Whether they offer high-intensity workout plans, recipes for healthy-minded baking, or advice on managing chronic pain, this season’s forthcoming health books span the full spectrum from “drop and give me 20” to “take it easy.” What emerges from this variety is a perhaps more complicated understanding of what we mean when we say “new year, new you.” Fitter you? Healthier you? More comfortable you? They’re all in the mix.
The Everyday Olympian
If, while watching the Olympics in Rio this summer, you found yourself reaching for your old five-pound free weights, you weren’t alone. Justin Klug, an editor at the fitness-focused publisher Human Kinetics, says that the international event gooses traffic to the company’s website and boosts sales: “We definitely see an uptick in interest after major sporting events such as the Olympics.” This season’s health list is rife with books aimed at amateur athletes who want to step up their fitness game.
In the coming months, Human Kinetics is releasing new titles focused on specialized fitness practices. The Modern Art of High Intensity Training by Aurélien Broussal-Derval and Stéphane Ganneau (Mar. 2017) offers a visual guide to high-level strength training. TRX Suspension Training by Mark Stephenson and Jay Dawes (Apr. 2017) outlines exercises using suspension equipment, of which TRX, the book’s brand partner, is a leading seller. Klug says that suspension training has grown in popularity over the years in part because people can do it either at home or while traveling.
Busy travelers might also take to 4-Minute Fit by Siphiwe Baleka (Touchstone, Apr. 2017). A former NCAA Division 1 athlete, Baleka packed on the pounds after he started working as a truck driver—a famously sedentary job—in 2008. He now operates Fitness Trucking and acts as an in-house health expert at Prime Inc., one of the nation’s largest trucking companies; the book is based on the 13-week plan he implements with trucker clients at Prime.
This season also brings books that teach readers how to keep their heads in the game. In The Champion Mindset, professional triathlete and biostatistics consultant Joanna Zeiger (St. Martin’s, Feb. 2017) outlines steps toward overcoming the mental hurdles to athletic achievement. She uses herself as an example, detailing her progress from novice swimmer to Olympian and Ironman champion.
Several books make the case that the stomach is as important as the mind, offering exercise-friendly recipes. Examples include The Vegetarian Athlete’s Cookbook by Anita Bean (Bloomsbury, Jan. 2017), a nutritionist, former bodybuilder, and author of several titles on sports nutrition, and The Endurance Training Diet & Cookbook by Jesse Kropelnicki (Harmony, Jan. 2017), who developed the Core Diet, geared for triathlon training.
A similarly titled January book from Da Capo, The Endurance Diet by sports nutritionist Matt Fitzgerald (How Bad Do You Want It?, VeloPress, 2015; 13,000 print copies sold per Nielsen BookScan), identifies five diet habits that, according to the author, maximize workout results. Da Capo editorial director Renée Sedliar says that the book taps into a growing interest in endurance sports such as marathon running, which are “becoming more popular and more accessible” for the general population.
Indeed, everyday athletes seem to be getting bolder about their exercise routines. In What Doesn’t Kill Us (Rodale, Jan. 2017), journalist Scott Carney explores a growing fitness subculture—examples of which include Tough Mudder and Spartan racing—that emphasizes natural settings and archaic physical challenges.
The Swoly Bible by Dom Mazzetti (Plume, Nov.) critiques gym culture from the inside. Inspired by Mazzetti’s popular YouTube channel, BroScienceLife (1.8 million subscribers), which Mazzetti operates with cocreator Mike Tornabene, the book offers a lovingly satirical guide to gym-bro culture. Topics include how to defeat your gym nemesis and why you should never trust Crossfitters.
Step by Step
For those already dreading the annual resolution bonanza—gym every day, fewer carbs, no sugar, etc.—a more forgiving approach to getting healthy may appeal.
One Part Plant by Jessica Murnane (Harper Wave, Feb. 2017), for example, guides readers toward what she’s found to be a healthier lifestyle with a program that requires making only one of the day’s meals plant based. The book draws on Murnane’s experience of changing her diet when she became ill with endometriosis.
Julie Will, editorial director at Harper Wave, says that the book, which includes a foreword from Lena Dunham (a fellow endometriosis sufferer whom Murnane has advised), “takes you by the hand and eases you into it—just a few more vegetables in your diet. It’s not a radical overhaul. It’s really approachable.”
Will also edited Serena Wolf’s recently published The Dude Diet, which offers healthier versions of “man food” staples, divided into categories such as game-day eats and take-out favorites. Of more approachable guides to eating healthier, Will says, “I think the diet pendulum has swung really far one way. For a while people were really into counting calories and restrictive diets. Now it’s swinging back more toward the center” with an emphasis on things like whole foods and mindful eating.
Another recent shift: for many, fat is no longer necessarily the enemy. The Eat Fat, Get Thin Cookbook by Mark Hyman (Little, Brown, Jan. 2017) is a companion to 2016’s Eat Fat, Get Thin, which has sold 128,000 print copies, according to BookScan. The book’s more than 175 recipes incorporate sources of so-called good fat, including nuts, avocado, and coconut oil.
Nourishing Fats (Grand Central, Jan. 2017) by Sally Fallon Morell explores the health benefits of animal fat and offers tips on how to incorporate animal fat into one’s diet. Morrell is the coauthor of 2014’s Nourishing Broth, which has sold 36,000 print copies, per BookScan.
An emphasis on health even drives books focused on traditional dieting no-no’s: desserts and drinks. The Thinking Girl’s Guide to Drinking (Regan Arts, Nov.) by Ariane Resnick, a nutritionist and private chef, and Brittini Bae, a mixologist, collects cocktail recipes featuring ingredients with health benefits, such as coconut cream and kombucha.
A New Way to Bake (Clarkson Potter, Mar. 2017), billed as “from the kitchens of Martha Stewart,” includes recipes for baked goods that swap out traditional ingredients for wheat germ, spelt flour, and other updates. Ashley Meyers, senior editor at Clarkson Potter, concedes that desserts made with such ingredients may have unfamiliar tastes and textures, but she suggests that readers are ready for new takes. “It’s different, but there’s something really good about that,” she says. “There’s more to play with, tastewise.”
In Glow Pops (Clarkson Potter, Apr. 2017), Liz Moody, a health blogger with 25,000 Instagram followers, offers 55 recipes for treats on a stick with atypical ingredients, for example, Avocado Chile Lime and Tumeric Golden Milk.
New Takes on Old Aches
According to the National Institute of Health, more than 25 million American adults experience chronic pain, often in connection with chronic disease or poor overall health. And while pain management has always been central to health coverage, “Chronic problems in general are getting more airtime,” according to Jennifer Weis, an executive editor at St. Martin’s, which will publish the chronic-condition-focused How Can I Get Better? by Richard Horowitz in January 2017.
Heal Your Pain Now by doctor of physical therapy and nutritionist Joe Tatta (Da Capo, Feb. 2017) addresses the connection between pain and weight issues, a link that the book’s editor, Dan Ambrosio, says is overlooked. “Every generation, there’s a higher percentage of people who are overweight or obese, and certainly there’s a link between that and chronic pain.”
Forever Painless by Miranda Esmonde-White (Harper Wave, Nov.), who hosts the PBS fitness show Classic Stretch, offers low-intensity exercises aimed at reducing chronic pain. Harper Wave editorial director Julie Will says that concern over widespread painkiller abuse may be helping to revive the conversation about chronic pain. Books on the topic “are perennial bestsellers,” she says. “It’s an issue that doesn’t go away, so people are always looking for answers. The good news is people are starting to look for solutions outside of drugs.”
Another guide to managing pain through gentle stretching and exercise comes from Heal Your Frozen Shoulder by aging-focused physician Karl Knopf (Ulysses, Feb. 2017), author of 2011’s Foam Roller Workbook (29,000 print copies sold, per BookScan). Casie Vogel, senior acquisitions editor at Ulysses, says she’s seen a surge of interest in books addressing pain. “We’ve noticed that our backlist titles in this area, some of them 10 years old, are having their best years ever,” she says.
Jon Graham, acquisitions editor at Inner Traditions, notes an uptick in proposals for books on the subject of pain. “A few years ago, stress was the condition everyone was sending in recipe books for,” he says. “Now there are a lot more dealing with acute and chronic pain.” Overcoming Acute and Chronic Pain by Marc S. Micozzi and Sebhia M. Dibra (Inner Traditions, Jan. 2017) pairs various mind-body chronic-pain-management techniques with different personality types—those who are thick skinned vs. those who are thin skinned, for example.
A mind-body approach also powers Kicking Sick by Amy Kurtz (Sounds True, Jan. 2017), which draws on the author’s experience with several chronic conditions, including long-term back pain, celiac disease, and Lyme disease. The book offers advice on living with chronic medical conditions—navigating social situations, getting the most out of doctor visits, etc.—with input from a roundtable of experts that includes Kris Carr (Crazy Sexy Cancer) and wellness guru Gabrielle Bernstein (May Cause Miracles).
Beautiful Inside and Out
Feeling good about yourself even when you don’t have a conventionally “healthy” looking body is the theme of several new books, which put forth the idea that one can achieve wellness at any weight or ability level, and that beauty and health are not synonymous with thinness.
Big Gal Yoga by Valerie Sagun (Seal Press, Jun. 2017) features photographs and advice aimed at yoga practitioners with nontraditional yoga bodies. The book is inspired by the author’s Instagram account, which has almost 150,000 followers and which features photos of Sagun, the self-described “big gal,” in various yoga poses.
Laura Mazer, an executive editor at Seal, says that Sagun advances the idea that yoga, perhaps counter to its reputation, is “an ideal method for health and movement for bigger-bodied women,” and that Sagun’s work connects to a wider fat-positive movement. “Fat does not equate [with] unhealthy,” Mazer says of the movement’s ethos. “Bigger bodies are beautiful bodies.”
That same principle drives other yoga-focused titles, among them Every Body Yoga by Jessamyn Stanley (Workman, Apr. 2017), a yoga instructor with 234,000 Instagram followers. In the book, she demonstrates (via color photos) 50 basic yoga poses and 10 sequences, while offering encouragement for those who think yoga isn’t for them. “All yoga bodies deserve to be represented in print, not just those that are slender, young, female, and white” she writes, explaining the impetus behind the book. “Yoga is for everybody and every body.”
Similarly, Yoga Bodies by Lauren Lipton (Chronicle, Mar. 2017), a yogi and journalist, comprises more than 100 photos of mold-breaking yoga practitioners, including the larger bodied and differently abled and people of various ethnicities. Rachel Hiles, a project editor at Chronicle, says that the book, which is nonprescriptive, contests the idea that in order to practice yoga “you have to have the right body, fit into the right clothes,” or be the right age. “Whoever you are, there’s a place on the map for you,” she says.
A broader look at the issue of appearance and health comes from Curvy & Confident (Chicken Soup for the Soul, Jan. 2017) by Amy Newmark, Chicken Soup publisher and editor-in-chief, and Emme Aronson, who is considered the world’s first plus-size supermodel, with journalist Natasha Stoynoff, who recently made headlines by writing in People that she was once sexually assaulted by Donald Trump. Newmark calls the book, which is made up of 101 personal essays, “an anti–New Year’s resolution book” that focuses on nurturing and feeling confident in one’s body, with a focus on health.
As Newmark points out, self-acceptance isn’t the same thing as complacency. “These stories are not keeping people on a pre-diabetes track,” she says. “These women are getting fit, within the body types that they have.” It’s an approach taken by health titles this season: we’ll meet you where you are.
Daniel Lefferts is a writer living in New York City.
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Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled the last name of the author of Nourishing Fats, whose name is Sally Fallon Morell.