Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Reading Journal

Why We Get Fat (And What To Do About It) 
by Gary Taubes

They say that being overweight or underweight or a healthy weight is all a matter of burning more calories than you consume.  I have long had a difficult time believing this, partially because I eat like a hungry Clydesdale, exercise only moderately, and always (Unjustly! But fortunately!) maintain a healthy weight-- whereas I know there are many people out there who eat  less than and exercise more than I do and are still losing in the Battle of the Bulge.  It seems that sometimes cutting calories works-- and sometimes it doesn't.  It seems that sometimes exercising more works-- and sometimes it doesn't.  So what's really going on?  It's perplexing.  That's why, when I saw this book at my parents' house, I had to borrow it.

In Why We Get Fat, Gary Taubes describes the science behind weight gain, explaining how our adiposity is much more a matter of genetics and physiological processes (the hormones and enzymes that influence way our body uses the food we eat) than a simple matter of calories in/calories out.  In particular, he describes how insulin (which is released by the pancreas to help regulate blood sugar levels) encourages your body to store away fat and not access it.  He points out that the rising obesity epidemic in the United States has correlated closely with an increased consumption of carbohydrate-rich processed foods and sodas.  He advocates a low-carbohydrate diet for addressing obesity.  He shares research that has shown that diets high  in fat and protein and low in carbohydrates are actually beneficial, not only for weight loss, but also for overall health, including cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

I, who have always thought that The Atkins Diet was actually Satan's Plan, was a little shocked by the science behind this book.  I wandered around for days in a haze, murmuring, "I don't know what I believe anymore."  So, to learn a little more, I picked up The New Atkins for a New You.

The New Atkins For a New You
by Eric C. Westman, Stephen D. Phinney, and Jeff S. Volek

Basically what I decided after reading these two books is that everyone (health nut vegans and low-carb dieters alike) agrees that processed sugar, white flour, and white rice are not doing anyone's body any favors. Further, some people's bodies are very sensitive to all carbohydrates, and it's best for these people to avoid consuming a lot of them.   Everyone also agrees that vegetables are really good for you.

I'm never going to be a heavy meat-eater (and the authors of this book agree that vegetarians and even vegans can "go Atkins"), but reading this book made me think that perhaps my energy levels would fare better (and I wouldn't be constantly hungry) if I put a stronger emphasis on protein and fat in my diet and limited my carbohydrate sources to vegetables, beans, nuts, and a few servings a day of fruits and whole grains.

Faith Behind the Fences
by Kelly Dispirito Taylor

Hanny Londt-Shultz and her family lived a peaceful, prosperous existence in the Dutch East Indies until the Japanese Bombed Pearl Harbor.  Then everything changed.  Their father was enlisted to help the Japanese and later imprisoned for not cooperating.  Shortly after, at age fourteen, Hanny, along with her mother and her three younger siblings, were taken to live in Japanese prison camps, where they lived in appalling and inhumane conditions for four long years.  There, however, they learned to live with grace, charity, and faith, even under very trying circumstances.  This is her true story.

I really enjoyed reading the story and experiences of this amazing family, though the book would have benefited from some quality substantive editing.

Talking to High Monks in the Snow
by Lydia Minatoya

Lydia Minatoya, the American daughter of Japanese parents, always straddled two worlds, never really feeling that she belonged in either one.  When she becomes a professor of counseling psychology, she has the opportunity to live in and travel to a variety of places across the world (China, Nepal, Japan), finding that the world is her home.

It was good for me to read this book because I was having a hard time loving Japan after reading Unbreakable and Faith Behind the Fences.  It restored my faith in the goodness of Japanese people and opened my eyes to different cultures and different ways of living.  It also made me grateful for the prosperity,  freedom, and culture of self-fulfillment we have long enjoyed here in the United States.

In the interest of full disclosure, I recently lost this book and so haven't actually finished it quite yet.  I'm hoping it will turn up soon.  If you have any information about the whereabouts of this missing memoir, please contact me.

The Screwtape Letters
By C.S. Lewis

I mentioned to a friend that I was reading this book and commented, "You know, I've never read any of C.S. Lewis's non-fiction before, so this has been interesting."  She looked at me kind of funny and asked, "Um, isn't The Screwtape Letters fiction?"  And the answer is: kind of.  Technically, yes, it's considered a novel and no, the devil named Screwtape didn't really write letters to his nephew Wormwood about the proper technique for dragging a man down to Hell (or did he??), but the content of the book is really more musings about the ways in which we humans are drawn away from God-- the lies we tell ourselves, the incorrect beliefs we espouse, the rationalizations with which we justify our crappy choices.  There is also much about the nature of God and God's hopes for His children.  It's good stuff.  Lots to think about.  Not a book to read in a rush.  

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