This summer has brought us babies, yay, and books. But since I was 1. busy writing my own book (Primal Moms Look Good Naked, to be released in February) and 2. having a baby (Maya Sofia) I wasn’t really keeping up on what was hitting the shelves. So now that I have a little more time (really just a little) I can sit back with a cup of tea and read (with Maya glued to my chest of course).
The first in what is going to be a series of fall book reviews is It Starts With Food.
First of all, let me tell you how much I love that title. All of us who have watched the Primal diet transform our lives are always blabbing about food this, diet that. And really, that is the most important change we can make towards improving our health.
But food isn’t the only cog in the well-being machine. As the title clearly states, health starts with food.
Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, the authors, are a beautiful pair. They are both healthy, fit, hot, smart, and hardcore. And they devised the most successful Paleo weight loss plan in existence. Who better to help you transform your health, right?
These amazing coaches also have a resourceful website, Whole9life and offer seminars all over the country.
It Starts With Food is a much needed addition to the Paleo/Primal book lineup. It is practical and written in a way that anyone can understand, employing fun and effective analogies at every turn.
The book is a lot more than just an outline of their strategy, however. They don’t just give you a safe foods list and send you on your way. They actually address what goes wrong inside our bodies when we start to make bad food choices – that is, when we start succumbing to cravings. Then they show us how to resolve them.
In case you’re wondering, dieting isn’t the answer. We have to remove the Franken-food as they call it, the laboratory created foods, and replace them with real foods. We have to rewire our brains to make them work in the way they’re supposed to so that we can stop being controlled by food.
Making good food choices, that is, eating meat, good fats, vegetables, and fruits will change our bodies in 3 ways. It will balance our hormones, repair our guts, and reduce inflammation. All of these things together will help us to both lose weight and reverse many modern ailments such as skin problems, psychological issues, asthma, arthritis, etc.
Bad food choices impacts our hormones in a slew of negative ways. Melissa and Dallas focus on just four: insulin, leptin, glucagon, and cortisol. These are the hormones in charge of guiding our cravings. When these get out of balance, we begin to gain weight and feel bad. Thankfully, changing our diets can change our hormone balance and restore overall health.
Gut health is notoriously difficult to achieve for many of us. We come from a background of antibiotics and prescription drugs, industrialized dead foods, poor gene expression, and the list of digestive system assaults goes on. It’s almost like we go to extremes to damage our guts.
But a damaged gut causes a lot of problems.
Our guts are what extract the nutrients from our food and what gives us strong immune systems. If we impair that extraction process or reduce the strength of our immune systems we simply cannot be healthy.
Eliminating the most common offenders will improve our gut health and, hence, overall health.
Systemic, chronic inflammation (not to be confused with the acute inflammation which occurs when we cut or bump ourselves) is at the root of many, if not all, modern diseases and nearly everyone these days has it.
Inflammation is an immune response to help heal our bodies when they’re hurt. But when this immune response goes on constantly and systemically it can leave you sick and vulnerable.
So, who’s immune systems are bogged down by inflammation, preventing them from losing weight and feeling great? Nearly everyone’s these days. If you’re overweight, you have systemic inflammation. If you regularly eat industrialized vegetable oils, you have it. If you eat a lot of sugar you have it.
Less Healthy and More Healthy Foods
The next two sections of the book go into great detail about which foods we should eat and which we should avoid. They advise that we eliminate sugar, alcohol, PUFAs, grains, legumes, and dairy. They are strict about the things they eliminate because they are aiming for superior health.
The inclusion of things like alcohol and dairy are often debated in the Paleo community. I myself indulge in both from time to time, usually not, but I recognize that optimal health – i.e. feeling amazing, not something most people today really know anything about – you’re going to have to leave them out.
The Whole 30 Program
The climax of the book is, of course, their famous program.
No cheats, no slips, no excuses
Like I said, they’re hard core. And that is why their program has been so successful. It takes elimination of all possible food offenders to be sure which foods are problematic. It takes a diet of perfectly clean foods to completely clean out and heal the body.
Now, of course, 30 days is not going to offer complete and total relief of all your ills forever. You can’t just do the 30 day challenge and then go back to your old ways and expect to be all better.
One disservice our medical system has done to us is to lead us to believe that a session, a program, or a pill is enough to repair us – that we don’t have do anything ourselves or make any long term changes for wellness.
But in reality, good health is a commitment to change. Their 30 day challenge is just the beginning. That’s what the next section is all about – a strategy for reintroduction.
I’m glad they didn’t leave this out. Reintroducing specific foods is what helps us to really get to know our own bodies and what helps us to make informed decisions when we cheat. There are some cheats that I simply will not, under any circumstances, succumb to because I have experimented and know what makes me feel really bad. This knowledge is what can make or break long term success.
Have you read it? What did you think?