If you have ever had a discussion about health or fitness with me, you have most likely heard me wax poetic about the mind/body connection. Phrases like “sometimes you have to eat that candy for your mental health” and “if a placebo works, is is really a placebo?” come out of my mouth in a slightly embarrassing frequency. So, when Blogging For Books offered me a review copy of this book, I jumped on it. I was genuinely excited about reviewing a book that looks at my google educated perceptions. I was not disappointed.
Cure: A Journey Into the Science of Mind Over Body by Jo Marchant was a really good blend of scientific evidence presentation and personally gripping stories and it was a pleasure to read.
To say Ms. Marchant is a scientist is an understatement. Words like microbiology and genetics sprinkle her bio and her writing history includes a vast amount of very technical subjects. So when you use terms like “spiritual healing” and “mind power” you can only imagine that she would roll her eyes. But as she tells it, she simply could not ignore the steps that were being made into legitimate scientific research into the mind-body connection.
This is where this book was born. The author completes a very skeptical, yet open-minded at the same time, review of several areas of medicine that are working on non-traditional ways of healing. There is a gut-wrenching section on treating war veterans with virtual reality, reviews of religious miracles, and close looks at how the mind-body connection is being used to help athletes break records. She calls the bad science where she sees it, and lauds the good science just the same. It is an apparently very unbiased look at what is helping people legitimately, what needs more review to prove it’s legitimate, and what is lacking in legitimacy; but all of it is done with respect.
The highlight of the book is that she tells the science through the stories of real people. It moves this subject from being something cold and data driven to something warm, people driven (albeit sometimes in a heart breaking way), but fully backed by good scientific review.
If you have any interest in the mind-body connection, health improvement, “new age” medicine, “traditional” medicine, or just love to read compelling stories of real people, this book is well worth your time.
Please note that I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review but have received no other compensation.
Let me start this by saying when I hear the word diet, I have a visceral, horrible reaction. When someone says “I am starting a diet”, I have to stop myself from grabbing them by the shoulders, shaking them, and yelling “THAT’S NOT HOW THIS WORKS! THAT’S NOT HOW ANY OF THIS WORKS!” I am a pontificator of the idea that how you eat is part of who you are. It is a lifestyle. So the idea of following something as temporary as a ‘diet’ makes me want to scream. I am also an even larger pontificator of the mental health aspect of eating. Good food not only makes your body go, GOOD food makes your brain happy. Limiting what you eat to extremes will make your mind, body, and soul suffer.
So, when one of my favorite Podcasters, Abel James (aka The Fat Burning Man), started talking about his book, The Wild Diet, part of me threw up in my mouth a little. I will now admit that this was a misplaced and incorrect reaction – The Wild Diet is a book about how to live a healthy lifestyle. It isn’t just a “here is a completely unsustainable way to drop 10 pounds, all why hating your life and looking and feeling like crap. Skinny crap, though, so it’s all good.” type diet. It is a book about how to develop a healthy lifestyle. You can take the tips and recipes in this book and meld them into your daily life in a pleasing, appetizing and damn tasty way. So let’s delve in a little.
The first part of the book delves into why our current cultural acceptance of what healthy is (but they are LOW FAT Oreos, so it’s cool!) is slowly killing us. The lack of fat and natural, real food, is making us sluggish, tired, and down right sick. The core message – eat real food. Bravo, Fat Burning Man. You have fully focused my attention span (usually the span is no longer than that of a cranky two year olds, but I made it through a whole chapter!).
Part two and three get into the science and mechanics behind why we need to eat natural, move natural, get outside, and freaking get back to nature – in other words, BE WILD. He also touches on something near and dear to my heart – he has a section discussing how all this applies to men and, gasp, how it separately applies to women. Our bodies are different. I find too often that for whatever reason, probably fear of the backlash of daring to say men and women are different, these differences are not acknowledged. This book doesn’t play that game. Bravo.
Now we get to the fun stuff – the recipes in the book. I’ve been on a clean eating kick for a while now, but it is usually pretty unstructured and hey, this looks good, sort of cooking. I lacked some variety and spice and these recipes really helped with that. A highlight for me was the list of Wild Diet Staples. I am a very busy person (*pats self on back) and this list is something I have gone to at least three times in the last two weeks, when I didn’t have time to sit down and make a recipe based shopping list.
The recipes are pretty simple and fun to make (I LOVE TO COOK!). Probably the biggest change for me is that I have started drinking coffee. I have, for a while now, been a lover of energy shots. I thought coffee tasted gross, and tea was just too much effort some days. But I know the energy shot habit is bad and the book gave me a kick in the butt to fix the bad. I went full out. French press, grinder, milk frother, and whole beans (sorry, haven’t gone the point of roasting my own beans yet, but I do have a roaster saved in my Amazon shopping cart). I have been using MCT oil for a while now so I already had that on hand, but I picked up a huge jar of Ghee. I now have coffee every morning. It is a great dose of healthy fats, good caffeine, and is frankly tasty. (To give you a feel of how much I didn’t drink coffee before – I lived in Seattle for ten years and I never bought nor drank a single cup of coffee, in any form, from Starbucks. It’s part of the reason I’m not there anymore….the locals were threatening me with pitchforks).
The food recipes are great and inspiring. I have come to appreciate the flat out taste difference between grass fed beef and the red slime beef. I appreciate how many different ways I can season nuts and seeds (which I’ve even started sprouting myself!). I stop in the store and read every label and think, do I really know what these ingredients are? Avocado is put on things I never imagined. Most recipes are uncomplicated and very easy to make, with a few saucier ones thrown in there for when I’m feeling jazzy.
This week I have been seen walking in my neighborhood, fatty coffee in one hand, cookie in the other (I know, cookies for breakfast…), getting my fifteen minutes of morning sun. All gained from this book. I am no physical or mental specimen. I have room to grow. I occasionally drink a soda pop or eat a dorito, but Abel has made me wake up a little bit more with this book. I am just someone looking to better myself every. damn. day. This book is helping me in this journey. It is well worth the read to gain more knowledge, add some good recipes to your repertoire, and make food part of your lifestyle.
Bottom line – The Wild Diet is not a diet. It is a great new tool for your “I want to be a healthy badass” toolbox. Check it out for sure.