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Book Club: The Body Book by Cameron Diaz

 

I found The Body Book by Cameron Diaz during a particularly frustrating period of trying to attain my body goals. I didn’t expect it to help me understand the beautiful functions of the human body and resonate with me as I contemplated my approach to health and wellness. Here is my full review:

What’s the Theme?

This book is about the facts of the female body. It doesn’t serve as a diet or workout plan but rather explains how the body digests food and uses it for energy among a vast number of other topics. The Body Book is an informative read with the occasional personal experience to illustrate different points throughout the book.

Does it have a purpose?

The purpose of The Body Book is to inform readers while encouraging them to make better choices when it comes to health and fitness. The uplifting and positive delivery never shames the reader for making unhealthy choices but defines what true health is and the scientific evidence to back it up. Knowledge is power and in relation to this book, knowing how the body works will help readers take responsibility for their choices and prompt them to take action when it comes to their health.

Who Is it for?

This book is for any female who has ever wondered how the body works. Whether you are wondering what diet to try next, what actually makes some foods “super”, or why it’s hard for you to feel motivated when it comes to exercise, this book is meant for you. I would recommend this book to any woman in my life who has expressed frustration or curiosity when it comes to the body. I would highly recommend this book to my teenaged nieces as it covers a variety of sensitive topics that are delivered shamelessly with hard facts.

DID THE BOOK AFFECT YOU AT ALL?

I felt a deeper love and understanding for my body after only reading half of the book. I listened to the audio version for hours giving it my full attention. The delivery of each message and presentation of data made me feel as though I were best friends with my OBGYN and we were having a chat over tea.

Cameron’s passion for the female body is felt as she provides her own insights and personal experiences to sound medical research. She never tries to entice the reader into making lifestyle changes like becoming a vegan or including absurd rituals into their routine that aren’t backed by thorough research. I felt her approach to nutrition abides by the health guidelines given by the academy of nutrition and dietetics in the US, which support a healthy balanced lifestyle. Her passion for movement helped me through a slump in my fitness routine, not by shaming me, but by drawing attention to the fact that the body’s primal instinct is to move.

I walked away from this book knowing that I will pick it up again for refreshment and to revisit the data that has become so valuable to me. I will no doubt be picking up her latest book Longevity to help me on my journey through aging.

 

Have you read it? Let me know what you think!

Best,

Darcy

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The Balanced Life: Physical Health and Science

The science of exercise is in its infancy. When I was born in the early 90’s, women stayed out of the weight room, but donning their belted, spandex jumpsuits, they were encouraged to take aerobic group exercise classes like skittles. The fad diet of the time was “no fat” and extremely low calorie.

Here we are 17 years later and our approach to health and fitness changes with each fad. Low calorie, low carb, Atkins, Weight Watchers, low fat, no fat, high carb, keto, vegetarian, vegan, plant based, gluten free, dairy free, clean eating, IIFYM. The list could go on and on. Every personal trainer now makes their own eating guide. If I were going to invest in any industry, it would be the fitness one because people are willing to pay for answers. They become confused with all the contradictory information that they start paying someone for answers or any possible way to achieve their physical goals.

Physical goals change with the fads as well. In the 90’s and early 2000’s, the ideal body was rail thin. This meant LOTS of cardio. Then women started getting comfortable in the weight room. The ideal body was bikini competitor chic (which we would learn is not sustainable year round). Shredded frames with only the tiniest amount of body fat were sought after. Today society looks to the Kardashian’s for inspiration. It’s fashionable to carry a little body fat on the bum and boobs while keeping a teeny tiny waist. This body type is also not achievable by the large majority.

My Story

Awhile back I followed someone I considered a clean eating chef on Facebook. I enjoyed her healthy recipes (still do!) and when I saw that she was offering a cookbook sale, I jumped in and bought it. Come to find out, it was actually a meal plan to aid you in something called a “sugar detox”. I thought it wouldn’t hurt me to cut sugar for awhile even though I’m a 90% clean eater and don’t add a lot of sugar to my own recipes. The recipe book helped me prep a week’s worth of meals, claiming that the first week was the hardest and most detoxifying. I don’t actually believe in “detoxing” but I played along.

I weighed myself after a week and found that I had dropped a significant amount of weight, enough to make me worry. I decided to track the week’s worth of meals on My Fitness Pal so I could see what the nutrient breakdown was. I was shocked. I was also disappointed in myself because as a young woman who used to relish in eating significantly low-calorie, I knew firsthand the dangers of continuing on this path.

I stopped the meal plan immediately and decided to look up the woman’s credentials. It turned out that she didn’t have any. She was selling a very popular meal plan that claimed many health benefits without the slightest clue about the human body.

Moral of the story: we must exercise caution when it comes to putting our health in the hands of others. Get to know the why’s of your bodily functions, not just “how to get skinny fast” and other tag lines that can pull you in and lead you blindly. Our bodies are incredible and deserve the best care. They facilitate our amazing and unique spirits throughout the thrilling journey of our lives. I don’t know about you but I want to reach the end of my life strong, nourished, and fulfilled in every sense of the word.

The Book that Helped

A few years ago, Cameron Diaz wrote “The Body Book“. I was still in recovery at the time so I didn’t purchase it for fear it was another person telling me how to eat and what I should look like. Because of recent experiences in the gym, I decided to check out the reviews again and see what the hype was all about. I found the consensus to be positive, praising Cameron and various doctors who wrote an in-depth book on the science of our bodies that was actually enjoyable to read.

I am a huge fan of audio books, I love to play them when I take long walks or when I’m cooking or in the car. They’re a good change of pace when I don’t feel like listening to music. I bought the audio version of The Body Book and right away I knew I made a good choice. Her approach to the female body aligned with my own values and beliefs.

Our bodies are complex, amazing, and beautiful. The line that drew me in and left me hanging on for chapters, was in the preface. It was along the lines of “the same beautiful body that developed from an embryo, grew into that of a healthy baby, child, and adult, is the same body we will grow old and die in.” Obviously, that was just my interpretation but since I have the audio version, it’s hard for me to go back and grab the actual quote. The way she phrased it opened my mind to the magic that is the human body; how it can grow from amazing circumstances and last throughout our lifetime. I will be writing a review on this book so stayed tuned!

It’s important that we are educated about the functions of the human body. We deserve to know the science behind nutrition; what causes cancer (not just people saying this food will make you fat and die!), what prevents it, and how physical exercise truly helps the body in terms of longevity.

Knowledge is power. After reading this book, I realized the potential of the human body beyond what Instagram fitness models will tell you. They can’t explain to you the very science of your birth, why bacteria is good for you, what raising your heart rate does for more than just your muscles, and why sound nutrition will prevent certain diseases. We have become accustomed to taking a “professionals” word for it but in the fitness industry, there aren’t many doctors creating meal plans or exercise regimens. Often, this is left to personal trainers or people with a passion for achieving aesthetic goals with basic certification for credentials.

 

I encourage you to find out the why’s of your body and look beyond physical aesthetic when choosing goals. If you want wash-board abs, find out why we have abdominal muscles to begin with! The structure of the human body is amazing and it has much more value than how it looks. For instance, your ab muscles might look glorious and shredded after tons of labor in the gym and kitchen but did you know that they exist to protect your vital organs, spine, and make you walk upright? Could you imagine life without them? Think “spaghetti noodle”. Be smart, relish in your knowledge, and make choices for your body that will embolden your future.

Have you had a similar eye-opening experience either through reading or in school that helped ignite your passion for physical health?

 

All the best,

Darcy

 

Get Your Own Copy of The Body Book Here:

 

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Book Club: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

 

Ugh, you shouldn’t have pressed publish. Little Miss Perfectionist is sitting beside me as I hash out this new series of posts. You can’t help anyone. No one can relate, she whispers. I take a deep breath and remind myself that it is not my intention to teach, it is my intention to share. This is my story, not the answers to the world’s most complex questions.

Inhale and gather all of that doubt, exhale and release.

 

I am excited to share my review (more fan-girl rave) of Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. A beautiful title to a life-changing book.

What’s the theme?

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Dr. Brene Brown defines what she calls “whole-hearted living”. Through dedicated research and the compilation of unique stories, Brown sets out to find what makes some people more joyful than others. What she finds is her own mid-life breakdown spiritual awakening.

Does it have a purpose?

Dr. Brown skillfully dissects her own experiences, adding to them the experiences of those she researches, to find the keys to creating a more joyful life. What she finds is loads of shame. When looking for what “gets in the way” of some people feeling more positive and acting with resilience, she finds shame in a variety of ways for a variety of people. Instead of finding the keys to being happy 24/7, Brown finds out that she must address shame – her own and those of her research party.

Who is it for?

This is a great read for those 18 and older. Being a wife and mother herself, Brown becomes a friend and ally for those who find themselves in similar stages in life. I found her words to be as comforting as I would a close aunt. Her shameless presence crosses the border between author and friend. Her themes might be too mature for those in their teenage years but would be awesome for parents who want to foster a more compassionate and loving atmosphere at home and in their parenting style. I would recommend this book to my sisters (who are wives and mothers) as well as my own parents.

Did the book affect you at all?

This book changed my perception of happiness. I learned that those who seem to really own their lives and be in the drivers seat – you know, the kind of people who smile in adversity and always see the glass half-full – aren’t some super-human species. They simply live courageously by owning their stories, forgiving their mistakes, exercising self-compassion, and not letting shame drive their decisions.

After reading The Gifts of Imperfection, I was able to identify my own shame triggers and instead of letting them run my circus, I was able to intercede with the skills that Brene Brown teaches in her book. Noticing my shame triggers and being courageous enough to stand up to them has made me more self-forgiving. Instead of letting my anxiety run the race, I can recognize it for what it is and write a new ending.

 

I highly recommend accompanying this book with Dr. Brown’s CourageWorks course titled “Self Compassion with Kristin Neff and Brene Brown” which is worth the cost. I will be writing a separate review of Kristin Neff’s autobiography on self-compassion but this class gave me some wonderful tools for my self-compassion toolbox. With more in-depth explanations and exercises to create more whole-hearted living, I found this course to be invaluable.

Have you read it? What did you think? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

Happy reading,

Darcy

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The Balanced Life: The Importance of Mental Health

 

My Story

Mom, what the heck am I doing?! I sobbed into my phone at the Denver International Airport. I was sitting on the scratchy blue carpet near my gate. The feeling of impending doom had never manifested itself so strongly inside gut. My lungs gasped for air like I was drowning during a raging ocean storm. Each wave of terror pulled me deeper into despair. My mom cried on the other end as she reassured me that I was going to be ok.

The gravity of my decision to move to London wasn’t made clear until I was sitting on that scratchy carpet outside of gate D3 to the London Heathrow airport. After we hung up, I knew I had to pull myself together and problem solve. How was I going to cope during such conflicting emotions and drastic moves? I was terrified yet overjoyed with the idea of moving to London. I was in mourning for what I would miss while away from home, yet hopeful that I was about to embark on a special journey. I knew that I would miss major holidays and that there was a chance I wouldn’t be home for an extended period of time. I decided right then and there that I would be my biggest ally.

After boarding the plane and settling into my seat, I pulled out my journal and all the tokens I brought with me to stimulate relaxation – essential oils, coloring books, fuzzy socks, my Book of Mormon, and a small bag of toiletries that contained a face mask – and I decided to help myself. I journaled my feelings and then in fervent prayer, asked God to keep me safe and keep me whole.

That was the day I started healing.

The moment I decided to take care of me because I needed me, was the day I cultivated change. I wasn’t sitting in a therapist’s office with a raging eating disorder and in total denial. I wasn’t going through the motions. I was finally being present, accepting where I was in my story, and then deciding to be my greatest ally while I was completely alone in a new place.

I would go onto read the works of Brené Brown and participate in her online course for cultivating whole-hearted living. I went on to read the work of Kristin Neff and welcomed mindfulness and self-compassion into my daily routine. I became deeply spiritual, went for long runs in the park, and dedicated myself to my literature classes. During this time of self-discovery, I noticed something amazing happening beneath the surface of my skin. A warm, burning sensation radiated from my chest and manifested itself in the form of extreme gratitude and love for myself and others.

I was different. I was becoming whole again.

Still deeply flawed, I would go on to make more mistakes but those mistakes now served a purpose. I couldn’t grow without each obstacle and setback I encountered. I couldn’t become empathetic and compassionate without experiencing suffering of my own. I thought I had truly hit insanity when, with tears streaming down my face and kneeling beside my bed in fervent prayer, I thanked God for sending me the trial I was facing because I knew when I had overcome the initial hurt, I would be better.

What Mental Health is and is not

I was taught that mental illness was something we whispered and only effected the few reclusive women who lived in my neighborhood growing up. I associated mental health with severe mental illnesses, psych wards at hospitals, and drugs to keep people sane. What I didn’t understand and what many people don’t understand is that each of us has a state of mental health.

Just as our bodies can be sick, so can our minds for a variety of reasons. Our bodies can inherit diseases through DNA, they can come down with viruses, they can be riddled with devastating cancer. Our minds are the same. We can inherit mental illnesses and experience depression or anxiety either chronically or sporadically in our lives. You know when people talk about heartache or “the blues”? Well those are states of mental health, they aren’t just ideas in sappy love songs.

Why Talk About It?

Shame was the culprit in my story and still is today. I carry a heavy load of shame with me, it is my natural response to most situations. Confronting shame with love and compassion was and still is pertinent in my recovery and lifestyle.

One of the best ways to remove shame from our lives is to talk about things that “shame” us. For me, that was the idea that I wasn’t perfect. So let me own my imperfections by introducing myself: I am Darcy. I am a storyteller, writer, painter, artist, daughter, sister, friend, and aunty. I have made peace with my past struggle with an eating disorder – something that may require mindful consideration and action on my part to prevent a relapse throughout my lifetime. I’m currently experiencing daily anxiety and have found therapeutic outlets that help me accept it and live fully despite it. Because of my story, I am able to better empathize and show compassion to those who suffer and I am happy that I have this gift.

I believe it’s important to find balance in all areas of our lives, including one of the hardest to confront, our mental health.

How can you break shame? You don’t have to tell me. Just think about it 🙂

 

All the best,

Darcy