My 2014 Reading List

2014 Reading List (books to read!)I wouldn’t call it a resolution, per se (as soon as I label anything a “resolution,” I am pretty much resolving to never do it), but I’d love to spend more time reading and less time Keeping Up With The Kardashians this year.

Health-Related Reads

You may have noticed by now that I’m kinda into health and fitness. Just a little. A couple of these books were actually recommended by you guys in response to a tweet of mine a few weeks ago. Gotta love social media!

Non-Fiction Reads

Ok, this list of books might officially put me on the no-fly list. But I am not exaggerating even a little when I say I could watch documentaries and read books about drug lords, mobsters, gangsters, villains and serial killers 24/7/365. Don’t be scared of me, please.

  • Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden: I am fascinated by Pablo Escobar. I know I was five when he died, making it impossible, but I still secretly wish I was him in a past life. Weird? Creepy? Whatever.
  • Brutal: The Untold Story of Life Inside Whitey Bulger’s Irish Mob by Phyllis Karas: Living in Boston, all you hear about is Whitey. I’ve been told this book is awesome, and the author even came to the beach I used to lifeguard at on the Vineyard. So now I have to read it.
  • The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory by Jesse Walker: I took a Terrorism class in college one semester (relax, it wasn’t a how-to course), and actually did my final project on 9/11 conspiracy theories. Not saying I necessarily believe them all, but they’re fascinating to read about. This novel covers all the major conspiracy theories in American culture and politics.
  • Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn: C’mon, don’t act like you’re not curious about what was going on in Manson’s head as a kid.
  • Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger: I mean, I couldn’t have this entire list of non-fiction books make you afraid of me. Written by a marketing professor, this book explores what makes things popular—sounds so interesting!
  • Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America by Peter Andreas: Contraband, history, illegal activities, capitalism—sounds like a good read to me!

Classic Reads

After switching my major eight times in college (literally), I accidently (literally) ended up with an English degree. This meant reading lots of the classics, and growing to love over-analyzing complicated, old books. I still feel like there are tons of iconic novels that I haven’t tackled.

  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov: 50 Shades of Grey sucked. Literally, but figuratively as well. I’d like some WELL-WRITTEN sexual scandal, thank you very much.
  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner: The Sound and the Fury is my absolute favorite book ever, so it’s borderline ridiculous that I haven’t read any of Faulkner’s other works.

Beach Reads

You need some quick, enjoyable reading material for the beach and travel.

  • And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini: I’m actually already halfway done with this novel. Hosseini (author of The Kite Runner) is just such a phenomenal writer that even when nothing is really happening in the novel, it’s such an enjoyable read.
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey: I’ve wanted to read this for so long! I hear it’s hilarious—and I’d expect nothing less from Tina Fey.
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling): I actually picked this for book club months and months ago and then never read it. I heard mixed reviews from my friends (most actually didn’t like it), but I’m just so curious to see what a non-Harry Potter novel looks like from Rowling.

Wow. 16 books. I’m going to have to pass on, like, ten Kardashians TV marathons to get through them all this year. I feel smarter already…

What books are on your reading list?

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Takeaways from Kimberly Snyder’s Beauty Detox Solution

Takeaways from Kimberly Snyder's Beauty Detox SolutionIf you read my Q&A on Hillary’s blog, you’ve already seen me mention this book—it was my absolute favorite summer read! Granted, it was my only summer read, but that’s a minor detail (it’s hard to find time for other books when I have a 600-page NASM textbook staring me in the face daily). Kimberly Snyder and her two books came highly recommended to me by a friend, and I was in no way disappointed.

Kim’s (I decided we’re on a first-name basis now because, I mean, I read her book and tweeted at her once, so I’m pretty sure that makes us besties) Beauty Detox Solution is, at its core, a way of eating. She does offer weekly meal plans and recipes at the end of the book for those who want to follow a strict diet plan, but the majority of the book is just outlining major principles of eating for optimal digestion. This includes rules for which food groups you should and shouldn’t combine, the order in which you should eat certain foods, which foods you should avoid—all with digestion in mind. Kim focuses on digestion based on the understanding that when your body isn’t using up energy trying to digest miscombined or difficult foods, that energy is freed up to repair damage cells, combat any illness, and increase our beauty and overall health.

Even though I have no intention of completely following Kim’s (or anyone’s) eating rules (I’m more of an “everything in moderation” girl), I learned so much from reading this book (hence the short novel of a blog post). Kim really dives into the why behind all her dietary suggestions, so even if you’re not looking to change your way of eating, you will still gain a lot of useful knowledge about digestion, food and the human body. I wanted to highlight some of my personal takeaways from the book because while some of Kim’s suggestions are unrealistic for me, I’ve still made little tweaks to my usual dietary habits since reading The Beauty Detox Solution.

1. Eat light to heavy throughout the day.

Before reading this book, I was under the impression that dinner should be your lightest meal because later in the day you’re less active and therefore won’t be burning off any calories. While Kim does support not eating immediately before bed (eat dinner about three hours before you hit the hay), she explains that if you’re going to have a heavier or less-than-ideal meal, it should be at dinner. This is to prevent a digestive “traffic jam.” Start your day with easily digestible foods (fruit, vegetables) that will be in and out of your stomach quickly, and then move onto the stuff that takes a little more time to break down (starches, protein, etc.), so that easily digestible food doesn’t sit on top of the hard stuff in your stomach and putrefy (beautiful image, I know).

I now keep my mornings really light (unless it’s the weekend and someone wants to do a boozy brunch, in which case, sorry, Kim…). I’ll start by drinking a glass of water with lemon in it, then make myself a juice (I finally own a juicer!!), and then an hour later (or whenever I’m hungry), I’ll have a smoothie or acai bowl for breakfast. If I’m craving pasta or fish, I’ll save that for dinner instead of lunch.

2. Unless you’re nursing (i.e. an infant or that third-grader on the cover of TIME Magazine last year), dairy really shouldn’t be part of your diet.

I already figured this one out with my 30-day dairy-free experiment, but Kim reiterates that no one should be consuming dairy. She lists the following reasons: the protein in dairy, casein, is difficult for our body to break down and digest; dairy creates mucus; conventional dairy is packed with hormones and drugs; and pasteurization kills natural enzymes in dairy that would have helped us digest it. If you’re going to eat cheese, pick goat’s milk cheese because the natural enzymes in a goat are closer to those in humans, and therefore it’s easier for us to digest.

3. Even if you don’t have a gluten intolerance, you should eliminate or greatly reduce your gluten intake.

Gluten, the protein in wheat, rye and barley, can cause toxic reactions in our bodies that trigger our immune system and cause inflammation of the intestinal tract. If you do choose to eat some whole wheat food, make sure it’s organic, because most wheat crops are heavily sprayed with pesticides and grown in mineral-depleted soil.

I think a 30-day gluten-free experiment might be in order for me to see just how it affects my health. Until then, the only change I’ve made is saving gluten-containing foods for dinnertime (see #1) if I want them.

4. Choose honey over agave.

Wait, whaaat? I thought agave was a magical natural sweetener here to save us all from the evils of white sugar?? Kim explains that agave syrup is not a whole food found in nature, and that it has to undergo processing to get into its liquid form, sometimes involving chemicals and heating processes. Raw, organic honey is a better choice (unless you’re vegan). Easy swap for me—I love honey!

5. When it comes to protein powder, go with hemp.

Plant protein is the easiest protein for our body to digest, as soy and whey are typically highly processed. Plus, raw hemp protein powder contains 14 grams of fiber and 11 grams of protein in a 30-gram serving. I don’t supplement with protein powder very often, but I have used hemp protein powder a couple times in recipes on the blog: Banana-Hazelnut Coffee Protein Smoothie and Almond Butter Muesli Bites Rolled in Coconut.

6. Choose almonds/almond butter over peanuts/peanut butter.

When it comes to nuts, avoid peanuts. They’re prone to mold and fungi, and non-organic peanuts are among the most pesticide-saturated foods out there (maybe why so many people are allergic to them!). Swapping in almond butter for peanut butter is a no-brainer—they taste equally delicious to me!

7. Cook with coconut oil.

I’d been meaning to hop on the coconut oil bandwagon for a while, and The Beauty Detox Solution solidified that move. Coconut oil, because it’s a completely saturated fat, is much less susceptible to nutritional heat damage. When it comes to cooking, I’ve swapped out the olive oil for coconut oil.

8. Nix the table salt. That $16-vile of Celtic sea salt at Whole Foods (FML) might actually be worth the price tag.

I think we all have a general understanding that too much salt in our diet is a bad thing, but when you do sprinkle a little on that corn on the cob or add some to your favorite cookie recipe, choose high-quality sea salt. Celtic and Himalayan sea salt has been dried by the sun, is raw, and contains enzymes and a slew of minerals. Table salt, on the other hand, is typically just denatured sodium chloride that’s dead, kiln-dried and highly processed.

9. Don’t mix animal proteins.

Animal protein is one of the most difficult things for our body to digest, and eating two different types of meat in the same meal is even harder on our bodies. Will I never enjoy a summer clambake again and have my fill of shellfish followed by lobster or some tuna? Hell no. But I do keep this in mind when eating sushi, and now try to pick rolls with only one type of fish in them.

The book shares tons of other dietary tips not covered here, but these are just the tweaks I knew I could easily incorporate into my own eating habits. And I can’t wait to read Kimberly’s second book, The Beauty Detox Foods, which is packed with recipes and explanations of how certain foods increase our health and beauty.

Have you guys read either of Kimberly Snyder’s books? What were the big takeaways for you?

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3 Must-Watch Documentaries on the Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

3 Must-Watch Documentaries Advocating a Plant-Based Diet

The more I learn about factory farming and the effects of eating animals and animal products, the more I inch towards veganism. I honestly don’t think I could ever be 100% vegan—mainly because I love seafood—but meat and dairy have occupied a smaller and smaller portion of my diet as I’ve gotten older. I’ve never been a huge meat eater for the simple fact that I don’t like it (I’m excluding fish from this statement)—in fact, I think this pecan pesto linguine with chicken and mushrooms dish is the only recipe I’ve ever posted to the blog containing a land animal. Recently, I went a step further, and blogged about eliminating dairy from my diet for 30 days and all the wonderful effects it had on my health, and I’ve maintained a very low-dairy lifestyle to this day.

I love watching documentaries (on all topics) but in the past few months I went on a plant-based-diet documentary spree and wanted to share a few with you guys that I’d highly recommend. Even if it doesn’t change your dietary habits, it’s still so important to be informed on how our food is made and the effects it has on our bodies. Only then can we make educated decisions on what we eat. There are tons of documentaries out there, and I’d love to hear your suggestions on others I should watch!

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

Fat, Sick & Nearly DeadThis one follows the journey of two guys from being “fat, sick and nearly dead” to healthy, happy men, and focuses on the role juicing plays in such a transformation. I actually got a little emotional towards the end because you just feel so happy watching them better their lives—It’s like watching a really intense episode of The Biggest Loser. It also made me consider taking a few days out of each month to juice. I eat a pretty clean diet in my day to day life, so I’ve never felt an urgent need to do a juice cleanse, but at the same time, the benefits seem undeniable.

Vegucated

Vegucated_(film)In this documentary, three meat-eating New Yorkers—all skeptical, to some degree, of veganism—take on the challenge of a plant-based diet. Not only do they notice positive health changes with themselves, but they’re further pushed towards the diet by being educated on the horrors of factory farming. The part of the documentary that covers how these animals are treated made me sob—it’s so disturbing and sad. But as hard as it is to watch, I think it’s important to know what goes into that burger you’re munching on.

And the whole film stresses the importance of being educated on what you’re eating. What makes that so-called “superfood” so super? What the heck are GMOs? Why is soy suddenly in the news and what are the health benefits of soya lecithin? What is soya lecithin? Should I be gluten free? What the hell is actually in a hot dog, anyway? The questions surrounding food are endless–do your research so you can make an educated decision on what you put into your body!

Forks Over Knives

220px-Forks_Over_Knives_movie_posterI like this one because it takes a scientific approach to the case for a plant-based diet. Moral issues aside, it delves into research proving that the human body functions better without meat and dairy, and shows how a plant-based diet can be used to cure even advanced diseases.

Have you guys seen any of these? What’d you think? Give me suggestions for others to watch! I’m certainly not trying to force a certain lifestyle by suggesting these films–I mean, I just spent the entire Memorial Day weekend drinking beer and Life Is Good cocktails on Nantucket, clearly I’m not one to preach about being pristine with what you put in your body. 🙂

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