I am a voracious reader, and when I get into something, I want to read any and everything that will help me understand it.
These are some books that have been extreeeeeemely helpful to me in this journey.
As I read Craving: Why We Can’t Seem to Get Enough, by physician Omar Manejwala, MD, I found myself nodding like a bobble head doll, and also reaching for my pen to underline something on pretty much every page. This is a topic I can relate to. It opens with the question, “What explains the mysterious urge to do something that has caused so much damage in the past?” In other words, haven’t I learned YET?
I read this book to see if I could learn something new for my blog readers, my Weight Watchers members, friends and family that I care about, and of course myself. And while much of the content of the book wasn’t NEW, it was certainly reaffirming and validating of many of the steps I’ve taken that have helped me (and explained how and why I’ve had setbacks).
The book opens with a definition of what craving is: a strong desire that, if unfulfilled, produces a powerful physical and mental suffering. They can range from a passing urge to an all-out, consuming addiction. The author mentions something called “apparently irrelevant decisions” that can lead to a relapse. Then he explores why cravings matter: because they are uncomfortable, because they cause us stress, and because people who experience cravings are more likely to relapse into behavior that isn’t good for them or aligned with their goals. (nod, nod, underline, underline)
It deals with all different sorts of cravings – from alcohol to food to gambling, smoking and sex. He addresses ways in which these are universal issues, no matter what the substance or behavior.
There’s a big chunk in the book on brain science – the neurobiology of cravings, why they happen and how our brains lie to us to make us do things that we know don’t benefit us. I happen to be a total geek for brain science, especially when it relates to this topic. I find it both reassuring and encouraging – it takes it out of the realm of “I suck because I can’t get a handle on this” and sheds a light on exactly WHY it can be so hard sometimes. The studies that are cited are fascinating.
The good news about our brains leading us around, is that we can actually re-draw the map and get our brains to work in ways that are more beneficial to us. Again, this isn’t new news, but for me, obviously, it is something that I need to learn and read over and over again, and this book does so in a way that is so straightforward and nonjudgmental.
The other good news is that a lot of things that I am already doing, are the things that are proven to work. Group support is key. KEY! (yay Weight Watchers, yay online blogging community, yay friends) Writing things down (i.e. tracking, food journaling etc) is KEY. Forgiveness is key. (One of my favorite, and most startling lines in the book: “Only love can neutralize shame.”)
What can I say? It’s a good book. It’s SOLID. It’s filled with good science, which I find both illuminating and reassuring. It’s filled with concrete, positive suggestions for addressing the issues of craving. It’s also compassionate at its core. It’s like, Give yourself a break. There are reasons you do this stuff, and it’s not your fault, but it’s not helping you, so here are some good tools that can give you a way out.
It so happened that I finished reading this book while alone on my writing retreat. I’m away from home, and out of my normal routine. A little excited (vacation mode), a little anxious, a little lonely here and there. Perfect breeding ground for cravings! I could feel myself veering into potentially dangerous territory. Reading this book was like a little life jacket being thrown my way. It was a voice saying, “You know how to do this. Remember?”
Some of my favorite underlinings:
- Cravings… are deeply personal. Comparing your cravings with what other people experience is a losing game and can only serve to undermine your success.
- There is no such thing as a permanent craving; all cravings eventually go away, whether or not we act or act out on them.
- The ideal time to address your cravings is when you are not actively craving.
- Another important brain function is to lie to you.
- Health, happiness and even longevity benefits come from being helpful to others.
It’s good stuff. Check it out! You can pre-order here.
I was fortunate enough to recently receive a copy of this book for review. For the record, I often get offers to review a product for this blog. My policy (and I am up front about this) is that I will accept things to review, but unless I really like it, I probably won’t take the time to write a review. I don’t really have time for negative reviews. Unless I really, really really DON’T like something.
When I was diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes, I was in such a whirl of confusion, distress, anxiety, fear, and worry. I didn’t know what to do, what to eat, what to think. It was very upsetting. Somebody recommended this book to me and it was a lifesaver, a real grounding that helped me sort things through. The author is both an RN and a diabetic person herself, so she knows of what she speaks. VERY helpful.
When I was first considering a diet lifestyle change, most diet books were enough to send me screaming into the hills (or the nearest ice-cream shop). I was very skittish, very wary, defensive, resistant and just plain not ready for anybody to tell me to eat baby carrots. I needed to be calmed down psychologically.
This book was the first “diet” book that really felt like it was speaking my language. I thought of it as the “diet whisperer” book. When I read this book, I truly felt “seen” for the first time. It wasn’t just saying stupid stuff like, “When you’re stressed, take a bubble bath instead of eating a whole cheesecake!” It helped me really understand and analyze all the stories I tell myself in my head that end up sabotaging any weight-loss hopes. All the justifications, lies, slippery little hopeful ideas that I have that let me “get away with” once again doing something that I know is not in my best interest.
I had never read a book before that made me feel so busted, and yet so SEEN. It was a huge relief, and one that really got me started on this path. When I first opened her book it brought tears to my eyes because I never really thought what she was saying was possible, that I could actually do things to make my brain act differently, so that my hands/mouth would also act differently. But turns out I could. I also love that this book solely concentrates on the psychological aspects of things, and lets you choose our own sensible food plan. I like that it wasn’t all mixed up together, because when I was reading this I wasn’t really ready to think about specific foods. I consider this a fantastic entry-level book for people who are terrified by the idea of dieting making lifestyle changes.
I read an interview with this author and immediately knew that I wanted to read this book. For one, I was comforted by the fact that he had struggled with food and compulsive eating himself. Secondly, he is a physician and scientist, so I thought he’d have some interesting knowledge to impart. Thirdly, I found the photo of the carrot cake on the book jacket irresistable (his case in point!)
His research into WHY so many Americans overeat, and find it utterly impossible to STOP, is thorough – sometimes a bit redundant, but very thorough, and fascinating, and horrifying. The food industry is spending billions of dollars basically manufacturing versions of crack. They’ve been able to figure out exactly WHAT makes food “craveable” and yes, truly irresistable, and they’re exploiting it to the max. It’s no coincidence that Kessler headed up the FDA and was one of the champions against the tobacco industry. He’s proven that there is no difference with the food industry, and that they are working every angle possible (visual images, scents, flavor combinations etc) in order to make a hefty profit, and the peoples’ health be damned.
The second half of the book, the “fight back” portion is really helpful, and really good, but I think it could have been developed more, and the first part condensed a bit. (do we really need pages of pages of what on one hand is “exposing” the advertising of food like Cinnabons? I know he was telling me how evil they are, but the elaborate descriptions really made me want to eat one) The solutions have to do with being completely AWARE that the FI (food industry) is trying to snooker you every which way, and giving you tools to stay out of their grasp. One solution, obviously, is to stay the hell AWAY from “food” manufactured by large companies (chain restaurants and packaged food). And then some other useful suggestions. I thought this book was both illuminating AND helpful. Two thumbs up.