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The 1 Book You Should Read If You're Struggling With Body Acceptance

The 1 Book You Should Read If You're Struggling With Body Acceptance

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This book will help you eat more mindfully—and ditch the guilt for good.

Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

For all the artful presentation and obsessive documentation of food that's saturated Western media in recent years (especially since the dawn of Instagram), there's infinitely less ink and fewer pixels deployed to describe the act of eating it. There's the after, for certain, either in the almost fetishistically chronicled "wellness" claimed to be invoked by all manner of powders and pollens, or the cautionary tales of people who ingested the supposedly incorrect amount (read: excess) of food or "unhealthy" ingredients and suffered as a result. There are such vast, heaping portions of all of this served up across pages and screens that it's almost impossible not to choke on it.

Thank goodness for Ruby Tandoh. In her new book, Eat Up: Food, Appetite and Eating What You Want ($17, Amazon), the former Great British Bake Off contestant and Guardian columnist delves into the infinitely less exalted aspects of eating to create an empathetic, intersectional, sometimes celebratory, and often painful account of the complicated ways in which we feed ourselves today.

"How the hell did things get this way?" she asks in a chapter cocking an eyebrow at the especially moralistic components of the contemporary "wellness" movement. Tandoh, who writes openly of her own struggles with an eating disorder and the destructive, futile goal of "erasing" one's own body, takes particular issue with marketers' tendency to conflate their spokespeople's (often lifestyle bloggers and Instagram influencers) thin, toned, expensively fed, and almost invariably white bodies with some sort of moral triumph in the service of selling pricey diet plans, foods, and supplements. "Our judgement is far-reaching," she writes, imagining an onlooker conditioned by the strictures of this regime assessing the contents of a fellow shopper's basket. "You are what you eat and what you eat is bad."

Her antidote: Eat what you want in the quantity and quality you desire, and do not apologize. In fact, celebrate the act of feeding your body, whether that is with a Cadbury creme egg that's been warmed in the depths of your pocket, a ready meal from the supermarket, the first or last biscuit from the office tin, or the humble stew that sustained your grandparents in their native land.

Tandoh is perhaps at her most insightful when she writes about want and shame and their inextricable link to food. In a chapter on LGBTQ+ influences in food culture, Tandoh, who identifies as queer, writes of the sublimation of carnal wants into the sensual pleasures of food—especially when those desires might be seen as taboo. In another, she explores of cultural fatphobia and the slippery language couching "health concerns" as a way to humiliate people into denying their bodies the sustenance they need and the pleasure they deserve.

It's a lot to digest, but the serial essay structure of the book makes it endlessly easy to pick up, flip to the most relevant section for your needs—be that emotional eating, cultural identity, or body shame—and feel sated.

And yes, there are also recipes, but not in the glossy cookbook format that Tandoh has followed before in her previous volumes, Crumb and Flavour. There is no photographic or linguistic food porn, or suggested serving sizes—just small, grey illustrations, ersatz headnotes with guidance like, "If you can love these misshapen, lumpy, bumpy little rocks, you can sure as hell love your own wonderful body," leading into walk-through directions for Toffee Apple Rock Cakes.

To salve the wounds of a breakup, Tandoh suggests an old-fashioned beef stew with the dumpling cooking timed to the romantic arc from the movie The Way We Were, and for depression and seasonal affective disorder, she offers an easily achievable salmon and sweet potato meal packed with vitamins and nutrients that are beneficial to brain function.

By Tandoh's reckoning, food culture is rife with problems, but the food is not to blame—it's the way we're going to find the strength to fix them. Eat what you want, but by all means, consume every word of this book.

Heal Your Body by Reducing Your Stress

Whether we are dealing with autoimmune disease or the flu, every illness carries with it a hefty dose of one symptom: stress. In fact, up to 80% of those with autoimmune issues report that diagnosis came after a period of significant stress in their life, whether emotional or physical.¹ And the journey of navigating one’s health after diagnosis can be so long, winding, and often confusing—with massive dietary shifts to accommodate and lifestyle choices to re-evaluate—that significant stress becomes an accepted part of many autoimmune sufferers’ lives. To make matters worse, simply having an autoimmune disease (or other taxing bodily ailment) causes physical stress on the body. I know, not good news, but don’t lose hope yet!

Let’s take a deeper look at the relationship between stress and autoimmune disease. It all starts with the autonomic nervous system (the part of our nervous system that controls our body’s involuntary functions like respiration, circulation, and digestion) which can be divided into two main parts: sympathetic and parasympathetic. We need them both, but they serve very different purposes.

The Sympathetic Nervous System

When we have a sympathetic reaction, our body is primed for action—the “fight or flight” response. Hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine are pumped through the body and we experience an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate as well as a surge of glucose for quick energy. We can do amazing things in this state, like lift cars off people, or run from wild animals!

Our bodies respond to all stress with a similar cascade of hormones, regardless of the source. Even day-to-day chronic stress and anxiety can trigger a sympathetic state—think work deadlines, juggling kids’ schedules, conflict with a partner or friend, a never-ending to-do list—you get the idea. Physical stressors are no different. Surgery, poor diet, over-exercising, under-eating, drinking too much coffee, severe illness, violence, lack of sleep, and even the shows you watch in the evening to “relax” can trigger your stress response. We are endlessly exposed to low-grade, chronic stress, and are bodies are not meant for this.

Parasympathetic Nervous System

The parasympathetic portion of our autonomic nervous system, on the other hand, is at work when we are not under threat—the “rest and digest” phase. This is when our bodies have time to recover, heal, and work to get benefits from the foods we eat, and circulate blood, nutrients, and oxygen throughout our bodies. This state should not just exist as a thirty-minute half-time in our day, but it should be the dominant state in which we live.

Culturally, which state do you think we place more emphasis and value on?

Because of the value we place on always doing something, we tend to turn to diet and exercise to solve our health problems. We wear our busy-ness as a badge of honor. As a result, many folks end up spending very little time in a given day in a parasympathetic state and don’t think to focus on their stress as a way to heal.

The Stress-Autoimmune Connection

Known as the master stress hormone, cortisol is a key contributor in the fight or flight response and regulates metabolism, inflammation and even our circadian rhythms. Cortisol secretion is regulated by the integral connection of the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. When we perceive a threat, the hypothalamus releases neurohormones. These neurohormones trigger the pituitary gland to release hormones and endorphins that circulate in the blood and reach the adrenal glands. This then triggers the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. (For an illustrated explanation of this complex relationship, check out this two-minute video !)

Cortisol’s primary action is to get glucose to the organs that need it the most: the brain and muscles. It does this by producing glucose from fatty acids and amino acids from the liver. Typically, when blood glucose levels rise, the pancreas releases insulin to draw glucose from the blood into the body for energy. However, cortisol counteracts insulin so hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) ensues. Routine high blood sugars lead to chronic inflammation, among other serious health problems. Cortisol also shuts down non-essential processes, including those found in the digestive system, reproductive system, the immune system, and countless others.

The connection between chronic stress and inflammation² is particularly problematic for autoimmunity sufferers, because inflammation can increase severity of symptoms across the board. Cortisol is required for healing wounds and fighting infections, and acute stress triggers enhanced immune functioning. However, more of a good thing isn’t necessarily better. Chronic release of cortisol can wreak all kinds of havoc on our health, leading to a depressed immune system, microbial imbalances, hormone imbalances, digestion problems, poor sleep quality, and inflammation in the joints and in the mucosal lining of our digestive tract (think leaky gut).

Well, NOW I’m stressed! What can I do?

If you suffer from autoimmune disease or if you are trying to prevent the onset of autoimmune disease, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of shifting your autonomic system to a dominant parasympathetic state. If we can’t engage our parasympathetic nervous system, then our body doesn’t get the chance to heal. Juggling the various challenges of autoimmune disease in addition to the other demands on your day can quickly turn into a 24/7 cortisol-fest!

Remember: the parasympathetic state is where our body gets a chance to “rest and digest.” We actually need to be in this state for healing to take place. If we are busting our butt making dietary changes and clearing heavy metals out of our body, and working to heal the gut, but we are anxious, stressed, and never in a place of rest, our bodies struggle to heal. Consider the “digest” function of this state too. If we are making dietary changes and trying to optimize food absorption and function, much of our effort is wasted if we are not digesting well.

While stress has real physiological symptoms, there is much we can do to reduce it. It all starts with our thoughts and attitudes.

1. Practice soul-centered self-care.

One of the first things I do with my health coaching clients is talk about prioritizing soul-centered self-care , which most often promotes a parasympathetic state. Many of my clients are surprised to learn that doing the things they like most—like reading, going for a walk, spending a few hours or a whole day with no agenda—are actively contributing to good health! Too often we feel guilty or indulgent when we do what we like because it doesn’t feel productive enough. I have one client who has been struggling with Hashimotos Thyroiditis and she had been very focused on her diet but still wasn’t experiencing noticeable results. We shifted her focus onto stress management and setting healthy boundaries at work, and she’s seen almost immediate results: she is sleeping better, has more energy, and she’s noticed that she feels increased emotional stability.

Self-care doesn’t have to be prescriptive. I’m not going to tell you to go on a yoga retreat or that you have to start a gratitude journal. Ditch the “shoulds” and do what really fills you up! Keep an eye out for behaviors that stray into numbing territory, though—the idea is to be present, engaged, and relaxed while doing things you like, not to totally check out like you might with a wine (or TV) binge.

2. Think like a Navy SEAL.

A second strategy is to develop awareness of when our body may be having a stress response and to actively work to bring things back into alignment. How does it feel when you get stressed out? Do you get clammy hands, a tightening in your chest, an upset stomach? Make a mental note of these feelings and train yourself to pause when you feel them. Navy SEALs train themselves to respond to this kind of stress arousal and to combat it with tactical breathing . It’s a quick, simple way to engage the parasympathetic nervous system. Mindfulness practices help us develop greater body awareness. Headspace is a great app for new and seasoned meditators that I recommend to help build the skill of body and thought awareness.

3. Ask yourself: Is this worth disease?

These days, when I notice myself getting stressed out, I ask myself if the stress is worth suffering disease for. In the big picture of my life, my day-to-day problems, stressors, and anxieties are most often not worth a negative impact on my health. I usually end up shifting my agenda or my expectations, and my stress has no habitat in which to live. Poof! It’s gone. And sometimes we just have stress that we continue to struggle with because life can be hard and not make sense. 4-7-8 breathing helps me shift my breath in a way that I can immediately get out of the depths of my sympathetic whirlwind and slow down to a more rational and responsive state.

I’ve dealt with chronic adverse health effects, and it’s not fun! I find that the more I invest in reducing stress, the better my health, and the more joy and freedom I have in daily life. Like any good habit, it builds its own momentum.

What are your best tips for stress reduction in daily life? Have you noticed a connection between stress and autoimmune disease? Share in the comments!

'Luster' Is Messy, Beautiful, and Complicated

Our readers said Raven Leilani's sentences are poetry.

Ask anybody who has read Raven Leilani's debut novel, Luster, and they'll tell you that the book is impossible to describe. Impossible not in a bad way&mdashimpossible in a messy, complicated, emotional way that one can only understand after the book is finished. The #ReadWithMC community agreed that they initially thought Luster would center on Edie, a young Black artist, and her relationship with Eric, an older white digital archivist, but it's so much more than that. In fact, most of the book focuses on the relationship between Edie and Eric's wife, Rebecca, with each sentence precisely delving into what it means to be young and lonely and beautiful and Black.

While this book does not come with a fairytale ending&mdashit isn't even remotely happy at all, if we're being honest&mdashit's certainly one that will make you think: about life, about the characters, about yourself. Readers found that they can relate to Edie's struggles throughout the novel, whether it's coming to terms with their sexual identity, dealing with racial trauma, or grappling with death. There's more, but we won't spoil anything for you.

If you're finding yourself in the pandemic feels, order Luster (it lives up to the hype!), and see exactly what #ReadWithMC loved about the novel, below.

"I have finally, finally read Luster, a debut novel that I was extremely excited about, and can now confirm that you should read it too.

Phew, Leilani can write. These sentences are sharp and pointed. You can tell that everything she writes has been considered. I watched an event hosted by Harvard Bookstore where Leilani was in conversation with Brit Bennett to discuss Luster. Leilani talked about how she likes to write at the sentence level and kind of subvert expectations, and I think she definitely achieves that in this book.

Edie&rsquos struggles reminded me of my own experiences of being young and broke in NYC. I love novels set in NYC because I love seeing this city I call home through other people&rsquos eyes. There&rsquos a dark humor in this book that provides small pockets of escape from the sadness and loneliness of Edie&rsquos life.

There&rsquos so much packed into this short novel. There's a lot of talk about the body and both the grotesqueness and beauty of it. Edie is an artist, and so is Leilani, and I love the way she wrote about art: the struggle of having something inside that you want to express, but not being able to capture it adequately in your art.

Leilani writes about being young and trying to find your calling, about surviving in this city that chews people up and spits them out, about navigating the world as a young Black woman. The ending really gripped me as well. As I was reading the last 20 pages or so, I felt my insides squeeze painfully with understanding. Luster is such a memorable debut and I can&rsquot wait to see what Leilani writes next." [email protected]

"I have just finished this book: Luster by @raven_leilani. It is so far removed from the usual genre I choose, but I fell in love with Edie for all her lust, flaws, and messiness instantly.

For me, this felt like a fast-paced book with Edie always teetering on the edge, never feeling loved, never feeling secure or as if she belongs. It's a very raw, spirited, smart, witty, and sad novel, with great use of prose. Looking at race, class, gender, and sexuality in a caustic and brutal way. A must read book of 2020." [email protected]_m

"Run-on sentences, paragraphs extending over pages, unfiltered raw thoughts&mdashLuster is written in a stream of consciousness style that you lose yourself in, almost flowing like a poem. This book is uncomfortable at one point and sparkingly humorous the next. It's introspective yet glosses over aspects that I, if I was the main character, would have wanted to explore. After reading a section, I would often find myself sitting back and taking a moment to think.

Twenty-something Edie is a struggling young Black woman in New York City who finds herself participating in an open marriage and then suddenly living in the couple's suburban New Jersey home after becoming unemployed. Oh, and Edie may be the only Black woman the couple's adopted Black adolescent daughter knows.

Sex is present but is an undercurrent, not the driving force I expected it to be when learning the plot involved an open marriage. Luster is about being lost, and struggling to find yourself in a world where you don't squarely fit. Racial themes are present as well, because that just comes with being a Black person in America.

They say people come into your life for a reason, and in Luster, all parties involved clearly need each other&mdashif only for a moment." [email protected]

"Luster was AMAZING&mdashI&rsquom typically a slow reader, but I couldn&rsquot put it down. I finished reading it in a couple days." [email protected]

"I seriously want to recommend Luster to everyone. It's hard to say that I loved this book, or even that I enjoyed it. But this book made me feel, and isn't that all that us readers are striving for when we dive between the pages?

Luster is a story about survival. What it means to survive as a young Black woman in NYC. What it means to survive when you hold intergenerational trauma, resilience, and survival in your very bones. It's also a story about finding yourself. The words 'coming-of-age novel' are too bland, too blase, too white for what Edie's experience is in Luster. This book is gritty. It is sarcastic. The banter and internal monologue are utterly hilarious. But Luster is also extremely sad, exhausting, and disheartening the way that racism is extremely sad, exhausting, and disheartening.

'There is no fluffy alternative word for what I am trying to convey, no way to effectively explain violations that are not overt. It is a rhetorical hellscape. A casual reduction so frequent it is mundane. Almost too mundane for the deployment of the R work, as with a certain sect of Good White Person the accusation overshadows the act.'

Go buy this book. Get it from the library. Listen to it. Whatever your medium, pick up this book and meet Edie." [email protected]

"Luster was a fantastically written debut novel. It was juicy! From the first chapter I was shook with the whole situation of dating a married man who was in an open relationship. The relationship got increasingly more complicated as the novel progressed with multiple layers of loneliness intertwined. I enjoyed her navigating of race, sexual relationships, and finding your passion in life. Great choice to add to your TBR." [email protected]

"First and foremost this review is WAY overdue. Secondly, not enough people are talking about this book.

I naturally gravitate towards novels about young Black women, especially ones that honestly depict the complexities we face. Luster follows the story of twenty-something Edie, who is having a rough go of things. She&rsquos recently unemployed, homeless, is in DEEP with Eric (a man whose wife has agreed to an open marriage, but on her terms) and is trying to believe in her art again. I loved this book for many reasons, but I think Leilani&rsquos exploration of what it means to be young right now is what stuck with me the most.

Recently, I&rsquove been talking to various friends about how no one really tells you about your twenties being a difficult life stage to navigate. Not to say it can&rsquot be exciting or fun, but it&rsquos a time filled with significant self-reflection, growth (or lack there of), and tough lessons, and I think this novel captures that sentiment beautifully. Raven Leilani gives us an impressive debut with sharp and unflinching writing, making it an enthralling read you should definitely pick up." [email protected]__and_busy

"Luster: the glow of light from within, an inner beauty (Merriam-Webster).

In the tradition of recent books such as Writers & Lovers by Lily King and Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan, Raven Leilani&rsquos debut novel Luster joins the ranks of stories featuring a young woman trying to pursue an artistic lifestyle and find meaning all while struggling with poverty and making horrible choices centered around men.

Edie is a Black woman who works in publishing and has a crappy apartment in Bushwick populated by mice and roaches, which she shares with an indifferent roommate. She&rsquos an artist, but has been stalled in creating her art for several years. She gets in trouble for using her work computer inappropriately and has messy sexual hookups.

She meets Eric online. He&rsquos a married man in an open marriage and Edie becomes entangled with him. Somehow Eric&rsquos wife, Rebecca, decides to let Edie live with them when she inevitably loses her job. Edie takes up residence in the guest room and becomes a 'trusty spirit guide' to Akila, their Black daughter, all while navigating a relationship with Eric within the household.

The novel reads almost like stream of consciousness journal entries, as we see the world primarily through Edie&rsquos lens and have little dialogue and interaction with the other characters independently. It&rsquos clear that Edie is in pain, both emotionally and physically, and Edie gives voice to it in a raw and beautiful way with sharp, relentless commentary that is at times unsettling and disturbing, but I think that&rsquos the point. Honestly, as the story unfolds, I am much more troubled by the exploitative way that both Eric and Rebecca interact with Edie&mdashand Eric&rsquos overt violence&mdashthan I am by anything else.

The novel acknowledges the violence of the world we&mdashand Edie&mdashinhabit. There are plenty of trigger warnings: racism, police brutality, gun violence, physical abuse, abortion, miscarriage, drug addiction, etc. Edie is bearing witness to these injustices and surviving. One can&rsquot help but root for her and hope the world benefits from her art and her 'luster.' Raven Leilani emerges as a bold new voice in fiction." [email protected]_bookreview

"'Of course, the context of my childhood&mdashthe boy bands, the Lunchables, the impeachment of Bill Clinton&mdashonly emphasizes our generational gap.'

This book was so unexpected! It's sharp, uncomfortable, and unsettling. I can't say I enjoyed the ride, but it was such a fresh experience of reading. It's brutally honest and so smart in its writing&mdashwhat a stellar debut! It packs a punch in a slim volume&mdashthere's not many wasted passages in this book. It's a strong character study and one that makes me glad I'm past the 20s phase of my life. Can't wait to read more by Raven Leilani in the future!" [email protected]

"Spending her days in a roach-infested apartment in Bushwick, Edie is apathetic to life after only 23 years. Understimulated and underpaided by her job at a children's imprint, she leans into promiscuous&mdashand destructive&mdashencounters to pass the time. She knows her life could be different, but she's been conditioned to live in this state of indifferent paralysis.

Edie begins an affair with a married man, Eric, 23 years her senior with his wife's knowing consent. And if this book was simply about the turbulent relationship with this mediocre man, I'd say it wasn't worth the hype. Luckily, Leilani's MC becomes involved in the daily lives of Eric's wife, Rebecca, and their adoptive daughter, Akila, and it's in these relationships that this book truly delivers.

Tackling everything from overt racism and excessive police force to poverty, abuse, family dynamics, suicidal ideation, and depression, this compressed chronicle of Edie's life was near impossible to put down. I devoured Leilani's unflinching prose in a mere two-sittings, and while I know this book won't work for everyone, I'm certain it will spark a conversation or two.

This book is messy, chaotic, intelligent, and real. Its modern setting and story felt like nothing and everything all at the same time. I wish I had read it slower because I'm certain there was poetry lost in my speed reading." [email protected]

"This book is a work of art Leilani&rsquos prose poetry. She masterfully weaves depth and matter out of vivid, precise, incessant [often darkly funny] observations of the minutiae of her characters&rsquo lives their mannerisms and quiet habits their tenuous, uncomfortable moments.

I went into Luster expecting gorgeous writing and also to feel uncomfortable reading it , so in certain ways, this book delivered what I expected. The direction of the plot and the character development, however, took me a little by surprise. I anticipated to see more from the romantic/sexual plot line that we&rsquore thrown into in the book&rsquos first pages, but ultimately found Luster to center less around that relationship, and more around these two very different women, alone-together&mdashdistinct, but moving in proximity to one another in a shared household orbiting on paths that come close but never quite connect each searching for meaning and feeling in their respective lives. Womanhood, and perhaps also motherhood, in certain ways, were the center of this book for me, wrapped up in struggle and longing. Undercurrents of race and culture run through the book as well&mdashpervasive in the way they pervade life&mdashand Leilani writes exquisitely around them, so that they are constant and vivid without the book ever being 'about' them directly.

If this review feels vague and abstract, it&rsquos because there is an ineffable quality about Luster that makes it hard to pin down. It is not a story you read, so much as an experience you soak in gradually&mdashviscerally. This is definitely a book I feel I&rsquoll need to process at length, and hopefully also discuss with fellow readers." [email protected]_jacobs_reads

"I devoured Luster by Raven Leilani in two sittings&mdashI loved it! It had everything I love&mdashexpertly-crafted characters, a unique narration style, and a character-driven story. Check. Check. Check.

The characters were so well-executed and I was invested in Edie from the first page. The prose. I loved the beautiful and heart-wrenching prose and for this to be a debut. wow. This is not a happy, fairytale ending type of novel. It is a morose, but tender novel with some dark wit included. Luster hit me in the feels with how Edie deals with racism from microagressions to police brutality. If you enjoy novels with themes like the psychology of sexuality, coming of age, and challenging modern relationships, you&rsquoll enjoy Luster." [email protected]

"This book was so! Anticipated! I was tracking the package like a madwoman. Once it landed on that doorstep, I devoured it.

You know those people that the universe just does not agree with? Like their specific concoction of decisions and personality traits seem doomed? Upon first glance, the main character Edie seems that way. She doesn't have her life 'together' in a typical sense, but the picture that the *DEBUT* author, Raven Leilani, painted of her was so stunning, emotional, tender, genuine&mdashI couldn&rsquot put it down.

To keep a very dynamic, complicated situation simple in this Instagram caption, Edie starts dating a white man in an open marriage, Eric. In a bizarre turn of events, she meets his wife, Rebecca, and&mdashwait for it&mdashmoves into their home along with their adopted Black daughter, Akila&mdashan unwilling bond results as two Black girls in this white household and neighborhood. From there, as you can imagine (and beyond, trust me), there are so many awkward fumbles. All the while, we learn of Edie&rsquos past and her deceased parents in such an effortless way that gives us helpful context.

The relationship between Edie and Rebecca took center stage for me&mdashit was much more fascinating than the 'love story' with Eric, who kinda sucked. There were subtle signs of both acceptance and resentment between the two women&mdasha very delicate, awkward dance.

There&rsquos no cuteness, no real outward vulnerability, very little letting down of the guards in this book. But, everything felt very real, and that&rsquos what I loved the most. The circumstances were undoubtedly weird, but the human emotions&mdashoften completely unexpressed&mdashcame through in every word.

The writing in this book was delicious. Lelani has an insanely impressive talent for combining words. She wrote really long sentences that were sometimes stressful (in a good way). Also, GREAT vocabulary&mdashhoping I retained some words through osmosis. Overall, her way of observing and describing the situation at hand&mdashwhether that&rsquos Edie&rsquos past sexcapades or bodily functions or slim bank account or innermost desires and insecurities&mdashwas impeccable and vigilant, and something you have to witness for yourself." [email protected]___up

"This is a unique review. Did I 'enjoy' reading it? No. Did I read it in one sitting because I couldn't put it down? Yes.

Luster is not my usual book. The style of writing and the characters' behavior created a dynamic where I didn't feel connected to any of them. That worked for the story by causing me to feel their isolation. This is a story of people lacking a connection with anyone and acting in various ways because of that

Edie is a 23-year-old black woman living in Bushwick in an awful apartment, working at a low-paying job, with no friends and no family. Her dreams of a career in art have stalled and she goes through life in a state of disappointment. She meets Eric online and they start dating.

Eric is a 46-year-old white man who lives in the suburbs of New Jersey with his wife and preteen adopted black daughter, Akila. Eric and his wife have an open marriage with strict rules. Edie and Eric&rsquos relationship moves slowly until she finds herself without a job or a place to live and Rebecca invites her to move in. Soon, Edie is living in their house, trying to bond with Akila and building a fragile friendship with Rebecca.

I expected this book to focus on the relationship between Edie and Eric, but it was about so much more than that. In fact, that element really isn't the main focus. Edie is struggling to find her place in the world, to figure out what she wants to do with her life and who she really is. Eric, Rebecca and Akila all play a part in Edie's self-discovery even as they each struggle with their own lives devoid of strong connections with others. It's as if the four of them are all orbiting the same center but their paths connect and diverge repeatedly.

Luster is a deep, thought-provoking book that would be a phenomenal book club book. The discussion topics are endless and the characters lend themselves to analysis. I felt unsettled when I finished it because the characters seemed so sad and alone to me. It's a powerful book that explores race, sexuality, age, and socioeconomic issues in the context of a group of people longing for something or someone to help them find peace and fulfillment on their path through life." [email protected]

"'Because she is thirteen, and I remember how it felt from the inside. I remember what I thought I knew about people, and the pride I took in being alone. But from the outside, the loneliness is palpable, and I think, She is too young.'

Luster is one of those books I could offer a synopsis for, but it wouldn&rsquot encapsulate the full range of emotions this story has to offer readers. Raven Leilani was able to capture so many fluid moments in her story about Edie, a young Black woman in her early 20s, which could leave some with a feeling of a hangover once finishing. I certainly felt that. I loved the first half of the book, but something struck a nerve in the second half and I was unable to pull my thoughts together.

There are many things within this novel that are hard to swallow and there isn&rsquot much time to reflect with how quickly things take place. But Edie&rsquos story is one of trauma after trauma. It&rsquos shocking not only because we as readers witness that trauma, but she&rsquos also so young to have experienced so much already.

It&rsquos not solely her actions, it&rsquos the actions of others that use and manipulate her. The white married couple she&rsquos suddenly involved with exploit her and treat her less than. Edie is young and free to make mistakes, but this couple morphs those blunders into scarring events. Yet Edie endures it all. But the point isn&rsquot whether Edie could overcome her trauma, it&rsquos that she shouldn&rsquot have all of this to endure.

There is much to reflect on especially with the treatment of Black lives in this book and in the real world. I thank Leilani for Edie&rsquos story and the beautiful prose in which it was shared." [email protected]

Missed out on our August book club pick? In September, we're reading Alyssa Cole's thriller, When No One Is Watching. Read an exclusive excerpt from the book here.

Real makeovers need to happen on the inside

“I began receiving the kind of attention and admiration from the outside world that I had never received before,” says Shenoy. “I relished all the adulation that I was receiving, but there was a big part of me that was absolutely terrified about losing my newfound sense of power. Becoming physically attractive, based on social norms, changed my world on the outside, but it did not change an iota about me on the inside. I was still insecure and needy of people’s approval when it came to my physical appearance.”

The insecurity developed into a full-blown “emotional breakdown” when Shenoy was in her mid-20s. “I [then] realized that I needed to shift some beliefs when it came to my self-image and my own capabilities,” she says.

This is when the real work — the work of feeling beautiful, began. Shenoy threw herself into seminars, workshops and sessions with coaches and counselors until she was “able to heal past wounds, regain my confidence and use my story and skills to help other girls and women out there who are suffering from the same struggles.”

Exercise to Stimulate Your Appetite

You may think exercise is counter productive when you're struggling with your appetite and weight, but it may help. The American Cancer Society suggests starting off slowly and adding more physical activity as your stamina improves and your body gets stronger. You don't have to join an exercise class or run a marathon to get the appetite benefits. You may find that a 10- to 20-minute walk around your neighborhood once or twice a day boosts your appetite.

In addition to being one of the ways to increase appetite, exercise also offers other health benefits. MedlinePlus says that exercise can lift your mood, help you sleep better and strengthen both your bones and muscles.

I am Black. This is what I Need (& what I Don’t) from White Allies.

To find the balance between blind rage and constructive communication. To understand why I feel the need to find that balance at all.

I’m a Black Puerto Rican woman. I could write a book full of all the ways—big and small—that racism and bigotry and prejudice have become constant companions in my life. All the ways they have whispered, like the wind, at the back of my neck. All the ways they have slammed into my heart, like a bull let loose from its pen.

I’m never shocked when another Black man, woman, or child is killed. I’m devastated and angry and oftentimes hopeless—but never shocked. Again, this isn’t new to me.

I’ve spent my life having conversations about race. I’ve spent my life being made to feel different and less than, being made to feel like I needed to work harder and faster and longer just to belong. I’ve spent my life trying to find my voice in a country and world that constantly tells me that my voice, my experience, my story doesn’t matter and shouldn’t even exist.

And because I’m mixed, I’ve also spent my life realizing how privileged I am to exist in a world that sees me as brown, instead of Black. I have always known—because my parents and my community and the people and tools I chose to surround myself with taught me—that my lighter skin, my straighter hair, my ethnically ambiguous features are part of what have kept me safer than my Black family members, friends, partners, and co-workers.

This fact makes me sick and sad and broken in ways that I haven’t found the words for, but again, I am not shocked.

What I am shocked about is how fervently all the white allies showed up on social media this week. And how their response to George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter protests sent me deeper into the rage I didn’t think could get worse.

I want to talk to these allies, this group of people who have decided (finally) to show up in a movement that has been part of the fabric of this country for hundreds of years. I want to talk to my friends, my co-workers, my acquaintances.

What I need to say is meant to make you uncomfortable. Believe me, that’s 100 percent the point.

I see the Black Lives Matter memes you posted, the Martin Luther King Jr. quotes, the diatribes about how you were blind before but now you see.

I see you fill my newsfeed with posts about your feelings, how you can’t imagine and you don’t know what to say and you’re so terribly heartbroken and you stand with us always (always?).

I see your words meant to “check” white people, as a group, for being complicit when it comes to institutionalized, systemic racism.

But have you checked yourself this week—or ever?

Have you unpacked all your racist and racially biased views and opinions and feelings and actions and microaggressions?

Have you done that quietly and privately, in your own space, without feeling the need to post it on Instagram or Facebook?

I see you talk about “doing the work,” but do you know what doing the work means?

If, for you, it’s just performing on social media for likes or hearts or acceptance or to feel like you belong or to have others congratulate you for saying something powerful or important or so necessary right now, then you are not interested in creating change—you’re interested in creating content.

Yes, participating in protests, reading books and watching videos by Black activists, donating to racial justice organizations, supporting Black businesses, and widening your lens by following Black and brown activists on social media are vital, actionable steps that allies can and should take.

But what matters even more is what my sister calls “sitting in the yuck.”

This movement is not about you, as white allies, as white people…but your ability to truly show up as an ally is absolutely about you. It starts with asking the questions you’ve been too scared or uninterested or willfully ignorant to ask. The questions that make your skin crawl. The questions that make you want to hide. The questions that push you to confront how you were raised and how you have chosen to show up in the world until this week or this month or this year.

The questions that will lead to answers that your heart and your head and your ego are not prepared to hear.

Why haven’t you spoken up about racism until now or a year ago or four years ago?
What has kept you silent for so long about the systemic racism that has plagued our country for hundreds of years?

As a woman of color, I’m tired of the hashtags and overused quotes and cookie-cutter responses that are being highlighted by white allies on my newsfeed and social media in general. What I really want to see from those who consider themselves allies is the hard, sad, awful truth.

Own your racist beliefs.
Own how you were taught to be racist.
Own that you’ve carried these ingrained beliefs with you into adulthood.

It’s not enough to just say, “I know I’ve benefited from white privilege.” Tell me how. And tell me how you’ve perpetuated white privilege and white supremacy and racism through both your action and your inaction.

Tell me about all the beliefs, conscious and unconscious, that make you racist.

Tell me who taught you these beliefs. Your grandma? Your dad? Your church? Your friends?

Tell me about the ways you practice or encourage white supremacy in your everyday lives.

Tell me how many times you said or wanted to say or sang along to the N-word.

Tell me about the times you’ve locked your car door or crossed the street to avoid a Black man.

Tell me how you don’t see color.

Tell me about all the times you ignored or laughed at or stayed silent about a racist comment or joke.

Tell me how many times you’ve said, “There’s only one race—the human race.”

Tell me all the times you thought, or said out loud, that someone was “playing the race card.”

Sit in your damn yuck and feel it all.

(And please note that these statements just barely scratch the surface of “doing the work.”)

Because before you can share anything genuine about your quest to become anti-racist, you must own how you’ve been racist in the past and the present. Own each opportunity when you failed to be better, when you stayed silent because racism wasn’t a “you” issue.

I appreciate that you see us, that you hear us, that you stand with us, now. But please see and hear yourself as well—the biases and prejudice, the divisive, avoidant beliefs and behaviors that have helped perpetuate the situation we are still working to tear down today.

Stay in the yuck. Feel each painful, awful, raw moment. Bring your partner, your children, your family and friends along for the journey. Have the difficult, uncomfortable, cringe-inducing conversations. Sink deep into all of it and realize that this is just the beginning. So if you have no intention of sticking around after the protests quiet down or the hashtags stop trending or your followers and friends start posting about the next big issue or scandal, then quit now and keep on moving.

If you’re here for the long haul, remember that this is about speaking up, while knowing your place. If you feel compelled to share pieces of the work you’re doing, the books you’re reading, and the videos you’re watching that are contributing to your experience, do it.

But please examine your intent and use your posts to be of benefit—not to get likes or applause or engage in virtue signaling. If you’re posting a video from a Black activist, dig into the yuck and tell your friends, your family, your followers why this video moved you, personally. What did it bring up about your racist beliefs? What did it help you to realize that you need to change about yourself or your behaviors? What did it show you about your yuck?

Be honest. Be specific. Be open to being corrected and taught (but do not rely on Black people to teach you).

And if you can’t answer these questions, take that as a sign that you shouldn’t be posting. That you should go back and sit in the yuck a bit longer. That way, the next time you go to share that Angela Davis quote about being anti-racist, it won’t just be for likes.

This is how you show that you’re here for the movement and not the moment.

Here’s the list of foods you’ll be waving good-bye to for 1 month.

1. Gluten

When it comes to gluten – your bod pod doesn’t need it. It’s super inflammatory and isn’t helping you AT ALL. Get it the heck outaaaaa your kitchen. Gluten can trigger arthritis-like joint pain, digestive and gut issues, trigger autoimmune diseases and a handful of other issues that will keep you looking and feeling — OLD. Now, who wants to look old? All the recipes on my website are gluten-free so feel free to browse my recipes for healthy meal and snack ideas. Check out my gluten-free How To for more info.

2. Dairy

Again – you don’t need it. It’s creating mucus in your body and if you are lactose intolerant – dairy is toxic to you so toss it out of your fridge because you don’t need it. Again, all the recipes on my website are dairy-free so feel free to browse my recipes for healthy meal and snack ideas. Check out my dairy-free How To for more info.

3. Soy

Soy has caused way too many issues in myself and my clients as well as many of the MDs I work with who take their patients completely off of soy. Don’t eat it. It’s one of the top GMO foods – which will inflame your bod in no time! No need for edamame, soy milk, cheese, or anything else containing soy — including tamari, teas, and hidden forms of soy on food labels that you’ve gotta look at super close. Just leave it behind and out of your shopping cart you don’t need it! Again, all the recipes on my website are soy-free so feel free to browse my recipes for healthy meal and snack ideas. Check out my soy-free How To for more info.

4. Canola Oil, Soybean Oil, Seed Oils

These oils have high ratios of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids. They’re SO processed — which means they’re refined, bleached, etc., before they make it onto your plate and into your body. Plus, these oils go rancid very quickly, which makes them much more toxic to your body. Yucky!

Since our Western diet is saturated with seed oils used in all restaurants, etc., we’re consuming 20x as much omega 6s as our ancestors. Yikes! Talk about inflammation. This is terrible for our health because the fatty acids that we NEED to fight our inflammation are found in omega 3s (these good fatty acids are found in wild salmon, flaxseeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds). So, when you wonder why your friend is looking 10x older than she really is — guess what? She’s probably eating out a lot, not eating the right oils and fats – and that is triggering inflammation, weight gain and aging. Yuck. This is why our country is experiencing an aging epidemic that is linked to autoimmune disease, cancer, diabetes, inflammation, cardiovascular disease and MUCH more.

Eat coconut oil, olive oil and avocado oil their healthy fats that will nourish your body and keep you satisfied, full and will help you loose weight. Coconut oil will also help heal your gut and thyroid — it’s helped me tremendously! The nuts and seeds mentioned above are also great choices! Again, all the recipes on my website are refined seed oil-free so feel free to browse my recipes for healthy meal and snack ideas.

5. Table Salt

Swap out your refined white table salt for pint Himalayan salt or sea salt. Refined table salt is SOOOO inflammatory so you’ll want to toss the refined stuff and add in the good sea salt! Check out my article on salt for more info.

6. Alcohol

This is a super toxic and inflammatory substance that you don’t need. Toss the alcohol and add in sparkling water, tea, fresh green juices or kombucha.

7. Sugar

Ahhh, last but not least is sugar. We all grew up on it and even though you’re not eating a candy bar everyday – you’re still probably eating a TON of sugar that you have no idea about. It’s quite addictive but I’ll be honest – if you want to feel better fast – get this the HECK outaaaaa your life. It’s one of the easiest and quickest ways to make yourself look and feel old. Trust me. Sugar causes your body to pump more insulin — making your blood sugar soar — leading to insulin resistance that causes belly fat, diabetes and high blood pressure. Sugar is a huge cause of inflammation and you might not know that inflammation affects each and EVERY cell in your entire body. Inflammation will surely make your skin wrinkly, old, dull and blotchy. Not very pretty, huh? Fructose is another form of sugar that’s linked to bad cholesterol, liver damage, cancer and drastic shifts in your collagen (in your skin) that causes wrinkles. And who wants wrinkles? Not me!

Sugar increases oxidative stress which accelerates aging. Yuck! What is oxidative stress? It’s when your cells are damaged from free radicals). Side note: this is why we eat antioxidants because they KILL off those awful free radicals! Most of the recipes on my website are refined sugar-free so feel free to browse my recipes for healthy meal and snack ideas. Check out my sugar-free How To for more info.

Don’t be overwhelmed with removing these foods- there is plenty to eat without touching any of these seven toxic foods. If you fill yourself up with healthy fats (avocado oil, guacamole, avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, almonds, Brazil nuts, pecans, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, etc.), lean proteins (beans, legumes, hummus, raw nuts and seeds, organic poultry, organic eggs or grass-fed meats, wild caught seafood), and fruits and veggies which gives you tons of fiber (all fruits — especially berries and veggies), then you’ve already got your shopping list started and you’re on your way!

Trust me, you’ll feel recharged and rejuvenated when this month is over. How do I know? Because I’ve done this and I eat like this every single day — and I have eaten like this EVERY day for the past decade. Was it hard at first? A little bit – but once I got the hang of the foods I loved – it was super easy.

When you remove toxins from your body and more specifically your cells — those cells will be so happy and their mitochondria will be supercharged with energy – leaving you feeling fabulous, looking younger and smiling a whole lot more.

Now, what are you waiting for? Get yourself to the farmers market and ditch these toxic seven foods to start your DETOX today.

Keep me posted and let me know how you’re all doing. I love hearing from you!

5 helpful ways to cope when you&aposre "feeling fat"

1. Stop trying to lose weight. I mean it…

It may sound counterintuitive but hear me out. It’s the only way.

You’ve spent your whole life trying to lose weight, right? And be honest… if any of those approaches really worked, would you really be reading this article?

Here’s what we need to realise.

Often, trying to lose weight prevents you from losing weight and keeping it off.

To cut a very long story short, after more than a decade of unsuccessfully dieting myself into feeling fat, I finally lost 20kg over four years.

However, I didn’t do this through deprivation or macro counting.

Instead - for the first time ever - I made health, not weight loss, my goal. I stopped telling myself: “You shouldn’t eat that” and gave myself full permission around food. And you know what? Once I knew and fully trusted that I could eat anything I wanted - anytime I wanted - food became a choice, again.

When I stopped trying to control food, food stopped controlling me. My weight stopped being a problem in my life.

𠇋ut I still want to lose weight?”

�ling fat’ sucks. The urge to diet is so strong, especially in a society that is constantly telling you to weigh less.

But if you continue to invest in weight loss goals that jeopardise your health, you’ll continue to stay stuck struggling with your weight, yo-yo dieting and �ling fat’. After all, isn’t the definition of insanity trying the same thing and expecting a different outcome?

2. Invest in a healthier relationship with food

Lie in bed at night feeling guilty for ‘messing up’ yet again? Constantly starting from scratch every Monday?

These are all clues that you need a much healthier relationship with food.

It’s not a quick fix. But it’s worth doing.

3. Stick within the 𠆎njoyment Zone’

Forget the �t burn’ or ‘heart rate’ zone. The most important thing when it comes to health is to find (and stay) within the enjoyment zone.

Do you really enjoy that HIIT class or are you there because you feel you ‘should’? Unless it sparks joy, ditch it like that insecure and clingy bff from high school.

Hate eating sad salads? Of course you do. You’re too smart for boring bowls! Pro tip: If you don’t find healthy food that truly feels enjoyable, then health will never come naturally, and �ling fat’ may be hard to shake.

4. Marie Kondo your wardrobe

First, get undies that actually fit. I recommend at least a size or two up from what you think you need so there is absolutely no pulling or cutting into your lovely, juicy bits.

Then, do a large cull. If you need to buy new clothes in a larger size, do it. Your weight is not meant to stay the same for your entire life. Let go of the weight you think you’re meant to be (including your high school weight or your wedding weight) and accept your weight is evolving - just like you.

5. It’s OK if you don’t love your body

Geez. Loving your body in a world that is constantly telling you to weigh less is damn exhausting stuff, don’t you think? It’s perfectly normal then (though I wish it wasn’t) to have days where you feel like you’re the wrong weight.

You don’t have to love your body. You really don’t.

However, your body is worthy of respect regardless of how it looks. Simply treat it with respect and gratitude. Body acceptance is a choice.

The fact is you will never have a body that looks perfect from every angle. And that’s totally OK.

What’s not OK is wasting your life hating on your lovely self when you already have a perfectly lovely body.

Allow �ling fat’ to be a temporary feeling and then choose to take a new approach.

Lyndi Cohen is a dietitian and best-selling author of The Nude Nutritionist book. Her program Keep It Real can help you stop binge and emotional eating. You can follow Lyndi on Instagram @nude_nutritonist.

19. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This is a book about a young girl&rsquos growing up, which passes through adventures, fun, and relationships with peers. She has many things to learn about, including life&rsquos unfairness to kids, weak people, or people with a different skin color. As a result, we can see that kindness, sympathy and mutual support do not depend on your color of skin, your social status, or public opinion. It all depends on a man&rsquos soul.

12 Best Weight Loss Books to Read in 2021, According to Dietitians

Curling up with 200+ pages on how to lose weight is nowhere near as fun as devouring the latest Jane Harper thriller. So if you&rsquore going to invest the time, you want to make sure you&rsquore getting a plan that&rsquos scientifically sound and sustainable, not a quick fix. Boom, here you go! Ahead, you&rsquoll find a list of books that top registered dietitians actually recommend to patients (in many cases, that&rsquos because they wrote them!). These plant-based cookbooks, thoughtful meal plans, and deep dives into the world&rsquos healthiest people have that secret sauce: They&rsquore informative and entertaining.

Yes, first up, something from us! While a traditional ketogenic diet can help you lose weight, the pile of bacon and dairy touted in many popular recipes are full of saturated fats that can do a number on your overall health. Enter Healthy Keto, a book we designed with the guidance of Rachel Lustgarden, R.D., C.D.N. (a member of our Medical Review Board) to help you create high-fat, low-carb meals that are full of healthy fats, nutrient-rich fruits and veggies, and lean proteins. You&rsquoll get a breakdown of what keto is all about (and how to make it work for you), 75 insanely delicious recipes that work for the whole family, and tricks straight from our test kitchen.

We&rsquore biased because we helped write this book too, but author Sarah Mirkin, R.D.N., says it&rsquos a great resource for women over 40 who are looking to lose weight because it offers a delicious array of high-protein, high-fiber recipes that&rsquoll fill you up and keep cravings at bay. Unlike other diet books that focus on limiting calories and eating less, Mirkin actually wants you to eat more&mdashand more often.

&ldquoThe idea is to fuel your body evenly throughout the day to keep your energy high and feeling your best,&rdquo she says. Fill Your Plate comes with food lists and a 21-day meal plan filled with quick and easy breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes and healthy snack ideas. &ldquoThis plan encourages you to lose the diet mentality and focus on eating to feel great instead,&rdquo says Mirkin. &ldquoAs a result, weight loss will come naturally.&rdquo

With countless diets to choose from, it&rsquos hard to separate science from the noise. Enter: Dressing on the Side. Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D., debunks common diet myths and breaks down how to identify &ldquofake&rdquo nutrition news. She also provides great advice on how to clear mental blocks that keep you from reaching your weight loss goals and improving your overall health.

Lisa Hayim, M.S., R.D., founder of The Well Necessities, loves this book because it addresses the sugar addiction myth. &ldquoI love how she helps people understand why we need natural sugars and carbohydrates and how they&rsquore essential to having a sustainable food plan versus a fad diet,&rdquo she says.

The Blue Zones Solution by Dan Buettner dives into the eating habits and lifestyles of people who live in Blue Zones&mdashthe places in the world where people live the longest, like Okinawa, Japan and Ikaria, Greece.

Whether you&rsquore trying to lose weight, improve your diet, or taking charge of your overall health, &ldquoBuettner provides the perfect combination of science and practical advice to improve wellbeing in the healthiest way,&rdquo says Abby Cannon, R.D., C.D.N., founder of Abby&rsquos Food Court. &ldquoHe includes nourishing recipes from each of the Blue Zones, like longevity stir fry, coconut mashed sweet potatoes, and fava bean and mint salad.&rdquo

You don&rsquot have to be pescatarian (a vegetarian who eats fish) to enjoy and reap the benefits of this healthy eating cookbook. Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., author of Read It Before You Eat It, recommends it to her clients because she says most people don&rsquot eat enough fatty fish.

The reason? They don&rsquot know how to buy or cook it. With three weeks of meal plans, including shopping and meal prep tips, &ldquothis book will help you discover how delicious fish can be by highlighting this source of protein that provides a powerhouse of nutrients,&rdquo says Taub-Dix.

The key to eating healthier and losing weight? Two words: Meal prep. &ldquoNo matter what dietary change you decide to make, if you don&rsquot plan ahead, it&rsquos unlikely you will be successful in the long run,&rdquo says Erin Palinski-Wade, R.D., C.D.E., author of the 2-Day Diabetes Diet.

She recommends this book to her clients since it includes a 6-week plan to make meal prep a habit that sticks. It also includes helpful info for storing and reheating food, as well as grocery shopping lists. &ldquoThat&rsquos why I love this book. It shows you how you can save time, money, and take the stress out of deciding what to eat every day,&rdquo Palinski-Wade says.

Amy Shapiro, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., founder of Real Nutrition, is a fan of this book: &ldquoThe author focuses a lot on vegetables and eating mostly plant-based, staying away from processed foods, and eating good-quality meats,&rdquo she says. &ldquoThese are all things I stand behind when I work with clients to create a healthy lifestyle.&rdquo

In the book, Dr. Hyman, who is the director of the Cleveland Clinic&rsquos Center for Functional Medicine, takes a magnifying glass to each food group. From whole grains to legumes to dairy, he debunks common diet misconceptions so you can make healthier choices.

Even non-vegans will appreciate the recipes in this cookbook. &ldquoIt benefits everyone to eat more plant-based foods on a daily basis, and this book could help you come up with delicious ideas to help make plants play a starring role in your diet,&rdquo says Taub-Dix. America&rsquos Test Kitchen rigorously tests every recipe so you know they&rsquoll be delicious and easy to make. From burgers to pasta to chocolate chip cookies, this cookbook is an essential for anyone looking to fill their plate with more nutrient-dense, waist-whittling vegan fare.

As the best diet of 2019, according to U.S. News & World Report, the Mediterranean diet is the number one weight loss plan recommended by many registered dietitians and doctors. Julene Stassou, M.S., R.D., turns the diet into a lifestyle with this 28-day kickstarter plan. Filled with chapters on meal prep, recipes, and charts to track your progress, The Mediterranean Diet Weight Loss Solution gives you the tools to turn the &ldquodiet&rdquo into a lifestyle. Stassou, who has created weight-loss plans for people with diabetes and heart disease, also has a culinary background, so you can trust that the recipes are not only delicious but good for you, too.

Our opinion: The Instant Pot is worth the hype. This cooking tool combines all the capabilities of a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, and yogurt maker into one revolutionary machine. Author Brittany Williams pays homage to the device in this cookbook with 125 delicious recipes, which are all made with&mdashyou guessed it&mdashthe Instant Pot. Williams, who struggled with her weight her whole life, chronicles how she discovered the Instant Pot in January 2017, and how it helped her lose a whopping 125 pounds.

For Once, ‘How Are You?’ Isn’t Actually Meaningless

In the future I imagine a lot of us will remember weird, small moments about the coronavirus pandemic: days we didn’t realize were turning points, tiny bright patches in the calm before the storm, random memories that don’t feel significant but somehow were. For me, I have a feeling I’m going to remember an interview I did for one of my first stories about the coronavirus. I got on the phone with an expert and, without thinking, greeted her, “Hey, how are you?” After a tiny pause we both, inexplicably, hysterically, dissolved into laughter.

It was back in early March, during that limbo when everything felt uncertain and weird. Some people were still Googling “How worried should I be about coronavirus?” while others had already begun stocking up on shelf-stable foods and canceling social engagements. Many of us were still cautiously going about our lives until we were told otherwise. Everything was simultaneously normal and very not, and in that moment, “How are you?”—and our unexpected reaction to the emotions that followed—underscored what a precarious balance it all was. Even though I’d felt life inching toward a turning point, it was in our laughter that I really felt it: Oh, things aren’t going to be the same for much longer.

Since then, the simple question “How are you?” has become more ludicrous by the day. Let’s face it, none of us is okay. In fact, many of us are very bad, thanks for asking. But weirdly it feels like we finally have the freedom to actually say that.

“How are you?” has always been a largely meaningless question. It’s small talk, interchangeable with any other greeting or pleasantry we share without thinking. Some people have always been grated by it, hating the unspoken social rules that dictate we say we’re good or, in a pinch, fine, even when we’re barely functioning. Because who’s really asking for an honest report of someone’s inner emotional landscape when they use the question to open a conversation?

Recently, though, the pandemic has shoved the question out of innocuous small talk into a place of self-awareness and care. More often than I can count, people have asked me, “How are you?” without thinking, only to pause, laugh or groan, and say something like, “Well, all things considered” or “I’m guessing bad?” or “I hope you’re doing as okay as you can be.” No matter why I’m talking to someone in the first place—whether it’s to interview them for a story or to get customer service about a missing package—the incongruous question always derails us, leaving us space to genuinely check in with each other, human to human.

There’s this common adage, along the lines of, “Be kind, you never know what someone is going through,” and frankly the stark out-of-placeness of “How are you?” reminds people of that sentiment every time they slip and ask what used to be such a banal question. Somehow, it’s accidentally making us all a little more thoughtful, one conversation at a time.

And on the selfish side of things, I’m so relieved that it’s now socially acceptable to answer the question honestly. Who among us is ever “fine” when they say they’re fine? It’s a small gift to our mental health to be relieved of the burden of pretending to be okay right now. This doesn’t mean we should feel obligated to unload all of our baggage—or feel entitled to honest answers from other people who may not want to share the many personal horrors they’re facing during the pandemic. But there’s something small in knowing that, in the very least, you can say, “I’m bad,” when someone asks you how you’re doing. No explanation required. Of course you’re bad. Who isn’t?

I’ve seen some people advocate for retiring “How are you?” now that the pandemic has shone a light on what a useless, obligatory pleasantry it’s always been. And sure, I get it. But personally, I don’t need the work of training myself to cut a reflexive phrase from my vocabulary when we’re already doing away with the unspoken pressure to perform okay-ness. Instead, I’d rather embrace the absurdity because it comes with solidarity.

It’s a small thing, sure. But bright sides feel few and far between these days. I’ll take a little joy where I can get it. And right now, I’m finding it in how a suddenly dated pleasantry can bond us together. How are we? How are we? How do you think we are? We’re fucking terrible. But at least we don’t have to pretend otherwise.