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for those of you who know me well, you know i’m a bit of a tea lover.

okay, okay i’m more than a bit of a tea lover. i am, unabashedly, a tea slut (i do hope i don’t offend the fine lady baker with such indelicate language but full disclosure is always best).

so, i have a large selection of davids tea which started with a gift of exotica from the amazing jane.

i have a variety of delights from the algonquin tea company.

i recently won some herbal philosophy teas (which i’ll post about soon).

but, i’ve come to love and very much appreciate our local tea lady, lady baker’s tea trolley, most of all.

so, when i chatted with the lady baker about a sleepy time tea, she went right to work on it.

first she sourced some valerian and then she began her tea wizardry.

ni-night tea is the first of her bed time blends and i am pleased as punch to be the official tea tester.

the combination of chamomile + lemongrass + valerian + peppermint in some fine balance known only in the tea lab of the lady, brews into a light, gently minted slightly lemony tea, pleasant to sniff and lovely to sip. chamomile for its sedative properties, valerian to quiet anxieties and restlessness, peppermint to clear the mind and settle the gastrointestinal tract, lemongrass for relaxation and deep sleep.

wow, what a brew! this is the mix i’ve been looking for. i steeped a cup before bed the past two nights and can report uninterrupted sleeps, restorative in nature both nights. i fell to sleep quickly and awoke fresh and refreshed.

thanks lady baker and lady baker’s tea trolley. i think there are others already wanting to sleep with you!

 

 

i recently won some product from live organic raw in a give away on ricki heller’s awesome blog diet dessert n dogs. i was really pleased with what i found when i opened the box. and, despite the fact that the products contained ingredients i haven’t been eating since paleoizing my life, like agave nectar and flaxseed, i did indulge in a couple of them.  thanks to both live organic raw and diet dessert n dogs for sending all the goodness my way!

i shared the winnings with my partner. he is a paleoslave but not a paleo eater.

walnut raisin cacao nib chunk cookies .. 4 in the package

ingredients: walnuts, raisins, sunflower seeds, filtered water, cacao nibs, agave syrup, vanilla, extra virgin coconut oil.

their description: hand crafted with chunks of walnuts, raisins and seeds superbly blended with our raw, fair trade chocolate nibs, vanilla and just the right amount of sweetness.  not only will they satisfy your hunger pangs but they’ll give you a raw chocolate kick start.  an excellent on the go snack or as an accompaniment to your daily tea / coffee ritual. dehydrated to maintain maximum nutrients. gluten free.

the package traveled well.

me: these are filling and tasty. juicy, especially when biting in to a raisin. a very satisfying snack.

he: they were good. i enjoyed them. they were not overpoweringly sweet and i appreciated that.

these would be perfect with a cup of joe. yes, perfect.

chipotle ranch kale chips

ingredients: kale, filtered water, sunflower seeds, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, coconut palm sugar, garlic, onions, chipotle powder, paprika, grey sea salt.

their description: smothered in our cashew, chipotle sauce these chips are amongst our most addictive items.  a not-too-hot subtle, smoky sweetness makes for a dangerous combination of flavors promising to keep you hooked for years to come. gluten free.

did not travel well. a lot of spicy powdered kale chips amidst some surviving morsels.

me: these kale chips are very tasty and perhaps over spiced (or that could have been due to the condition in which they arrived). the chipotle spice anchored the kale.

he: mmmmmmm. and again, mmmmmmm.

chocolate granola

ingredients: sprouted buckwheat, walnuts, cocoa powder, hemp seeds, agave syrup, raisins, apricots dried, raw cacao beans, cinnamon powder, extra-virgin coconut oil, vanilla, grey sea salt

their description: crunchy nutty clusters of sprouted buckwheat, walnuts and raw chocolate; the most nutritious and delicious breakfast you will ever eat. gluten free.

me: i am not consuming grains so i didn’t try these. a strong whiff of cinnamon greets you upon opening & they smell nicely chocolatey and are in lovely nibble-able pieces.

he: a strong cinnamon taste, perhaps too dominant. great texture.

banana goji nut brittle

ingredients: almonds, coconut, banana, medjool dates, goji berries, flax, cinnamon, vanilla.

their description: superfood brittle; dehydrated to an exquisite melt in your mouth taste.  a perfect guilt-free snack blended with banana, goji and nuts. gluten free.

me: smell of bananas, taste of bananas. really a great feel in the mouth and an easy snack to pack.

he: very banana-y. it was good. seems it disappeared first.

 

 

garden vegetable crackers

ingredients: flax seeds, sunflower seeds, broccoli, kale, beats, red peppers, celery, onions, garlic, lemon juice, tahini (contains sesame seeds), extra virgin olive oil, tamari, cayenne, poppy seeds, grey sea salt

their description: we’ve hand crafted a variety of veggies into a cracker! freshly ground flax and seeds are mixed together with fresh vegetable and premium spices. truly a cracker to live by.  enjoy alone or paired with your favorite dips and spreads. gluten free.

me: had these with a salad. nice texture and relatively crisp. great flecks of colour and a fresh vegetable flavour.

he: nice but no one particular flavour. the lack of distinctive overtones make it a good dipping chip.

spicy nori crackers

ingredients: sunflower seeds, filtered water, onions, garlic, dulse, nori, cayenne pepper, grey sea salt.

their description: this protein rich cracker was developed as a complete snack, full of nutrients to satisfy any hunger pangs.  it’s delicate sunflower puree is enhanced by a mild red pepper and spread onto our raw nori. all hand-crafted and dehydrated at the perfect temperature to maintain it’s vital nutrients.  eat alone or as a complement to your favorite salad. gluten free

me: ohamazingyum. i remember pilfering dulse out of the pockets of my dad’s suit jackets when i was young. i love the salty bite of the sea combined with the spicy warmth of the red pepper. this is also a great looking cracker. my favourite out of the batch.

he: mmmm quite good. the salty and the heat and the slight tang. tasty. mmmm.

sundried tomato and chia seed crackers

ingredients: flax seeds, chia seeds, onions, filtered water, sundried tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, grey sea salt.

their description: these mouth watering, superfood crackers are one of our most popular products.  give your taste buds a lift with the zingy flavor of sundried tomato, freshly ground flax and premium spices. delicious enough to enjoy on their own or paired with your favorite dips and spreads.  gluten free.

me: these are very good. great tomato-y taste, crisp texture. lovely on their own.

he: oh. excellent. love the flavour – sharply tomato. great cracker.

 

these are excellent products. high quality organic ingredients, handcrafted love. you can taste the passion. i recommend everyone of these products. banana goji brittle for happy mouth sweetness, nori crackers for adventure and intrigue.

i’ve been following the work of lauren brooks of on the edge fitness for quite a while. i think i first started watching some of her kettlebell demo videos about 4 years ago, followed along as she performed some new baby chloe workouts and have watched her gain skill, momentum, confidence and strength.

about 4 months ago i ordered her kettlebell lightening dvd and pre-ordered this, her first book.

the dvd did not disappoint (i’ll post a review of it in the not so distant future) and i anticipated the release and arrival of the book.

lauren has years of experience and loads of qualifications in the health and fitness field. she has produced a number of kettlebell dvd’s, including a three volume series, the ultimate body sculpt and conditioning with kettlebells, and baby bells, a dvd of kettlebell training for pregnancy.

so, what’s to love about the book? lots!

  •  a short but sufficient overview of kettlebells – their history, the benefits of using them, how to know which kettlebells to buy
  • a well laid out 12 week kettlebell training program, beginning at foundation movements and fat loss, progressing to strength and fat burning, and culminating with powerhouse strength and conditioning. each 4 week level includes a level-specific warm up and five workouts, each sweetened with a metabolic conditioning tabata
  • pages upon pages of movement skills with pictures and clear, concise explanations, useful tips and cautions.
  • warm up, joint mobility and cool down movements

the book is meant for all levels of fitness. women new to kettlebell training will find lauren’s progressions and explanations reassuring, lacking intimidation. intermediate and/or advanced kettlebell users will be able to craft a fun, diverse training program from lauren’s clear charts.

so, want to advance your training with kettlebells? want to sculpt your strong and sexy body? lauren brooks can take you there.

but, if you are new to kettlebell training, great photos and clear explanations cannot replace a certified and experienced kettlebell coach. learning to use kettlebells safely and efficiently requires inspired coaching and skilled feedback/correction. and, while lauren’s background is RKC (Russian Kettlebell Certification), there are excellent coaches with top notch certs other than RKC.

this book is a fine distillation of lauren’s expertise. i’m so glad she put it together.

idiosyncratically, the only thing i didn’t like about this book was its physical size. i go no where without my current read, and this book was not a convenient tuck into my purse.

interested in working out in a way which will create fast, functional change in your body composition? kettlebell training. get some!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

this is a nicely instructive, well illustrated

(This is a version of a post originally featured on my other blog in 2008)

Beets.

This, my thanksgiving for beets, a veritable shout out to this colourful cousin of the mangelwurzel,  is hard-earned and not to be taken lightly.

I grew up with pickled beets on the table more often than not, and everyone in the family loved the vegetable that sent them into temporary terrors of internal apocalyptic diseases upon post-consumption evacuations (you know, beeturia), but I never did come to like or appreciate this most humble of roots.

I always thought I should like beets.  Each time they were before me, I gingerly set into one.  And, without exception, that first bite reminded me that beets tasted like dirt.  Just. Like. Dirt.

Beet greens?  One of my very favourite side dishes!  I even craved beet greens during my first pregnancy and sent him on wide, expansive searches to slake my craving.  Prior to the pregnancy stage of our relationship, back before we were even co-habitatoheads, I might wake from a nap on my sofa to find mangelwurzel, Tom Robbins style, on my coffee table, but the token was never consumed.

Borscht?  Also an acceptable method of beeting my distaste for simple preparations of this ruby red veg.

Try as I might, I just did not like the taste of beets.

Enter the oven-roasted medley of root vegetables served up for the evening meal of December 25, 2008.  Tossed in olive oil and italian spices, topped with grated gruyere.  Amidst the gentleness of fingerling potatoes, the slight bitterness of turnip, the pleasing crunch of carrots, the  comfort of parsnips, was the ever-familiar taste of…yes, there were beets in them there vegetables!

The first taste was inevitably of dirt.   The second taste was nuanced with something else.  I couldn’t put my finger on it. It required a third taste.  This one tasted of memories, and I was almost sure of their source.  One more taste and I was there.  Beets taste like Sleepy Hollow, the family camp where I spent many of my growing up hours.  I’m not sure how this is, but each and every subsequent bite of beet brought me more fully back to a very rustic camp, built by my paternal grandfather, on the side of a lake.  It was a place where we swam and boated, played ball in the hayfield; where we were thoroughly scratched by brambles while gathering blackberries and sat wide-legged on the work horses.  It was a place where family gatherings took place.  It was a place heavily imbued with the feeling of my grandparents.

Darned if those beets didn’t taste good. Just. Like. Sleepy Hollow.

Interested in barefoot running?

Jason Robillard’s wise words in The Barefoot Running Book were the first I read on the topic. His information is straightforward and full of common sense. He provides progressions to take you from whatever point you are right now to being a successful and healthier barefoot runner.  I wrote about my use of his book and ideas in a blog post in early May of last year – check it out for an applied review of his techniques.

Now Barefoot Jason  has a second, expanded edition, of The Barefoot Running Book available. You can purchase the book of get it as a PDF download!  I think this is simply brilliant.

I’ve learned a lot about barefoot running from Jason, but the most important aspect for me has been a return to, or a finding of, joy and mindfulness in my running and in my barefootedness. These qualities have thankfully bubbled over into living more of my life barefoot and sharpening my awareness of why I do so.

I highly recommend The Barefoot Running Book as a great read. Even if you are skeptical of barefoot running, you might find something quite lovely.

But tomorrow, dawn will come the way I picture her,

barefoot and disheveled, standing outside my window

in one of the fragile cotton dresses of the poor.

She will look in at me with her thin arms extended,

offering a handful of birdsong and a small cup of light.

~ William Collins

Normally a voracious reader, I have been slow creeping through books of late.  My work schedule is delightfully hectic and wonderfully demanding these days, providing me with long days and end-of-day sleeps which arrive fast and fierce.  Take for example last Sunday evening.  I was physically exhausted by early evening and thought an early curl in bed, deep under my old comforter, with my book (and 3 ounces of white wine) would give me great joy.  So at 7:30 I snuggled in, book at bedside; and that is precisely where it remained as I fell into an immediate rabbit hole of snooze oblivion.

I’ve been reading Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health;  researched over a 7 year period, well documented and written by journalist Gary Taubes.  It is the type of book which I really enjoy reading and I appreciate the comprehensive review of the diet/nutrition/health literature which Taubes summarizes in the book with a critical eye to research which never made it into the mainstream knowledge base of the industry let alone the culture.

There are many good things in this book.  I just wanted to quote a section for today, one which in a small, perhaps tangential way reflects some of what I frequently wonder about this industry in which I am immersed.

How does my work fit or not fit in to the larger picture of health and wellbeing in our society?  Am I part of the solution or part of the problem? Do I contribute, in a sensible way, to a move toward improved quality of life or am I just one of many trickles which make up the deluge surrounding, and maybe integral to, declining health measures?  Do I feed an obsession with body image, calorie counting, weight loss/management and self esteem?  Do I provide a service which further fragments and compartmentalizes bits of our wholeness?  These are tough questions for me and I crave resolution of them, though I fear the same.

Why do we need a ‘fitness industry’ or a ‘diet industry’ or a ‘self esteem industry’? Can they only exist if somehow we contribute to their very perpetuation?  Why do we entertain proposals like Jamie Oliver‘s wish to use institutions (schools, governments, etc) to teach our children to recognize vegetables or learn to cook?  Why do I conduct workplace wellness presentations suggesting the workplace as an important setting for supporting physical activity?  Why do some believe a ‘sugar tax’  to be a viable means of shifting eating patterns?

I entertain a gnawing sensation that somehow I — we — are missing something.  I haven’t figured it out for myself, but I do spend regular time pondering what I believe to be a paradox, a misdirect, or perhaps a disconnect between a healthy world and the industries which have cropped up in response to our diminishing health.

So, now that I’ve yammered on about not much of anything, I’ll pass along a brief passage from Taubes’ chapter 14 ‘ The Mythology of Obesity.’ With respect to obesity and physcial activity, added emphasis mine:

Population-wide assessments of physical activity are also difficult to make in any meaningful way.  Those research agencies that traditionally study such things…have no evidence that would shed light on physical activity during the decade in which the obesity epidemic began.  They do have evidence suggesting that Americans were no less active at the end of the 199os than they were at the beginning of that decade, despite the continued rise in weight and obesity throughout this period.  We know, too, that the obesity epidemic coincided with what might be called an exercise or sports epidemic in America, accompanied by the explosion of an entire industry dedicated to leisure-time pursuits.  It’s worth remembering that in the 1960s Jack La Lanne was the nation’s only physical-fitness guru, Gatorade existed solely for the use of University of Florida football players, and skateboarding, in-line skating, snowboarding, mountain biking, power yoga, spinning, aerobics, and a host of other now relatively common physical activities had yet to be invented. To put this in numberical terms, this was an erea when the revenues of the health-club industry were estimated at $200 million per year; in 2005, revenues were $16 billion, and nearly forty million Americans belonged to such clubs.

Press reports also support this version of history.  By 1977, the New York Times was discussing the “exercise explosion” that had come about because the conventional wisdom of the 1960s that exercise was “bad for you” had been transformed into the “new conventional wisdom — that strenuous exercise is good for you.”  When the Washington Post estimated in 1980 that a hundred million Americans were now partaking in the “new fitness revolution,” it also noted that most of them “would have been derided as ‘health nuts’ ” only a decade earlier. “What we are seeing,” the Post suggested, “is one of the late twentieth century’s major sociological events.”

Another apparent contradiction of the notion that either sedentary behavior or prosperity or a toxic food environment is the cause of obesity is that obesity has always been most prevalent among the poorest and thus, presumably, harder-working members of society.  In developed nations, the poorer people are, the heavier they’re likely to be…In 1965, Albert Stunkard and his colleagues at New York Hospital reported that they had surveryed 1,660 New Yorkers and found that obese women were six times more common at the lowest socioeconomic level that at the highest.  Thirty percent of the poorest women were obese, compared with 16 percent of those of “middle status” and only 5 percent of the richest.  The poor men were twice as likely to be obese as the rich (32 percent to 16 percent).  These observations have been confirmed repeatedly throughout the world, in both children and adults.  Because poor and immigrant populations are considerably less likely than wealthier, more established populations to own labor-saving devices, and because they are more likely to work in physically demanding occupations, that poverty is a risk factor for obesity is another compelling reason to question the notion that sedentary behavior is a cause.

Zen Sushi Bar & Cafe menu

Zen Sushi Bar & Cafe is a tiny streetfront restaurant dishing up an extensive Japanese menu.  Located on lower Queen Street, the cafe is pleasantly decorated and seats, at a maximum, 14 people.  The kitchen is efficiently tiny, filled with a dinner ballet of four staff navigating rice wraps and sake cups.

We arrived to a full house and waited about 20 minutes for counter seats, entertained by perusing the quickly disappearing take-out sushi trays, the stunning arrays of food being delivered to tables and studying the menu.

We started with sake.  Flavourful, slightly warmed and warming.  Pleasant to sip and chat and watch the early evening passings on the street.  Enjoying being together in an unhurried way in a cozy joint in Charlottetown.

pork ginger

We shared an order of Pork Ginger from the a la carte menu.  It was tender and tingly warm with green onions and just the right amount of ginger.

volcano roll

We were delighted by the presentation of the Volcano Roll. This medium roll sushi (tuna, red snapper, shrimp, cucumber, tobiko, mayo, and hot spices) sat amongst fish flakes and was bright with almost flourescent green tobiko, the roe of flying fish, made green with wasabi in this case.  It was absolutely delicious.

shrimp wraps

We followed the volcano roll with two shrimp and two chicken ricewraps (spring rolls) with peanut sauce.  These wraps were not as wonderful as the volcano roll or as nice as the (Vietnamese) spring rolls we make at home.

The kitchen was very busy with every seat occupied while we were there.  Service was friendly and attentive, but the dishes came up slowly.  Perhaps, in our rushed world, that is a good thing.  Zen. I know I appreciated the time to just sit, sip, snack and smile with the person with whom I am most at ease in this world.

With the kitchen in full swing, however, spiciness filled the air and irritated most customers’ eyes.  I spoke with 5 other customers (so, including us that was 50% of the diners) and 5 out of the 7 experienced stinging watering eyes.  The two who did not, one of whom was me, both wore contact lenses, kind of a spice prophylactic for the iris I guess.  Perhaps, in such a quintessentially small, simple space the cafe is in need of better ventilation/air exchange.

Delighting in our time together, our bellies happy with the digesting of light fare and our gullets softened by a few ounces of sake, we tripped into the night and headed to campus at UPEI to take in The Path Of True Love.

Put on by Vagabond Productions, the “final frontier” staging of this live theatre, where the actors performed amongst the audience, using whatever space was available, was a treat.  The small but mighty cast were tremendously talented, engaging and, though they made use of LOUD a few too many times, spun a story of BIG laughs.  The audience seemed enthralled and so very entertained.

The Path Of True Love will show again tonight at 7:30.  If you miss this show be sure to watch for the 2011 performance by Vagabond Productions.  Live theatre at UPEI is worth supporting.

I have been reading Nancy N. Chen’s Food, Medicine and the Quest for Good Health.   Chen grew up in a home where her mother used Chinese Nutritional Therapies and as a medical anthropologist has come full circle in her study of healing across cultures.  She is a professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Chen explores the intersection of food and medicine historically and culturally, suggesting that the categories of “food” and “medicine” be reimagined, rethought.   How are – and which – cultural norms and political institutions are privileged in a society which keeps these categories separate and distinct?  Is there something to learn from cultures where the boundaries between the two are blurred?

Drawing on historical medical texts, food therapy practices of the Chinese, Greek and Islamic traditions, the historical cultural development of the spice trade, and current biotechnology in the areas of food, medicine and nutraceuticals, Chen weaves connections and poses questions.  She considers these issues against the backdrop of a growing diet industry as a step toward framing diet not only as individual practice but also as social prescription and political formation.

The book does not provide depth of discussion.  It does, however, create platforms for thought, for asking further questions and for rethinking food and medicine linkages.  It is a good book to pique new, or give shape to vague, interests related to nutritional literacy, healing practices and cultural practices.

soothing ginger garlic tea

Chen proffers a small number of healing recipes.  As I am currently sporting a harsh, bronchial cough and some congestion I was quick to try her Ginger Garlic Tea with Lime and Honey which she says is healing and restorative for colds and flu.

I went to bed with a steaming mug of it last night and had another upon rising today.

  • Boil sliced fresh ginger and smashed garlic cloves in a pot of water.
  • Inhale the steam as the pot boils to enhance breathing – if one’s nasal passage is stuffy – or to loosen phlegm.
  • After boiling for about 20 minutes, pour into cup and add fresh lime or lemon juice and honey to taste.

I’m taking the supplies along to the studio today so I can enjoy the soothing properties of this tea during the day.

Dan Buettner is a man with an interesting background which includes world records for endurance biking. I like that. He is also a National Geographic journalist and the founder of Quest Network, an online organization which engages students in interactive expeditions.

As author of The Blue Zones: Lessons For Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived The Longest, Buettner brings us recipes for long life. Buettner has visited the pockets of the world where people live longer, healthier lives in numbers more astounding than the general population and he studies their lives in hopes of distilling what it is about them and their lifestyles which contribute to longevity.

The book is part travelogue, part research exploration, part journalistic expression. Buettner weaves together the brief stories of centenarians, his search for them and research findings based on their lifestyles in an effort to provide an entertaining, engaging, inspiring ‘how to’ book for long, healthy living.

The term Blue Zone, which describes a geographic concentration of some of the world’s longest living people, was named when a researcher by the name of Michel Poulain circled an area of longevity on a map in blue ink.

The first of the Blue Zones discussed is in Sardinia, where the women are strong, familial attachments are paramount and provide purpose, and rugged hillsides require a lifetime of vigorous walking. Oh, and, the red wine, consumed daily, is made from Cannonau grapes and contains higher levels of antioxidants than other wines.

The three other havens of gray haired health are the island of Okinawa in Japan, the Nicoyan Peninsula of Costa Rico, and Loma Linda, US. It seems in all locations, diet, a sense of purpose, and strong support systems were common denominators.

In the information teased out of Okinawan centenarians, I was drawn by the concepts of ikigai – the reason for waking up in the morning, moai – a group of lifelong friends, and hara hachi bu – eat only until you are 80% full. These concepts, simple and elegant, are integral to joy in life. Combined with daily activity and simple, nourishing meals it would be hard to imagine anything other than a long, vital lifespan coming out of such life-affirming, commonsense notions.

In the last section of the book, Buettner presents the “Power Nine”, a prescriptive chapter on healthy habits which may increase your years of embraced living. The book provides great strategies for incorporating these long-life lessons into your life and there are interesting tools, ideas and suggestions on his web site.

  1. Move Naturally – be active without having to think about it.
  2. Hara Hachi Bu – painlessly cut calories by 20%.
  3. Plant Slant – avoid meat and processed foods.
  4. Grapes Of Life – drink red wine (in moderation).
  5. Purpose Now – take time to see the big picture; ikigai in Japan, plan de vida in Costa Rico are guiding forces.
  6. Down Shift – take time to relieve stress.
  7. Belong – participate in a spiritual community.
  8. Loved Ones First – make family a priority.
  9. Right Tribe – be surrounded by those who share Blue Zone values.

I read this book a couple of months ago, as I was turning 51. At that time, I did not give a lot of thought to how long I would be on this earth but had a vague notion that 85 – 90 years of age might be a fair expectation.

After reading the book, however, I began thinking of my age as more of a turn-around point – 51 years out, circling the bend for a couple or few years, and 51 years on the return run. This seems much more realistic to me, and because, since the age of 42 or so I have begun to make regular adjustments and fine tuning to my lifestyle, I expect I’ll live a long, active and productive life.

If you see me wizened and smiling backpacking through your neighbourhood, jump on your bike and come alongside for a bit of conversation.  If you have some flavonoid rich red wine at home, invite me in for a tiny tip of the elixir.

Crystal Renn is not only a fashion model, she is a young, vibrant, self assured woman who has learned, through personal challenges, to become the director of her life.

As a young teen she was scouted for a large modeling agency, dropping her bodyweight to under a hundred pounds on her 5’9” frame in order to secure a modeling job.

Hungry:  A Young Model’s Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves is her story.  From her moderate childhood obsessions to the development of full blown anorexia to a more balanced and aware young adulthood, Renn shares her changing relationship with food and explores its complex connection to her self esteem, self image and self acceptance.  She incorporates in her story, the social and cultural context within which bodyweight exists in the modeling world, in North American society, and in the lives of young women.

Crystal Renn’s achievement is in walking away from a modeling career which required her to maintain an unhealthy body size and kept her hungry and unhappy.   Wisely, she quickly realized what she wanted more was to be happy and healthy.  The journey to this goal demanded that she listen to her body, treat it with love, caring and respect regardless of its size, and learn to become comfortable in her own skin.  Once she found the joy in being full-out Crystal Renn and not a shadow of herself, her modeling career took hold – a statement to her tenacity, self-confidence and intelligence.

The book, I think, is a decent little read for anyone struggling with body image in an image-obsessed world.  It might also be the book to hand to a teenage daughter.  Crystal Renn’s modeling as a luscious, camera-loving, healthy bodied young woman was first brought to my attention by my oldest daughter who would be 2 years younger than Renn and I’ll be handing the book along to her.

Renn attempts to place dieting within a context; she cites research studies, blogs and books which may be of use to the reader.  So not only is this a memoir, a peek inside the world of high fashion and modeling, it is also a bit of a primer and advice coloumn.

The underlying promise of dieting – a promise as powerful as any industrial-strength foundation garment – is that once we reach our goal weight, our lives will be perfect.  That’s the fairy-tale ending glimmering after the credits of a weight-loss reality show.  It’s the story written in invisible ink in the margins of the exercise stories in too many women’s magazines.  Eating well isn’t about offering our bodies nourishing food – it’s about getting skinnier.  Exercise isn’t about becoming stronger, managing stress, or supporting heart health – it’s about getting skinnier.  Getting skinnier means that life will start playing in Technicolor to the accompaniment of a glorious orchestra.

Criticizing Renn’s size 12 beauty as not-plus-enough or too-large-for-fashion misses the point that she is expressing in the book, despite the problems with an industry which can label a size 10 or 12 woman as plus size.  It is time, she says, to accept diversity in body size and weight – of our self and of those around us – and for the fashion industry to do the same.

Women are clamoring to see bodies like their own represented and celebrated…It’s essential to see that size is only one of the battlefronts… Diversity helps us all.  And thin people are not the enemy.  When we gripe at other women for being too thin as well as too fat, we allow ourselves to be distracted from the real issue.  We have to change the culture by rewarding and applauding diversity in all its forms, not by vilifying individual women.

Renn has come by some valuable lessons very early in life and I’m glad she’s sharing her story.

The solution is to accept that the only person you have to please is yourself.  Indulge your instincts, wear what you love, and embrace your own natural size…Confidence is what ultimately makes us attractive, no matter what we look like.

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