Book tour : Take charge of your diet, by Sylvie Boulay

Let me just start with how happy I am to be reviewing this book. One of my greatest passions in life is reading, and the other one is psychology, so you can imagine how excited I was when I received an ARC of a psychology book in the mail!

Take charge of your diet, written by author Sylvie Boulay, was just released on September 30th, 2021 – and if you’re interested in any way in psychology, self-help or weight management, then you should definitely add this short workbook to your TBR.

Synopsis

This is a short, accessible workbook offering a new approach to weight loss based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Rather than proposing a particular diet, the workbook offers practical tools to help slimmers adhere to whatever plan they have chosen. Written in plain language for the general reader it is based on principles widely discussed in academic research on addiction treatment.

The reader is taken through ten easy to follow stages. These are similar to those suggested in addiction recovery, but here they are applied to weight loss: keeping a diary, building motivation, identifying unmet needs, drawing a plan, creating new habits, identifying triggers and risk situations and learning how to deal with cravings and relapse. The last chapter also contains information for family, friends, carers or professionals to support loved ones or clients through the ten stages.

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with food. For as long as I can remember, eating has been a form of reward or coping mechanism for me – I eat when I’m bored, scared, stressed, angry… every “ugly” emotion I can’t properly process or express translates in as many iced frappuchinos (Hi, Starbucks!), molten lava cakes, pizza slices or entire chocolate bars just bought at the corner store.

I’ve been trying to lose weight for a while, now, and had some measure of success… before taking it all back on, and then some. I’m just one of many who tried on a couple of diets, and just can’t seem to make them stick.

The goal of this workbook is to help people like me figure out why we just can’t stick with it, and how to make it stop – in twelve easy to follow steps.

Three things I liked in this book

The simplicity

One of the things I look for the most in a self-help book that aims to make accessible to the general population key psychology concepts is simplicity – specifically, the way the author explains keywords and crucial concepts so that all readers will understand them, without losing any of their meaning.

Scientific vulgarization is a difficult exercise, and one that Sylvie Boulay has mastered with brio in this book.

The exercises

As interesting as textbooks or general self-help books are, in my opinion, there’s nothing that beats the workbook format in terms of practicality and direct usefulness in readers’ lives. That is – if the workbook is well-constructed, and the exercises are relevant to the theoretical materials.

Here, the exercises are pertinent to each chapter, and bring the reader to self-reflection rather than making them find pre-prepared answers to their questions – an approach that echoed my recent training course in applied humanist psychology, and that I found particularly important in the context of weight management.

The theory behind the scenes

My favorite branch of psychology is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT for short. It is rooted in several core principles, including but not limited to :

  • The belief that psychological problems are based, in part, on faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking
  • The belief that they are also based, in part, on learned patterns of unhelpful behavior
  • The following conclusion that people suffering from psychological problems can learn better ways of coping with them, in order to relieve their symptoms and become better adjusted in their daily lives.1

This book follows current CBT theory and its practical applications, and I found it extremely well done. The structure of the reflection, mirroring that of the 10-steps program used in addiction recovery programs, is efficient and clinically sound. Unlike a certain kind of self-help book that I will abstain from quoting here (but you know what I mean…), this is a document that can be taken with all the seriousness its topic requires.

Conclusion

Interested in weight management, CBT, or just self-help in general? Want to finally figure out what’s blocking you from feeling in charge of your own behavior, and at ease in your own body?

Then this book is the one for you. Seriously. You’ll thank me for it.

Find it on Amazon here, and on Goodreads here.

Reference : 1American Psychological Association. (n.d.). What is cognitive behavioral therapy? American Psychological Association. Retrieved October 9, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/cognitive-behavioral.; 

Empower yourself, by Xenia Tchoumi

I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, and as much as I’m usually happy with the books I request on NetGalley, this one was a miss for me.

I read a lot of nonfiction, especially personal development books, which I greatly enjoy reading. My ratings usually follow the Goodreads scale, with 1 = did not like it, 2 = it was okay, 3 = liked it, 4 = really liked it and 5 = amazing. Sadly, Empower Yourself by Xenia Tchoumi didn’t live up to its hype, as I rated it a 2/5.

So, why such a low rating?

Synopsis

Xenia takes readers on a practical, no-nonsense journey to self-empowerment, covering topics such as taking responsibility, using your pain and your failures to push yourself further, and learning digital dominance instead of letting yourself be digitally dependent. She offers a wealth of tips for creating productive habits, setting goals, protecting your mental health and resisting society’s pressures to confirm.

She shares her stories of struggling against prejudice as the child of recent immigrants, battling the restrictive structures of the fashion industry, making her mark in the digital space and ultimately making herself into an ultra-successful brand. Questioning exactly what empowerment looks like today, she also offers the inspiring stories of empowered people she has met all over the world and shows that, while empowerment can seem very different in different cultures, there are certain key traits that empowered people share – habits that anyone can learn and use to become a success in life.

What I liked

The book was well organized, with a page of important things to take away from the chapter at the end of each and every one of them. The #Powertrick inserts in the middle of the chapters, with practical tips on how to put in action the advice given in this part of the book, were interesting and well thought out.

On the content itself, most of it was very sound advice, like using daily journaling as a way to know yourself better and figure out your goals and ambitions, or making sure you don’t skip your self-care in favor of your work because that’s never going to end well… nothing revolutionary, but nothing inherently bad either.

The use of scientific evidence to support these tips was an excellent addition, at it served a lot to support the author’s claims that something would be beneficial for you – that’s something I’d like to see more in self-help and personal development books, as lately it seems to me that very few of them bother sourcing their advice or supporting their theories with psychological studies or sound research, even when including those references might help convince more strongly their readers of the legitimacy of their opinions.

What I didn’t like

I didn’t know anything about the author when I picked up this book, and from the very first chapters, this seemed to come from an extremely privileged place – completely detached from my reality and difficult to reconcile with my personal experiences.

I had a hard time finding any flaws to her behavior and character – it seemed, from her descriptions, that she did everything almost perfectly, from eating good food cooked at home to doing physical activity every day, journaling, communicating with loved ones, to being productive while still having time for her personal life… The problem with perfection, however, is that it puts distance between you and your readers, who see your behavior as an unattainable goal – if the people who do it are this immaculate, and I’m not, how and I ever going to succeed ?

Likewise, when I’m reminded more than once that the author “turned down an offer to work full time at a leading investment bank”, and that when she was looking for an internship, she was so sure she’d get into a top company that she felt offended and outraged when her therapist told her there was a lot of competition and it wasn’t a done deal… I’m having a hard time relating to these experiences.

This specific situation, with the therapist trying to make sure she wasn’t setting herself up for a terrible disappointment, served as a way to advance the idea that confidence is the only thing that makes the difference between you and other people – no mater your and their diplomas, experience, skills… of you have the confidence, you’ll get that job/internship/work offer! Except… for most of us, that’s not how life works. And treating the therapist as if she was actively trying to undermine her self-belief instead of trying to help her and make sure no matter what happened, she’d be okay… isn’t a good look at all. (Neither is qualifying people who weren’t productive during a worldwide pandemic as “sad and lazy“.)

Overall conclusion

On the positive/negative balance, the scale tips a bit too strongly on the negative side for me. This is not to say that this is a terrible book – to reuse the Goodreads scale qualification, it was okay. Sadly, with the amount of self-help and personal improvement books published every year, just okay isn’t good enough for me anymore.

Did you read this book, and have a different opinion? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Short reviews : 3 NetGalley ARCs

I’ve recently reviewed a few ARCs on NetGalley that I really liked, so I thought I’d put the reviews up here too ! They’re pretty short, since I didn’t try to lengthen them a lot for Goodreads and NetGalley, so I’m making a post with the three together.

Bird brain, by Chuck Mullin

Rating: 5 out of 5.

In this extremely relatable, honest and funny book, Chuck Mullin talks about depression, anxiety, self-care, and other aspects of everyday life in a very touching way.

As a person who’s suffered from depression and anxiety for a long time, this book felt very real in its portraying of what you feel (and don’t feel) during these times. I’d definitely recommend this to people who would like to understand or empathize more with a loved one who has suffered / is currently suffering from mental illness, and to anyone interested to learning more about this.

Publication date : November 19, 2019

Out with the ex, in with the new, by Sophie Ranald

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was a very fun read for a day off – I picked it up on my way home from he university, and ended up reading it over the weekend and enjoying it a lot ! You get attached pretty fast to the main character, Gemma, who over the course of the book kind of “grows up” as a person and starts to become more independent, discovering things about herself, what she will or won’t stand for in life, etc. The settings, the Youtube and vlogging spheres, are interesting and well described by the author, and it doesn’t fall into the “everything is perfect a fame is amazing” clichés.

Also, I hated Jack, the boyfriend-ex-boyfriend, from the moment he appeared on the page, and I was 100% rooting for Gemma and her “living my best life as a revenge” plan. Just saying.

Publication date : December 3, 2019

Everything isn’t terrible, by Kathleen Smith

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As a psychology student, I picked up this book by curiosity, and I was not disappointed. I really like reading books on this type of topic, and this one was very instructive and organized. It’s not a book that will teach you how to cope with extreme anxiety or trauma situations, but it will help you manage small to medium amounts of anxiety in your day-to-day life, deal with anxiety-inducing people, and be more mature in your interpersonal relationships.

I would recommend this book as a gift for someone who has problems with anxiety that don’t necessarily need them to go through therapy but that still bother them on a daily basis.

Publication date : December 31, 2019

Did you read ( and review ?) any of these books ? Would you be interested in reading them ? Let me know in the comments !

Spark joy, by Marie Kondo (+ the year of Less)

I’ve been reading nonstop this week – I don’t know why, or how this is happenning, but I’m taking advantage of it and reading as many books from my TBR as I can. So for today, I’m making 2 short reviews. These books were on a very similar theme, and I read both of them in two consecutive days, so I felt like they went together pretty well !

Spark Joy, by Marie Kondo spark joy

The secret to Marie Kondo’s unique and simple KonMari tidying method is to focus on what you want to keep, not what you want to get rid of. Ask yourself if something ‘sparks joy’ and suddenly it becomes so much easier to understand if you really need it in your home and your life. When you surround yourself with things you love you will find that your whole life begins to change.

I got this ebook from my local library, after reading Kondo’s previous book, the life-changing magic of tidying up, then watching every single episode of her TV show, and using her method to sort trough my stuff when I moved 18 hours away from home in September (with only 3 pieces of luggage to hold all of my belongings. I discarded, a lot.)

I loved the addition of the drawings – this was something that was lacking in her previous book, and that the TV show compensated for a bit : when explaining in detail how things are supposed to fit together, or how to fold or arrange objects, a visual representation is extremely useful !

I know that this isn’t a book for everyone : Kondo explains a lot about her philosophy (including why she speaks to her belongings and talks about their spirit), and from the few negative reviews that I read, it seems like Americans really have a hard time with that. It works well for me, though, so if you’re a bit into spirituality and open to a new worldview, it should be a pretty easy read !

I do think you need to have read her first book to appreciate the second one properly, though, so I’d recommend doing that first.

The year of less, by Cait Flanders
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In her late twenties, Cait Flanders found herself stuck in the consumerism cycle that grips so many of us: earn more, buy more, want more, rinse, repeat. Even after she worked her way out of nearly $30,000 of consumer debt, her old habits took hold again. When she realized that nothing she was doing or buying was making her happy—only keeping her from meeting her goals—she decided to set herself a challenge: she would not shop for an entire year.

I rated this book 3 stars on Goodreads – I liked it, mostly because the more I read memoirs, the more I realize that’s something I actually do enjoy reading a lot, but most of the tips and strategies described in it just weren’t things that I could apply myself, and that made me feel a bit disconnected from what the author was describing. I have a very small monthly budget and I just don’t have the money to spend more than the sometimes bare minimum, so the “shopaholic” lifestyle is a long way from mine.

The only thing I spend more money on than I should is food, which I often used as a point of comparison while reading – I actually think I might take the challenge, adapt it a bit for myself and see if I can reduce my food spending to help me be more secure with my finances, and make my sugar addiction a bit less severe.

I really liked the structure of this memoir, though : it’s separated into months, for the months during which Cait Flanders had her ongoing “shopping ban experiment”, and it really helped with seeing the evolution of her situation more clearly.

Overall, this was an easy read, even though I didn’t get that much out of it. I suspect it might be, in part, due to the similarity with the Marie Kondo method of discarding and tidying, something the author mentions while explaining her own thought process on the subject, early in the book.

Have you read any books on a similar topic ? Do you have any books on tidying and minimalism that you would recommend ? I’m open to suggestions !