In a world where there is an entire section of the bookstore dedicated to health and wellness, there's no doubt these are subjects that are constantly on our minds. Why is that? A huge part of why we're constantly reading up on nutrition tips in magazines and picking up books on weight loss is likely the fact that we all want the best for ourselves and our families. We want to feel our healthiest and happiest — and that's hard to achieve if we aren't taking care of ourselves and feeling comfortable in our own skin.
So if our goal is to feel happy and at peace, why have the books and articles we turn to for advice gotten so far from that key message? It seems that everything we read these days is saying "don't eat that," "you must do this," "drop pounds fast," and on and on the list goes. But will forcing yourself to eat foods you hate, depriving yourself of the things that bring you joy and pushing your body into a shape that perhaps doesn't come naturally help you achieve true happiness? Not likely. So take a break from all those "diet" books and give Joy McCarthy's Joyous Health: Eat and Live Well Without Dieting a read.
Joy McCarthy is a holistic nutritionist as well as the co-founder of Eat Well Feel Well — a six-week holistic nutrition and yoga program in Toronto. You can tell from McCarthy's writing style that she is a kind, open-minded person who really wants to help others become their more "joyous" selves. But she also isn't afraid to be firm when necessary. When you've had decades of diet marketing pushed at you, it's easy to catch yourself thinking, "Well, those other diets didn't work, but maybe this one will be the one." Nope.
Ditch the deprivation, guilt, and "one-size fits all approach to health," says McCarthy. "Because diets are not sustainable, period."
That's some tough love right there. But don't worry, McCarthy won't leave you hanging. From this brave statement in the first chapter, she launches into how you can get started on your path to wellness. To make these changes manageable and long-lasting, McCarthy has a great strategy. She explains,
"The idea behind my book is to read one chapter each week and slowly implement changes over a six-week period. This way, you won't feel overwhelmed."
What's really nice about McCarthy is how honest and open she is right from the get-go. In the introduction, as well as throughout the book, she touches on struggles that have affected her personally — body-image issues, hormonal imbalance, digestive problems, low sex drive — and how she started implementing changes to move away from medications and towards a life of natural healing. She also includes personal stories of some of her clients throughout, which detail the small changes they made and how those changes affected their lives (higher energy, clearer skin, et cetera). These personal touches make sure you know you aren't alone, you can take action, and change is possible.
McCarthy believes in ditching diets, quitting calorie counting, and instead focusing on eating real food and listening to your body. The book touches on a wide variety of topics such as mindful eating, starting your day in the best way, improving your digestion, implementing small but meaningful changes that can improve your mood, "green"-ing your beauty routine, and much more. She also gets into more technical aspects of your body such as how your digestion works, the functions of your different organs, some common physical ailments and how to treat them naturally, and how certain nutrients and vitamins affect your system.
The book teaches you how to read an ingredient list and informs you why you should avoid those foods that aren't likely to help you feel your best, such as processed foods, food additives, refined sugars, and artificial sweeteners. What's really nice is how McCarthy explains why you should avoid these foods. She never implies that you should feel badly when you do consume these foods. Instead, she goes into the details of why these foods contribute to your not feeling your best. For instance, you've likely been told that caffeine is bad for you and you should avoid coffee. But why? Well, McCarthy explains that along with the short-lived energy spike, coffee's diuretic effect could cause you to absorb fewer nutrients from your food because it gets forced through your gut too quickly. Then she describes how you can cut back slowly and comfortably and offers some healthy alternatives you can switch to when you're ready. This approach of offering realistic alternatives you can easily implement makes every piece of advice she offers seem achievable.
McCarthy's focus on the "why" rather than the "what" is truly refreshing. Sure, we've been told we "should" avoid refined sugars, but why? The book doesn't weigh you down with complex chemistry lessons, but McCarthy does provide some of the negative affects that a specific food can leave you with (energy crashes, cravings, digestive issues, et cetera). The table she provides of "Instead of this..." (for things such as ketchup), "have this healthier option" (try salsa or hot sauce, et cetera) to help you give your fridge and pantry a makeover is such a valuable tool to get you on the right track.
Title pages, glossy photos, and even even a good deal of the text are all bursting with colour. McCarthy encourages her readers to become their most vibrant selves — and that positive, dynamic energy practically jumps off the pages. The layout and design, created by Carol Dano, breaks up the information beautifully so you never feel like you're working through a massive amount of text. And if you're in the mood to skim, the coloured titles and well chosen blocks of bold text make it easy for you to jump to the messages that matter most to you.
The recipe photographs in the second part of the book are bright but simple — allowing the fresh ingredients to really stand out and get you excited about eating nutrient-rich foods. The book tends to feature one recipe per page along with a photo on the opposing page, so it's easy to get an immediate sense of what the completed recipe will look like as well as see the ingredients required all with a quick glance.
From physical activity to mental self-care, McCarthy points out all kind of ways we can take care of our bodies and our minds. But one of the most crucial components to long-lasting, joyous health, seems to be what we eat. In fact, when asked what's a good first step for readers to take towards achieving "joyous health," McCarthy replied,
"Cook your own food! I have created easy and delicious recipes to make your tastebuds joyous and nourish your body."
What's cool about McCarthy's way of eating is she doesn't necessarily subscribe to any one particular eating style, other than eating real food. But she does have a great awareness of popular or necessary food styles and so all of her recipes are clearly marked as gluten-free, vegan, raw, dairy-free, et cetera, which offers a little something for everyone. This does mean, though, that if you do have specific requirements, not all the recipes will work for you. So the recipe section may not be as satisfying to you as perhaps a raw foods cookbook if you follow a raw vegan diet, a vegan cookbook if you can't have dairy, et cetera. But all in all, it's a very well rounded recipe section and great for giving just about any eater a few ideas.
The recipe section also offers up some healthier alternatives to traditional comfort foods so you can chow down on coconut flour banana pancakes rather than the Betty Crocker boxed version in your cupboard or whip up some black bean chia brownies to replace the store-bought variety. We've already fallen in love with the delicious simplicity of her spaghetti squash with chia seeds — perfect as a substitute for pasta or as a yummy side — as well as her nutrient-packed detox juice. And we can't wait to give her sun-dried tomato arugula spelt crust pasta a go!
McCarthy really encourages practicing mindful eating and listening to your body. But if you need a little bit of structure to get you on your way, you can follow the ten-day meal plan she includes that's entirely comprised of recipes you can find in her book. You can also make use of her food and wellness journal to keep track of how you're feeling. This offers a practical, easy way to dive right in and start practicing all the healthy habits you've learned from your reading.
Berry Brie Almond Salad by Amazing Almonds
It's great to see a Toronto author spreading the word about what we can do become our healthiest, happiest selves. And what does McCarthy hope you'll take away from her book? She describes it in one word:
"Joyous." She says, "I want readers to feel empowered, inspired and joyous reading my book... Joyous health is truly a lifestyle approach to well-being. There is no fad diet or a quick fix to getting healthy. Eating and living should and can be a very joyous experience!"
We couldn't agree more!
If you want to start living a "joyous" life, we have good news. We're giving away a copy of McCarthy's book! There are two ways to enter the contest:
- Leave a comment below letting us know what you're most excited to learn about in McCarthy's book, Joyous Health, or
- Share a link to this review on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter and include the hashtag #JoyousHealthGiveaway. Keep in mind that the post must be made public in order for us to find it so that it can count!
The giveaway ends on November 1, 2014. Anybody can join, but we will ship the book only to an Ontario postal address.
The giveaway was closed. Thanks to all who participated! The winner of the Joyous Health book copy is Amanda Browning! Congrats!