Monday, October 29, 2007

What Would Carrie Bradshaw Eat? Eat, Drink, and Be Gorgeous- A Book Review

Reading a book that wasn't truly written for you can feel like eavesdropping on someone else's life. It's awkward at times, but you can still learn a thing or two.

Case in point: Eat, Drink and Be Gorgeous, a nutritionist's guide to living well while living it up by Esther Blum, who is a dietitian at the N.V. Perricone Lifestyle Center in NYC. The book is geared towards a certain demographic: Young single women, who live, date and work in urban areas, drink a lot and are trying to get themselves together and feel better, but are not entirely sure how to do it. However, I, at (nearly) 37, equipped with a husband, a rice cooker, a good skin care routine, an elliptical trainer, and eating a vegetarian diet, am not the audience Ms. Blum had in mind.

I wasn't too enthusiastic at first about the girl-talk writing style or the gushing promises to make it all better for the reader. I remember being in my early twenties, confused and tired. There were times even Jane Austen couldn't make it all better for me, so I doubt any other book can do it. However, even at the very beginning there was something that caught my attention and made me listen more closely. The author stresses the need to take the shame out of eating as a first step to developing healthy habits. She wants us to enjoy what we eat, have the best chocolate we can afford, treat ourselves nicely, be in the moment and not feel guilty about it.

By giving ourselves permission to eat and not feeling constantly deprived and desperate, we avoid that old cycle of starving for two days only to get utterly depressed and eat a pack of Oreos and a bag of chips for both lunch and dinner the next day. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I might not be there (and admittedly, never really have been), but I do know the guilt over indulging and I know far too many women who are struggling with this very issue, trying to follow the latest diet regimen until they give up and need to deal with the failure. The healthy, realistic approach of moderation as a key is essential to get the message across. As the book unfolds, the author tells it like it is: She explains exactly what's wrong with unhealthy food and wild lifestyle, but she manages not to be preachy and doomsday-like in her narrative, which I'm guessing would do wonders to convince her young readers to actually make the change. Esther Blum uses honey, almost literally, to trap the flies.

Like Tom Ford, Blum knows that sex sells. That's probably why the sex chapter, Gorgeous in Bed, is the longest one in the book. But it's not what it looks. Under the cover of "Let's talk about sex", she actually teaches about food. You'll hear what's good for healthy sex life (healthy food, surprise! and exercise!) and what isn't. You'll learn that processed items, hydrogenated oils and refined sugars are going to ruin your libido, keep you feel sluggish and bloated, and make your hoo-ha stink. That alone is a good enough reason to get friendly with brown rice and steamed spinach.

It's an interesting approach, if nothing else. I can vouch for one aspect: If start thinking about certain foods and beverages as poison, you significantly lower the frequency and intensity of uncontrollable cravings. That's how I quit drinking soda of any kind about eight years ago and why I have no interest in commercial candy bars (Belgian chocolate is a completely different thing, though). I guess if the target audience is most obsessed with dating, showing them how junk food is sabotaging its sex life is a very smart move.

One thing I've definitely learned from the book is about certain dietary supplements. I already down a handful a day, but this routine can and should be tweaked according to specific needs and I'm going to look deeper into it, with the recommendations in mind. I also remember that Ms. Blum's employer, Dr. Perricone is pushing a full range of expensive products of this very nature. Not a big issue, since she doesn't hawk the products, and I intend to continue buying mine from Whole Foods.

My only real peeve with the book is that it completely ignores the vegetarian route. Yes, protein is good for you, but it doesn't have to be animal-derived. Blum mentions every meat option (including buffalo, ostrich and venison), but she forgets the fact that some of us combine whole grains and legumes for a healthy whole protein that is easy to digest and gives a lot of other health benefits. Just as eating small amounts of of organic tofu (preferably fresh) is actually good for you (unlike over-processed soy and wheat protein from unknown sources).

what I'd really hope to see in the future, other than a vegetarian chapter, is also a version of this book geared towards men. Young women aren't the only ones who need to ditch the dollar menu and get acquainted with broccoli. I wonder how the sex chapter would look in that one.


  1. I'd love to read a version of that for men.

    A lot of people want to have a quick fix- a pill or an impossible-to-follow radical diet and them magically go back to the way they did it before. I've found that the sad fact is that like an alcoholic staying away from booze one has to make the choice at every meal: is that worth getting fat over? 99% of the time the answer is "no" and the 1% of the time that the answer is yes (like my friends home-made pesto made with basil from her garden or a Teuscher extra-butter truffle) is enough to keep me happy. Mars bars, the dollar menu and mediocre fettuccine alfredo lie firmly in the "no" category.

    I wish there was more Vegetarian info as well. Why does the Food Network not have one vegan show? I'm still a meat-eater, but I'd be interested in that..

  2. Tom, looks like we have the same approach to food. It's down to making a choice, and most people are making the wrong ones over and over. Too many of them just don't know better, which is quite sad.

    The Food Network is a source of constant frustration for me. They are heavily sponsored by processed food makers, which influences their programming. Way too many shows dedicated to junk food.

  3. Thank you for the best idea for a birthday present (a good friend of mine): Just the cover of the book is perfect for her! Fragrant greetings

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