Burning Secret by Stefan Zweig

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Thanks to the Online Bookclub for allowing me to read and review this novel. Please click the link below to read my review of this book on their site:

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Diet Cults by Matt Fitzgerald

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4/5 stars.
ebook, 336 pages.
Read from May 11 to July 19, 2014.

This book reaffirms many of my beliefs in regards to food and was, in a way, a relief to read for this reason. I am a very active person but my eating habits are far from clean ( I just love beer too much) but through moderation I’ve managed to find a balance between food and exercise that keeps me healthy. Diet Cults explores a variety of diet fads and discusses why they work for some people, why they are hard to maintain and how they have shaped how we feel about the food we eat. Fitzgerald then delicately discusses each of the fads and explains their fallacies (while never fully discounting all of them either) as people are constantly searching for the ‘one true way’ to eat. Fitzgerald then lays down the science with how adaptable the human stomach is and provides a variety of  diets from cultures all over the world to show just how diverse they are in terms of their nutritional content.  As Fitzgerald concludes, to the dismay of some diet-faders, there is no ‘one true way’ to eat and advocates for more agnostic eating.

Fitzgerald is an athlete and sports nutritionist and has written numerous pieces on running and fitness. As he discusses in this book he wasn’t always fit and trim either and had to work hard to get back on track. One thing that Fitzgerald notes is that athletes are by far the best and most agnostic eaters, which may sounds really obvious but that is because athletes eat for optimal performance, but this doesn’t just mean physically. Food has a powerful way of shaping our moods; we like to eat for pleasure, and it is this aspect that athletes and agnostic eating really advocates. As many diet fads have endorsed, most of us believe that if something is tastes good then it must be inherently bad for us which isn’t necessarily the case. While that Big Mac is never going to be good for you, Fitzgerald discusses the benefits of coffee, potatoes, wine and chocolate and breaks through some of the myths surrounding them (hooray)! He also goes to explain that through moderation,  items like a Big Mac can still be something you indulge in from time to time. There is no food that is off-limits in this book.

As someone who has never been overweight, I can’t imagine what it must be like for so many people who are wanting to lose weight as the amount of information that’s floating around on the internet alone is enough to overwhelm anyone. Fitzgerald truly makes food simple; his writing is down to earth and simple to read but still provides you with all the nitty-gritty and well-researched details.

Fitzgerald breaks down all the groups of food as such:

Food table

There are only two essential types of foods that we require to live healthy: fruits and vegetables. Get enough of these and you’re good to go but for the average person, especially an active one, we often require a bit more which is where the recommended foods come in. Fitzgerald gives a good break down of what types of foods are included in each group but for example, in the nuts and seeds section, he includes items like olive oil and all-natural peanut butter, where as commercial peanut butters are not included as they contain way too much sugar and unhealthy oils. Within high quality meats, he includes almost any part of a chicken, while bacon and hot-dogs are classified in the low quality meats area under acceptable foods. Other foods, include things like alcohol and anything else that doesn’t fit into the other categories.

The idea of moderation is that you eat more of the essential and recommended items than the acceptable ones. While this is such a simple concept that almost seems too obvious, nothing is off limits in terms of food choices. Fitzgerald just wants to reestablish a healthy and pleasurable relationship with food again and it’s easy to forget sometimes with many people’s busy lifestyles. Food is meant to be enjoyed, not rushed or rammed down our throats just out of pure necessity and by following some basic moderation, getting some exercise and stepping away from the crazy calorie counting it’s simpler than we think to be healthy.

Fitzgerald effectively questions the madness of dieting with this book and brings nutrition back to its simple basics. Now what are you waiting for?! Shed some food-guilt and read this book!

Annabel by Kathleen Winter

4/5 stars.
ebook, 480 pages.
Read from June 12 to 21, 2014.

I’m literally one book away from finishing all the Canada-Reads nominations of 2014. I am impressed with the diverse content between all of the books up unto this point, however, Annabel has had the most beautiful plot so far.

Jacinta Blake gives birth to an inter-sexed child in a small village in Labrador, Canada in 1968. While her husband, Treadway is out trapping as usually does for most of the year, Jacinta’s friend Thomasina is the only other person present. While Jacinta and Thomasina want to let the child live as it has been naturally born, when Treadway comes home he decides that the child will be raised as a boy. They name him Wayne.

Jacinta struggles with decision and reluctantly takes Wayne into the hospital as baby to have surgery in order to make him a boy. This is also followed by massive concoction of hormones that he will have to continue to take for his entire life

Thomasina lost her husband and daughter, Annabel, while they were out on a canoe trip and comes to secretly call Wayne by the name Annabel when just the two of them are together.

The story progress through some heart-retching scenes as Wayne grows up. At one point he is hospitalized because he is menstruating, but because he had surgery as a baby there is no where for this menstrual blood to go, causing immense pain and discomfort for Wayne.

Out of all the characters, it’s Wayne who holds the most grace with his situation. He doesn’t learn what he is until he is a teenager but he lives a somewhat normal childhood. His parents were however racked with questions, fears and frustration that they are often unsure how to deal with. Each of them feeling isolated with the knowledge of what Wayne is. It’s ultimately Wayne’s brave decision that relieves and brings the family together again.

Inter-sexed people are more common then most people recognize and it’s a hard concept for some to accept. We grow up with the belief that we are either male or female, but the idea of someone being or both is foreign to many of us. The story of Wayne could be about any inter-sexed child and their family and for some, without a story like Annabel, would not have a basic understanding of what an inter-sexed person has to go through.

Annabel is a testament to great Canadian fiction and brings an in-depth perspective of growing up inter-sexed.