Book Review I

I like to read. I read every day. I read blogs. I read books. I read magazine articles. And lots of books. In fact I don’t think I’ve gone to bed  without reading at least a few pages of a book I enjoy for as long as I can remember (and before I read to myself my parents read to me, so I have literally been falling asleep with a story in my head for as long as I can remember).

After finishing university I stepped away from reading about food and nutrition in my spare time. But since rediscovering the library I’ve found myself drawn to books about food more. Especially books about eating, and our relationship with food (something I believe to be fundamentally messed up in our society). And since our relationship with food can be a large barrier to sustainable changes, as a dietitian I’ve really worked to seek out methods, and ideas for change that seem to work for others.

Enter this book.

I actually first heard about it years ago when Oprah still had a talk show. I can remember the author being on the show, but wasn’t all that drawn to the discussion of anything spiritual (believing most of it to be mumbo-jumbo).

And this book is really about spirituality and how a person’s eating can be a gateway to finding what’s missing in their life; or what stories they tell themselves about their inadequacies. It’s geared towards female compulsive eaters specifically, but really anyone who feels they might use food for purposes other then physical nourishment might benefit from reading it.

What about the science? Us dietitians (being health professionals and all) are all about Evidence Based Advice. “What does the evidence say? “ we might often ask ourselves before relaying some diet advice to a client. Or my favourite response to some of the nutrition beliefs people have (but are not ready to hear are false) well the evidence doesn’t support that idea but…  This book doesn’t claim any sort of scientific background, there’s no research or evidence mentioned. Instead Geneen Roth draws on her own experience as a compulsive eater, and that of her many clients and retreat attendees.

While she threads the idea that eating is a connection to our spiritual selves (and thus compulsive overeating, the constant cycle of dieting and binging is a sign that we are missing something spiritual in our lives) what she really gets at is that we need to listen to our bodies.

Seeing as this is the idea behind things such as Mindful Eating, Intuitive Eating and HAES based philosophies (all of which are based on research) in a roundabout way Women, Food and God is right in line with the evidenced based books that are out there.

Overall? It’s a nice quick read and if you’ve ever struggled with binge eating or compulsive eating, it’s worth a read. For health professionals? It’s always good to see what’s out there being sold to the masses.

Hungry For Change: Review

I recently participated in the online premiere of Hungry for Change, a documentary done mostly through interviews that looks at what may be causing obesity in North America (or the world in general). Here’s the trailer:

I can’t say there was anything new in this movie. It was the usual, too much sugar in our diet, too many processed foods.

I enjoyed hearing some of the “facts” but I wish they had given the studies that they received their information from (in one part they discuss how diet soda with caffeine + aspartame are a deadly combination that causes brain cells to die in complete euphoria) since some of it sounds interesting (and far fetched, though I have no doubts at all that sugar replacements are something we know very little about and are most likely hazardous to our health).

While I agree that we have too much added sugar in our foods, I’m tired of hearing it compared to a drug. Of course sugar uses the same pathway in our brain as heroin or cocaine; it’s the dopamine pathway, so anything that gives you pleasure or makes you happy could be doing the same thing. Here’s an interesting blog post discussing just that.

As a whole I support the idea of  whole foods and local eating as a way to live a healthier life, but I am tired of hearing the idea that if everyone bought a juicer, we could all be healthy. I do not believe that it is as simple as telling people to eat more fruits and vegetables (after all we do that a lot already). There is a lot of problems that are a little more systemic in our food system that deny in some instances access or availability of foods to areas, population or people I would love to see a film that maybe discusses the ways we can work to change our food system (though perhaps this is discussed in films such as Forks Over Knives, or Food Inc. I must admit I haven’t seen those yet).

On the other hand, I really liked that this film was not completely over the top about pushing a certain lifestyle. They discussed more whole foods (fruits + vegetables), more local foods. They didn’t vilify wheat, or meat, or even butter. I loved some of the discussion of how other areas of your life can affect what you eat. And the power of mind, the idea of visualization really interests me. I do completely support the idea of local and sustainable practice, and working to eat “a diet as a species would eat”. Some of the personal stories are really inspiring as well.

While in the end what goes in your mouth is personal choice, the road for food to get there is much more complicated than that. Ideas such as availability and access (food deserts anyone?) play a large role in health as well, and I would love to see a film discuss the food system, and it’s relation to obesity, from a corporate (and even food policy) level as well. We do have to really change what is going in our mouth, but perhaps we have to change what is being made available to go in our mouths

So have you seen the film? What were your thoughts?