Tag Archives: self-help books

Bossa Nova Baby

The Hormone Reset Diet (nook book)

The Hormone Reset Diet: Heal Your Metabolism to Lose Up to 15 Pounds in 21 Days by Sara Gottfried, M.D. (HarperOne, $27,99, 322 pages)

Dr. Gottfried is a well-qualified and well-educated physician who has developed her own methodology for achieving hormone balance for women who have had trouble in the past with shedding and keeping off excess weight.

Dr. Sara, as she is called in the glowing forward by Mark Hyman, M.D., is a Harvard-educated gynecologist. She has had her own bouts of stubborn weight gain and her body’s resistance to its loss. Dr. Sara seems like a buddy who can walk the reader through a helpful self-diagnosis. Ever the professional, she reminds her reader to check with their personal physician to assure proper oversight of the reset process.

A self-help author, who is friendly, yet not patronizing or dictatorial, is just what a woman needs when confronting unyielding pounds and inches. Dr. Sara strikes a comfortable balance between medical professional and helper. Readers are walked through each of seven phases of what she calls “hormone reset.”

Although there are ample citations for the conclusions and methodology Dr. Sara provides, at times she can be more than a bit repetitive. The result at first was confusion for this reader-reviewer. By the sixth chapter, it became obvious that a single reading would not be adequate prior to embarking on the 21-day plan.

Readers should note that while the plan is less costly than using a personalized plan developed by a diet doctor or endocrinologist, it does require expenditures of money, time and emotional commitment. This is serious business, not your usual cheerleading and gimmicks found in many self-help diet books.

Hormone Reset Diet book (rear cover)

Meal plans for each of the seven hormone resets and the recipes are provided at the back of the book. All in all, this appears to be a comprehensive and most likely useful approach for women who want to achieve a “normal weight” – a weight appropriate for their body size and frame; women who have not yet succeeded with meeting the goal through healthy eating and exercise.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book was released on March 15, 2015.

Dr. Mark Hyman is the author of The Blood Sugar Solution.

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Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown

My Age of Anxiety (nook book)

My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread and the Search for Peace of Mind by Scott Stossell (Knopf, $27.95, 416 pages)

“So am I, with my phobias and worries and general twitchiness, ‘neurotically’ anxious? Or just ‘normally’ so? What’s the difference between ‘normal’ anxiety and anxiety as a clinical problem? …If anxiety disorders and depression are so similar, why do we distinguish between them? …Mightn’t my anxiety be just a normal human emotional response to life, even if the response is perhaps somewhat more severe for me than for others? How do you draw the distinction between ‘normal’ and ‘clinical’?”

Scott Stossel

The unfortunate thing about this book is that the very people who will be attracted to it may be those who’ll get the least from it. I’m speaking of those who suffer from anxiety, something that Scott Stossel is unable to define although he claims to suffer from it. Stossel is not an expert but he combines a survey like approach – what he calls “a cultural and intellectual history of anxiety,” to the topic with his own experiences. (This takes up over 400 pages.) The problem with the initial approach is that Stossel plunges into deep waters quickly, discussing Kierkegaard and Sartre and the nature of Existentialism. All readers who were not Philosophy majors in college are likely to be lost immediately.

The author might have grabbed the reader by relating his own anxious experiences first. However, there are two problems with his stories. Firstly, one wonders whether some of them actually happened. And, secondly, they must have been greatly exaggerated in the telling.

Those who pick up My Age of Anxiety thinking it’s a self-help book will likely be disappointed, especially as Stossel self absorbedly and somewhat relentlessly relates the exact nature of his confused and anxious mental state ad infinitum (to infinity).

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was received from the publisher.

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Fortify Your Self

Fortifying Your Self – Three Different Ways

Fearless at Work (nook book)

Fearless at Work: Timeless Teachings for Awakening Confidence in the Face of Life’s Demands by Michael Carroll (Shambhala, $16.5, 304 pages)

With this book in hand, you have the potential to lead your own life at work and home rather than be at the mercy of outside influences. Of course, that also means reading the book. Fortunately, it is full of meaningful examples and practical advice with realistic approaches to incorporating them into your daily experience. There are references to teachers admired by author Carroll who deserve the recognition. While this is gracious and appropriate, it creates an alphabet soup of names for a reader who is not steeped in the somewhat exotic cultures and traditions being referenced.

A reader would be wise to use sticky notes or a flag to mark each section as this reviewer has done. The book is structured around five primary slogans: 1. Face the fierce facts of life, 2. No delight; no courage, 3. Recognize fear, 4. Discover the jewel of fearless abundance, and 5. Command gracefully.

Helpful illustrations are included within the main text of the book as well as the appendices. The trade paper format and size of the book make it easy to take along for reference or just to aid in grounding the reader in times of challenge or tumult.

Highly recommended.

The Undefeated Mind

The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self by Alex Lickerman, M.D. (HCI, $15.95, 288 pages)

Dr. Lickerman is remarkably open and willing to share his past experiences with patients as he helped them to face life’s challenges. He is a practicing Nichiren Buddhist, and he begins the book with his own path to creating an undefeated mind.

The presenting problem is the breakup of his first love relationship prior to failing the first part of the National Board Exam at the end of the second year of medical school. The dual defeat that he experienced, combined with the field work required during the third year and the lack of time to study for retaking the first part of the exam, propelled Lickerman into a deep state of depression. From this beginning, he takes the reader into his medical practice for an array of solutions to similar problems brought to him by his patients.

The reader is assured of assistance in dealing with his or her own life obstacles given the wealth of good examples, detailed explanations of terminology used by physicians, and Dr. Lickerman’s kindly writing style. The one drawback is his need to provide attribution of the source material and references to persons whom he credits with wisdom that is worthwhile. These interruptions to the flow of the text detract from his message; however, the reader is well advised to accept this slight disruption given the value of the lessons to be learned.

Well recommended.

Attitude Reconstruction

Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T. (Riviera Press, $16.95, 354 pages)

The third book in this review is by far the most technical and visually oriented. Author Jude Bijou is a practicing marriage and family therapist/counselor. She has devised a set of charts for the reader to use as a guide to attaining a positive attitude and a more pleasant life. These charts depict destructive mental tendencies and constructive mental tendencies. Through describing the emotions associated with the two basic tendencies and the outcomes generated by acting upon them, Ms. Bijou seeks to provide the reader with an action plan for building a better life.

Visual learners will thoroughly enjoy the numerous charts, Q & A scenarios and worksheets contained within this densely-packed book. Be assured, the straightforward approach used by Ms. Bijou can be interpreted as classic textbook lessons rather than subtler gentle assistance of the type offered by Dr. Lickerman.

A person who seeks to change their life situation and needs a step-by-step process will benefit greatly from Attitude Reconstruction.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

Review copies were provided by the publishers.

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Coming Up Next…

Fearless at Work (nook book)

The Undefeated Mind

A review of Fearless at Work: Timeless Teachings for Awakening Confidence in the Life of Life’s Demands by Michael Carroll, The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self by Alex Lickerman, M.D. and more.

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Power To The People

Stillpower: Excellence with Ease in Sports and Life by Garrett Kramer (Atria Books/Beyond Words, $22.00, 191 pages)

Stillpower (nook book)

This slender book that promises assistance with sports and life seems at first glance to be just another guide to success in life. It is more than that. Author Garret Kramer has been a businessman, sports coach and motivational speaker. His years of experience have been distilled into a credo of sorts that he defines as:

Stillpower n. The clarity of mind to live with freedom and ease; the inner source of excellence; the opposite of willpower.

Kramer uses scenarios and vignettes from his days with sports figures to illustrate the principles of stillpower. His first person narrative delivered in a down-to-earth conversational tone is reassuring. Kramer can be a bit chatty and redundant; however, the message bears repeating. Sports and life are really the same. Games compress time and physical effort, whereas life can move along at a painfully slow pace or rush at you. Having a game plan or, in this case a mindset, increases the chance for a satisfying outcome.

So, the next time you feel the urge to provide guidance or discipline, please understand that what comes out of your mouth is much less significant than the level of mental functioning from which the words are spoken.

The somewhat self-deprecating approach Kramer uses can be slightly off-putting. He means well and has a mighty list of clients and successes. References to Zen and the inspirational quotes that begin each chapter enhance his message. Practicing the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is a similarly-sized volume. They can be complementary additions to a mindful reader’s book collection.

Ultimately, we have no ability to control the actions of others, but we all possess the potential to understand that these actions have no ability to control us.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher. Stillpower was released on June 5, 2013.

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Uptight (Everything’s Alright)

The First Year: IBS — An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed by Heather Van Vorous (Da Capo Press, $16.99, 242 pages)

“…knowledge is power over IBS…  (With it) you will be managing your IBS – it will not be managing you.”

Do you regularly or periodically have disabling stomach pains, the type that hurt so much you just want to lie down, curl up and be still?   If so, you may be experiencing the digestive flare-ups brought on by Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).   IBS actually has less to do with your stomach – which seems to be the source of the discomfort and pain – then with the digestive tract; it was formerly known as Spastic Colon disease.

As explained in The First Year: IBS, this is a medical condition determined by exclusion rather than inclusion.   If you think you may be IBS-afflicted, your doctor will want to perform a series of exams and tests to exclude other serious conditions or ailments such as colon or stomach cancer, Crohn’s Disease (which may result in cancer), colitis or a hernia.   Only when all of these and other verifiable possibilities are ruled out will an M.D. decide that someone is an IBS sufferer.   If you receive such a diagnosis, you will want to pick up Heather Van Vorous’ “Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed.”

I purchased this book after weeks of  painful (and sometimes burning) symptoms and the subsequent medical diagnosis.   I was far from optimistic that my aches would be relieved by a new diet.   Van Vorous, however, makes a quite convincing case that IBS flare-ups are triggered by consuming certain foods or liquids.   These triggers are different for each person but they can be things as simple as:  coffee (sigh), artificial sweeteners, nuts or seeds, popcorn, fried chicken, fruits such as pineapple or fruit nectars, pastries or baked goods, chocolate, etc.   It is also essential to lower the amount of fat in one’s diet since, as we all know (eaten a large hamburger or steak recently?), high fat foods are tough to digest.

“Children with IBS absolutely cannot eat at McDonald’s, Burger King, or most any other fast food restaurant, because there is literally nothing safe on their menus.”

The key to Van Vorous’ diet remedy is to begin limiting the intake of insoluble fiber foods (such as popcorn), replacing them with soluble fiber foods – “the basis of the IBS diet.”   Soluble fiber foods include such pleasing and digestible items as rice, potatoes, flour tortillas, bananas, mangoes and applesauce.   The First Year provides easy-to-read and copy (one per page) lists of insoluble fiber and other foods to avoid, and of the soluble fiber foods that will become the foundation of a former sufferer’s new diet.

Suffice it to say that even for this sceptical reader and IBS-diagnosed patient the new diet worked, both well and relatively quickly!   An added benefit of the diet prescribed by Van Vorous is not only the absence of pain and discomfort, but an improved (“regular”) digestive tract.   IBS sufferers often bounce back and forth between constipation and diarrhea, but not after adopting the soluble fiber regimen.

The First Year also addresses the importance of stress management and exercise.   Tai Chi is a specific form of exercise that is recommended as “a type of moving meditation.”   Van Vorous had IBS for over twenty years and learned that after she limited and controlled the condition through diet, she could then manage it even better through exercising and applying a positive mental attitude.   When you consider that this trade paperback book sells for less than a $20 bill, it’s a very wise investment.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This book was purchased by the reviewer.

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Help Me

Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life: Train Your Brain to Get More Done in Less Time by Paul Hammerness, M.D., and Margaret Moore, with John Hanc (Harlequin, $16.95, 272 pages)

Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World by Sam Sommers (Riverhead Hardcover, $25.95, 304 pages)

Often the focus of self-help books is the reader’s feelings of discomfort, inadequacy or anger.   That said, the two books reviewed here are pragmatic and filled with specific science-based ideas formulated by well-respected professionals in their respective fields.

The first book, Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life: Train Your Brain to Get More Done in Less Time, was written by the team of Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Paul Hammerness, M.D., Margaret Moore, a certified wellness coach and cofounder of Harvard’s Institute of Coaching with assistance from John Hanc, an associate professor of journalism and communications at the New York Institute of Technology.   The premise of Organize Your Mind is that daily stress is produced by too much to do and this overload, in turn, produces a sense of helplessness.   The book looks at how your conscious actions can bring about a sense of mastery and control to daily life as well as assist in long-range planning.

Each area discussed is introduced by Dr. Hammerness in what he calls “The Rules of Order.”   Each of the rules is about brain functioning and how it relates to ones’ actions and feelings.   The six rules are followed by pragmatic action steps outlined by Coach Margaret.   Accompanying each rule are highlighted sidebars filled with explanations and contextual comments that enhance the reader’s experience.   Dr. Hammerness includes suggestions for readers whose issues extend beyond the scope of the book.   He takes a kindly attitude and suggests that there are situations where professional help beyond that offered in the book is indicated.

The chapters and rules are cumulative which allows the reader to follow along and build skills.   The tone of the authors’ writing is non-judgmental, realistic and yet not a buddy-buddy one.   There are really good puns scattered in the text.   Alas, this reviewer is not able to quote any of them as an advance uncorrected proof was provided by the publisher.

Highly recommended.

The second book, Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World was written by Sam Sommers, a remarkably young-looking psychology professor at Tufts University.   Sommers is also an expert witness who is called upon to testify as to whether actions and statements are racially motivated or merely meaningful descriptors that may be admitted as evidence in court proceedings.

This book is an excellent complement to Organize Your Mind that can be best appreciated if read as a follow-up in the reader’s self-improvement strategy.   Sommers makes good use of scientific findings to support his conclusions.   However, his assertion is that introspection will not bring someone to discover the means to the life they wish to have.   Rather, his focus is on the ways that environmental influences assert significant power over the decisions people make and the actions they take every day.   Watchfulness and awareness of the context (location, group or ethnic background) in which one finds one’s self can lead to a significantly different outcome, such as summoning police assistance, questioning odd behavior or just realizing that people mindlessly parrot what they think is true.   An excellent parallel can be made with reference to Malcolm Gladwell’s books, particularly Tipping Point.   Several of the studies he cites are common to both books.

The chapter structure of Situations Matter follows that of a survey book.   Sommers does tie back to his beginning hypothesis that we see the world as a “what you see is what you get” sort of place.   (The computer shorthand is WYSIWYG.)   He also makes good use of examples from his university classroom exercises.   The tone of the book is friendly and it reads like a transcript from the psychology class you wish you’d taken.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

Review copies were provided by the publishers.

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