Book Review: You Have The Right To Remain Fat

right to remain fatYou Have The Right To Remain Fat
by Virgie Tovar
Nonfiction
128 pages
Published 2018

You Have The Right To Remain Fat is a short manifesto on why society needs to change the way it treats fat people, and that we don’t need to lose weight to fit into society. Tovar talks about the sexism, classism, and racism that is often behind fatphobia and discrimination, the way culture has shifted around looks, and feeling comfortable in your own skin. She rips diet culture to shreds, shining a spotlight on the gaslighting technique that is heavy in dieting language. (You’re not losing weight because you’re not doing it right. You don’t have enough willpower to deprive yourself of essential nutrients? Shame on you.)

I could understand people being offended by this book – she basically says if you’re trying to lose weight for the sake of losing weight, you’re wrong. But if you really look at it, if that really is all you’re losing weight for, to be thin, shouldn’t society accept you as you are? If you need to lose weight for actual, valid health reasons, that’s different. But if it’s just for the sake of being thin – maybe rethink your reasons.

I’m going back on the Auto Immune Protocol as soon as we settle in to the new house – and while losing weight is a nice side effect, I’m doing it to control autoimmune symptoms. And in all the literature around AIP, it’s about not feeling fatigued or nauseous. It’s about getting your digestive system back on track and reducing the chronic pain. It’s NOT about losing weight, though people often do lose weight on it because it boosts the metabolism and cuts sugar. (Although it’s also used for hyperthyroid people, who often have unhealthy weight loss, so really it’s about stabilizing your weight!)

One of the most interesting parts of the book was when she discussed a conference she’d gone to and talked to women about fatphobia and inferiority complexes. First she asked if anyone there felt inferior. Of course, no one did. But then she asked a series of follow-up questions that pointed out behaviors born of feelings of inferiority. Things like: “Are you wearing something physically uncomfortable because you believe it makes you look better? Today did you refuse to do something you wanted to do because you were worried how it would make you look to someone?”

Out of curiosity, I read all the questions (there were eight or so) to my husband. He’d done exactly one of them. I have done all of them in the past, and still do some. (I’m currently a housewife. I don’t wear uncomfortable clothes.) It was rather eye-opening.

You Have The Right To Remain Fat is a quick, thought-provoking read that is uncomfortable at times but also makes you want to shout HELL YES at other times. I definitely recommend it.

From the cover of You Have The Right To Remain Fat:

Growing up as a fat girl, Virgie Tovar believed that her body was something to be fixed. But after two decades of dieting and constant guilt, she was over it―and gave herself the freedom to trust her own body again. Ever since, she’s been helping others to do the same. Tovar is hungry for a world where bodies are valued equally, food is free from moral judgment, and you can jiggle through life with respect. In concise and candid language, she delves into unlearning fatphobia, dismantling sexist notions of fashion, and how to reject diet culture’s greatest lie: that fat people need to wait before beginning their best lives.

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Book Review: Are You Tired and Wired?

tired and wiredAre You Tired and Wired? Your Proven 30-Day Program for Overcoming Adrenal Fatigue and Feeling Fantastic Again
by Marcelle Pick
Nonfiction/Health
289 pages
Published 2011

One of my 2019 goals is to get my health under control. I have at least two auto-immune diseases, with two more suspected (they often jumpstart each other, yay!) and one of the things I struggle with A LOT is fatigue. Adrenal dysfunction often goes hand-in-hand with autoimmune diseases, especially those dealing with the thyroid gland, like my Hashimoto’s Disease. This book spends a lot of time on figuring out if you have Adrenal Dysfunction and why that’s important. A lot of the questions made me feel REALLY called out. I perk up at 9 p.m. after being tired throughout the day. I crave high-protein, high-fat, salty foods like meats and cheeses. I’m exhausted all the time, absent-minded, and have to take breaks often when doing things like housework or walking. There’s a quiz in this book that has five categories for your score. The worst score is anything over 26 points. I scored 64!

So, according to this book, my adrenals are SHOT. Unfortunately, the 30-Day program involves a lot of foods that contradict with the AutoImmune Protocol, which I was on for about six months in 2018 and made me feel fantastic. I’m still avoiding gluten, nightshades, and some dairy, but I want to go back on full elimination AIP. It’s just difficult to do because it means cooking almost every day. After we move, we should have more fridge and freezer space and I can start doing big batch cooking. That should make it easier.

In the meantime, though, there isn’t actually a whole lot of lifestyle changes in this book I can make. There are herbal supplement suggestions, which I might try, and prescription medication suggestions, which I will consult with my new doctor about as soon as I get insurance straightened out and make an appointment. But I won’t do the 30-day diet program, and as far as reducing my daily stress, well.

I’m a housewife. I have no children. The vast majority of my stress comes from living with roommates, and I can’t do anything about that until we move! Now that my husband is done with school, there will be less stress coming from that direction, at least. But really, I lead a pretty low-stress life. Looking back on things, I think I’m actually improving from where I was a few years ago, when I was working retail while my husband went to school and worked, while being financially strapped and living with roommates. And that was after the five years of near-constant background levels of stress from him being in the military. So it could be that my adrenals actually bottomed out a few years ago and I’m just now noticing it because there isn’t a constant pressure forcing me to be on the go constantly anymore. Or, according to the book, I’m through the Racehorse and Workhorse stages and in the Flatliner stage.

I’ll probably look into more books about adrenal dysfunction – I always take these kinds of books with a grain of salt, because so many self-helpish health books are just trying to sell their own protocols or diets or “this one simple thing will change your LIFE!” But it was worth reading and mulling over the information.

From the cover of Are You Tired and Wired?

Do you wake up every morning feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and stressed? Are you constantly reaching for coffee, soda, or some other promise of energy just to keep yourself going? Do you struggle through the day – tired, irritable, forgetful, depressed, and craving sweets – only to have trouble sleeping at night?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions – you’re not alone. In fact, hundreds of thousands of women are fighting these same feelings as they strive to live the lives they want. 

In Are You Tired and Wired?, Marcelle Pick, co-founder of Women to Women – one of the first clinics in the country devoted to providing health care for women by women – and the author of The Core Balance Diet, gives you the knowledge and tools to overcome this epidemic of fatigue.

Pick sets her sights on adrenal dysfunction – the root cause of these symptoms. In our modern lives, the adrenal glands, which are responsible for providing the fight-or-flight hormones in response to stress, are triggered much more often than they should be. Everything from challenges at home and at work, to environmental toxins, to chronic health problems cause the adrenal glands to produce a constant flood of stress hormones that can ultimately lead to multiple health issues, especially severe fatigue.

The good news is that through diet, lifestyle adjustments, and reprogramming of stressful emotional patterns, this can all be fixed!

Pick helps you identify which of three adrenal dysfunction profiles you fit – Racehorse, Workhorse, or Flatliner – and then lays out an easy-to-follow, scientifically based program to help you restore adrenal balance, regear your metabolism, and regain your natural energy to live a happier and less-stressed life.

Book Review: Don’t Call Me Princess

don't call me princessDon’t Call Me Princess: Essays on Girls, Women, Sex, and Life
by Peggy Orenstein
Nonfiction/Essay Collection/Feminism
378 pages
Published February 2018

This is an interesting collection of essays because it’s drawn from the author’s previous work, so some of the essays are a little…dated. Each essay is preceded by a few paragraphs about it, though, talking about what was going on when Orenstein wrote the essay, or how the subject has changed since the essay was written, so instead of being out-of-touch, it’s more like a historical look back in time. Some of the essays even update other essays! In particular, one essay is about her first fight with breast cancer, and beating it, and a second essay is about when the cancer comes back years later. Similarly, there are essays about her issues with infertility and miscarriages, and later about being a mother.

I really enjoyed these articles, especially since I was reading the book while sick, and 3 or 4 page essays were about the limits of my attention span! I could sit down and read one (or two, if I was feeling particularly good) and actually absorb the contents. I tried to read a novel and wound up setting it aside because I couldn’t focus! I enjoy keeping anthologies and short story collections in my stack for that reason. Sometimes I just need something I can take in small bits, and this fit the bill nicely.

The essays ranged from profiles of remarkable women (Caitlin Moran, Gloria Steinem, Atsuko Chiba) to essays on the author’s personal life, to essays about our educational system, sexism in daily life, and intimate issues like cancer and infertility. It’s a wide range of topics, but all dealing with being a woman, and/or having a uterus. There are a couple of essays in the very back about masculinity, but it’s mostly a woman-centered book. That doesn’t mean men shouldn’t read it, quite the opposite! While the book isn’t quite as engrossing as some of the other feminist nonfiction I’ve been reading lately, it’s still quite good, and does deal with topics that I don’t see discussed often, like breast cancer and IVF, so it might be more interesting to people who have a personal connection to those topics. Well worth reading, though!

From the cover of Don’t Call Me Princess:

Named one of the “40 women who changed the media business in the last 40 years” by the Columbia Journalism Review, Peggy Orenstein is one of the most prominent, unflinching feminist voices of our time. Her writing has broken ground and broken silence on topics as wide-ranging as miscarriage, motherhood, breast cancer, princess culture, and the importance of girls’ sexual pleasure. Her unique blend of investigative reporting, personal revelation, and unexpected humor has made her books bestselling classics.

In Don’t Call Me Princess, Orenstein’s most resonant and important essays are available for the first time in collected form, updated with both an original introduction and personal reflections on each piece. Her takes on reproductive justice, the infertility industry, tensions between working and stay-at-home moms, pink ribbon fearmongering, and the complications of girl culture are not merely timeless – they have, like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, become more urgent in our contemporary political climate. Don’t Call Me Princess offers a crucial evaluation of where we stand today as women – in our work lives, sex lives, as mothers, as partners – illuminating both how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.

Book Review: Rage Becomes Her

Rage Becomes HerRage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger
by Soraya Chemaly
Nonfiction/Feminism/Civil Rights
392 pages
Published September 2018

This book goes in the same category as One Person, No Vote for me. I knew a lot of the general principles, but not the details, the statistics, the true scope of the problem. This book delves deeply into the statistics, but, like One Person, No Vote, is still very readable. I like nonfiction – when the author’s voice doesn’t bore me to tears. I’m slowly building up a list of nonfiction authors who I enjoy – Mary Roach, Soraya Chemaly, Carol Anderson – interesting that they’re all women.

Anyway.

Rage Becomes Her is about women’s relationship with anger. How we tamp it down for the men around us, because being angry makes you a target. Having an opinion online usually means getting harassed, stalked, threatened, swatted. We fear to provoke violence, so we don’t show our anger. And that’s fucked up.

Rage Becomes Her is also about why we are so angry. The rampant sexism and violence against women, the pressures put on us as women, the lopsided assignation of unpaid and underpaid labor.

Rage Becomes Her is about how boys and girls are socialized in regards to anger – it’s expected from boys, but girls are socialized not to show it, to be polite, to give way instead of saying NO. (I know I was brought up this way.)

Rage Becomes Her talks about the effect that anger has on our bodies. Did you know research shows that anger is “the single, most salient emotional contributor to pain”? Which leads into a very interesting passage:

Unaddressed anger affects our neurological, hormonal, adrenal, and vascular systems in ways that are still largely ignored in the treatment of pain. It’s hard to overstate what this means in terms of women’s health.

All over the world, women report much higher rates of both acute and chronic pain than men do. Of the more than one hundred million Americans who report living with daily pain, the vast majority are women. (A comprehensive study involving more than 85,000 respondents in seven developing and ten developed nations found that the prevalence of chronic pain conditions in men was 31 percent but in women it was 45 percent.) (Rage Becomes Her, p. 51)

Well that’s interesting. I’d never thought of my pain being connected to my anger. I certainly have plenty to be angry about currently, as a liberal woman. Interestingly, the book mentions that in the lead-up to Trump’s election, the angriest demographic was white women, especially conservative ones. It makes me wonder about the subconscious anger they must have felt while siding with white supremacy over their own gender. Internalized self-hatred is one hell of a drug. Chemaly delves into that, too. The myth of the “kind patriarch” and “benevolent sexism” and how women are often guilty of system justification, to their own detriment. If you gossip about a woman for showing her anger, it only reinforces that you won’t be able to show yours.

There is so much in this book that was eye-opening, like the fact that doctors are TWENTY-TWO MORE TIMES likely to recommend knee surgery to men with severe arthritis pain than to women, because women are expected to just suck it up and deal with being in pain. There were also unspoken rules spelled out, like when women swear, they tilt towards the “impure” in our social understanding of “purity” and hence, deserve punishment. Why is that a big deal? Numerous studies have shown that cursing numbs pain. Expletives alter our perceptions of pain, and if women aren’t allowed to use them, we’re saying women deserve to be in pain more than men do. (Also the point that women, using the same curse words men do, are considered more offensive.)

What I did find disappointing is there’s really only one chapter giving us any hint as to what to DO with all this information (and the anger it causes, ironically) – and it’s not all that extensive. I’ll be doing more reading on women’s anger; there’s several books out there right now, including Good and Mad: the Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, which is currently on hold at the library for me.

This is a book I’d like to go back to and reference in the future, so it’s going on my list of books to buy eventually. It really is excellent.

From the cover of Rage Becomes Her:

A TRANSFORMATIVE BOOK URGING TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY WOMEN TO EMBRACE THEIR ANGER AND HARNESS IT FOR LASTING PERSONAL AND SOCIETAL CHANGE.

WOMEN ARE ANGRY, and we have every right to be.

We are underpaid and overworked. Too sensitive or not sensitive enough. Too dowdy or too flashy. Too big or too thin. Sluts or prudes. We are harassed, told we are asking for it, and asked if it would kill us to smile. (Yes, yes, it would.)

Contrary to the rhetoric of popular “self-help” and entire lifetimes of being told otherwise, our rage is one of the most important resources we have, our sharpest tool against both personal and political oppression. We’ve been urged for so long to bottle up our anger, letting it corrode our bodies and minds in ways we don’t even realize. Yet our anger is a vital instrument, a radar for injustice and a catalyst for change. On the flip side, the societal and cultural belittlement of our anger is a cunning way of limiting and controlling our power.

We are so often encouraged to resist our rage or punished for justifiably expressing it, yet how many remarkable achievements would never have gotten off the ground without the kernel of anger that fueled them? Rage Becomes Her makes the case that anger is not what gets in our way, it is our way, sparking a liberating new understanding of this core human emotion.

Following in the footsteps of manifestos like The Feminine Mystique and The Beauty Myth, Rage Becomes Her is an eye-opening, accessible credo, offering us the tools to examine our anger and use it to create lasting positive change.

Book Review: One Person, No Vote

one person no voteOne Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy
by Carol Anderson
Nonfiction/Politics/Civil Rights
270 pages
Published September 2018

I already knew a lot of the basics of voter suppression before picking up this book – the closing of polling centers, limiting early voting, requiring photo IDs that a lot of people don’t have, locating polling centers in hard-to-get-to places. I did not, however, fully grasp the extent of it. This book does an amazing job of supplying details and statistics without just being a mess of numbers and dates.

The book is much shorter than it appears – the last hundred pages are notes, index, and acknowledgments. Mostly notes, giving sources for every statistic and event and court case that is mentioned in the book. It still took me the better part of a week to read it; nonfiction always slows me down, and keeping this much information organized in my brain slowed me down further. I can’t just sit and read it straight through like I would with fiction!

The information in this book is appalling. From the history of voter suppression, the insidious ways that politicians have devised to keep minorities from voting, it’s bad. I learned where the term “gerrymandering” came from – some politician (governor, I think) of the last name Gerry made a district shaped like a salamander when he was making a new district map. Hence, a gerrymander.

Another horrifying factoid:

In 2016, the Economist Intelligence Unit, which had evaluated 167 nations on sixty different indicators, reported that the United States had slipped into the category of a “flawed democracy,” where, frankly, it had been “teetering for years.” Similarly, the Electoral Integrity Project, using a number of benchmarks and measurements, was stunned to find that when it applied those same calculations in the United States as it had in Egypt, Yemen, and Sudan, North Carolina was “no longer considered to be a fully functioning democracy.” Indeed, if it were an independent nation, the state would rank somewhere between Iran and Venezuela. The basic problem in North Carolina was that, despite the overt performance of ballots, precincts, and vote tallies, legislators and congressional representatives were actually selected for office rather than elected.

And that was in 2016! There have been so many more voter suppression laws passed in the last two years, I shudder to think of where we rank now. (Or where North Carolina ranks!)

As a white woman in a very blue state, I personally face little barrier to voting, but the book has still given me a new appreciation for the act. I’ve actually already voted – I took advantage of the week of early voting here in Maryland. If you’re a US citizen who hasn’t voted yet, Election Day is this Tuesday, November 6th, and for the sake of those that can’t, please, PLEASE GO VOTE. If you don’t have transportation to your polling place, Uber and Lyft are running free rides to and from polling places on Election Day.

Read this book and vote against voter suppression.

From the cover of One Person, No Vote:

In her New York Times bestseller White Rage, Carol Anderson laid bare an insidious history of policies that have systematically impeded black progress in America, from 1865 to our combustible present. With One Person, No Vote she chronicles a related history: the rollbacks to African American participation in the vote since the 2013 Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Known as the Shelby ruling, this decision effectively allowed districts with a demonstrated history of racial discrimination to change voting requirements without approval from the Department of Justice.

Focusing on the aftermath of Shelby, Anderson follows the astonishing story of government-dictated racial discrimination unfolding before our very eyes as more and more states adopt voter suppression laws. In gripping, enlightening detail she explains how voter suppression works, from photo ID requirements to gerrymandering to poll closures. And with vivid characters, she explores the resistance: the organizing, activism, and court battles to restore the basic right to vote to all Americans as the nation gears up for the 2018 midterm elections.

Book Review: Fear

fearFear: Trump in the White House
by Bob Woodward
Current Events/Nonfiction/Investigative Reporting
357 pages
Published September 2018

First we need to address this cover. It’s a great cover, but I hate it. I hate having it in my house, on my coffee table, glaring up at people in the room. It’s creepy. It’s perfect for this book, but I will be very glad to give the book back to the library and have that cover out of my house!

That said. It was interesting comparing this book to Fire and Fury, which I read at the beginning of the year. Woodward is a very respected journalist, and you can tell how much he tries to remain objective and simply report the things that happened. Fire and Fury definitely had a slant to it. Fear doesn’t have a slant, but it still comes off as negative. Which says something about the entire administration when trying to be objective still results in the president shown as a “f*cking moron,” (Tillerson’s words) or a “f*cking liar.” (John Dowd’s words.)

The thing that really struck me about this book was learning how much Trump wanted to pull completely out of South Korea. Even when he was told we could detect a North Korean missile launch in 7 seconds from South Korea, as opposed to 15 MINUTES from Alaska, (out of a 45-minute missile flight!) he still didn’t see that as a good enough reason to stay in South Korea. (You know, treaties and allies aside.) His ignorance and stubbornness is mind-boggling.

It took me three or four days to get through this book, which is much slower than my normal single-day read time. The subject matter is just that weighty, though Woodward’s writing style is fantastic. This is the first Woodward book I’ve actually read, but I want to look up his backlist now, because he’s really good at not putting me to sleep!

One other difference from Fire and Fury – there were things in the book I didn’t know. (And I pay attention to the news.) There wasn’t really anything in Fire and Fury that was surprising to me. Fear did have new information.

It’s a frightening, weighty book, so don’t read it if you’re not prepared for that. But it’s good.

From the cover of Fear:

THE INSIDE STORY ON PRESIDENT TRUMP, AS ONLY BOB WOODWARD CAN TELL IT

With authoritative reporting honed through eight presidencies from Nixon to Obama, author Bob Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies.

Fear is the most intimate portrait of a sitting president ever published during the president’s first years in office. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One and the White House residence.

Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files and documents. Often with day-by-day details, dialogue and documentation, Fear tracks key foreign issues from North Korea, Afghanistan, Iran, the Middle East, NATO, China and Russia. It reports in depth on Trump’s key domestic issues, particularly trade and tariff disputes, immigration, tax legislation, the Paris Climate Accord and the racial violence in Charlottesville in 2017.

Fear presents vivid details of the negotiations between Trump’s attorneys and Robert Mueller, the special counsel in the Russia investigation, laying out for the first time the meeting-by-meeting discussions and strategies. It discloses how senior Trump White House officials joined together to steal draft orders from the president’s Oval Office desk so he would not issue directives that would jeopardize critical intelligence operations.

“It was no less than an administrative coup d’etat,” Woodward writes, “a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world.”