Book Review | By Any Greens Necessary by Tracye Lynn McQuirter, MPH

I’m just going to jump right into this review. This book is too preachy, bottom line. I picked it up while I was looking for raw food books and general vegan books in Barnes & Noble. A picture of a black woman on the cover jumped out at me because I had never seen a vegan lifestyle book by a black author (not to say they don’t exist, but this author claims that hers is the first).

Secondly, I’m a little embarrassed at the title…a play on Malcolm X…that’s a stretch. I had a guy friend who saw the book lying around my house and he immediately started making fun of the black nationalist-esque title.

As implied by the title, the book is targeted towards African-American females. I think that the references to traditional soul food cooking and the urban euphemisms limit the audience to that one group. Other readers might be distracted by the sister-girl talk. On the other hand, anyone with strong feelings about animal rights and may be looking to go vegan for ethical reasons, may actually be drawn to this book.

By Any Greens Necessary is broken down into 10 easy-to-read chapters.

INTRO & PROTEIN

The intro is typical “how I became a vegan” stuff, but it’s well-written and interesting. I would actually enjoy reading an autobiography about the author written in this style. She has a pet pieve about people asking about protein and a vegan diet, so chapter two debunks that “you can’t get enough protein” myth. I think she covered the topic well, and I learned a thing or two.

PREACHING AGAINST MEAT

Unfortunately, chapters 3, 4, and 5 are full of boring, slightly dramatic information about how disgusting the animal slaugterhouse is. While the information is true, the author underrates the intelligence of her audience by assuming that we don’t know that the way chickens, pigs, and even fish, are caught and killed is inhumane. The simple truth is that I, and most other readers, aren’t picking up the book for information on why we shouldn’t eat meat. We’re looking for information on why we should be vegan. (Essentially, why would she restrain from eating all meat products, including meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and cheese.)

In other words, putting in more positive information and a more detailed how-to guide on the vegan lifestyle would have been much more effective. I forced myself to read those three chapters and yawned all the way through them. The author talks about feces mixed in with chickens. I read that whole section….it honestly reminded me of how much I like to eat chicken. Speaking of chicken, the author portrayed black women as a bunch of lip-smacking chicken eaters who are dying while dining on chicken wings. The author was perfectly healthy and happy eating meat when she decided to make the lifestyle change to become a vegan. I don’t understand why she assumes that the rest of us are a bunch of greasy-lipped, chicken-smacking dummies.

PREACHING AGAINST DAIRY

I actually found this information to be useful. McQuirter breaks down some little-known information about “lactose intolerance” and it’s prevalence. She also explains why the term itself is a misnomer. I think this chapter is worth reading.

CARBS (yawn)

Okay, I skipped this chapter. I think talking about carbs is a little dull. Most of us know about good carbs versus bad carbs. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read this chapter.

TRANSITIONING

I usually don’t comment on an author’s appearance but with a chapter entitled, “Lose the Weight, Keep the Curves,” I would expect the author to be curvy. Judging from the cover page, she’s not. I also did not like the assumption that her target audience had weight to lose. Again, there was too much of a focus on the negative. There’s plenty of black women with no curves, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Why couldn’t she just say “have a healthy body?”

The chapter on how to transition to vegan foods will likely be healthful to those who are completely new to the lifestyle. The author shared her story, as well as the story of her sister and mother in earlier chapters. Here, she provides anecdotes from different people who have made the change to vegan foods. If anything, there should have been more advice like this in the book.

RECIPES

I’ll give rave reviews to this section, especially considering that the first recipe that I tried, Strawberry Cheesecake (a raw recipe!) turned out great. If McQuirter put out a vegan cookbook, I would purchase it.

Should You Buy It???

In conclusion, I’m not sure if I would purchase this book again. While the recipe section was good, I yawned through the animal rights stuff. I feel as if I could have gotten all of that information from PETA’s website….seriously. I would have liked a book that was focused more on transitioning to the vegan lifestyle and the unique challenges faced by African-American women. I would also have liked the book to be lighter on the sister-girl talk. I think the author is a strong writer, and clearly well-educated. If she put out another book, maybe a cookbook, I would pick it up – I’m just not sure if I would purchase this book all over again.

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Diet Book Review | The Calorie King 2009 Calorie, Fat, and Carbohydrate Counter 2009

Calorie King 2009Last week, I posted my review on The Writing Diet by Julia Cameron, in which Cameron encourages people to write down what they eat to aid in losing weight. Well, as I started utilizing the technique, I realized that I knew very little about the nutritional value, or lack of, in the foods that I was eating. I had seen Eat This, Not That at Target, so that is the book that I planned to pick up.

Instead, I ended up getting The Calorie King 2009 Calorie, Fat, and Carbohydrate counter 2009 (Large Print Edition). It’s pocket-sized, and includes more than just calorie counts. As the title indicates, it also has the overall nutritional content of foods at popular restaurants. The best part is that it includes thousands of grocery items and non-grocery items that you prepare at home. For instance, it’s hard to tell how many calories are in a sandwich that you make at home. However, by adding together the calorie count for a two slices of bread,  a slice of bacon, a piece of lettuce, and a teaspoon of mayo, you can calculate the nutritional content of your favorite BLT easily.

It’s full of graphics, too, which keep you from becoming bored with it too quickly. The Biggest Loser Complete Calorie Counter guide was a few dollars cheaper, but I went with this one because the BLCCC was black and white, while this one was glossy and full of color. Basically, I like shiny things.

I can’t say that I actually count all of my calories every single day. That would be a little too much for me, but I do grab the guide on my way out to eat. It has helped me make better choices at my favorite restaurants like Chilli’s where the fried chicken crispers, with corn and fries are a whopping 1880 calories! Needless to say, I haven’t ordered them since buying this book.

It works well as a handy guide to add up calories and nutritional content, and in the beginning of the book, it has practical advice on dieting, cutting down on sugar and saturated fat, and ways to effectively lose weight.

Unfortunately, not every single restaurant that I frequent is included – and for some restaurants, many of my favorite dishes are not listed. There is usually a way to work-around by using the grocery items as a comparison.

The biggest downside to this book is the price. If you don’t want to pay $10 or more for a little book, lots of the same information is available online for free, either directly at the restaurant’s website or on thedailyplate.com.

What are some of your favorite free, online sources for nutrition information?

Book Review | The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right-Size by Julia Cameron

dietHow I Found The Writing Diet

The Writing Diet is one of the many books that I have found rather randomly on the book shelves at Barnes and Noble, but I am very glad that I did.

As I was perusing the shelves for a summer read that would help me become more focused on my creative writing, I saw Julia Cameron’s The Writing Diet on the shelf – actually in the diet book section that I happened to stop by on my way to the writing resources area. Cameron is the author of the popular book and creative writing method The Artist’s Way.

I felt as if I had hit the jackpot! I had actually found a book about writing and dieting – or rather, losing weight and expressing one’s creativity. I purchased the book and a nice new journal to go with it.

I can honestly say that for anyone who has struggled to lose weight, this book may just be the answer. Julia notes that over the years as her students became more self-aware and increased their personal and creative writing, many lost weight quickly and easily!

How The Writing Diet Has Helped Me

I have always resisted writing down what I eat, but Cameron’s method consists of writing down not only what you eat, but why you eat, can be life-changing for someone like me, who has never been “fat” but is struggling to maintain or lose weight. Or maybe you’ve always been the “big” person and that role has become a comfort to you. Either way, opening up about your emotions through writing can be a big step towards making a change.

The first two parts of Cameron’s method include the following: 1) Morning Pages (writing in the morning as a way to express and identify what is “bugging us”) and 2)taking a daily walk.

These were small, but powerful changes that I have been able to make already. Simply by writing down what I was eating, I discovered that I was eating way too much, often chewing mindlessly when I wasn’t hungry. I was basically eating for strange reasons that had nothing to do with nourishment, such as 1) boredom, 2) to save money (eating for free whenever possible), and 3) eating when I was sad and missed my family and loved ones, or 4) eating when I felt “pressured” in group settings, and so on.

I’ve also increased my daily exercise. Instead of eating and complaining, I write out my goals, frustrations, and my plans and solutions. Immediately after writing, it feels like a burden had been lifted and I am no longer dying for a meal from Cheesecake Factory.

How The Writing Diet Can Help You

Many of you may be skeptical, but I challenge you to ask yourself, how often do you stop and think before you eat? Do you jump up and go to lunch with your co-workers without asking yourself – am I hungry? Or what does my body need for nourishment right now? Most of us simply munch, munch, munch, and then get back to work.

Some of you may not feel like writing things down, or you may have convinced yourself that you don’t “have time” to write or take a daily walk. If you are too set in your ways, or prefer to stick with fad diet after fad diet, then this won’t work for you. I will challenge you by presuming that if you have the time to read blogs, you have the time to follow the steps in this book.

There is much more to The Writing Diet method, but you’ll have to read the book to discover the rest. My favorite thing about it is that instead of telling you what to eat, the book helps you understand why you over-eat and indulge, how to get over binges, and how to forgive yourself and quickly move on when you slip up. For those who over-eat, whether you are over-weight or not, a lot of emotion is attached to food and it is important to understand and recognize this in order to fully take control.

I will be reporting back on my progress, but even if I don’t lose a lot of weight, The Writing Diet has made a difference by making me feel more productive, and more in control of what meals I choose to consume. My journal has been a daily part of my routine for over a month now since reading this book, and I truly feel a difference. For more information on Julia Cameron, visit her website at www.theartistsway.com.

If this detailed review was helpful to you, please leave a comment below.