Friday, September 28, 2018

A Review of This Messy Magnificent Life: A Field Guide, by Geneen Roth and why a lot of diet books suck ass.

This is my first Geneen Roth book, and I grabbed it because it popped up in my diet research at the library. I thought it was some kind of weird mistake because the title and description don't look anything like those other books. 



Which turned out to be a great thing. 

Several days and several attempts at the under 1200 calorie keto diet just resulted in migraines where I lost most of my vision in my left eye and rigorous SVT. I "gave up". I don't know for certain what the answer to my health is, but it's not being in a such a bad state that I have to decide whether or not to go to the hospital.

I also asked for help to my other medical providers (the restrictive diet was recommended by my lung specialist) and was able to get the contacts and appointments I needed for things like a dietician. Because I still need help figuring all of this out. 

Our entire culture may need help with it.

I remember the absolute agony of my premie reflux baby, who would not gain weight. Not even with high-calorie formula. Even when she had pumped breastmilk, it was topped with formula. We started solids early, we went without sleep to keep feeding her. It didn't seem to change much, we were able to keep her well enough to avoid a feeding tube, but she barely made enough progress to call it a win. The gastroenterologist confessed to me that he sees this every day, all the time. He said that on the same calorie diet, one child will gain too much weight, one will remain underweight, and one will be just right. And we are not 100% sure what factors control all of that. We're just doing the best we can with what we know.

I had no idea until we were fighting for our underweight kiddo how hit and miss the science of nutrition, not just infant nutrition but human nutrition, actually is when applied to the diverse composition of our bodies. 

Diets don't seem to work over the long term. Not even the best ones. Losing weight and then gaining more over the long run is not an option for me. 

It feels like the only thing left is to just try to make better choices and time to take care of myself with exercise. And I am dubious I will get a lot of body change composition with that, but maybe with the help of a medical team, the difference can at least make me healthier and stronger than I am now and focusing on that has to be what matters. 

That's where this book comes in, I guess. It's a self-help book, but kind of loosely one, in that the truth is you probably don't need to be fixed. That magical day when your stars align and you suddenly have all your shit together isn't coming. It's not a thing and doesn't have to be. 

Relationships with food are spoken about in several chapters, with the most important take away for me to listen to what I'm feeling when I'm eating. And to not get hung up on "my life will start when I'm _______". It starts now, and the body I walk around in now is what I've got. 

The book also talks about the entities residing in our heads (no, don't get creeped out and run off, just hold on...) like the know-it-all-aunt who is your inner belittling self, and the phenomenon of "ghosts in the nursery" (you need to address your childhood trauma, or it's going to hang out with you in the scariest way possible). It's a great way to break some serious cycles. 

And, you know what, I'll probably read more by Roth, and that would be where I'd recommend people looking for a "diet" book go first. 

The honesty of it, the examination of your relationship to yourself and the world and your food...well, it's just the best reading material. I went ahead and picked my favorite passage out of the book to share on here, too;

 "On diets, we are still relying on the big powerful other to know what's best and to save us. And whether it's a good daddy or a good diet that rescues us, we remain victims and food our perpetrator." (page 60). 

In comparison, I found two other books about dieting. One written by two relatively rich guys who somehow got larger when they made more money and told people to just suck it up and be hungry and stop eating out with their friends and they will lose weight. That sounds about right. And the other read like a massive scientific journal about the pros of eating more vegetables. Which, okay, they do seem to be right about that. 

But neither addresses why this might be hard, say if you're stressed, or pressed for money or suffering from a chronic illness. That's not as helpful as books like this that might help you tackle some of the issues with food and your body. It's just not. Yes, we all know we need to eat avocados, but teaching someone to exercise joyfully or eat without bingeing is on a different level. 



**I totally did find a super helpful guide on walking as a workout, and I'll review that one once I can work through it a bit more.**


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