Posts Tagged ‘book review’

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Book Review: “Women’s Home Workout Bible” by Brad Schoenfeld

November 9, 2009

Brad Schoenfeld, CSCS, CPT, sent me this book to review. He has also offered to come and speak to us about his book and his thoughts about working out at home, so be sure to stop by for his guest post on Wednesday with your comments and queries for Brad!

This book is BIG. It has colour. It has photographs to demonstrate exercises. Each division for the exercises is colour-coded to make it easy to flip to your desired section of the book: Shoulders and Arms, Torso, Core, and Lower Body. There are exercises for each of these parts of the body to do with body weight/stability balls/resistance bands, and then also options further on in the book for using dumbbells, barbells, and other kinds of weighted equipment.

There are also different options depending on your budget. Living as a student, my budget for a home gym is limited to a couple of yoga mats, a couple sets of dumbbells, a resistance band, hula hoop, jump rope, and stability ball. But most of the time I find that I only use the yoga mats and stability ball (personal preference: I like using my own body weight). The budget part of the book discussing the best equipment to buy really didn’t apply to me at all, especially because the budgets suggested here range from $100-$2,500. I don’t expect very many of us are willing to shell out that much money for a home gym (the kind using multifunction machines and chinning bars), especially when it’s easy to get in a workout without buying anything. I am strongly supportive of the soup-cans-as-dumbbells method and doing cardio outdoors. Yoga mats are a luxury, as well; not a necessity. In a pinch, rugs or the grass work just as well.

So, while I appreciate the concept of the budget for every body, I didn’t find it to be useful for my personal workout. The exercises included in this book, however, cover a wide range. I very much liked the number of exercises included here, many of which can be done with little to no equipment. Each one is accompanied by a photograph and information regarding the muscles targeted, equipment needed, tips/variations, and a detailed description for how to perform the movement. There were actually a number of exercises I hadn’t heard of before, so it was fun to learn some new ones! I liked so many of the ideas for how to use the stability ball in core exercises.

I wasn’t particularly keen on the slightly patronizing tone of the book in the introduction. The implication that women have difficulty getting in a solid workout because they are too tired at the end of the day from transporting kids and hearing their husband grumbling for dinner made me squirm. I think it’s difficult for a male author to write a health and fitness book designed for women, however. When I reviewed Lou Schuler’s The New Rules of Lifting for Women, I felt an equal unease with the way that the author seems to view his female audience.

That being said, I was impressed with the sheer vastness of topics covered in this book. Over-exercising is touched on (bonus points! I think that this important issue doesn’t always get enough awareness), and there is also some focus on the myths of the notion of “bulking up”, as well as a few notes on the importance of varying up the workout, fueling your exercise with good nutrition, and building a solid mind-body connection. Training routines are included at the back of the book along with some extra information regarding the particular muscles being targeted.

Come back on Wednesday with your thoughts and ideas about building a nice little home workout system and about training for particular goals. Brad will be answering your questions as long as they keep coming!

By the way, the photos of the women in this book: they’re real women. They have toned muscles but they look like regular women who exercise and are in good shape; not fitness models or anything like that. Always nice to see. I’m curious: what kinds of workouts do you do? Do you like using your body weight or using equipment? Home or gym (or outdoors)? And what kind of budget do you allow yourself when it comes to getting fit?

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for The Flat Belly Diet Cookbook, and don’t forget to answer this month’s poll!

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Book Review and Giveaway: The Flat Belly Diet Cookbook

November 4, 2009

Giveaway Winner

And the winner of the Taza Chocolate Giveaway is… VeggieGirl! Email me with your mailing address and I’ll make sure you receive your vegan, soy-free, gluten-free, delicious dark chocolate to enjoy.

The Flat Belly Diet Cookbook Review

This book was sent to me by Rodale Books to review. Any time I see a book with a title like this one, I assume that it’s going to be along the lines of a fad diet. Thankfully, the title is misleading in that sense: this is not a fad diet cookbook. Hurray!

The cookbook and diet plan were designed by the editors of Prevention. The premise of this diet (and you know I use the term loosely) is to include healthy fats with every meal: specifically, MUFA’s (monunsaturated fatty acids). The Flat Belly Diet Cookbook explains what constitutes a MUFA, how best to incorporate them into our meals, and the value of the Mediterranean diet. Fact: when I was living in Spain for three months, the only exercise I did was lifestyle activities (lots of walking and chasing after the girls that I was au pair to), and I did not count calories or watch my food intake at all. Fact: The food that I ate was whatever my house mother cooked, which included an abundance of olive oil and other MUFA’s (dark chocolate with every meal, not even kidding). Fact: I felt fabulous, had bundles of energy, and lost several pounds over that time period without even trying. That was also the period in my life when I had the best body image and, looking back at pictures over the years, I definitely think that I looked the best at the time and was more comfortable in my skin than I’ve been at any other point in my life. The classic Mediterranean diet is, I believe, an incredibly healthy way to eat.

The Flat Belly Diet also goes on to explain the health benefits of MUFA’s and their role in reducing type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, chronic inflammation, breast cancer, and Alzheimer’s. MUFA’s are vital for proper functioning and this book really focuses on improving our health while still enjoying ourselves.

They begin with a Four-Day Anti-Bloat Jumpstart meal plan, which includes a meal-building formula. For example, lunch might be “1 protein + 1 dairy + 1 veggie + 1 glass Sassy Water. “Sassy water” is their combination of water with ginger, cucumber, lemon, and spearmint leaves to help with digestion.

The book includes meal plans and grocery shopping lists with vegetarian and vegan options. It looks at what foods to include regularly and substitutions for various kinds of food in case of allergies or dislikes. It also advises what foods to avoid and how to make every recipe in the cookbook a well-rounded meal.

The interesting thing that I found about this book is that it appears to be a healthy cookbook disguised as a fad diet cookbook. It has a few “success stories” throughout, which I’m never a big fan of, yet it stresses the importance of eating regularly and encourages the reader to not be afraid of healthy fats.

The Flat Belly Diet Cookbook has a beautiful layout with colour photographs, nutritional information for every recipe, and a broad range of different kinds of foods: breakfast, soup and sandwiches, salads and sides, vegetarian, seafood, poultry, meats, snacks, desserts. The ingredients in all of these recipes are real ingredients (no artificial sweeteners or pudding mixes that so many cookbooks, sadly, make use of with a heavy hand). At the back of the book is a serving chart with the different MUFA’s, such as almonds, Brazil nuts, flaxseed oil, pesto, soybeans and so forth, along with the recommended serving size and the corresponding number of calories per serving. There is also a conversion chart to make measuring easier for everyone.

I’ve tried a couple of the recipes, such as a dairy-free Creamy Broccoli Soup and the thin crust pizza, and both were delicious. Personally, my body doesn’t always enjoy a lot of high-fat foods; however this book will be perfect for the sisterroommate. We already agreed that when she returns from her travels in the spring, we will follow the meal plan included in this book and try it out: her major stumbling block when trying to eat healthy is that her body craves fattier foods, so this cookbook was basically designed for her.

I also received a Flat Belly Diet Pocket Guide, which has now taken a permanent spot in my purse. It’s fun to peruse and it includes shopping lists, calorie counters, meal plans, and really solid advice for eating out.

This is hands down one of the best cookbooks I’ve ever received. It is equally as valuable to me now as my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook is!

Rodale Books has kindly agreed to giveaway not one, but TWO copies of this cookbook to two lucky readers! To enter to win, ask any one or combination of the following questions: what is your favourite MUFA? How often do you tend to eat MUFA’s? What do you think of this kind of diet plan? What type of diet do you find works best for YOU?

You know the drill: it’ll be a random number generator unless someone makes me smile 🙂 You’ve got a week before I announce the winner!

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Book Review and Giveaway: “101 Things to Do Before You Diet” by Mimi Spencer

October 5, 2009

I received this book from Rodale Books not too long ago and “ate it up”, as it were. 101 Things to Do Before You Diet (because looking great isn’t just about losing weight) by Mimi Spencer is a practical guide full of useful tips on how to prepare yourself to be really, really, ridiculously good looking. As a fashion and beauty journalist based out of the UK, she has put together this book because feeling good and looking good are often interchangeable. She says that it’s okay to want to lose a few vanity pounds or to be a little slimmer. This book encourages the reader to figure out where our strengths are and to emphasize those strengths.

We learn throughout this guide little snippets of personal information, such as the fact that Mimi Spencer doesn’t love the way her stomach looks but that she has beautiful ankles to flaunt. Somehow these personal anecdotes- which are included just enough to make them interesting rather than irritating- are incredibly endearing. Her writing style is easy-going and her voice makes me want to sit down and have a chat with her. Sometimes books such as these, when written in the first person and thus incorporating personal stories, just seem narcissistic and boring. Not this one! I liked how her voice shone through. She doesn’t sound like she’s trying to sell anything. She’s just offering helpful advice that we would otherwise be completely ignorant of.

101 tips is a lot to ask for. Off the cuff, you might assume that they would all be of the same repetitive genre (drink water, walk for a few minutes each day, smile when you answer the phone ad nauseam*), but although some of the tips are of that ilke, most of them are genuinely useful for day to day life.

All 101 tips are separated into 10 chapters so that they are neatly categorized. The categories include topics such as changing your mindset, a step-by-step program to get out of a fattening rut, what to eat, how to dress thinner and create illusions, make up tips, ideas on how to get fit, and how your diet is your lifestyle. There’s a little something for just about every aspect of your life.

This book is specifically aimed at women, and especially targets an upper middle class group starting at about 10 years older than myself. Even so, I’m better off for having read this book. There are a couple recipes tucked in there and an entire explanation about the various kinds of shoes, and how certain types are slimming and others should be avoided. I like shoes. If you like shoes, you should read that part. Tip #68. It’s five pages of wonderful shoe-filled glory.

I really enjoyed reading this and some of it was stuff I knew, but with 101 thoughtful tips, there’s bound to be a fair amount that you hadn’t heard about before! I learned a few techniques that I’ll be putting into practice. Did you know that any kind of stripes, vertical and horizontal, are counter-productive to achieving a slimmer look? I sure didn’t (I should have read that section before I threw on a striped shirt at a party this past weekend…). If you ever wanted to learn the exact way to walk like a supermodel, improve your posture, or trot around in high heels, this book gives a crash course how-to. There are also many amusing quotes from various celebrities incorporated into the tips.

This is a lovely little book and a fun read. One of you can win this book for the price of a comment below! Tell me your favourite piece of advice for looking or feeling great. Who knows, maybe Mimi will write a sequel if we gather up enough quirky and unique tips 😉 I’ll be using the random number generator to choose the winner unless someone comes up with a tip that really rocks my socks off (because challenges are fun!). This giveaway lasts a week and the winner will be announced next Monday, October 12.

*These kinds of tips all very true and things that we should be doing, but we also hear them everywhere. They become redundant. I start to wonder if people even listen to them at all anymore, or if instead they just go in one ear and out the other so that we don’t even take away the message…