Book Review: Brain over Binge

From the end of April until the end of May I was struggling with some of the most hard-core binge eating I have ever experienced (I know I owe you all a recovery update soon, because I’m now doing pretty well!). Nothing I was doing was improving my situation, meaning that I was ready to try absolutely anything- including buying this book. I had heard amazing reviews, and reports of people stopping binge eating immediately after having finished it. I was not one of those people. I have some severely mixed feelings on this book, and am still not sure entirely what I think of it, so this could be a long review.

Before buying Brain Over Binge I had a good long browse of the responses from readers on Good Reads and Amazon. They were overwhelmingly positive, but a few stood out to me as swinging the opposite way, claiming that the book was frustrating and disappointing, that the author (Kathryn Hansen) lacks the expert knowledge of the functioning of the brain to make the assumptions she makes, that the style of writing is awful, that the writer tells her story in pointless detail- and that the overwhelming message of the book was insulting to those suffering from binge eating. Because the message was : just don’t binge! Now, I don’t entirely agree with these reviews. I didn’t find the style of writing annoying, I found the details of Hansen’s journey interesting, and it was comforting to know someone had gone through close to the same thing as I was in that moment. I know that the author isn’t a brain scientist, but although her book is mainly theory based it does all make sense. She also does signpost the fact that she is drawing on her own experience and rookie research. I thought she had made links between other addictions and their treatment very well. However, I do have to agree with two things:

  • There wasn’t enough advice on handling the urge to binge, and so stopping (I did some research here: Hansen runs a podcast and has numerous blog posts and YouTube interviews, where she addresses additional questions such as these).
  • The “now you know this you can just stop binging” message did bite me in the arse further down the line.

Continue reading “Book Review: Brain over Binge”

Poetry you need to read. It could convert you…

1496929404558Hello there readers! So, its been a while since I wrote a post here, what with final year hand-ins. More importantly, following hand-ins I made the decision to take nearly two weeks away from IG and blogging, because on Sunday I leave Newcastle forever (only joking, I’ll be back), and move home to Yorkshire to begin life as a working girl (that’s right, I’ve signed my life away starting in September). The weeks I had left, I understandably wanted to spend with my amazing friends, who are also all buggering off home in a few days. What else have I been up to? Well, if you read this blog often you’ll know that my degree was English Literature with Creative Writing, that I specialise in poetry, and that I always have a book on me. For the past few weeks I’ve been living in a bubble of coffee, reading, and poetry writing (lots of book reviews coming soon). And much as I knew I should be getting some recipes up here, I also knew I didn’t have any ingredients for what I wanted to make -I’m winding down my cupboards so won’t be buying anything in until I reach Bradford. All I wanted to do was read and write. And then I realised: this is my bloody blog and I’ll write what I want. And so today we are talking poetry, and recipes are on hold until I get home.

A lot of people hate poetry. But, poetry is one of the most powerful literary forms out there. Poetry is dangerous. Look at the Romantic era radicals and their poetry. Look at poetry of witness now, and political or spoken work poetry. One of my lecturers once said that poetry holds us in a little bubble of the present; it’s more alive than prose because you experience things so much more vividly for being held in one moment. You’re carried along in that little bubble, and things don’t have to be 100% clear in poems- its about a feeling you get from them. You have to leave a good poem or collection changed in some way. I’ll write a whole post on this at some point. Today, I want to introduce you to some collections, and some poets I think you will love. Some are classic, some are modern, some are to be spoken, some are to be read, some are female, some are male. I hope you find at least one you like.

 

 

Rupi Kaur- Milk & Honey

A fellow poetry student recommended this to me, and I fell in love with it. I read it cover to cover in one sitting. I love collections that tell a story, and this definitely does that. Each poem is short and I’m sure you will find at least one that resonates with you. If you’re a feminist, get yourself a copy asap and thank me lat.

 

Andrew McMillan- Physical

This was the first poetry collection that made me want to be a poet. I fell head over heels for this collection. Its about a homosexual relationship and the male body. It is beautiful. It is painful. It is a must-read. I met Macmillan at a reading in Leeds and actually forgot how to speak for a good five minutes. Its also a novelty to hear poetry in a Yorkshire accent, if you fancy listening to his readings online.

 

Staying Alive anthology (numerous poets)

If you want to read a few different poets in one purchase, then I can’t recommend this enough. If you’re new to poetry then you can flick through and find poets you like to follow up on a bit more. This anthology is published by Bloodaxe, and its contemporary poems on the reality of living in unreal times. Continue reading “Poetry you need to read. It could convert you…”

‘Girl Up’ by Laura Bates: Review

1491131746351It was a toss-up between this, and ‘Everyday Sexism’. This won. And although this is Bates’s second book, I’m glad I’ve had this as my first experience of her work. I mean, it opens with a recommendation from Emma Watson. What more do you need to be sold on this?

If you follow me on IG then you may remember an instastories of this book, and that I felt it should be read in high schools across the nation- it was that good. ‘Girl Up’ is a book aimed at girls, of an age quite a bit younger than me (to be honest though, it filled in parts of my sex education that STILL  had gaps in) -but I don’t think it would harm many boys to read it either. I think that its a really good idea to set reading for our teens when sex education begins. Just two books a year. Maybe only for one year, to get them started on looking into stuff they need to know. One book aimed at boys, one aimed at girls. And here’s the thing: both sexes read both books. Because the more we feel the opposite sex “get us” the easier it is to talk about sex, eradicate sexism, and basically make life a hell of a lot easier. Sexism is a focal point of this book, and sexism affects both sexes- historically, more so women (heads up: there’s a handy little snippet on why its called “feminism” if feminism is all about equality).

This is the thing: in Britain we have a pretty horrific attitude to sex. Sex education is on the same level as talking about haemorrhoids and bowel movements. Which is completely and utterly wrong. The less educated people are the less fun, and the more dangerous/disguising/confusing/embarrassing, sex seems. The more sex is something to be ashamed of, the more likely people are to turn to porn as education. This is in no way a good idea. Mainly because porn does create ideas of “how sex should be”- ideas which are dangerous, disgusting, confusing and embarrassing. Nearly all porn videos make sex into something that degrades instead of empowering women. In a real relationship all parties having sex should feel respected and should be enjoying it. Continue reading “‘Girl Up’ by Laura Bates: Review”

‘Fat is a Feminist Issue’ by Susie Orbach- A Review

I’m not quite sure where to begin with this book. It has been sat on my shelf for a good 6+ months. I bought it at the same time I bought The Beauty Myth, but didn’t manage to get past the first few chapters until the end of last month. The book addresses compulsive eating, examining the causes that Orbach argues originate in our society. The book suggests that obesity caused by compulsive eating has roots in the socialization of women, before moving on to a self-help section about how to tackle these issues. I had very mixed feelings about this book, and felt parts of it were outdated (it was written in 1978…), and some of the arguments flawed- which I’ll talk about later in the review. Yep, I definitely have very mixed feelings on this one…

To begin with: what does Orbach argue?

Orbach argues that women within our society are expected to automatically take on the role of care-giver within a home, even if they have a career outside of it, when they become a mother. Part of the role of care-giver is providing food, and seeing the rest of the family is fed. This can place strain on the relationship of the mother with the children, in particular with daughters, due to a mixture of feeling they must meet this role of caregiver, but also resenting it. On one hand, the mother wishes the daughter to be like her; she wants to bring her up with morals, see she has opportunities etc.  On another level, the mother knows that the daughter will in all likelihood become a care-giver like herself, and so must be prepared for a life of not placing emphasis on her own needs, but on the needs of others. This ambivalent relationship can often be embodied in food.  In learning to be a giver and not a taker, Orbach suggests, women also learn to supress anger and resentment- it isn’t “giving” or “caring” or “feminine” behaviour according to society. This resentment then can often be expressed in eating compulsively, to in effect ignore the feeling of anger/resentment, and cram it down with food. Thus, a young female learns quickly that food is a substitute for emotions: you can use it to show that you care, and you can use it to cram emotions further down inside of you. Continue reading “‘Fat is a Feminist Issue’ by Susie Orbach- A Review”

STRONG, by Zanna Van Dijk

wp-1483535583061.jpgIf you follow me over on Instagram (link to the right), then you probably saw that I got very excited about finally getting my hands on this book. Well, I was right to get excited. I don’t often go in for health and fitness books by YouTubers and IG personalities- even the ones by PTs can be a little…well, crap. One book I bought by an IG star kept the recommended diet plan incredibly low in carbs- except the one carb rich post workout meal. Needless to say, it didn’t work for me. Though I tortured myself trying to keep up with it and give it a fair go, it simply wasn’t worth it. I turn into a right arsehole without steady low GI carb consumption. Now, bear that in mind when I discuss this book; if I compare that to this, we’ll see that Zanna (thank god) does things very differently…

The book is hefty, and divided into ‘Move’ ‘Nourish’ and ‘Thrive’ (signalling this was off to a good start already). For simplicity I’ll be looking at each section, but as for things that apply to STRONG as a whole (yes I WILL be capitalising that all the way through, because it deserves it), the photography is beautiful and cleanly laid out. When used for the exercise section you can see exactly what you’re meant to be doing. It’s also incredibly easy to read. Any fans of Zanna’s YT channel (I’ll leave all links to her social media at the bottom of the page), you can pretty much hear her voice as you read it. The phrase “quite frankly” was when I realised this was happening, as it comes before her beloved rants about lack of balance on YT. I have to say, “the badger’s nadgers” has become a favourite after reading this. The tone is always light hearted and encouraging, not pushy or intimidating. The whole book also has a massive emphasis on sustainability in the long term. It doesn’t advocate cutting back all of your food, and upping all of your exercise at once (it doesn’t advocate scrimping on food, full stop). More importantly, it doesn’t advocate cutting back on life, or making fitness your entire life. Coming from a place where this has been an issue for me, I cant put into words how refreshing that was. I feel like this removes a lot of the risks you run with buying health and fitness books; Zanna is giving good, solid advice here. She isn’t telling you to go on a thinly veiled crash diet as I felt the aforementioned book did.

Now, down to the sections…

MOVE

  • As I read STRONG I underlined, starred, and also “!!” where something I had been doing for months was actually wrong. For example: doing my cardio before my weights in a combined session. I swapped them around, hey presto- suddenly I am able to lift more, simply because I am not knackered. I am by no means a beginner, but no one had ever taken the time to explain this to me. If you are a beginner, this is an excellent starting point, but even as a more advanced fitness fan, it is 100% worth a read.
  • Here we learn the importance of the mind-muscle connection; this has helped me no end.
  • All the words surrounding sets (e.g. straight, drop, giant…) are explained, as are other weight lifting terms. As a clearly female weight lifting fan, again, this is something no one has ever explained to me, thinking I “didn’t need the technical details”. And I didn’t know to look for them, because I didn’t know they frigging existed. Now, I do.
  • All the muscle groups (major ones) are pointed out in a diagram, and are easy to identify. Useful for beginners in particular.
  • There is a huge section of exercises and several workouts, then a section on putting together your own workouts. Zanna does encourage the reader to go an learn further moves through research, but this book already gives any reader the tools they need for quite some time, rather than trying to pull us into buying another book to top up our selection of workouts. This actually means I am way more inclined to buy another of her books, should one be written (hint hint Zanna).
  • The book also explains how to step it up in various ways and how to measure progress other than the scale, something particularly useful if you’re looking to build muscle.

Continue reading “STRONG, by Zanna Van Dijk”

The Moonstone by Wilke Collins: Review

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About a month ago now, for part of my third year pre-prep, I read The Moonstone, by Wilke Collins. This is the original detective story…containing not as many clichés as you would think. In fact, it’s very well written. It may shock you, and this isn’t really a spoiler, but unlike most detective novels it is not a death being investigated, but a theft. This at first didn’t seem such a thrilling reading prospect, but I actually became very heavily absorbed in this book- it came everywhere with me until I’d finished it.
The narrative follows a cursed Indian diamond, part of a shrine to a Hindu moon god, stolen when members of the British army lay siege to said Indian shrine. John Herncastle kills the three Brahmins (priests sworn to protect the diamond) and claims it as his own, returning to England with it.
The story the novel tells takes place several years after the above, when upon his death John Herncastle leaves his diamond to the daughter (Rachel Vernier) of his estranged sister (Julia Vernier), whom pretty much disowned him. Turns out that the diamond is rumoured to be cursed, throwing suspicion as to why he would want to leave it to his niece- especially as it was on the proviso that her mother is still alive. Has he left it to her as proof that he forgave Julia for disowning him, thus simultaneously guilt-tripping her and making amends? Or, is it because he hopes that the curse of the diamond will serve as his revenge on his sister and niece?

Continue reading “The Moonstone by Wilke Collins: Review”

‘This Book Will Save Your Life’: Review (no, it isn’t self-help)

After reading a selection of classic books so far this summer (a lot of detective and dystopian fiction), I decided I wanted to read something a little more light hearted a few weeks ago. I have to admit: the doughnuts on the front cover were what first attracted me to it in Waterstones.

This is not a self-help book, as my friends and family initially thought when they saw me reading it. Having flown through this novel, I will definitely be purchasing some more of A.M. Homes’ work. In the story we follow Richard Novak, uber-isolated control freak, as he is forced to leave his personal bubble, and interact with the world outside. The only people he sees at the opening of this novel are his trainer, housekeeper, and nutritionist. Everything is planned out, in order, and perfect in a sterile sort of way. Until something completely unplanned happens: he ends up in hospital with an attack of severe and mysterious pain, that seems to have no traceable cause. This is actually where the novel opens, and knowing little about Richard or his life, the reader is pushed straight into this unpredictable plot line.

Not many books can actually make me laugh out loud in the middle of a coffee shop- this one did. Richard is pushed into several adventures, and it’s touching to see him form new- and fix old- relationships, most notably with his estranged son Ben. And if you’re wondering about the doughnuts: the first thing Richard does on leaving the hospital is go to a doughnut shop he has passed but never been in before. Here he meets Anhil for the first time. As the novel progresses he also meets and befriends a movie star, a desperate housewife, some technicians trying to fix the sink hole rapidly threatening to swallow his LA home, a collection of family members, some strangers in a silent retreat, a writer, and a horse. I’m trying not to say too much about how this novel plays out, because the situations Richard finds himself in, and that gradually force him to let go, are so brilliantly thought up that it would be a shame to ruin them. Each passing situation lead me to like our protagonist a little more, and I want you to have that same experience when you pick this up for the first time.

The one thing I wasn’t so sure about with this novel was the structure. Instead of being sectioned neatly into chapters, it’s divided into episodes, each taking up as little as a short paragraph, or as much as a few pages. The lack of a neatly divided structure has a lot to do with the theme of the book: that life can’t be neatly divided and contained, but is rather a series of episodes where things fall to pieces and then fall together again. All the same, it took me a while to get used to stopping after a paragraph, rather than a chapter. Ultimately, it did add to the book; I became more absorbed in what was happening, than trying to figure out how much more I had left to read before I felt I could stop for the night.

All in all, if you want a funny, touching, contemporary read this is one for you. I’m not usually a fan of contemporary novels, but this has won me over, and definitely has my stamp of approval.