Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Book Review: The Start Here Diet

I've talked a lot on this blog about eating clean and working out, but I haven't spoken much about where I've gotten my information, or my ongoing motivation to adopt and stick with a healthy lifestyle. Tosca Reno is one of my main resources for all this fitness, and one of my (many) female heroes. She is the author of the "Eat Clean" book series, among other publications, and writes a monthly column for my favourite magazine, Oxygen. I have followed Tosca's career for about the last 5-6 years. She really is an amazing woman, and I often turn to her writings for guidance in my food choices and fitness goals.

Reno's latest book in entitled The Start Here Diet-I've seen it in bookstores for the past few months, but it didn't really call to me as something I cared to buy or read. The book is marketed towards people who are just at the beginning of their fitness journey. I've been going to the gym for over 10 years, and clean eating has been a priority of mine for the past 5 years. I just didn't think this book was for me.

Another reason I didn't think I needed this book was that I've found a lot Reno's "Eat Clean" books to be very repetitive-Eat Clean for Kids, Eat Clean for Men-just a lot of the same information repackaged and remarketed. Not that I don't like the two Eat Clean books I own-The Eat Clean Diet Recharged and The Eat Clean Diet Stripped(as well as another of her books, Your Best Body Now)-I would absolutely recommend any of those books to anyone who wants an in depth guide to eating clean. I just didn't see the need to add another book with the same subject matter to my already too full bookshelf.

But lately I've been feeling like I've lost some of the drive that I usually have to stay on track with my good eating and fitness habits. I haven't let it slide too much, but I have felt some negative, self-defeating thoughts creep into my head, and I've just kind of been going through the motions. One thing I've learned about keeping your mind in the fitness game is that repetition isn't always a bad thing-sometimes you need to be reminded where your motivation lies. I figured that even if the book was more of the same stuff, it would at least have some different stories in it, and maybe it could help put my mind back on track. So when I saw the book was 40% off at Chapters, I decided to pick it up.
(I did also buy it with the intention to review it here-this blog is great for justifying all kinds of purchases.)

I just sat down and read the book in one two hour sitting(none of Reno's books are difficult to get through). And I was really surprised that it is not at all like the books in the Eat Clean series. Those books are comprensive guides to following the diet-lots of nutritional information, meal plans, etc). The Start Here Diet barely even mentions eating clean(although does include meal plans). Instead, a large portion of the book focuses on the deeply rooted emotional issues behind the bad eating habits that people have developed, and what one might have to work on internally to see the external changes they desire.

Reno really puts it out there in the first few chapters of the book. I was almost in tears reading about her past struggles-losing herself in an unhappy marriage, reaching over 200 pounds, and feeling powerless and depressed. Thankfully she moved to the happier part of the story before the waterworks turned on. One passage that really spoke to me:

"Many life lessons are not learned when times are good. They occur when the ground under your feet is unsteady. This is when you have to drill down into your core, searching for your true self. Not that I would ever wish to go back to the place that I started, but I do know now that without such tests, life is boring and leaves you emotionally shallow" 

 Daaaaaaaaaaaammmmn Girl, shit's deep. Reno talks candidly about lifting oneself out of a dark place. She connects weight gain with deeper issues that need to be addressed before a person can even begin to lose weight. And I think she's spot on with that analysis. I'm really impressed with the way Reno handles the emotional apsect of weight gain and weight loss. That part of the book could be helpful for anyone(including myself), regardless of what stage they're at in their fitness journey. It's always great to be reminded about why taking care of yourself is important. I think the author does a great job here of ensuring readers that they are not alone, and validating their emotions about their bodies.

Moving onto the diet part of the book, it really is a starter plan-it doesn't delve too much into the principles of eating clean. The main issue that Reno tackles here is identifying and eliminating "hidden foods"-the unhealthy foods that we mindlessly reach for most often, that are sabotaging our fitness or weight loss goals. I didn't think that I would get much out of the diet tips in this book. Like I said, I consider myself a seasoned pro at eating clean. But here, Reno really gets down to basics. I do eat clean for the most part, but I was surprised that this idea of hidden foods made me think about my own. Even though I don't have many bad eating habits, I still hold onto a few: aspartame(Diet Coke, hey buddy!), chocolate, and alcohol(although less than in my early 20's, I can never seem to fully give it up). Reading this book I can't help but wonder if I'm missing my full potential just because of these three things. I don't want to commit to this yet, but I'm already thinking about axing the DC and chocolate for a bit to see how it feels (no word on the alcohol yet).

The exercise portion of the book was the least helpful to me, but that doesn't mean it couldn't help a lot of people. There's no sign of the grueling weight workouts that I'm used to seeing from Reno. Instead, she presents the idea of moving just a little. Since this book is aimed at people who are just starting out, this is a realistic way to begin. A list of 25 small-and I mean small movements is given-including things like "raise your arms out to your sides and flex your fingers up and down".  I know that for some people, this is the reality of their mobility, and I think it's awesome that Reno truly starts at the beginning. She then moves on to a list of more challenging activities, like trying Zumba, kickboxing or rowing. None of the workouts is going to challenge someone who is already into fitness. But that's not who the book is aimed at, so I don't fault Reno for that.

Overall, I am really impressed with this book. I'm a huge fan of Tosca Reno, and I think this is her most personal work yet. It feels very empowering to read her story and see the woman that she has become. Parts of this book weren't super helpful to me, and I don't really feel like it taught me a lot I didn't already know. But I think it served a very good purpose-it reminded me what it feels like to be unfit and unhappy. Because I've been going to the gym for so long, I sometimes forget what I felt like befor fitness was a part of my life. And a lot of my own feelings back then mirrored what Reno talks about in the first few chapters-and I don't ever want to feel those things again.

I would absolutely recommend The Start Here Diet to anyone who is just starting out, and trying to figure out the first steps towards a healthier lifestyle. But I also think it's a good read for seasoned gym rats who need a little new inspiration and motivation. As Reno says in the book "I am a warrior and I will survive."


As always, thanks for reading. I accidentally placed a Sephora order the other day (these things happen), so look for that soon!


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