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Giving Up Junk-Food Relationships

RECIPES FOR HEALTHY CHOICES

A welcome addition to the self-help genre that aims to heal body and mind.

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This debut self-help book asks readers to think twice about what they eat—and how they fall in love.

The market for self-help books about love and sex is seemingly insatiable. So, too, is the market for health and diet books. Life and relationship coach Barnes cleverly combines the two genres into one book that outlines the steps to maintain healthy bodies and healthy relationships. Barnes argues that just as chips, pizza and candy make us sick, so do relationships that fulfill temporary emotional cravings. They may feel good in the moment, she writes, but they soon lead to an emotional “crash” akin to a blood-sugar dip. Using templates created by the food industry to distinguish types of foods and portion sizes, Barnes reimagines love lives as a series of ingredients that make up a “Well-Balanced Meal,” or a lovely, decadent “Dessert” (Barnes’ term for casual dating). Self-respect, forgiveness, communication and proper boundaries make up a deliciously satisfying romantic partnership, she writes, while self-doubt and criticism are junk foods to be tossed out immediately. The author extends this conceit all the way through the book, expounding upon emotional “Food Poisoning,” “Between-Meal Snacks” (rebound relationships) and “Forbidden Fruit.” Although her numerous quizzes may strike readers as a bit trite, her food metaphors are so original that they give renewed taste to stale concepts. Barnes isn’t a nutritionist, but her health and diet tips are common-sensical and avoid the didactic tone of many diet books. She even destigmatizes such issues as sex addiction and emotional wounds by filtering them through the lens of nutrition, allowing readers to examine their own inner physical and emotional workings more objectively.

A welcome addition to the self-help genre that aims to heal body and mind. 

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-1475972771

Page Count: 220

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: March 8, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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MASTERY

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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BRAVE ENOUGH

These platitudes need perspective; better to buy the books they came from.

A lightweight collection of self-help snippets from the bestselling author.

What makes a quote a quote? Does it have to be quoted by someone other than the original author? Apparently not, if we take Strayed’s collection of truisms as an example. The well-known memoirist (Wild), novelist (Torch), and radio-show host (“Dear Sugar”) pulls lines from her previous pages and delivers them one at a time in this small, gift-sized book. No excerpt exceeds one page in length, and some are only one line long. Strayed doesn’t reference the books she’s drawing from, so the quotes stand without context and are strung together without apparent attention to structure or narrative flow. Thus, we move back and forth from first-person tales from the Pacific Crest Trail to conversational tidbits to meditations on grief. Some are astoundingly simple, such as Strayed’s declaration that “Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard.” Others call on the author’s unique observations—people who regret what they haven’t done, she writes, end up “mingy, addled, shrink-wrapped versions” of themselves—and offer a reward for wading through obvious advice like “Trust your gut.” Other quotes sound familiar—not necessarily because you’ve read Strayed’s other work, but likely due to the influence of other authors on her writing. When she writes about blooming into your own authenticity, for instance, one is immediately reminded of Anaïs Nin: "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Strayed’s true blossoming happens in her longer works; while this collection might brighten someone’s day—and is sure to sell plenty of copies during the holidays—it’s no substitute for the real thing.

These platitudes need perspective; better to buy the books they came from.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-946909

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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