On My Night Stand

Good morning, ladies!

I am in the midst of building the newly improved Pretty Healthy. Let me tell you, this is taking up a ¬†lot of my brain waves ūüôā The design has gone in a completely different direction, but it’s getting there and I am proud of it. Of course, I can’t code on my bus rides to school, so I have some books to keep me company.

Death By Food Pyramid by Densis Minger: The blogger behind ¬†RawFoodSOS (I’ve mentioned her before–her research skills are top-notch and making-it-easy-to-understand skills make me jealous) has a book. It finally came and I was so excited to start reading. It’s subtitle is How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics and Shady Special Interests Ruined Your Health…and How to Reclaim It! and it does not disappoint. Minger’s book is a balanced account–she discusses the lipid and sugar hypotheses for heart disease, treating them equally–and very accessible. While Food Politics almost put me to sleep, Death By Food Pyramid was engaging and fun. I’m not quite done with it yet, but I am totally recommending it!

The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes: You may have heard about mitochondrial DNA and how everyone is able to trace their (direct) maternal line all the way back to one of several primordial women. This book is the account of the scientist who originally identified this phenomenon and tells the story of the seven women all Europeans can trace their mitochondria back to: Katrine, Xenia, Jasmine, Velda, Ursula, Tara, and Helena. I have only just started this book but I am so excited to read it. It follows the history of the descendants of each woman, their migrations over the centuries, all from simple genetics.

What are you reading now?


Review: The Paleo Manifesto

Recently, I was perusing the shelves in my local library, and I happened upon The Paleo Manifesto by John Durant. As a dietitian hopeful, I know I need to keep up to date on new nutrition trends. Obviously, I am a bit behind, since Pinterest has already got a special search function for Paleo recipes. I thought, What the heck, and checked it out.

In general, the book is very interesting and well-researched (though I disagree on the part about grains¬†as of yet). There are so many interesting studies I need to look into–from fasting’s anti-cancer benefits, to opiates in wheat, to sun-exposure preventing cancer, there are tons of things I can’t wait to dig into. The book begins by explaining ailments that animals experience when in captivity and goes on to explain an interesting take on Moses as the first microbiologist. Durant’s arguments are very thought-provoking from both an evolutionary and nutritional point of view.

Most importantly, Durant explained the Paleo lifestyle simply. He recommends traditional fats (hello, pork belly, a.k.a. unprocessed bacon); eating properly raised meat, eggs, seafood, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and tubers; eating “nose to tail” when you do eat animals (i.e, don’t forget the organ meats!); following ancient culinary practices (they’ve lasted this long for a reason); and cutting out the processed stuff. He describes Paleo as a lifestyle, and recommends exercise (especially Crossfit), taking advantage of fluctuating temperatures (from Polar Bear swims to saunas), and getting lots of sunlight.

There are inconsistencies, though. For instance, Durant recommends eating nuts¬†(though, not in large quantities), but they have a ton of phytic acid, one of the reasons Durant emphatically recommends avoiding grains, seeds, and legumes. Like I said, I don’t think I agree with the Paleo stance on grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. I feel like this part of the book could have at least offered some¬†counterarguments and dispelled them¬†rather than never addressing the opposition.

Durant¬†draws interesting lines between Paleolithic, Agricultural, Industrial, and Digital ages, identifying important changes to the food system and human lifestyles in each age. While both Paleolithic and Agricultural Ages have their benefits, the Industrial Age is painted as a pretty dismal change in our food system. He¬†appears optimistic about the Digital Age, though, and offers ideas about improving¬†our food systems’ sustainability. For instance, eating invasive species, doing our best to eat locally, and getting involved in where our food comes from (by growing it, hunting it, and cooking it ourselves to the best of our abilities).

Overall, I liked The Paleo Manifesto–it was interesting, it gave me lots of things to think about, and it answered my general questions about the Paleo lifestyle. I would recommend this book for people interested in the science behind our traditional life¬†and for most of the food and lifestyle recommendations. Ultimately, living the Paleo lifestyle is not a bad¬†choice in most regards (and you could do much worse, as many Americans on the industrial Western Diet do).

Review: Real Food

Here it is–the review of that much-lauded (by me at least) book Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck. This book, like French Women Don’t¬†Get Fat, is part memoir. In the first section, Planck explains growing up on a family farm eating real, whole foods; her early adulthood on vegan, vegetarian, and low-fat diets; and eventually returning to the farmhouse diet of her childhood.

The rest of the book is a well-researched argument for eating wild game and fish; full-fat, grass-fed dairy; meats from pastured (or otherwise non-factory-raised) livestock; and real fats. Planck breaks down the nutritional components of these superior foods–wild-caught salmon is higher in omega-3 fatty acids; grass-fed beef contains more stearic acid, omega-3 fats, and vitamin E; and just eat your vegetables (even the conventionally grown ones), because they are essential for good health, full of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.

When I first read this book five years ago now, I absorbed only the central message: that we should be eating traditional foods as they were traditionally prepared and minimally processed. While that theme was important to me in developing my nutritional philosophy, there is so much more to be garnered from these pages. About the nutritional profiles of these traditional foods compared to new-fangled competitors. About nutrition beyond the commonly spun tales about saturated fats and cholesterol.

Of course, some of the cited evidence is more anecdotal than scientific, so some claims may be taken with a grain of salt. The body of research Planck does cite is impressive, though. I would definitely suggest this book to anyone interested in the whole/real/slow foods movement or anyone interested in the near-silent (at least until recently) “other side” of the saturated fats debate.

Review: French Women Don’t Get Fat

I first read¬†French Women Don’t Get Fat¬†as a high school freshman, still madly consuming diet books as though they might sustain me. Thank God I found this one–it is part of what put me on the path to seasonal, whole foods. The common sense approach was new to me and though I¬†never tried the plan, this is the book that lead me to read Real Food, and ultimately to my interest in nutrition.

After many re-reads, French Women is still delightful and Mireille Guiliano’s wisdom is still timeless. Based on her experience loosing weight and keeping it off for several decades, Guiliano writes about the process she and her family physician went through to return her to her healthy size. Not only does she prescribe the same process she went through, but Guiliano writes about topics like seasonality, chocolate and bread (some common vices), and eating for any age range.

This book is part memoir, part health advice, part cookbook, and all captivating. Full of allusions and personal stories, this book has something for each of us, not just Francophiles or ladies searching for the way to lose the last few pounds.

I highly recommend this book as a fun read and a great source of recipes! Not to mention, if you are an avid reader, you could finish it in a day (I reread it over the course of 5 hours in trains). Find it here.

Now, for funzies: here is the croissant recipe!

French Women Don't Get Fat Croissants

  • Servings: 12
  • Print


1 cup milk plus 2 tbsp to brush over croissants

2 tsp Active Dry yeast

2.25 cups plus 3 tbsp. sifted all-purpose flour

2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

12 tbsp unsalted butter

For Glaze:

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp milk

Friday Evening (Day 1)

1. Heat 1/4 cup of milk to lukewarm. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk. Stir in 6 tbsp flour from the 2.25 cups and whisk until there are no lumps. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until doubled in volume (It will take about 20 minutes).

2. Mix the sugar and salt into the remaining flour.

3. Heat the remaining milk. Transfer the raised dough to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the lukewarm milk and, with the mixer at high-speed, start adding the sugar, salt and flour from step 2, a little at a time, reducing the speed to low-medium until the dough is sticky and soft.

4. cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Saturday Morning (Day 2)

1. Bring the butter to room temperature and work it with the heel of your hand to incorporate the remaining 3 tablespoons of flour until smooth. Shape into a square.

2. Sprinkle the work surface with the flour, shape the cold dough into a 6×15 inch rectangle (portrait, not landscape), and spread the butter square on the upper 2/3 of the rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the sides and top. Fold the dough like a letter into thirds. Turn the dough counterclockwise (It will open like a notebook with the flap on your right), then again roll out the dough into the 6×15 rectangle and fold as before.

3. Transfer the dough to a baking pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours.

Saturday Afternoon (Day 2)

1. Roll out the dough 2 more times, wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Sunday Morning (Day 3)

1. About 1.5 hours before baking time, remove the dough from the refrigerator and sprinkle flour on the work surface. Roll the dough into a 15 inch circle, working as quickly as possible. Using a knife, cut the dough into quarters and then cut each quarter into 3 triangles.

2. With both hands, roll the base of each triangle toward the remaining corner, Do not curl the ends in the croissant shape. Transfer the croissants to a baking sheet and brush with 2 tbsp milk. Let stand at room temperature for about 45 minutes or until the croissants have doubled in volume.

3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the croissants with the glaze and bake for 15-20 minutes. If the croissants brown too fast, cover them loosely with foil and continue baking. Let cool 20 minutes before serving.

Review: Cody, the Fitness App

For those of us with smart phones (or just the iTouch or whatever), we know what apps we spend the most time on. Looking at, updating, playing with. Right now, that favorite app for me is Cody. Need a little extra push to get moving? Active on social media or not so active (in either sense of the term)? Have you looked into Cody?

Cody is a free app (yep! I think that is pretty awesome! And there are no ads!) you can use as a motivational and social tool for fitness. My presence on social media is pretty small (on the blog, it’s limited to Facebook and Pinterest), but as far as I can tell, Cody functions as a sort of as an instagram¬†or a blog for different people. Some post pictures of favorite foods, workouts, and transformations; some write¬†a lot about different parts of the workout or heartfelt messages; some just straight up write reps and sets. You can follow people who inspire you, comment on posts (and like them), and search for different workouts by type (Crossfit, running, walking, swimming, hiking, and yoga are just a taste of the options) or search hashtags. And you definitely don’t need any social media experience to use it.

There are also training options and paid or free classes. I have yet to use either of these options, so I can’t review¬†this aspect of the app. However, Cody is easy to use and loads quickly, so I would be surprised¬†if there were issues with the videos. Beyond functionality, the graphics are really nice–fun and energizing, exactly what you would expect from Cody.

I use it to keep track of workouts. Cody is really keen on congratulating you, whether because your average speed has improved on your runs, or this is your longest barre workout to date, or you’ve been active for x weeks straight. And, the posters are super inspiring . In the app, you can post pictures or preloaded posters with your workout¬†and there is a great variety of them (some are unique to each type of workout). The “awesome by choice” poster (I’ve seen it¬†under running and barre)¬†is my favorite. It inspires me to strive for a workout worthy of being posted beside such a poster.

Bottom line: Cody is a great app–motivational, social, and easy to use–and it is free, to boot. Anyone with an Apple product should look into it (Cody is ¬†only available on the iTunes store at press time). I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Like this? Read my review on the Human fitness app or check out nutrition for beauty!

Change The World With A Book In Hand

(Photo: Book Sale Loot by Ginny/Flickr Creative Commons)

(Photo: Book Sale Loot by Ginny/Flickr Creative Commons)

For a lot of people, their phone is¬† a part of their hand. I haven’t got a phone, but I have got books. When I¬† was little, I used to get in trouble for reading too much when my classmates were being cajoled and wheedled into opening a book.¬†I basically had a book glued to my hand and took one with me everywhere. I was bummed when I had to learn to drive because then I’d be driving and I couldn’t read on the way from here to there.

It’s not really a surprise then that it was a set of books that influenced my interest in nutrition. I first found French¬†Women Don’t Get¬†Fat¬†back in my diet phase. Part memoir, part cookbook (that book has a solid, simple croissant recipe), part common sense eating advice, it spoke to me. It was about liking food; making eating an event with a tablecloth, family, and real plates;¬†and eating fine, seasonal ingredients.

Next, I had to read¬†Real Food¬†by Nina Planck, which I have to blame for the turning point to a whole/real foods enthusiast working on making the whole switch. I chose that book based on the cover¬†photo (a bunch of¬†produce, dairy,¬†meat, and oils, all arranged artfully–what can¬†I say but that it caught my eye?)¬†and I have been very pleased with the results–researched and compelling,¬†the central message is that foods humanity has grown up with are¬†not bad for you. That was music to my ears¬†after having read every diet book on the shelves in¬†the local library, each¬†claiming something different and most telling me to quit my dairy habit.

Then I saw In Defense of Food¬†in a bookstore on my way to the library and placed a hold on that little gem. In Defense of Food was and is so well researched, so well laid out, and so informational. Michael Pollan¬†lays out all of these studies like the Minnesota¬†starvation study and all these historical figures like Weston Price and tells us what is wrong with how and what we eat. And the subtitle “Eat food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.” is so central to the book.

I read Marion Nestle’s What to Eat and The Jungle Effect¬†by Daphne Miller, MD on a whim, and both confirmed the arguments of the other books I had read. On a recent reread, I was disappointed that Miller was on the whole “saturated fats are awful, silent killers!” bandwagon. Still, the first, final, all reads in between, the focus on traditional diets and the detective¬†work on what makes them so healthful is super interesting.

Now that I am nearly grown up, I still have a book glued to my hand–currently the Song of Ice and Fire¬†series (we don’t get HBO, so I have to say up on pop culture somehow). But, once I have completed that, I am planning to write reviews of all these books that have influenced me and my interest in nutrition. Really,¬†I think that these books have some information, insight, and ideas that can change the world (or a least the parts of the world subscribing to the Standard American Diet). So, stay tuned for recaps on books that are too interesting to be left alone and for personal stories and insights from yours truly this summer. (UPDATE: I added some links to books I reviewed!)


This post is in response to today’s daily prompt, Mutants and Hybrids.¬†

Review: Foodist by Darya Pino Rose

Foodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight without Dieting¬†is definitely one of the most interesting books I have read on weight loss. As someone who spent a lot of time reading¬† diet books and absorbing the underlying scientific reasoning, I can certainly say that this book is as refreshing a change as was French Women Don’t Get Fat.

Of course, both of these books were designed to be refreshing–they focus not on weight loss, but on eating high quality, delicious food and losing weight as a result. I know that sounds too good to be true, but it totally happened to me at one point, but more on that in a minute.

In Foodist, Darya Pino Rose (of the website Summer Tomato) lays out first why diets fail, then why you should eat good food, and ends on how to go about doing that. She starts with a discussion about how difficult diets are, how much they suck, and how much easier it is to lose weight eating delicious food. Hold up, you say, What is this about delicious food?

See, diets require a huge amount of willpower and willpower really does have a finite supply (this has to do with decision-making¬†skills requiring glucose and if you have to make too many decisions, you’re brain will¬†inevitably want that double chocolate cookie–it’s full of easy-access sugar). Additionally, we make many food choices habitually. Rose suggests that we use these habits to our advantage (eat off smaller plates, for instance) or make new ones (chewing every bite at least 20 times).

She goes on to talk about healthstyle, a term she coined in order to avoid the word “diet” on her site (this is a bit of a pet peeve of mine–everyone has a diet all the time, but some people are on a weight loss¬†diet. In anycase…). Healthstyle¬†could be summed up as what you like to feel like and look like and what you eat normally, how many times you can splurge, and how much excercise¬†you need to maintain that feeling/image. I rather like the term, since it is all about personalization–some people don’t want to eat meat, some have food allergies, and some are trying to lose weight and get healthy at the same time, and that’s okay.

Rose goes on to recommend whole foods–vegetables, grains, legumes, meat (if you are so inclined), and some dairy–and especially from the farmers market or are locally produced. Skip the added sugar. Remember to make your indulgences count (for instance–if someone brings in a cake from that awesome french bakery around the corner, awesome. If it is a mass-produced grocery store cake, think about passing). And don’t forget to start by adding: for example, add in more vegetables before you start cutting things out (by then it won’t be cutting out, it will be getting rid of excess that you aren’t even so keen on).

She dispels¬†myths about farmers markets sky-high prices (the culprit is fruit–those ought to be splurges) and explains how she was able to make the transition to eating whole as a graduate student in San Fransisco (and if that doesn’t scream, If I could do it, you can too! I don’t know what does). She finishes off with how to do the whole healthy eating thing and how to sell it to friends and family (or at least get them off your back). Food is inherently communal and builds relationships with friends and family. If you start to shop locally, whether from the farmer or a vendor (like a butcher for example), you build relationships with them, too, and your health (and maybe your family’s health) will benefit as a result.

Throughout Foodist, she talks about eating well and loosing weight. She was a successful dieter until she became a foodist, she says. But never had she weighed so little as when she started eating real food. And when you eat real food, you want to exercise! I know it sounds ridiculous. I know. But it sincerely did happen to me.

Early in my high school career, I went on a diet and exercise¬†regimen, and though I lost weight, I couldn’t get below 123 pounds (my goal was 120).¬† I eventually quit it when I realized the¬†diet mentality was quite literally hurting me. I stopped using scales. I wasn’t until I came back from a couple of weeks¬†in Germany before my senior year that I stepped back on a scale. I weighed 118 pounds. I fully and completely blame it on whole¬†foods and exercise. While I was there, nearly everything I ate was home cooked or from a bakery down the block, and everyday there was swimming or walking.

It wasn’t until college application deadlines started rolling up that I started stressing myself into oblivion–but before that, for several months, I maintained my new figure. It’s been a while since then, and I am on a new journey to get back to a healthy lifestyle. I am adding slowly, green vegetables here, a weekly hike there, and I do hope to soon be my own best and a practicing foodist.

Review: Brave Girl Eating

Brave Girl Eating: A Family’s Struggle with Anorexia by Harriet Brown reads as a memoir, told by a mother blindsided by both her daughter’s illness and the judgments that come with it.

As an aspiring dietitian, I thought I wanted to work with an in-patient center treating eating disorders. As a young woman in a culture so obsessed with thin, I have struggled with disordered eating (though not an eating disorder) and after finding nutrition, thought I could grow up to help teens through the struggle of an eating disorder. I thought I could do that best through working at a residential center.

Reading Brave Girl Eating has completely changed my outlook on my future career. Part-memoir, part-research, the author cites¬†many statistics questioning the standard in-patient treatment method and offers another option: Family Based Treatment. Brown discusses the treatment–at odds though it is with conventional wisdom–and it’s effectiveness.

Traditional thinking dictates that parents are too controlling or critical and thus the child struggling with anorexia is acting out and must “choose” to eat. Parents are expected to watch as their child wastes away–they diligently follow doctors’ orders to “not be the food police.” However, Brown asserts that this thinking is based on outdated thinking and faulty correlations. She advocates a method¬† that makes scientific¬†sense¬†and offers parents the opportunity to do something proactive: feed their child. The reasoning for this is that a child who is severely malnourished can’t clearly reason, especially about food in the case of anorexia–there is not enough glucose in her system. The Family Based Treatment program brings the patient back to health and then works on the underlying emotional issues.

Speaking of emotional issues, this book puts forth an argument that seemed pretty compelling to me: therapists don’t see the family and its dynamics until long after the family is in the clutches¬†of anorexia. So, of course by then the parents have become¬†overly critical about what their daughter is eating, and of course she tries to manipulate¬†the situation so that she doesn’t¬†eat! She is terrified of becoming fat and her body image is completely¬†warped. So, the allegation that parents are too critical and controlling and drive their daughter to assert the only control she can (control over what she eats), is a case of proclaiming causation where there is only correlation.

In any case, the book is a very interesting read, throwing our culture’s obsession with skinny, current ideas about eating disorders, and the lack of information about anorexia into sharp relief. The book is well-researched,¬†compellingly argued, and (I would wager) a¬†different take on the illness than most are familiar with.¬†I would recommend this book as quite the page-turner to anyone interested in learning about anorexia, whether about facts or about the struggle.

Brave Girl Eating by Harriet Brown, published in 2010 by HarperCollins Publishers, available at Barnes and Noble and IndieBound.