I know this time of year is crazy for everyone, but I cannot believe that I am this far behind. And since things have been very hectic for me lately, I am not only delayed my usual reading recap post, but also had far less opportunity for reading itself over the past month. I absolutely love to read, so it is something that I try to make a priority if at all possible, but with the busier holiday social calendar and all the extra project I have had going on, it has made it a bit difficult. However, I do have an enormous reading list prepared for my Christmas break and new year – so good things are on the horizon!
Last month, my Happiness Project was centered around nutrition and food. This is an area which I am extremely passionate about and it is a big component of some of my future goals and aspirations. So I took the opportunity throughout November to read and reread some of my favorite nutritional experts and resources.
Thinking, Fast and Slow
I started reading this book awhile back whilst traveling to Milan, but it ran over into November which was fine by me, because it was fascinating! Daniel Kahneman is a renowned psychologist at Princeton University, the 2002 Nobel Prize winner in Economics and a leading researcher in intuition and decision making. I referenced some of his insights on heuristics and considered how they might impact our perception and choices related to healthy eating and also talked about a few of his studies which showed the subtle and not so subtle ways that our behavior and circumstances can impact our emotion and positive affect. He discusses two different mechanisms that we rely upon in our thinking: System 1 which is nearly instantaneous, intuitive, efficient, and emotional vs. System 2 which is more slow, deliberate, and logical. His work shows that although we tend to think that we are rational and logical in our thoughts and judgments, we often underestimate the extent to which we actually rely upon mental shortcuts, stereotypes, and assumptions, which we may or may not even be aware of. Although this is can be helpful and instrumental to our survival, it can also lead to rash and poor decisions with a shocking level of overconfidence. Kahneman describes various cognitive biases and traps that we otherwise may fail to recognize in the day-to-day and provides techniques and practical ways that we alternatively engage our System 2 to make better choices in all aspects of our lives.
Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig
If you have been following along on barreeatrepeat.com for a recipe or two, you will notice that much, if not most of what I eat is Whole30 compliant. I did my first Whole30 in the summer of 2015 and the results were so tremendous and transformative that I have almost never looked back since. The Whole30 is a program which cofounder Melissa Hartwig often describes as a way to “press the reset button on your health, your habits, and your relationship with food.” It involves a pretty strict 30 day elimination diet which completely removes foods which are commonly problematic, often contributing to “both an impaired gut and chronic systemic inflammation,” followed by a careful and systematic reintroduction of each of those foods in order to assess the impact they may or may not have on you specifically in terms of the way that you look and feel. Nutritional research (and science as whole if we want to be honest) is often conflicting so the Whole30 serves as a way to test out what types of foods do or don’t work for you in particular. And it goes beyond food allergies and sensitivities. Although perhaps no major inflammation or indigestion results when you eat XYZ, it may cause your skin to break out, trigger unpleasant emotions or cravings for other less than healthy options, or lead you to eat when you are not hungry/not eat when you really should. By focusing not only on the actual foods, but also the habits and emotions that are often involved in our eating, the Whole30 seeks to give you lasting tools for a sustainably healthier lifestyle which they refer to as “food freedom.” I cannot endorse this program highly enough and this book or whole30.com are excellent resources to help you get started.
Good Calories, Bad Calories
Not only am I a total Whole30 fangirl, but I also love all things Gary Taubes. Taubes is one my absolute favorite nutritional experts and science writers and I have also read his other books including The Case Against Sugar and Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It along with many of the articles he has contributed to many prestigious newspapers and magazines. Throughout his writing, he has consistently argued against conventional nutritional wisdom and Nassim Nicholas Taleb (author of The Black Swan) describes his work well in the acclaims section when he says that Taubes skillfully “uses an impressive combination of rigorous logic and no-nonsense empiricism to thwart medical dogmas, particularly the one about the ‘calorie-in, calorie-out,’ notion that no evidence can dislodge from the mind of medical doctors. This is a true document about scientific method, even a monument in the history of medicine – and something that will change your life.” Taubes presents compelling historical and scientific evidence against prevailing health advice which many of us grew up with and leave unquestioned (an example of indoctrination which impacts our healthy heuristics!) – such as the conventional wisdom of eating less and exercising more as the way to maintain a healthy weight or that fats (not carbohydrates) are to be feared. His thesis is that the kind of calories that we ingest is far more important than the amount and he backs it up with a multitude of facts and observations. The book is a bit more technical than leisurely to read, but if you are interested in the topic, it is nothing short of outstanding.
And that was it for November. December is well underway and I am trying to make time for fun, energy, and enthusiasm as a part of the ongoing Happiness Project and consequently, the genres of my reading this month have been a bit more varied aka whatever strikes my fancy as I go along. And among other goals for 2018, I am strengthening my resolve to read more. I hope that you have a lovely Christmas holiday planned which includes time with your loved ones and perhaps a day or two curled up on a couch with a good book!