Add these memoirs, self-help guides, and weight loss books to your list of must-reads, or at least tuck them away as powerful resources for change.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself wandering the aisles of the self-help section at Barnes and Noble. Hundreds? A thousand? It was always convenient that the diet section was just a few shelves over. That way, I could sit on the floor between them with a stack of books and read until I at least felt less alone. Geneen Roth gets me, I’d nod.
If you’ve found yourself on the green carpet of the self help section, skimming through a stack like I did, you know the lost and searching feeling we have when we enter the bookstore. Sometimes I’ve needed a diet, other times I’ve needed to break free of one. Sometimes I’ve needed rules, and some time later I’ve returned for intuition, mindfulness. I’ve walked in desperate for a mentor, sometimes only for a friend. There are moments I wonder if it was really me who ever had half an ounce of willpower and yet others when I’m stuck in a shame spiral of obsession and compulsion. Over the past 30 years, though I’ve gotten lost in different ways, the feeling of desperation stays true.
I’ve read countless books on weight loss, emotional eating, binge eating, compulsive eating, and eating disorders. I’ve read books about the power of creating positive habits, mindfulness, perfectionism, and meditation. Many of them have had a positive impact on the way I view food and eating. But the ones below, in no particular order, are those that have truly shaped the way I think and feel about myself, food, and my body. And for me, changing my mind means changing my actions. These books have the power to transform.
Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth
“The way you eat is inseparable from your core beliefs about being alive. No matter how sophisticated or wise or enlightened you believe you are, how you eat tells all. The world is on your plate. When you begin to understand what prompts you to use food as a way to numb or distract yourself, the process takes you deeper into realms of spirit and to the bright center of your own life. Rather than getting rid of or instantly changing your conflicted relationship with food, Women Food and God is about welcoming what is already here, and contacting the part of yourself that is already whole — divinity itself.” – Geneen Roth
In this moving and intimate book, Geneen Roth shows how dieting and compulsive eating often become a substitute for intimacy. Drawing on painful personal experience as well as the candid stories of those she has helped in her work, Roth examines the crucial issues that surround compulsive eating: need for control, dependency on melodrama, desire for what is forbidden, and the belief that one wrong move can mean catastrophe. She shows why many people overeat in an attempt to satisfy their emotional hunger, and why weight loss frequently just uncovers a new set of problems. But her welcome message is that the cycle of compulsive behavior can be stopped. This book will help readers break destructive, self-perpetuating patterns and learn to satisfy all the hungers — physical and emotional — that make us human.
Breaking Free from Emotional Eating by Geneen Roth
Breaking Free From Emotional Eating teaches that there is an end to the anguish of compulsive emotional eating — and tells how to achieve it. Geneen Roth, who has brought understanding and acceptance to tens of thousands of readers, outlines a proven program for resolving the conflicts at the root of eating disorders. Using simple techniques developed in her highly successful seminars, she offers reassuring practical advice and many tools and strategies to help you break the binge-diet cycle forever.
This is how Roth remembers her time as an emotional overeater and self-starver. After years of struggle, Roth finally broke free from the destructive cycle of bingeing and purging. In the two decades since her triumph, she has gone on to help tens of thousands of others do the same through her lectures, workshops, and retreats. Those she has met during this time have shared stories that are both heartrending and inspiring, which Roth has gathered for this unique book.
Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
Since 1995, Intuitive Eating has become the go-to book on rebuilding a healthy body image and making peace with food. We’ve all been there–angry with ourselves for overeating, for our lack of willpower, for failing at yet another diet. But the problem is not us; it’s that dieting, with its emphasis on rules and regulations, has stopped us from listening to our bodies. Registered dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch teach:
How to reject the “diet mentality” forever
How three Eating Personalities define your eating difficulties
How to find satisfaction in your eating
How to feel your feelings without using food
How to honor hunger and fullness
How to follow the ten principles of “Intuitive Eating”
How to raise an “intuitive eater” (for parents)
Brain Over Binge: Why I Was Bulimic, Why Conventional Therapy Didn’t Work, and How I Recovered for Good by Kathryn Hansen
Kathryn Hansen recovered from bulimia independently, abruptly, and completely over 6 years ago; and soon after her recovery, she was fully convinced she had a powerful story to tell – a story that could give other bulimics and those with binge eating disorder hope, a new perspective, and a commonsense cure. She dedicated herself to candidly documenting her experience, in hope that her book can shed new light on these disorders that ruin so many lives. For a long time, Kathryn felt like a hopeless case. She thought maybe she could never completely recover. She thought she would have to deal with her eating disorder one-day-at-a-time for the rest of her life, but she doesn’t. She now says she has zero risk for relapse, even during stressful times in her life. She believes that if recovery was possible for her, it is possible for anyone. Kathryn recovered only after she parted with therapy and let go of most of its ideas. She found another way to end her bulimia, and now she shares her alternative approach with others in Brain over Binge. Kathryn hopes her voice can be a voice of change, a voice for those who are frustrated with therapy or who simply can’t afford it, a voice that will help many escape the daily torment of binge eating and purging.
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert tells how she made the difficult choice to leave behind all the trappings of modern American success (marriage, house in the country, career) and find, instead, what she truly wanted from life. Setting out for a year to study three different aspects of her nature amid three different cultures, Gilbert explored the art of pleasure in Italy and the art of devotion in India, and then a balance between the two on the Indonesian island of Bali.
Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin
Her answer: through habits. Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. It takes work to make a habit, but once that habit is set, we can harness the energy of habits to build happier, stronger, more productive lives.
So if habits are a key to change, then what we really need to know is: How do we change our habits?
Better than Before answers that question. It presents a practical, concrete framework to allow readers to understand their habits—and to change them for good. Infused with Rubin’s rigorous research and packed with vivid stories of lives transformed, Better than Before explains the (sometimes counter-intuitive) core principles of habit formation.
Along the way, Rubin uses herself as guinea pig, tests her theories on family and friends, and answers readers’ most pressing questions—oddly, questions that other writers and researchers tend to ignore, like: Why do I find it tough to create a habit for something I love to do? Sometimes I can change a habit overnight, and sometimes I can’t change a habit, no matter how hard I try. Why? How quickly can I change a habit? What can I do to make sure I stick to a new habit? How can I help someone else change a habit? Why can I keep habits that benefit others, but can’t make habits that are just for me?
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
Eckhart Tolle’s message is simple: living in the now is the truest path to happiness and enlightenment. And while this message may not seem stunningly original or fresh, Tolle’s clear writing, supportive voice, and enthusiasm make this an excellent manual for anyone who’s ever wondered what exactly “living in the now” means. Tolle is a world-class teacher, who’s able to explain complicated concepts in concrete language. More importantly, within a chapter of reading this book, readers are already holding the world in a different container–more conscious of how thoughts and emotions get in the way of their ability to live in genuine peace and happiness.
10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story by Dan Harris
After having a nationally televised panic attack, Dan Harris knew he had to make some changes. A lifelong nonbeliever, he found himself on a bizarre adventure involving a disgraced pastor, a mysterious self-help guru, and a gaggle of brain scientists. Eventually, Harris realized that the source of his problems was the very thing he always thought was his greatest asset: the incessant, insatiable voice in his head, which had propelled him through the ranks of a hypercompetitive business, but had also led him to make the profoundly stupid decisions that provoked his on-air freak-out.
Eventually Harris stumbled upon an effective way to rein in that voice, something he always assumed to be either impossible or useless: meditation, a tool that research suggests can do everything from lower your blood pressure to essentially rewire your brain. 10% Happier takes readers on a ride from the outer reaches of neuroscience to the inner sanctum of network news to the bizarre fringes of America’s spiritual scene, and leaves them with a takeaway that could actually change their lives.
What diet/weight loss/self-help books have made a difference to you?
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