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Monday, June 24, 2019

How to Be Well When You're Not: Book Review


What is intriguing about this book is it is written by Ariane Resnick, P!NK's personal chef. Yes, that P!NK, the singer (AKA Alecia Beth Moore).

How to Be Well When You're Not is actually geared towards a very specialized population: individuals struggling with serious illness. It is not a diet book. It is a guide book for people feeling sick and hopeless, "Practices and Recipes to Maximize Health in Illness".

This book was borne out of the author's own experience suffering from Lyme Disease and then soon after, chemical poisoning. In both cases, Resnick struggled to get an accurate diagnosis for a long time and was told she had little hope for recovery. She was basically left to her own devices to either find a solution or accept her suffering as a permanent state of affairs. She opted to stay hopeful and find a solution and successfully recovered from both. The book provides a framework for others to do the same.

Now as a therapist, this book interests me because I have many clients with chronic pain or health issues. I can tell you right now that for many of them, staying hopeful can be a challenge!

The forward of the book is written by P!NK herself, about what Ariane has done for her health working as her chef while on tour.

Then Resnick shares the story of her own illnesses and recovery and why she wrote this book.

In the second section of the book, Resnick provides a series of therapeutic writing exercises for readers (something us therapists often do with our clients). They touch on gratitude and making friends with your body, among other things.

The section on food does provide some recipes, but it is not at all a meal plan. She recommends journalling about your food intake, and your emotions (another thing us therapists often recommend to our clients).

Resnick's main dietary guidelines are eating whole foods (the usual sensible suspects including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, proteins) according to what works for you (i.e. makes you feel best). She recommends avoiding tea/coffee/alcohol/pop, if possible unless you are certain they are not having a negative effect (frankly, when I am sick, coffee is usually one of the first things to go because it makes me nauseous!).

Resnick also recommends eliminating sugar and instead using stevia or monkfruit, or manuka honey if you don't like calorie-free sweeteners.

The recipes are mostly liquids: elixers, smoothies, soups and broths, which I suppose makes sense for when you are unwell, particularly if you have nausea and/or digestive issues. But there are also some raw and cooked veggie recipes and even a few rather yummy sounding desserts.

So, do I recommend this book? If you are struggling with some sort of chronic health issue and are not finding effective treatments and are losing hope, than absolutely. Besides the recipes, the book is really a blueprint for fighting off despair and remaining hopeful for recovery or remission.

Disclosure: The publisher sent me the book to review, but all opinions on this blog are my own.


Monday, June 17, 2019

Behind the Scenes News


Obviously my posting frequency has been declining precipitously in recent months. This is due to many other things being higher on the priority list.

My counselling practice is pretty busy so that takes up a lot of my time. I am in the office 4 days a week and work from home 3 days a week doing Skype/phone counselling with clients. And then there is all the admin work (writing reports, sending invoices, receipts, record keeping, etc.), which I hate.

April was Little A's 10th birthday. We threw her a rollerskating party with 16 of her friends. Big A also turned 13!!

This month has been particularly busy because in June Big A has all her dance recitals, and Little A was in a production of The Lion King at school.

In addition, we just had Big A's Bat Mitzvah this past weekend. This is the biggest event we planned since our wedding back in 2002! For some reason, it felt much more stressful than planning our wedding though. In any case, it was wonderful. But I really am glad it's over.

Due to everything going on, I put the relaunch of my konjac company on hold (also because one of my partners was in Poland doing an extensive Holocaust memorial tour).

Now that our crazy June commitments have passed, we can start to breathe and look forward to a, hopefully, quiet summer.

This summer the girls are both in camps for most of the time with a little daddy time (Great Wolf Lodge, Canada's Wonderland, etc.) and time with my parents in Kingston.

July 6th, me and Little A (my fellow cat lover) are attending Meow Fest at Brickworks here in Toronto, and we are very excited!!

Big A is travelling with my in-laws to Vancouver to visit my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and their kids. She has never been there and these are her favorite aunt/uncle/cousins, so I am sure she will have a wonderful time.

The rest of the summer will be spent just as I spend the rest of the year. Working. Working out. Eating. Sleeping. Reading. Spending time with friends. The only difference is, I will complain about the heat instead of the snow.

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Essential Oils Diet: Book Review


If you are sick of hearing about, or experimenting with Keto and/or Paleo diets, how about the Essential Oils Diet by Eric and Sabrina Ann Zielinski?

Sounds different huh?

I will admit when I was offered the chance to review it, I thought this book was going to make my skin crawl. First off, I don't believe in diets, second, a bit of research led me to discover that the authors, a married couple, promote 'biblical health'. Typically any promotion of a lifestyle involving religion and quoting the bible makes me very uncomfortable.

One thing I will say though, is that there is evidence that if people believe aspects of their lifestyle should be synchronous with their values, they are more inclined to stick with them. So if you are a Christian looking for something to motivate you to live a healthier lifestyle, a program like this may actually be effective for you.

Despite the bible quotes, I will start by saying I was much more impressed with this book than I ever thought I would be. I assumed that diet + essential oils + bible would = the biggest load of crap ever. I was getting prepared to write a scathing, sarcastic review of what I thought would be some weird idea 'cooked' up in this couples' kitchen.

But you know what? There is actually a lot to like in The Essential Oils Diet.

First off, there is no woo woo stuff about the healing powers of essential oils. They do say some may help with weight loss, but I honestly think you can adapt their program without even using essential oils and still improve your health.

Now we always have some essential oils lying around. Oregano oil for colds, and lavender and citrus for body care products and baths. But I have never consumed them in food, so I am curious about what that's like and might just be tempted to try it.

But essential oils are really only a small part of this book/program. It is actually quite holistic in it addresses a number of facets of wellness, not just diet/nutrition.

The authors start by asking if you are living an abundant life, and explaining that they believe this is not just about spiritual practices, but also about health. For me, I would define it as a life that is satisfying thanks to not only physical/mental health but also healthy relationships and a sense of purpose/feelings of fulfillment through work and/or social roles.

They also ask the reader, "What is Your Why?" or reason for wanting to transform yourself. They claim that you are more likely to have success if you have deeper motives such as caring for your family or serving God. Indeed, research shows that things like wanting to look better is the motive least likely to get people to stick to long term behavioural changes. You really do need a more profound reason to achieve and maintain success here.

What I think most surprised/impressed me about the book is how well researched it is. It isn't just a dinner table brain storming session written down by an over zealous couple, its actually got extensive references to peer-reviewed research articles and other credible sources! That's a heck of a lot more than I can say for many diet books!

The book does have a whole section on buying and DIYing essential oils, and how to safely use them.

Some things are predictable in terms of what they want you to avoid: GMOs, unfermented soy, farmed fish, juice, conventional meat, artificial sweeteners, etc. I am personally not concerned about GMOs nor consuming organic soy milk or edamame on occasion, and since grass fed organic meat, organic dairy, and wild fish can be crazy expensive, you may want to go vegetarian/vegan for this program if you are on a tight budget.

The Zielinskys also want readers to avoid gluten, but not because of gluten in and of itself (as they point out, the bible talks about eating gluten containing grains all over the place), but they are concerned about glyphosate (Roundup), which wasn't in existence during biblical times.

So what is the diet anyways?

  • Unprocessed, 'bioactive' foods
  • Organic, locally grown produce
  • Wild fish, nuts, legumes and vegetables for protein
  • Very limited amount of free range, grass fed, yada yada yada meat
  • Regular fasts (how biblical!)
Again, you will pay a premium for a lot of this food, but they do, at least, provide tips on how to keep costs down.


I don't know if the fasts are necessary unless you just want to keep a daily 12 hour window where you don't eat (i.e. finish eating by 7pm and don't eat again until at least 7am, or something like that).

They have a 30-Day Essential Fast Track to "Form New Habits and Kick Start Weight Loss". On the fast-track diet you are not allowed smoking, alcohol, fruit juice, dairy, conventional grains or bread, fried foods/junk foods, soda, coffee, meat or poultry.

Maybe for some people losing a bunch of weight quickly at the beginning, but for others, it will be too restrictive and simply cause frustration and feelings of futility.

They outline the 7-day meal plan and even though they do not include calorie counts, just looking at it makes me hungry. Now admittedly,  being as physically active as I am and born with a super sized appetite, I probably do not represent the 'typical' person. But a smoothie for breakfast and bowl of soup for lunch? By 2pm I would be so hangry it would be scary!

I love that they include a lot of information on incorporating exercise. I do not like that they promote colon hydrotherapy, even after admitting the medical community considers them inadvisable.

The second phase of the program is the Essential Oils  Diet, but really, a permanent lifestyle. At this point, raw dairy (huh?), specific brands of gluten-free breads, and organic gluten-free grains, occasional meat/poultry, and healthy sweets (made without processed sugars) are allowed.

Honestly, this plan is doable, but only for people who are willing to give up processed foods.  But I can tell you right now, a lot of people just are not. Perhaps if people are really moved by the spiritual beliefs part of this it will give them to motivation to do so. In my years of doing weight-loss counselling though, I can tell you getting people to change is really, really hard!

Another thing that I really like is all the helpful tips and suggestions for saving time on meal-prep (this is another thing...most people not accustomed to preparing their own meals are often reluctant to start doing so!), and for how to stay on the plan when out for dinner, travelling, entertaining, celebrating holidays, etc.

One thing I do have a beef with (or a wild salmon if you wish), is they suggest doing a 2 week carb fast before the holidays, and to do another one after. I disagree as for most people this gets them into the all-or-nothing mindset which is not helpful and often derails people's efforts to make lasting behavioural changes (definitely not advisable if you have disordered eating tendencies).

Another thing I find iffy is their recommendation to toss your microwave because of the EMFs (electromagnetic frequencies) which are also in all sorts of other household devices. They also recommend limiting cell phone use. I definitely agree with this but not so much due to EMFs as it is turning you into a zombie, destroying your relationships, compromising your sleep quality, and making you a dangerous, destracted driver (if you are addicted to your phone).

A whole chapter is devoted to this idea of having an abundant life. The Zielinskis claim abundance happens when your life is balanced and thriving in the emotional, mental, spiritual, physical, financial, occupational and social spheres, which are all interconnected. Yep, I jive with that.
There is a 12-step negative emotion detox they prescribe which includes a lot of wisdom (forgiveness, self-love, no regrets, ditch social media, etc.).

There is the recipe section which has some mains, breakfasts, salads, snacks and desserts, and finally, their recommended exercise program.

The exercise program is HIIT and they include all the exercises as well as detailed descriptions of how to do each exercise. Pictures or diagrams would be helpful for some people but there are none.

Overall, there is a lot of solid, useful information in The Essential Oils Diet, a lot having nothing to do with essential oils. But if you are curious about using essential oils either therapeutically or in your cooking, there is lots of good information about this as well.

Do I recommend this book? I think it will appeal to some people for sure. Anyone uncomfortable with the religious stuff should steer clear, but I have to admit they include it in a fairly unobtrusive way. I might not do the 30 day fast track if the idea of a restrictive diet makes you want to jump out the window. It is good for people who can eat mindfully as there is no calorie counting. They recommend eating to be satisfied but not too full. This is especially important because their recipes are not low-cal (lots of coconut oil and other calorie-dense ingredients).

Disclosure: I was sent this book to review by the publisher but all opinions on this blog are my own.