The Wellness Project by Phoebe Lapine – A Review

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The Wellness Project: A Hedonist’s Guide to Making Healthier Choices by Phoebe Lapine
Wellness | Health | Nonfiction
Published by Pam Krauss/Avery
Released April 4, 2017
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars

You’re going to start seeing more non-fiction book reviews, especially health and wellness ones. I’m starting to pay a lot more attention to my body and mind and the connection between the two, and my favorite way to learn new information is through, well, reading (big surprise, right?!).

I came across Phoebe Lapine’s book at my local library. I loved the premise of it – Lapine would take on twelve months of wellness challenges and document what happens. This sort of year-long challenge has been something that I’ve always wanted to try, but due to a tight budget, it’s probably not happening anytime soon. Thus, I decided to live vicariously through Lapine.

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Here’s a quick run-down on the challenges that she takes on: vices, beauty and skincare, diet, cooking, clean water, physical therapy, fitness, sleep, hormones and women’s health, the gut microbiome, and relaxation. Basically, she tackles many of the biggest problems keeping us from feeling well.

For each challenge, she gives the reader a detailed introduction about why she chose this particular challenge, facts about the impact that the issue in question has on your body and mood, and tips and advice for changing it. There are also some really amazing recipes scattered throughout the book (the author is a well-known chef).

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Phoebe Lapine

While the changes that Lapine undertakes won’t work for everyone, whether it’s due to monetary or dietary or any other restrictions, this book does give you some good ideas of little changes you can make that have a big impact on your overall health.

Lapine’s conversational tone of voice made The Wellness Project entertaining and accessible. Not everyone wants a science-heavy textbook-style health book, and for people that want something lighter, this book would be perfect for them. I always recommend doing your own research on claims that might seem a little far-fetched to you (as well as talking to your doctor). Obviously, just because the information was published in a book doesn’t always make it right.

There were times when I wish the author had taken a more scientific approach to the challenges, as there are many times when she consults with some naturopaths and undertakes some slightly woo-woo cures. I’m not opposed to natural medicine – I actually believe that natural medicine is a great first step is becoming healthy, although when those natural cures do not work, modern medicine is the obvious next step. I wouldn’t have had a problem with those natural cures if she had discussed them with a licensed doctor and given us their views on it.

Overall, I think this is a great book for people who want to learn how to make small changes to improve their overall life. While not perfect, it is a great starting point for people starting on their wellness journey.

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What’s your favorite piece of advice for improving wellness? Let us know in the comments!


Looking for more health and wellness recommendations?

Healthy as F*ck | The Transformation | Perfectly Hidden Depression | The Case Against Sugar




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The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes

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The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes
Non-Fiction | Nutrition
Goodreads | Amazon
Published by Anchor Books
Released December 27, 2016
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars

I’ve mentioned several times on my blog now that I gave up sugar for the month of January in an attempt to be healthier and to try to get my body to stop craving sweets. I find that whenever I’m doing something challenging, reading about why I made that decision helps to keep me focused. In that vein, I purchased The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes, the author known for the book Why We Get Fat.

When I bought the book I assumed it was going to be about the nutrition of why sugar is so bad for us. If I’m being honest, I didn’t even read the synopsis but instead purchased it based on the title alone. What I wasn’t expecting was a complete history of how sugar became so prevalent in the western world and the effect it has on diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer, but I’m happy that it’s the book I got.

In the introduction to the book, Taubes lays out his argument:

“…that sugars like sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup are fundamental causes of diabetes and obesity, using the same simple concept of causality that we employ when we say smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer. It’s not because we eat too much of these sugars – although that is implied merely by the terms ‘overconsumption’ and ‘overeating’ – but because they have unique physiological, metabolic, and endocrinological (i.e., hormonal) effects in the human body that directly triggers these disorders.”

From there he examines sugar in every way that can be done. I especially enjoyed his discussions on the history of sugar reaching the western world and how it’s been perceived as a healthy food for portions of that history, even being used medicinally on occasion:

“‘It was good for almost every part of the body, for the very young, for the very old, for the sick and for the healthy,’ wrote the British historian James Walvin. ‘It cured and prevented illnesses; it refreshed the weary, invigorated the weak.'”

The most striking (and, truthfully, infuriating) aspect of sugar that Taubes examines is that sugar was found to be unhealthy early on, but the sugar industry used its financial influence to pay scientists to argue that it wasn’t. Research was purposefully overlooked or not taken seriously, and the industry did everything it could to blame dietary fat for the issues that should have been attributed to sugar.

I was startled to realize while reading this book that so much of how we think about nutrition, calories, and sugar was instilled in us decades ago by the course that this research took. So many people are still drawn to “low-fat” products despite the fact that the majority of these products are filled with sugar; there are groups that still believe that “a calorie is a calorie,” regardless of where those calories come from. There were even times in the recent past where organizations such as the American Heart Association were recommending patients eat sugary treats rather than foods high in fat to stay healthy. It makes me feel that the role of sugar in our diet is going to be slow to diminish.

Taubes uses a lot of evidence to make his argument that sugar could be the cause of many of our “Western diseases” that have become more prevalent since the introduction of sugar into our diets. He examines hundreds of years of medical history, as well as very convincing population studies. Those population studies were the most plausible arguments to me. As populations added sugar to their diets, their instances of diabetes and similar metabolic diseases suddenly starting appearing en masse in populations that rarely saw those diseases prior to sugar.

I’m definitely not saying that sugar should be cut out of our diet completely, and I also didn’t get the impression that that was Taubes’ goal either. Instead, the quantity of sugar we eating is extraordinary and perhaps we shouldn’t indulge ourselves quite as much as we’re able to. I still plan on enjoying my weekend bowl of ice cream after this month ends, but this book has made me more cognizant of the role that sugar could have on my overall health, particularly as I age.

This book was a wonderful, comprehensive look at sugar and it’s history. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in the history of foods, or that just want a deeper look at the effect that our highly sugar-filled diets might have on our long-term health.

Sugar-Free January – Week Two

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At the beginning of the month, I announced that I would be going sugar-free for the month of January in an attempt to detox a bit from all the sugar I’d starting eating. Last week, I shared my thoughts at the end of the first week, which can basically be summed up with: I noticed nothing different about myself, and I spent my nights dreaming about sweets.

Week two has been much easier. I haven’t been craving sweets as much, although walking into a grocery store is still a challenge. An interesting thing that’s happening is that I haven’t been nearly as hungry as I usually am. I’ve always been a snacker or grazer, eating small bits between meals. I also tend to eat when I’m bored, which I know isn’t healthy. This week, however, I’ve noticed that I’m no longer craving snacks between meals, and when I do eat I get full much faster.

Another change I’ve noticed is that my skin has started to clear up and is less oily. I had a feeling this would be one of the results of cutting out sugar, but I’m still very pleasantly pleased by it. When I was vegan and watching what I ate, I rarely ate sugar and white flour, and other mass-produced foods and my skin absolutely glowed during that period of my life. There was even one time that I was at a bar with one of my friends and a strange woman walked up to me to ask me what kind of skin care products I used to get my complexion. I’m not sure she believed me when I replied with “just some drugstore cleanser.”

Overall, at the end of the second week, I’m beginning to notice some positive changes, albeit slowly. I’m looking forward to seeing what week three brings.

Sugar-Free January – Week One

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Last week, I shared that I was participating in Sugar-Free January and that I would be posting weekly updates about my progress.

To sum the first week up, I’m craving all the sugar.

I had expected to have sugar cravings the first few days, but I wasn’t expecting to literally be dreaming about sugar. The third night of this challenge, I had a dream that I was sitting on my couch with a huge popcorn bowl, except it was filled with an assortment of candy. The entire dream was just me eating candy because my brain clearly hates me.

It’s also been challenging because, despite the holidays being over, I still find myself surrounded by decadent treats everywhere I am. While it’s been challenging to say no to everything, I’ve stuck with it.

The worst temptation I’ve had occurred during a trip to the grocery store. The particular store I was at had their sparkling waters directly across from their cookie selection, and while I was picking up some La Croix (which, by the way, is great for satisfying a sweet tooth without eating sugar!), I noticed that there was now a carrot cake Oreo flavor. Carrot cake is one of my favorite things in the world, and I bought it. While I’m not planning on trying them until next month, walking by them day after day has been challenging.

One of the positive things about this challenge is that I’m rediscovering my love of fruit. I’ve never been a fruit lover, but without being able to grab ice cream or a cookie when I’m craving something sweet, I’ve been gravitating towards fruit, especially bananas.

I haven’t noticed any changes in my skin, weight, or general feelings of wellness. Aside from the intense cravings I’ve had every day, I don’t feel different at all. However, even though I don’t feel different, I know that it’s having a positive effect on my overall health.

Sugar-Free January

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I have never been a sweet-tooth sort of person – I’ve always much preferred salty treats such as chips and pretzels. I could easily go weeks without consuming a piece of candy or a cookie. That has changed in the last couple of years, as I have found myself rediscovering my sweet tooth to the point where I have been consuming an unhealthy amount of added sugars.

Sugar is addictive and added sugar is dangerous to your health.

Over the past year, I’ve gained more weight than I’m comfortable with, and although sugar consumption is not the main reason for it, it’s definitely a contributing factor. I cannot currently change the fact that I have a desk job and sit or stand in one spot for ten hours per day, nor can I do much to alter the effects that the antidepressants I’m on can increase a person’s weight. However, I can control the amount of added sugar I consume on a daily basis.

Sugar has a lot of detrimental effects on your health, such as:

In modern American grocery stores, sugar can be very difficult to avoid. It’s in practically everything in one form or another, even foods you might not initially expect, such as salad dressing, marinara sauce, yogurt, granola, and cereal.

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Due to all of the negative effects that sugar is having on my body, and in order to get back to my previous state of being where I do not crave sweet foods every day, I will be giving up added sugars for the entire month of January.

What does that mean? For starters, no baked goods or candies. I’m not expecting to miss candy that much – I don’t consume a ton of it at this moment. Usually, when I am craving sweets, it’s in the form of ice cream, muffins, or pound cake.

I will also be cutting out things like sugary sauces and any yogurt or breakfast foods that have high sugar content.

What foods am I not giving up? Fruit! Even though some fruit does have high sugar content, it also contains fiber and water and tons of nutrients. I will be allowing myself to consume all the fruit I want. Granted, since it’s winter, that fruit will probably be frozen, but it’s still going to be delicious!

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If you want to join in this challenge with me, feel free to! I’ll be sharing weekly updates on how the challenge is going and if I notice any changes in my weight or skin. Let me know if you’re joining this challenge in the comments, or join the wider community with #sugarfreejanuary!

 

6 Ways to Help You Get a Better Night’s Sleep

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It seems like I’ve always had some kind of issue with sleeping. When I was a teenager it was sleep paralysis (which is absolutely terrifying). When I was in my early twenties I had long bouts of insomnia, and it my later twenties I would occasionally sleepwalk. The last few months, I have been having trouble with both falling asleep and staying asleep, which is one of the symptoms of my anxiety.

As a result, over the years I’ve learned a few tricks to help myself get a better night’s sleep.

Sleep is immensely important for several reasons, including:

  • it helps your brain function properly and improves your ability to learn
  • sleep gives your body time to repair your heart and blood vessels
  • it allows your body to control your hormones
  • people who are sleep deprived are more likely to be obese

Here are six tips to help you fall asleep and get the proper amount of rest that your body needs to function:

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1. Stick to a routine

According to the National Sleep Foundation, sticking to a consistent routine can help your body get used to falling asleep and waking up at certain times. This is definitely something that has helped me immensely, especially when I went from working third shift to having to get up for almost three months of 8am-4pm training shifts when I switched jobs. Most people need seven to eight hours of sleep a night, so figure out the hours you can devote to sleeping and stick to it for several weeks to see if it helps.

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2. Avoid blue light

Blue light comes from most of our modern-day electronics, and can seriously disrupt our ability to sleep well. Blue light tricks your brain into believing that it’s daytime, which affects your ability to fall asleep.

There are several ways to avoid blue light. The first is the most obvious – just turn off your phone, laptop, or whatever else you’re taking to bed with you. If that’s not an option, most newer electronics include a feature in your settings to block blue light. There are also glasses you can buy that blocks that light.

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3. Herbs, teas, and natural medicines

During my worst bout of insomnia in my late twenties, I felt like I tried almost everything to fall asleep, at one point resorting to taking a full dose of NyQuil Sleep even though I wasn’t sick (not something I recommend, by the way). Here are a few things that helped me the most:

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4. Keep Your Room Cool

Many people have trouble sleeping in rooms that are too warm, and there have even been studies done that showed that temperature can affect your quality of sleep more than noise. Everyone enjoys a different temperature, so find the right one for you and turn down your heat a bit at night.

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5. Have a pre-sleep routine

This goes hand in hand with the first tip of keeping a consistent sleep schedule. Creating an evening routine is one of my new year’s resolutions for 2019.

Experiment to make your routine your own. Some ideas that you can include:

  • journalling
  • meditation
  • relaxing yoga sequence
  • a hot bath
  • reading a book, preferably one that is physical in order to keep that blue light away
  • deep breathing
  • listening to relaxing music

There are endless ways to create an evening routine for yourself, so figure out what works for you.

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6. Exercise daily

Exercise is not only good for controlling your weight and making you stronger but it also allows you to get deeper and better sleep. That doesn’t mean that you need to go to a way-too-strenuous CrossFit session every single day, but try to include some kind of physical activity into your daily routine. Plus, exercising has so many other great benefits.


I hope these tips help you to get a good night’s sleep. I know all of these suggestions have improved the quality of my sleep over the years, and on those days I wake up after sleeping well, I notice all sorts of great benefits, including being more focused, more creative, and generally happier.

How do you get to sleep when you’re lying awake at night? Let me know in the comments!