This season’s wellness shelf is as multifarious as ever, touching on sugar, yoga, maternity myths, and more. But across the dozens of forthcoming titles a theme emerges: the importance of being more thoughtful about how we eat and exercise. A book on the behavioral psychology of eating, an examination of America’s culture of addiction, and a neuroscience-backed look at the effects of meditation: these are just a few of the books encouraging readers to be more conscientious about the way they diet and exercise.
The Not-So-Sweet Stuff
In the way that certain foods and practices—vegetable smoothies, bone broth, marathon training—can attain a faddish popularity, others, such as salt or white carbohydrates, can fall into infamy. The latter appears to be the fate of sugar this season. The coming months will see several books that offer new, mostly unfavorable perspectives on that (annoyingly delicious) soluble carbohydrate, plus titles addressing related concerns, such as processed foods.
The books arrive at a time when the scientific community is subjecting sugar, and the research surrounding it, to greater scrutiny. Last fall, the New York Times reported that, in the 1960s, the sugar industry funded studies that aimed to de-emphasize the role of sugar consumption in heart disease. Similarly, Coca-Cola spent millions on studies downplaying the link between sugar and obesity. Meanwhile, in 2015, the World Health Organization issued the recommendation that adults and children cap their sugar consumption at 10% of their total daily energy intake, citing the connection between sugar and obesity and tooth decay. All of this suggests that health experts, as well as consumers, are treating the negative effects of sugar consumption with renewed seriousness.
Much of our dietary sugar comes through meals and snacks we don’t cook at home, and several forthcoming books take on larger questions about processed foods and the cycles of craving that they can help generate.
In October, HarperOne will publish Fast Food Genocide by Joel Fuhrman, whose Eat to Live has sold more than one million print copies since 2003, according to NPD BookScan. In his new book, Fuhrman asserts that processed foods—or “frankenfoods,” as he calls them—can lead not only to obesity but also to “diminished intelligence, attention deficits, reduced educational and occupational opportunities, and even increased drug addiction, violence, and crime,” according to the publisher.
Another book, Unsafe at Any Meal by Renee Joy Dufault (Square One, May), examines a more specific problem with processed foods. The author, a former investigator for the Food and Drug Administration, argues that mercury contained in cleaning chemicals used in processing plants can end up in the products such as candy made there. She asserts that mercury contamination is “almost universal” in processed foods, according to Square One publisher Rudy Shur, and that the buildup of heavy metals in the body can lead to a host of health problems, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or a weakened immune system.
The downsides of eating processed foods, particularly those high in sugar, also figure into The Hacking of the American Mind (Avery/Krauss, Sept.), by pediatric endocrinologist Robert H. Lustig, who previously wrote about sugar and processed foods in Fat Chance.
In Hacking, Lustig uses sugar consumption as a starting point for a larger meditation on addiction in the U.S. He argues that “big business in America has hooked us all onto an entire series of behavioral addictions,” from shopping to porn, “in much the same way that Big Food hooked us with sugar,” says Caroline Sutton, the book’s editor. Sugar, she says, is just one of many products and processes that, in Lustig’s view, have left us “chemically hijacked.”
For home cooks, of course, the challenge lies in cutting down on unhealthy ingredients, such as sugar, while still producing satisfying flavors. Several forthcoming books seek to help readers strike this balance when it comes to sweets.
In November, Pam Krauss’s eponymous imprint at Avery will publish The Sweet Spot by Bill Yosses, who worked in the Obama White House as a pastry chef. The book, Krauss says, was partly inspired by the author’s involvement in Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, which sought through various efforts to counteract childhood obesity.
Yosses offers recipes for nontraditional desserts, such as kabocha persimmon pie and lemon kaffir semifreddo, that prioritize other flavors over sweetness. The idea, says Krauss, is that dessert doesn’t necessarily have to be overly saccharine. “The huge takeaway is that you should think about sugar the way savory chefs think about salt,” she says. “It’s a flavor enhancer, but it’s not the flavor.” She adds that most of the recipes in the book have 35%-75% less sugar than conventional desserts.
A similar mission drives other forthcoming cookbooks. Eat What You Love by dietician Marlene Koch (Running Press, May) updates the 2010 edition, which has sold 55,000 copies in hardcover, with Weight Watchers SmartPoints counts and gluten-free recipes.
British dietician Sarah Schenker’s My Sugar-Free Baby and Me, also pubbing in May, is among the first releases from Bloomsbury’s new health and wellness imprint, Green Tree. (For more on the venture, see “Bloomsbury Plants a New Health Imprint.”)
Food writer and private chef Phoebe Lapine, whose blog Feed Me Phoebe focuses on gluten-free cooking, also takes up the potentially harmful effects of sugar. In The Wellness Project (Avery/Krauss, May), which includes recipes, Lapine chronicles her experience with an autoimmune disease and her efforts to take charge of her health, which included eliminating sugar from her diet.
Lapine is sensitive to the difficulty of doing this: in an article on the website Mindbodygreen, she wrote, “As I attempted to find the middle ground between health and hedonism—one that still included all my favorite comfort foods—I realized how much mindless sugar I was eating every day.”
Use Your Head
The relationship between physical and mental health has been well documented: eating well and exercising improves the way we think, and thinking more about how we eat and work out can be a boon to our physical health. But just what kinds of thinking should we apply to our diet and exercise regimens, and what benefits can treating our bodies well have for our minds? Several forthcoming books offer new perspectives on this question.
In August, the Experiment will publish How We Eat with Our Eyes and Think with Our Stomachs by journalist Melanie Mühl and psychologist Diana von Kopp. Drawing on behavioral psychology and neuroscience, the book seeks to show how unconscious assumptions and prejudices guide our eating habits. For example, says Batya Rosenblum, an associate editor at the Experiment who worked on the book, the authors observe that we tend to consume more when eating off a large plate than when using a smaller one, and they note that people are willing to pay more for food that looks good than for food that doesn’t. Even when people are seeking advice on how to be become healthier, the authors write, they can be influenced by wrongheaded thinking.
Rosenblum gives the example of a cognitive bias known as the “halo effect,” which leads some to conclude—falsely—that because a celebrity is successful in acting it follows that he or she is an expert in other areas, such as diet. We all recognize these automatic behaviors, Rosenblum says, “but now we’re talking about them.” She adds, “It’s interesting to see why we end up making those kinds of decisions.”
Being more thoughtful about exercise can also be beneficial, according to two forthcoming books that focus on running. This fall, Plume will publish Running with Mindfulness by William Pullen (Oct.), a psychotherapist and the founder of Dynamic Running Therapy. According to Becky Cole, the book’s U.S. editor, Pullen’s program seeks to help readers dealing with ailments such as anxiety and depression through a running and walking practice that incorporates mindfulness. Cole says running is similar to other mindfulness practices in that it allows you to be introspective while taking in your surroundings: “You’re turned inward, in this meditative practice, and also being mindful of the environment around you.”
Mackenzie L. Havey, a journalist who has written about running for publications including Runner’s World and Self, connects the same two topics for different ends in Mindful Running (Bloomsbury Sport, Oct.). Havey writes that runners of all levels, from beginner to elite, can improve their performance by incorporating meditation and mindfulness techniques. The book includes anecdotes and analyses from sports scientists, coaches, and athletes.
In Healthy Healing (HarperOne, Oct.), Michelle Steinke-Baumgard examines another facet of the relationship between thought and exercise. The author is the founder of One Fit Widow, a 12-week fitness coaching and counseling program. Here, she draws on her experience coping with the loss of her spouse to lay out an exercise and diet plan aimed at helping grieving people to improve their mood and maintain their health in the wake of loss. The book advises readers to choose a fitness practice that best accords with their emotional needs, “whether it’s gentle yoga to release trapped sadness or intense kickboxing to work through anger,” according to the publisher.
New thoughts on what it means to be beautiful and advice on navigating health issues in pregnancy and motherhood are among the subjects taken up in forthcoming titles that focus on women.
In June, Running Press will publish Hi Gorgeous! by Candis Cayne, the first transgender woman to occupy a recurring role on a network television series (Dirty Sexy Money). In the book, which is coauthored by business and lifestyle writer Katina Z. Jones and carries a foreword by Caitlyn Jenner, Cayne offers advice on feeling comfortable in one’s skin—something she says she’s struggled with—as well as tips on using clothing and cosmetics as a means of self-expression. Cindy de la Hoz, an editor at Running Press who worked on the book, says Cayne approaches the topic “from the perspective of someone who has a powerful story of self-acceptance, which is a subject millions of girls and women can identify with.”
The themes of self-acceptance and treating oneself kindly also drive Holistic Nutrition by dietician and personal trainer Kate Callaghan (Finch, May). Rooted in the author’s experience of overtaxing her body—an extreme exercise and diet regimen led her to become osteoporotic and infertile—the book gives insight into how female hormones are affected by diet and exercise, and lays out a plan for eliminating fat, building muscle, and increasing energy in a way that’s intended to enhance confidence and overall health.
In a similar spirit, integrative health practitioner Tasneem Bhatia’s The Superwoman Rx (Rodale, Sept.) addresses women struggling to handle their work and home lives while maintaining a grip on their health. Using techniques from ayurveda, the author issues tips on losing weight, curtailing anxiety, and managing PMS for five distinct personality types such as the “boss lady,” “biz chic,” and “Earth mama.”
Other forthcoming books focus specifically on topics relating to pregnancy and motherhood. Nurture (Chronicle, Sept.) is a guide to pregnancy and the first weeks of motherhood by Erica Chidi Cohen, a doula and the cofounder of Loom, a wellness center for pregnant women and new mothers in Los Angeles. The book includes worksheets, lists, and illustrations that encourage self-care and mindfulness.
Trim Healthy Mama’s the Trim Healthy Table by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison (Harmony, Sept.), a follow-up to 2015’s Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook, includes recipes featuring “blood-sugar-friendly grains” and unprocessed ingredients, according to the publisher. The Trim Healthy Mama brand has a large social media following, with more than 430,000 likes on Facebook and more than 80,000 followers on Pinterest; Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook has sold 180,000 print copies, according to BookScan.
In October, Rowman & Littlefield will publish What to Believe When You’re Expecting by obstetrician Jonathan Schaffir, who aims to dispel myths and old wives’ tales about pregnancy. Executive editor Suzanne Staszak-Silva, who worked on the book, says Schaffir “addresses a lot of the information and misinformation that women receive when they’re trying to get pregnant, already are pregnant, or have just had a new baby.” The book, she says, centers less on clinical advice than on “all of those whispering voices, all of the aunts and grandmas and sisters and friends who have something to say.” Examples of such myths include that “starving” an unborn baby—i.e., decreasing one’s own food intake—can help induce labor (not advisable, according to Schaffir). Some received ideas, however, are supported by science, such as the notion that the more active a baby is toward the end of pregnancy the likelier it is to be a boy.
The book, Staszak-Silva says, functions as an adjunct “to all the medical information that’s out there.” It’s of a piece with many of this season’s health books and their efforts to get readers to really think about how best to approach wellness.
Daniel Lefferts is a writer living in New York City.
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