Media (Books, Podcasts, etc.)
I decided to take more time than the usual Book Review post for Atomic Habits specifically because of how powerful this book is and also just the amount of useful content within it. To give you an idea of the impact of this book, it was published almost two years ago and it is currently #50 on the list of all books sold on Amazon.
If you are already involved in the self-development space, there is very little chance you have not heard the name ‘James Clear’ before. James Clear has dedicated his life to researching the best ways people can reach their full potential and shares his findings on his website, JamesClear.com. You won’t only find articles on habits but also motivation, productivity, creativity, focus, health and fitness, and more.
Many business leaders and experts in all of these fields look to James Clear for quality information on these topics. I found and looked into him after hearing positive things from both Mike Matthews and Greg Nuckols and I’m glad I did. As you’ll see in this book review, James has quality advice for anyone, no matter what your aspirations are.
Atomic Habits focuses on ways you can start building good habits and getting rid of bad ones. In the introduction he explains, “the quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits"1 and calls habits “the compound interest of self-improvement."2 In other words, if you have good habits and you are constantly improving by 1%, those improvements compound and you end up in a much better place than if you have bad habits and are doing nothing to change them.
In this review, I will break down three key concepts and three of the tips I find most helpful from this book…
Concept #1: Priming Your Environment
In various areas throughout the book, Clear describes how crucial our environment is and ways our environment can either be our benefit or our detriment to our daily habits. Here is a prime example (pun intended):
“Whenever you organize a space for its intended purpose, you are priming it to make the next action easy… There are many ways to prime your environment so it’s ready for immediate use. If you want to cook a healthy breakfast, place the skillet on the stove, set the cooking spray on the counter, and lay out any plates and utensils you’ll need the night before. When you wake up, making breakfast will be easy...
You can also invert this principle and prime the environment to make bad habits difficult. If you find yourself watching too much television, for example, then unplug it after each use. Only plug it back in if you can say out loud the name of the show you want to watch. This setup creates just enough friction to prevent mindless viewing.”3
One of the things Clear does well throughout this book is provide numerous examples based on how he and his clients apply this information so that you can find which tips you should apply in your own life.
Here are some other examples Clear gives on how you can prime your environment:
Concept #2: The Goldilocks Rule
“The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right.”7
This is an interesting concept and easy to understand. When you start a new habit, you are not going to execute it perfectly. The challenge at first is actually making it into a habit – something you eventually don’t have to think twice about, you just do it. Therefore, Clear states you should make new habits as easy as possible so that you stick with them. Then once they've stuck, challenge yourself by making minor changes. Eventually, you will turn from an amateur to a professional. He states that by the time you turn professional, you will undoubtedly get bored by how easy the process becomes…
“But stepping up when it’s annoying or painful or draining to do so, that’s what makes the difference between a professional and an amateur. Professionals stick to the schedule; amateurs let life get in the way. Professionals know what is important to them and work toward it with purpose; amateurs get pulled off course by the urgencies of life.”8
When choosing habits, Clear helps you find what habits suit your personality best as well as what you are best at naturally. He states that at the beginning of a new habit, you should explore as many possibilities as you can. Even when you are a professional, he suggests that you should still be exploring 10-20% of the time when you are not doing what you are currently best at during the other 80-90%.9
Concept #3: Reflection and Review
“A lack of self-awareness is poison. Reflection and review is the antidote.”10
Clear shares how he uses an Annual Review at the end of each year, tallying up how many articles he’s published, workouts he’s put in, places he’s visited, etc. and evaluating his efforts using the following questions:
You can view an example of one of his Annual Reviews here.
This report makes sure that he isn’t just planning but doing.
“When preparation becomes a form of procrastination, you need to change something. You don’t merely want to be planning. You want to be practicing.”11
He also does what he calls and “Integrity Report” at the start of summer. This report is to ensure that he is working towards who he wants to become by answering the following:
You can view an example of one of his Integrity Reports here.
Clear states that it is crucial to build identity-based habits because, “True behavior change is identity change. You might start a habit because of motivation, but the only reason you’ll stick with one is that it becomes part of your identity.”12
He goes further by explaining how this mindset can make a world of difference. If you are a smoker who is trying to quit, rather than saying “No thanks. I’m trying to quit,” when offered, he suggests saying, “No thanks. I’m not a smoker,” instead. This is a minor tweak that forces you to think twice about how habits cast votes for the type of person you are or want to become.13
Tip #1: Immediate Pleasure vs. Ultimate Success
“With our bad habits, the immediate outcome usually feels good, but the ultimate outcome feels bad. With good habits, it is the reverse; the immediate outcome is unenjoyable, but the ultimate outcome feels good… As a general rule, the more immediate pleasure you get from an action, the more strongly you should question whether it aligns with your long-term goals.”14
Tip #2: The Habit Tracker
Clear states that, “The mere act of tracking a behavior can spark the urge to change it.”15 By simply keeping track of when you complete the habits you want to build and improve on, this gives you enough satisfaction to keep going.
“I try to remind myself of a simple rule: never miss twice… Lost days hurt you more than successful days help you… This is why ‘bad’ workouts are often the most important ones. Sluggish days and bad workouts maintain the compound gains you accrued from previous good days. Simply doing something – ten squats, five sprints, a push-up, anything really – is huge. Don’t put up a zero. Don’t let losses eat into your compounding.”16
Another important thing is to make sure you are measuring the right thing:
“Measurement is only useful when it guides you and adds context to a larger picture, not when it consumes you… If you’re not feeling motivated by the number on the scale, perhaps it’s time to focus on a different measurement – one that gives you more signals of progress.”17
Tip #3: Pointing-and-Calling
Pointing-and-Calling, as you may get from the name, is pointing at something and calling it out before proceeding. These are basic things that are likely not to be forgotten but we get complacent about.
“This process, known as Pointing-and-Calling, is a safety system designed to reduce mistakes. It seems silly, but it works incredibly well. Pointing-and-Calling reduces errors by up to 85 percent and cuts accidents by 30 percent… Pointing-and-Calling is so effective because it raises the level of awareness from a nonconscious habit to a more conscious level… when we’ve done something a thousand times before, we begin to overlook things.”18
There were several other concepts and tips in Atomic Habits that I wanted to share but the post would never get read because it would be too long. Plus, I strongly recommend getting the book for yourself if you want to reap all the benefits from James’s knowledge bombs that he drops in this book.
Here is a link to purchase the book on Amazon.
“Success is not a goal to reach or a finish line to cross. It is a system to improve, an endless process to refine.”19
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Media (Books, Podcasts, etc.)
If you start wondering, "wait this is health/fitness blog, why are we learning about motivation," know that you're wrong. This is a blog to assist you on your self-improvement journey. A large focus on what I currently research is health and fitness related but this presentation made such a large impact on me that I felt it was important to share with you.
If you need a kickstart to get inspired or if you just want to get some golden nuggets on how to be successful, you need to check out this presentation given by Sabrina Lloyd, CEO of Lloyd Agencies and hosted by Eric Thomas. Eric Thomas is a motivational speaker who has an incredible amount of inspirational content and I think this presentation left the biggest mark on me out of all of it.
Sabrina brings the same energy as ET and provides extremely powerful tips on what to do to be successful. I first heard this when I was pretty close to graduating college and the audience she is presenting to is college students at Michigan State University. That being said, this information is helpful for anyone who feels they are willing to put in the work to be successful but have yet to make the right moves.
Ever since I listened to this 2-3 years ago, I remember quotes from this presentation and, at times, they push me to continue working hard. In case you don’t want to listen to the hour-long presentation, here is a breakdown of the material…
Before Sabrina comes out, ET is preparing them for her. Something powerful that he says is, “degrees don’t necessarily make you successful. Its knowledge and skills and the application of those skills.” This is a great point – in order to do well outside of college and to stay employed, you need to prove that you’re worth the company’s investment of time and money. A common quote from ET is reiterated in this portion of the track as well - stating, “speed kills,” and suggesting that being 15 minutes early really means you are on time.
To begin, Sabrina states, “anything that you want it is absolutely possible if you follow the blue print to get there,” and that she is about to share that blueprint with you. By successful, she means that:
1. You control money. You don’t let money control you/your decisions.
2. You are able to buy nice things, morally and ethically. When you see a red Ferrari pull up next to you, you shouldn’t assume that person was handed it or that they are greedy or that they are a drug dealer. That individual likely worked hard for what they have and you should want to learn from those people.
Then, she goes on to share a ton of solid tips, including:
1. Quit getting offended when someone says something to you. “When you get offended… you will get smacked around the rest of your life.” Instead, get inspired.
2. We are not all equal. The only time we are all equal is in the beginning. “We unequalize ourselves every day by the decisions that we make. If I make harder decisions than you, if I make tougher decisions than you, how can you say that I am equal to you... We are not the same anymore!” Start looking at how you can step up your game.
3. Pay back your school/country by wearing it on your back. People are what brings value to a country. Make yourself a resource.
4. “Everyone wants to be successful until they see what it actually takes.” You may have to put your relationships on hold, even family members, if you want to be successful.
5. Not until everything is stripped away do you know what you really want. For example:
6. Wealth is a state of mind. Get in different environments to get out of the “lack”/poverty mindset and into the wealth mindset. You attract money by being mentally wealthy.
7. “Always do more than you are currently paid to do. That’s how to make an investment in your future.” Work to make impact and raise the standard.
8. Be a warrior. Warriors have options, they create favorable conditions, and they exist to service others. Work hard and never surrender.
I understand that this is a ton of information thrown in a short post so I encourage you to listen to the track so that a stronger impression is made on you. At the end of the day, ambition comes from you but I can tell you that Sabrina’s words have really pushed me to do the best job I can to make an impact in and out of the workplace.
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I, personally, have no interest in using steroids to build muscle/strength but I do find the conversation interesting. Media has set such a negative eye on steroid use that any association with professional athletes and steroids completely ruins their public image. People immediately forget the amount of work that it took to get to where they are and that genetics play a significant role. Obviously, some people do abuse steroids, like with any drug, but media has made us forget what steroids really do, why people take them, and that athletes can use them responsibly.
I highly suggest watching the video above with Joe Rogan & Ronnie Coleman (professional bodybuilder, 8-time Mr. Olympia Champion) to learn a bit about what steroids do and why the decision to take steroids can be a respectable one.
Greg Nuckols' View & Research on Steroids
Greg is a record-breaking raw (meaning no "special equipment," which includes being drug-free) powerlifter who is pretty darn close to a 2000lb combined total in the big three (squat, deadlift, and bench press). That being said, he shows a lot of respect to those who take steroids, shares a lot of information on steroids in his books and on his website, StrongerByScience.com, and even talks (half-jokingly) about possibly taking steroids in the future just for the sake of getting even bigger and stronger.
To share some of Greg's insight on steroids, here is a summary of what I learned from reading one of his articles, How Much More Muscle Can You Build With Steroids. This article looks at multiple scientific articles comparing non-users and users, which include competitive athletes with at least 6-7 years of lifting experience. What is obvious is that the users did indeed have an advantage, averaging about 35lb more of lean muscle mass and a significantly larger fat-free mass index (which factors in lean muscle mass and height) on average as well. "Over the course of a training career, it seems like steroids allow you to build about twice as much muscle as you'd be able to drug-free."
Another thing he makes clear is that steroid effects taper off. Just as gains are highest at the start of your lifting career and they decrease over time as a natural weightlifter, they also do when taking steroids if your dose remains the same. As you increase the dose, gains increase as well.
One interesting point that Greg makes is how steroids were likely being used by lifters in the 1950's and 60's but drug testing did not occur until 1968, so if drugs were a key component to muscle/strength gains, we would not expect to see records continuously being broken so quickly after.
As beneficial as steroids are in building muscle, we shouldn't forget what role genetics have to play and that they can be taken responsibly. Also, most bodybuilders/powerlifters simply love the competition and are not receiving much money for winning competitions. It is important to know there is a line to draw when it comes to steroids: who is abusing them or encouraging others to abuse them and who is simply taking them for the reason we are interested in sports, the competition. Let's respect regulations but also respect these athletes' decisions knowing the fact that they can be smart about it with continuous supervision by their doctors.
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This book review is actually on two separate books but they are bought together and they are meant to be read together as well. They are also meant to be read in that order - The Art of Lifting goes through what Greg Nuckols and Omar Isuf believe what should be general knowledge for coaches and everyone who lifts weights while The Science of Lifting goes into the research that less people are likely to be aware of if they have not gone through any courses or read any textbooks on Exercise Science. Both Omar and Greg are popular strength coaches that have helped hundreds of thousands of people through Omar's YouTube Channel and Greg's website, StrongerByScience.com (where these books are sold).
The thing that these books do best is covering so many topics and getting right to the point. I've read multiple health and fitness books that repeat information over and over as if they're trying to brainwash you into accepting their theory as truth. Greg and Omar went completely counter to that - for instance, The Art of Lifting is only 108 pages but each of its 31 chapters has great nuggets of information for lifters. The Science of Lifting has slightly longer chapters but that is because they are explaining the science behind their suggestions.
They also make it clear that the suggestions they give in these books are just that. They are providing what works for most people, most of the time but every individual is a bit different. You and your coach should be working to find what works best for you.
The Art of Lifting
This book is broken up into two sections - "Stuff That Matters" and "Stuff That Doesn't Matter". Essentially, this "Stuff That Matters" are concepts that give you enough to get you 90% of your maximum results from training, covering topics like volume, intensity, sleep, individuality, and goals. For the "Stuff that Doesn't Matter," these are things that are talked about a lot in the fitness space but may only be beneficial if you want to be at the top of your game and you make your money by being a professional athlete, covering topics like clean eating, supplements, and optimizing your training.
Here are some of what I found to be Greg and Omar's key tips found in this book:
The Science of Lifting
This book goes deep into several topics including meal frequency, training frequency, what positively affects gains (genetic factors, steroids), what negatively affects gains (outside stress), peaking fitness and performance, nutrition, and more. By using research and graphs to help explain, The Science of Lifting spells out what effects your strength and performance in the gym, and by just how much.
Here are some of the nuggets that Greg and Omar included in this book:
These books are filled with valuable information are definitely worth reading, whether you are a beginner or intermediate-level lifter. With short chapters and lots of figures, they are easy to read and the knowledge that Greg and Omar share will help you figure out what is important for hypertrophy and strength gains.
This book pairs well with Mike Matthew's Bigger Leaner Stronger or Thinner Leaner Stronger. If you are thinking about getting into lifting, I strongly suggest reading BLS or TLS to get your way into a good program and then use The Art & Science of Lifting when/if you decide to make tweaks and improve your gains even more.
The Art & Science of Lifting currently only comes as an e-book, and comes in a set for roughly $30. It is sold here.
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The Stronger By Science Podcast - Q&A: Keto, Rapid Fat Loss, Deadlifts, and Faulty Movement Patterns (August 29, 2019)
The expert that I am currently studying is Greg Nuckols. Greg is a well-known, record-breaking powerlifter who is not only a trusted strength coach but also a great resource through his website, strongerbyscience.com, where he shares advice on strength training through with his articles, books, podcast, and his monthly subscription, Monthly Applications in Strength Sport (MASS), where him and his colleagues share what they find from deep-diving into the scientific research on specific topics. Greg has done over 100 interviews for other podcasts and also has done several seminars. Impressive is an understatement for not even hitting 30 years old and having this large of a resume while also recently obtaining his Master's in Exercise Science.
This post is to go over some great tips that he shares in one of his podcast episodes on The Stronger by Science Podcast. This podcast can be found here as well as places like Spotify and the Apple Podcast app.
Tip 1: Better Tools Than the Big Three for Physique Training
This tip is interesting coming from a record-breaking powerlifter. He advises that if you are training for physique rather than competition, that there are better tools than the conventional barbell bench press, deadlift, and back squat. Here are his suggestions...
Alternatives to the Back Squat:
Tip 2: The Power of Planks
If you work an office job or are mostly sedentary, planks are a great way to warm-up before a workout to get the core tight and spine ready. Side planks, especially.
Tip 3: Advice on Certifications and Reading for Coaching
For someone who wants to be a trainer, he gives basic tips on how to be a knowledgeable coach:
Tip 4: Being a Good Student
Greg gives multiple tips on how to improve your test-taking abilities and how to retain information that you study.
I wanted to share this episode because of the sheer amount and variety of great information. Greg is full of science research info and knowledge on training. I personally love the Big Three but I am going to take his lifting considerations and work more with resisted push-ups and the front squat. If I plan on giving any coaching advice myself rather than referencing experts, I will be sure to read the textbooks he suggested as well.
If you want to hear more advice from Greg, check out his website, strongerbyscience.com. The Stronger By Science Podcast and his monthly subscription, MASS, are both great resources for people interested in the science behind strength training.
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We all know Morgan Spurlock's infamous documentary, Super Size Me, which was made in 2004 to show what can happen if all you eat is McDonald's for 30 days. He didn't do this because he loved McDonald's, he did this to show America the issue with eating fast food on a regular basis. Morgan explains how fast food has really taken over our diets due to its convenience and goes deep into not only the negative effects on your nutrition but also the corruption and ugly practices taken on by companies like McDonald's. I recently found out that some (I'm not sure how many) public schools still routinely show Super Size Me in Health class. It is insane the impact Morgan has made from this movie.
Well, Super Size me 2: Holy Chicken! is Morgan coming back 15 years later to take it a step further in an attempt to start his own fast food chain. After talking to several Marketing experts and studying other fast food chains, he decides to base it all on chicken. Fried chicken, of course, since how would a chain make it anywhere if they only served grilled chicken? Morgan was soon to find out how difficult it is to simply find large chicken farmers that don't solely have contracts with companies like Purdue and Tyson. He repeatedly got shut down and questioned on what he was doing.
As you can see in the photo above, Morgan got deep in the weeds again and wanted to see every step of the process - on the sides of both starting a restaurant with the best possible team and working in the farms to see where the chickens come from, how they are raised and handled, and learning about the farmers themselves.
Once again, Morgan doesn't fail to reveal some eyeopening facts on where the chicken we consume, whether from the grocery store or from restaurants, comes from. You'll be surprised by how chickens are optimized to be as young and fat as possible for production and the little it takes to be called "free-range" by the USDA. He also reveals the poor treatment from farmers talking about their work with companies like Tyson. These companies force consistent production 365 days a year and have full control over these farmers' lives.
In my opinion, the sequel was better than the original! In the end, he shows how "honest, healthy fast food" is simply a contradiction and impossible here in America. Even though his restaurant looks to be closed as of September of last year, this movie hopefully makes as big of an impact as the first.
A big takeaway from this documentary is how we vote with our dollars. My mindset used to be, "I'm only one person. Me avoiding certain companies won't affect them. I like it, and it tastes good. Oh well." Understand that this is ignorant and the reason these companies are so big is because we have this mindset. If you have the opportunity, turn to your local farms and farmers markets. These are hardworking people who got away from the corruption of Big Food companies. Also, it is not a bad idea to avoid fast food in general - nutrition experts like Dr. Cate Shanahan even suggest skipping a meal if your only option is convenient fast food. From my personal experience, avoiding fast food is much easier than it sounds. It is just a simple decision to extend your healthspan and lifespan and will show less support for Big Food companies.
Thank you for reading! Please either like, share, and/or comment on this post and go watch the film for yourself! Currently, this documentary can be found online through Amazon Prime or you can rent it on YouTube, Google Play, or Vudu.
This podcast episode is really what first got me interested in Kelly Starrett. He has a very interesting point of view that I agree with - that due to modern technology, we're not moving or sleeping enough.
“We’re contending with a lot of the demands of being modern humans and it sets us up to not really reap the benefit and the bounty that is so extraordinary about being human. Because these bodies, they’re badass, man (Ever Forward Radio Podcast Ep. 242).”
Here are some of the key topics that Kelly hits in this episode that struck me as important:
“This is why we do sport in the first place. Not to win Olympic medals, not to be on a team for any other reason than it helps us know ourselves and it helps us know our friends and it helps us see the world very cleanly. And I think this is why I hope that everyone has some kind of competitive or at least a physical practice because it really simplifies in a really easy model what’s working in your life and what’s not working in your life.”
Here are also a few helpful, specific tips:
Of Kelly's dozens and dozens of interviews, this is one of my favorite because he covers many different topics and gives great tips to go along with it.
Whether you are an elite athlete or the average person who exercises for strength of longevity reasons, this is what Kelly sees as most important, in this order:
This podcast episode can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and several other media apps as well as the YouTube video above.
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Kelly Starrett is a strength and conditioning coach as well as a physical therapist who has clients from and has consulted with organizations from the NFL to the NBA to all of the branches of the military, not to mention some of the top athletes in the CrossFit universe that show up in his gym - San Francisco CrossFit, which Kelly has been co-owner of since they opened the doors in 2005.
Kelly is a strong believer in that everyone, not just athletes, should know how to move properly as well as how to conduct basic maintenance on themselves in order to live up to your full physical potential for as long as possible. This book has over 500,000 copies sold and Becoming a Supple Leopard has made a huge influence in the worlds of physical therapy and professional sports.
Kelly's mobility program is based off of 7 archetypes that are used for all basic positions that are used throughout every day life as well as in the gym. For example: the way you set up for a squat should be the same way you set up when picking up a heavy box and the way you set up for a deadlift should be the same way you set up to pick a baby out of the crib. Kelly goes from teaching you how to:
These mobilizations involve basic stretches as well as variations of rollers, resistance and compression bands, and balls. Kelly believes that if you lay on a lacrosse ball and roll around, whether you are on your back or stomach, any area where you feel pain is a tight spot that you need to work on - so, as you can imagine if you know how stiff a lacrosse ball is, some of these techniques are pretty painful until you get used to it.
I came to appreciate how this book shows you what basic forms everybody should be able to get in (without actually saying that). For instance, if you can squat all the way down with your feet together as a child, there's no reason you shouldn't have that same capability when you are 20 or 30 years old. He also helped me correct my form on things like my bench press and push up so that my elbows are forced not to move away from my body and to appreciate the quality of my form over the amount of volume (weight and repetitions) I can do. At the end of the book, he teaches you how to create your own 14-day mobility plan (which includes 10 to 15 minutes of mobility work) - I will show what mine looks like at the bottom of this post. I like to do these at the end of the day or any time I would normally be sitting on the couch. I based my mobility program on the fact that I need to improve my ankle range of motion, to minimize pain in my feet and lower back (and possibly gain some arch in my foot), and to work on the pistol archetype. I also organized the days to prepare myself for the next day's workout.
Anyone would benefit from reading this book and trying out Kelly's mobilization techniques. Kelly has other books as well, which are somewhat similar to this but more specific toward certain lifestyles. If you have a desk job, I highly recommend his book Deskbound: Standing Up to a Sitting World (which I am currently reading). His other books include: Ready to Run (teaching you how to run properly) and Waterman 2.0 (for paddling and surfing).
I found this segment with Dr. Catherine Shanahan to be a fascinating discussion on cholesterol and she states why she believes this myth that fat clogs arteries is the main reason we have been seeing a decline in our health over the past century. She is a strong believer that vegetable oils are an enormous harm to our health and that the key to being healthy is through eating natural foods.
Here is my favorite quote from Dr. Cate in this documentary, which illuminates how serious this topic is:
“So before we started this experiment, the rates of Type 2 Diabetes were almost non-existent. But the rates of obesity and our unhealthy diets have so dramatically accelerated that now children at age 2 are being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and at age 3 and 4 are having complications of it like strokes and heart attacks. So this one idea that saturated fat was bad that came from Ancel Keys was like setting off an atom bomb in our health and it has changed the course of history for human health.”
The research for this book did not only include her education in Biochemistry at Cornell or Medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, but mainly from reading Biochemistry textbooks on her own, looking at cookbooks from all different cultures, and researching the diets of indigenous peoples around the world. Dr. Cate states that we do not have to go back far to find healthier cultures - before the 1950s, most diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer's were much more unusual than they are today.
From her research, she discovered all cultures focused on what she calls the Four Pillars of the Human Diet:
This book is close to 500 pages and goes deep into the science of why we need to avoid vegetable oils and sugars and include the Four Pillars in our diets if we don't want to get roped into the health care system with a disease later on in life.
My opinion is that this is a great book if you have an interest in the Biochemistry - how everything we eat affects our cells throughout our body and also our genes. This book had a little too much science for me but I am definitely glad I read it because it has a TON of great information. She even gives tips on things like making your own salad dressings. If you want a shorter version, look for her book Food Rules.
For more book reviews/descriptions, check out my Recommended Books page.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.