As you can probably tell from the title of this blog, I’m always looking to improve myself. I want to know if the things that I’m doing, or eating, thinking, or drinking are making me better or are doing me harm. My favorite way to really delve into something is to get a book or 17 from the library. These are the books I’ve stumbled upon that have absolutely, irrevocably changed my life for the better!
- In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. When I studied abroad in London, they told us that there were no preservatives in the food, so we would need to grocery shop more often than we were used to. Okay, fine, whatever. My migraines were significantly reduced, despite acting as though I had an iron liver, consuming more fish and chips than previously thought humanly possible, and not doing much more in the way of exercise than a lot of walking. I came back to the US, and my migraines were here waiting for me. In January 2013 I had a revelation. What if my migraines were less frequent overseas because of the lack of preservatives in the food? I checked In Defense of Food out from the library and I have never looked at food the same way again. The basic, overly simplified guidance of the book is, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Don’t eat anything with ingredients you can’t purchase yourself at the grocery store. Don’t eat anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce. Do your best to avoid processed foods. Eat more whole grains. I was so determined to cut out almost all unclean food from my diet, and it was not easy. Goodbye Cheez Its. Goodbye Oreos. Goodbye frozen entrees. Goodbye powdered coffee creamer. Goodbye Rice Krispies *waves* Slowly but surely, with M trudging along as I read the ingredient label of EVERYTHING we bought, I learned what was ‘clean’ (free of preservatives and chemicals). I went from having at least one migraine a week to maybe one a month. It wasn’t a magic bullet for my migraines, but I’ll tell you what was.
- The Migraine Solution by Paul Rizzoli, Elizabeth Loder, and Liz Neporent. This is the migraine bible for anyone that suffers from migraines. I used to believe that migraines were genetic and inevitable. Those things are still all true, but more specifically, everyone that gets migraines has a unique set of triggers that will light UP their migraine powder keg. This book details these triggers, and then recommends to you how to track your eating, behavior, and migraines to get a clearer picture of what the HAY is making your head pound. The biggest and by far most surefire way to popping an Imitrex for me is missing a meal and being hungry. I didn’t even know this was a thing before. No clue. So. Do not skip meals. Hokay. Stress will also trigger a migraine for me. The last biggie for me is consistently not getting enough sleep. If I go 4 or 5 nights without getting at least 8 hours I get a migraine. Anyone who knows me well knows that you do not mess with my sleep because I will be a grump. And this is why. It gives me migraines and you will feel the wrath of a sleep deprived, angry, migrained-woman and you will feel it hard. One other fascinating tidbit: if you’re not sure if you’re having a headache or a migraine, notice if your nose is running. For reasons science has not yet been able to identify, your nose will likely run when you have a migraine. THIS IS THE MOST VALUABLE INFORMATION I HAVE EVER LEARNED. If I feel that pain coming on and my nose starts to dribble, I quickly get to my Imitrex and nip that shiz in the bud.
- Brain Maker by David Perlmutter, MD. You’ve probably heard about probiotics (thank you Jamie Lee Curtis. Activiaaaaaa!), and how your immune system is located in your gut. This is basic information that’s a good foundation, but this guy blew my mind with every chapter in this book. Despite decades of people telling us that bacteria are bad, mmkay? Bacteria play a very vital part in your body. And the more you take care of your bacteria in your gut, the better off you’ll be. This book tells you how to nourish your gut bacteria, what to eat, what to drink, and what not to eat, and what not to drink. Slim people have a different colony of bacteria than obese people. Drinking tap water will kill the good bacteria just trying to do their job. Taking birth control can disrupt your bacteria levels. Your gut bacteria can affect your mental health for better or for worse. This book had me literally rushing to buy probiotics and kefir, and thinking twice about dat gluten tho.
- Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson. Do you know how to select produce? Which grapes are the freshest? Are these carrots 1,000 years old or…? This books TELLS YOU EVERYTHING. Not only how to select the freshest produce, but which varieties are the most nutritious. AND THEN. And then. She tells you how to best wash store your produce to get the most nutrition of it. I’m telling you. This book will revolutionize the way you look at grocery shopping and caring for your produce.
- Moody Bitches by Julie Holland, MD. Okay. Okay okay okay. I am overwhelmed with how in love with this book I am. A psychiatrist in NYC, Dr. Holland (so official) tells it like it is. Whether you’re 23 or 53, this book will help you get your biz together. Hormones do not have to be your enemy, and if you’re PMSing do not, for the love of hey-seus, make any decisions based on your mood. Make a list and come back to it post-PMS. Harness your moods and take control instead of feeling like an embarrassing weepy train wreck. She also advocates strongly for staying off of anxiety and depression meds if you can, which is something I’ve always believed. The side effects are not great, and there are so many more natural things you can try. She comes at you with so much advice you’ll want to buy this book for reference and at the same time, buy a copy for every woman you know. Seriously.
- Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin E. Seligman. Bow down to the positive psychology GURU. Seligman is my absolute favorite person maybe in the entire world. I’m a recovering pessimist (I say this because it is hard to rewire your brain) and this book changed the way I view absolutely everything. I still get into a good pessimistic groove, but I can also talk myself out of it. My glass is neither half empty or half full. It just is what it is, and it’s not personal how full it is or isn’t, and it’s not going to stay that way forever anyway. The inventory in the beginning helps you assess how much of a pessimist or optimist you are, and then you learn how to change your brain. Change your brain!! For the better! Naturally! It takes hard work but with Seligman as your spirit guide you can do eet.
- Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. I’m a proud recovering sufferer of GAD, and part of my CBT back in the day was mindfulness. When I was feeling anxious, stressed, or couldn’t sleep, I was taught to imagine a stream with leaves floating on it. As I had a thought, I would place it on a leaf and watch it float away. No matter what the thought was, I peacefully said goodbye to it. If it came back, I watched it float away again and again until it was truly gone. We are so inclined to believe that our thoughts are gospel and I’m not here for that. You are not your thoughts and not every thought you have is true or even remotely close to the truth. Mindfulness is a fantastic way to zone out and relax in the midst of a crazy life. Plus, you’ll start to see long-term benefits after just 8 weeks of practice.
What books have you read that have toasted your strudel? I’d love to know!