though not all of the recipes were my cup of tea, there were definitely several I plan to try, such as the Sweet Potato Hummus, Creamy Cashew Butternut Soup, Beauty’s Salmon Patties, and Protein-Packed Linzer Cookies.
No Sweat! How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness, by Dr. Michelle Segar, is putatively about physical fitness but really addresses the longstanding philosophical problem of akrasia, or weakness of the will. Why do the vast majority of people make an exercise plan only to have it fizzle out within weeks? Why, in contrast, do some others find time to exercise no matter what? Segar’s thesis is that when we try to motivate people by invoking the many reasons for exercise, we approach the matter all wrong. Motivation is not a matter of acquiring more facts—people are not stupid, and the health and weight benefits of exercise are well known—but of engaging the emotions. If would-be exercisers do not derive immediate benefit, pleasure, and gratification from exercise, their workout ambitions are bound to fail because their motivation will rely entirely on willpower—which we have in limited quantity and which peters out. Instead, the key to long-term success is that we must find physical activity that in real-time feels good, fun, and rewarding. Her book outlines her expert views on how to accomplish this, validating Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza’s belief that “I can control my passions and emotions if I can understand their nature.”
The Allergy Solution by Dr. Leo Galland and his son, Jonathan Galland, explores “the surprising, hidden truth about why you are sick, and how to get well.” Their thesis, supported by thousands of case studies, is that in many, many instances, common maladies are allergic reactions to foods and common environmental substances. For example: a patient with persistent mouth sores healed after eliminating nightshade vegetables, another from hives after eliminating yeast, and another from exhaustion and body aches by getting away from the mold hidden behind her office walls. Dr. Galland retraces his detective work in these and many other cases, which is fascinating in its own right, and then presents a detailed questionnaire for you to assess your own allergic status. The final part of the book outlines a three-day “Power Wash” to identify and remove allergic triggers, and then offers dietary advice for rebuilding a more allergy-resistant immune system. While not every illness will of course be traceable to allergy, and while a skilled practitioner would be needed to trace allergic sources in most cases, this book may offer hope to patients whose doctors have merely medicated their symptoms rather than discovered the underlying causes of their illness.