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David Spero "David Spero RN" (San Francisco, CA United States)
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Potatoes Not Prozac: A Natural Seven-Step Dietary Plan to Stabililize the Level of Sugar in Your Blood, Control Your Cravings and Lost Weight, and Recognize How Foods affe
Potatoes Not Prozac: A Natural Seven-Step Dietary Plan to Stabililize the Level of Sugar in Your Blood, Control Your Cravings and Lost Weight, and Recognize How Foods affe
by Kathleen Desmaisons
Edition: Hardcover
50 used & new from CDN$ 0.02

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, Simple, Brilliant and Powerful, April 5 2004
"Potatoes not Prozac" is a cutesy name for a truly wonderful book that will help millions of people heal their bodies and their lives. Her concept of "sugar sensitivity" and her 7-step treatment plan will enable readers to understand and recover from addiction to foods, drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. People who have failed repeatedly at sobriety or weight loss can succeed with this plan, as thousands have already.

Kathleen des Maisons learned about the importance of sugar through her work as a drug and alcohol treatment counselor. She was having the usual low success rate in helping people stay off alcohol. Then she discovered how certain foods lead to addiction to alcohol and drugs, as well as being addictive themselves.
She found that nearly all alcoholics lived largely on pasta, white breads and sweet things. She knew what they were suffering. Her own father drank himself to death at age 51, and she herself weighed 240 pounds and had had problems with drinking. When she discovered the benefits of a diet high in protein and vegetables for herself, she started using it with her clients. Her success rates soared, even with the hardest cases.
She realized that addictive behavior has a lot to do with food, and that sugar was the primary culprit. She believes that some people are born "sugar-sensitive," which means they don't have enough serotonin or beta-endorphin in their brains. Serotonin and beta-endorphin make us feel secure, stable, confident, cheerful. If you have low levels of these chemicals, you are likely to feel badly.
Sugar and alcohol raise your serotonin and beta-endorphin levels. So they make you feel better and more energetic, especially if your levels were low to start with. Unfortunately, eating concentrated sugars or refined carbohydrates causes a rebound effect. Your sugars levels drop quickly, you feel worse than before, and you need more sugar, caffeine or alcohol to pick back up.
Pretty soon you're addicted. You feel alternately great and miserable. The sugar swings stress your adrenal glands. You blame yourself for being out of control and unfocused, for putting on weight or drinking, but actually it's the sugar. It's a physical problem, although emotions do play a part.
Getting off sugar is difficult. Our food supply is awash in sugars and simple carbs. They can't be avoided. Des Maisons gives us a practical strategy based on 12-step recovery programs. Her seven steps are
1. Keep a food journal every day
2. Eat three meals a day at regular intervals
3. Take Vitamin C, B complex, and zinc
4. Eat enough protein at each meal
5. Move from simple to complex carbohydrates, or from "white foods" to "brown" and "green" foods. "Brown" refers to things like whole grains and beans. "Green" means vegetables, of whatever color.
6. Reduce or eliminate sugars (including alcohol)
7. Create a plan for maintenance.
She doesn't spell out a diet or recommend a lot of supplements or medications. She says that, using her steps, each person can figure out for herself what is best for her body to eat. She wants you to go through the 7 steps slowly, not to get impatient and rush ahead. The idea is to build a better relationship with your body and with food, to learn how food relates to your physical and emotional feelings.

Des Maisons writes with a compassion that comes from living with sugar addiction herself. Chapter 3 is called, "It's Not Your Fault." (I also use that title in my book, "The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness.") Her plan is based on "abundance, not deprivation." This means you focus more on adding good things (foods, exercise, prayer, pleasure etc), rather than giving things up. She keeps telling us to be gentle with ourselves, to focus on "progress, not perfection." She also has a great sense of humor and an apparent affection for potatoes.
"Potatoes not Prozac" also gives a very clear explanation of the biochemistry of addiction. She explains how serotonin and beta-endorphin are produced, get to the brain, and are regulated there, and how our food affects all those processes. She cites more than 50 studies in support of her ideas, although most of them are animal studies.
I disagree with Des Maisons on a couple of points. I don't think sugar-sensitivity is all in your genes. Your early environment, including the environment in your mother's uterus, makes a big difference. Also, I'm pretty sure that too much stress or too sugary a diet at any time in your life can create sugar-sensitivity or something very much like it.
I would have liked to see more on why, where, and how to get help. She mentions the need for support several times, but doesn't give much specific advice on finding it or asking for it. Reading The Art of Getting Well or Cheri Register's "The Chronic Illness Experience" will give you those skills. I also would have liked to see more on exercise. Des Maisons pretty much just says, "go do it!" Hopefully, that will be good enough for you, because physical activity is just as important as diet change, in my experience.
But these are small complaints. The author's brilliant insights into sugar and addiction, her clear explanations of difficult concepts, her simple but effective treatment plan, and her generous and positive spirit make this book a treasure that can help with a wide variety of health and life issues. It's wonderful.
David Spero RN wwwdotdavidsperoRNdotcom

What Are You Looking At?: The First Fat Fiction Anthology
What Are You Looking At?: The First Fat Fiction Anthology
by Donna Jarrell
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.76
43 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Too many suffering characters, March 18 2004
The blurb at the top of the jacket says, "Here is fat in all its glory and grandeur - a large-hearted celebration of the human spirit and each individual's unique value, regardless of size."
But it isn't. I was hoping for some proud, in-your-face fat people who believed in themselves. But nearly all the fat characters in this story collection are miserable, and some are tragic. The only contented one is a cat.
Some of the stories are marvelously written. Junot Diaz' "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" paints an amazingly colorful picture of the culture of young Dominicans in New Jersey. And Rhoda Stamell's "Love for a Fat Man," set in a public health clinic in poverty-stricken Detroit, is one of the few stories where people change in positive ways. But several others, including S.L. Wisenberg's "Big Ruthie Imagines Sex Without Pain," present people with too much self-hatred to identify with or enjoy.
Perhaps I was looking for something that doesn't exist. I'm not heavy myself. I regard overweight as a health condition, not a character flaw. I have a chronic condition myself, multiple sclerosis. But unlike overweight people, I get sympathy for my problem, not blame. I interviewed several overweight people for my book, "The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness" (Hunter House 2002). Even though some of them are very fit aerobics instructors, most have a lot of self-doubt. I don't know if society put it there, or if there's something else about being heavy that hurts your self-esteem. Anyway, the protagonists in these stories are mostly damaged.
It's worth reading, though. There are more poems than stories. I very much liked J.L. Haddaway's "When Fat Girls Dream." I think this book could start a lot of valuable discussion about weight and society's attitude towards it.
David Spero RN, author of "The Art of Getting Well." Write "david at davidsperorn.com"

Cortisol Connection
Cortisol Connection
by Shawn Talbott
Edition: Paperback
42 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good stress info -- but all solutions are food supplements, Feb. 19 2004
This review is from: Cortisol Connection (Paperback)
Stress is bad for you. We all knew that, but Shawn Talbott explains some of the biochemistry of stress in layman's terms. After reading The Cortisol Connection, you will know WHY chronic stress is bad and what it's likely to do to you.
Much of this has been covered better in other books about stress, such as Robert Sapolsky's Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers. What's new about Cortisol Connection is the strong evidence that stress makes you gain weight. It puts on fat and makes your cells resistant to insulin, which puts you at risk for diabetes.
I'm very interested in this, because I'm currently researching a new book called The Politics of Diabetes. (I should also admit that Hunter House, publisher of Cortisol Connection, also published my first book, The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness.) I found Talbott's work helpful.
What I did not find, though, was many good ideas for what to DO about stress. He mentions stress reduction and exercise, but he seems to believe these are not realistic goals for most of us in our fast-paced society. Nearly all his recommendations are for food supplements - vitamins, herbs, minerals, amino acids - over 50 in all. And he really doesn't prioritize among them. I still have no idea where to start with these supplements, which ones have strong supporting evidence and which don't.
I also found his reference list really aggravating. I like to check references, both to learn more and to confirm that the author is playing straight with the facts. Talbott combines all the references for the first five chapters (six pages of references) into one long list, without numbers. So there's no way to tell which reference goes with which paragraph or claim in the book. The supplements actually have many more references than the information on stress does.
So if you are inclined to seek health through supplements, this may be the stress book for you. If you don't like investigating supplement claims and prowling around health food stores, you can still get some good information about stress here, but that's about it.
David Spero RN, author of The Art of Getting Well, Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness. [...]

Food Fight : The Inside Story of the Food Industry, America's Obesity Crisis, and What We Can Do About It
Food Fight : The Inside Story of the Food Industry, America's Obesity Crisis, and What We Can Do About It
by Brownell & Horgen
Edition: Hardcover
30 used & new from CDN$ 2.07

5.0 out of 5 stars Passionate Crusader, Excellent Book, Feb. 9 2004
Dr. Kelly Brownell has spent much of his career fighting the food industry's attempts to make us all fat. He brings a crusader's passion and a scientist's accuracy and thoroughness to "Food Fight". He and co-author Katherine Horgen see obesity as a public health crisis like smoking or drunk driving. They take the social movement against smoking as a model and call on us all to get involved, for our own sake and our children's.
This book is extremely well-referenced, drawing on scientific articles, popular journalism and books like Fast Food Nation. Brownell and Horgen reveal the huge scope of America's problem with weight and tell how the problem is spreading all over the world. They show how the food industry has penetrated schools, government agencies, and entertainment media to market sugary, fatty foods to adults and children.
Brownell is especially concerned about children, who lack the power to defend themselves against food advertising and easily available sweets. He demolishes the "personal responsibility" argument used by the calorie pushers. How can children be expected to say "no" to food that tastes good, is readily available in their schools and communities, is recommended by their favorite media characters or sports stars, and which nobody is warning them against?
The authors give dozens of suggestions for social changes that could increase physical activity (ex. bike paths), reduce soft drink consumption (ex a small tax that would go to fund nutrition education and provision of healthy school lunches), and make healthy food more available (a problem for a very large number of people in America.) They also have lots of good suggestions for political activism.
What "Food Fight" does not include is strategies for individuals and families to protect themselves and live healthier lives. That's not what the book is about - it's about the politics of food, and how we can change the environment so that healthy living becomes easier.
The writing style is clear, although not especially entertaining. But there is some humor, such as a subheading on the huge size of restaurant portions: "Nelson, party of four: your muffin is ready."
Food Fight is a political manifesto by a crusader who has already been attacked repeatedly by the food industry. He makes a strong case, one I will use in my upcoming book, "The Politics of Diabetes." I encourage readers to support Dr. Brownell and Horgen's cause.
David Spero RN, author of The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness (Hunter House 2002) [...]

Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution: The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars
Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution: The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars
by Bernstein M.D.
Edition: Hardcover
26 used & new from CDN$ 2.71

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Resource - But a Very Demanding Program, Jan. 29 2004
Dr. Richard Bernstein probably knows more about managing diabetes than anyone who has ever lived. He has had Type 1 diabetes since age 12. He is now in his late 60's, still works full-time plus, exercises hours every day, and has more energy than most people of any age, with or without diabetes.
At age 35, his body was falling apart due to the ravages of blood sugar. He had signs of kidney disease and eye disease and nerve pain in his legs.
Then he discovered how to normalize his blood sugars through the program in this book. Most of his complications eventually disappeared, and he has had no new complications since. His theory (shared by most diabetes experts) is that the complications are due to high blood sugars. But his solution (keeping your blood sugars in the normal range 24 hours a day) is rejected by most doctors, who believe it is too difficult for most people.
The three keys to his program are: A very-low carbohydrate diet - This is the most important part and will probably be helpful even without the other parts. Bernstein prescribes NO sugars, grains, fruits, milk, or starchy vegetables (fast-acting carbs.) He does recommend relatively small amounts of green vegetables and other slow-acting carbs, because of their vitamins and other nutrients. This is not an Atkins-style, no-carb diet.
Frequent blood sugar monitoring to develop your "blood glucose profile." You need to learn exactly how different foods affect your sugars, and how sugars change overnight and with exercise. By checking his blood sugars after each food he ate, Bernstein discovered how carbs raised his blood sugar faster than his injected insulin could catch up. He has you check your blood sugar many times a day.
Frequent dosing with fast-acting insulin or (for Type 2s) an insulin-sensitizing pill, to cover your meals, along with a low dose of long-acting insulin to get you through the night and early morning hours. He recommends insulin even for Type 2's who make some of their own, because he believes the injected insulin will take the pressure off the pancreas and allow it to heal.
If this sounds like a difficult program, you haven't heard half of it yet. He also recommends extremely vigorous, anaerobic exercise. He prefers prolonged weight or resistance training to the point of pain, because building muscle mass helps soak up blood sugar and lessens insulin resistance.
His program also requires you to counts carbs and proteins and calculate your proper insulin dose before meals. He recommends you have as many as four different kinds of insulin for different occasions. He wants you to floss after every meal to prevent dental infections. And there's a lot more.
But is it worth it? In researching my upcoming book, "The Politics of Diabetes," I have interviewed four people who read his book. Two thought it was too hard to try. One stayed with the program for a while and says it helped, but he has slacked off. One woman stuck with it and says it saved her life.
Diabetes experts I have queried are skeptical of how much the ultra-low-carb diet helps. They cite conflicting research and the success many patients have even on a balanced diet that includes fair amounts of carbs.
There is also no agreement on the need to get blood sugars down to "normal" (less than 95, say.) Many docs think getting sugars down to 120 or even 140 will be sufficient to prevent complications in most people. True, but SOME people will get complications that would not have gotten them if they kept their sugars lower.
You have to have some education and a lot of self-confidence to take this on, especially as it may mean educating your doctor as well. There is a steep learning curve, and this program will probably totally take over your life for the first weeks or even months. As you get used to it, it becomes less intrusive, but still much more so than the usual programs your doctor may put you on. It comes down to how important your health is to you, how much time and money you have to devote to your diabetes care, and especially how much support you have.
Bernstein is aware of these difficulties. He consistently advises lower-cost alternatives to various medications and equipment, which makes him one of the few docs or self-help writers to recognize that money is a problem for many of us. But the book is a demanding read - densely packed with valuable information on everything from insulin injection and blood glucose checking techniques to the different kinds of oral diabetes medicines, from what to do when you're vomiting (call your doctor immediately!) to pages of low-carb recipes. The language and style probably work best for people with some college education, although a determined high school graduate could handle it. It also has a number of inspiring testimonials and a good sense of humor.
I think that people who are having trouble managing their diabetes might want to try this program, or at least the low-carb diet part of it. If you want to do the whole thing, this book by itself won't be enough. You will need to get the help of a doctor and probably a diabetes educator as well, and having some supportive family wouldn't hurt.
If you do try it, I support that decision. I'd like to hear how you do with it.

Diabetes Burnout: What to Do When You Can't Take It Anymore
Diabetes Burnout: What to Do When You Can't Take It Anymore
by William H. Polonsky
Edition: Paperback
33 used & new from CDN$ 4.54

5.0 out of 5 stars This book tells it like it is, Jan. 18 2004
When I picked up Diabetes Burnout, I was truly amazed. Dr. Polonsky understands that there are "barriers to self-care," real life problems and situations that get in the way of doing what's best for our bodies.
He knows that people make a cost/benefit analysis when it comes to self-care. If the behavior is too hard or too unpleasant, and the rewards don't seem worth it, we're not going to consistently exercise, check sugars, or eat what we're supposed to.
This problem is not just true for people with diabetes. It applies to anyone with chronic illness, or really, to anybody at all. I knew about this from living with multiple sclerosis, and I wrote about it in my book. But I didn't think anybody else had developed these ideas. I was sure Dr. Polonsky must have some kind of chronic condition himself, because he knows what it's like. But he doesn't have an illness. He's just very insightful.
I really like the humor in this book. I know some reviewers accuse him of being "cutesy" or Disneyfying diabetes, but I think being able to laugh at your situation helps, even when it's really painful. His description of "werewolf eating" and "Diabetes police" are highly evocative -- they get the point across. I don't think he's talking down to anyone -- he has compassion for people's struggles and wants us to feel better.
It's true that Diabetes Burnout does not cite its sources very well and doesn't contain a lot of specific info on diets or other self-care practices. But that's not its purpose. He is giving tools for identifying and overcoming our barriers -- social, practical, psychological or economic. This is important -- some of those barriers may have been with us for decades, and overcoming them can change not just diabetes management, but also entire lives.
He also inspires by telling stories of real people he has worked with, who have made great strides in difficult circumstances. It's entertaining, inspiring and educational (just like my book :-). What more do you want?
David Spero RN, author of The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness (Hunter House 2002) and the upcoming Politics of Diabetes: Social Causes, Costs and Cures of an Epidemic (2005). [...]

Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health
Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health
by Marion Nestle
Edition: Paperback
37 used & new from CDN$ 1.32

4.0 out of 5 stars More About Politics Than Food, Jan. 17 2004
If you want to know about the ins and outs of food science or the food industry, this book will be disappointing. But if you're interested in how the food induatry (agriculture, food processing, retail and restaurant) influence and dominate our governments' approach to food, this book is the one for you.
Dr. Nestle, a nutrition scientist, has spent years consulting with the USDA and other government agencies dealing with food. She had a lot to do with creation and publication of the famous "food pyramid."
In this work, she was subject to relentless lobbying by food companies determined to prevent the government from recommending that people eat less of their products. They sent whole armies of lobbyists, not just to Washington, but to state governements, universities, and anywhere else they could influence food science.
They donate money to universities, fund studies of their own, give gifts to legislators and woo regulators. They frequently get their own corporate representatives appointed to regulatory and administrative positions. As a result, they have watered down or changed any attempt to advise eating less fat, less sugar, or less of anything.
I think the great value of this book is revealing how our government works. This is not just about food. Every facet of government is subject to corporate influence and domination. You can really see this in the insurance companies' ability to derail health insurance reform, and the drug companies' blocking drug purchases from foreign countries.
Perhaps we can take our government back, step by step. Food Politics is a good teaching tool for those who want to fight back.
David Spero RN...

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal
Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal
by Eric Schlosser
Edition: Paperback
167 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific journalism -- short on solutions, Jan. 13 2004
I opened Fast Food Nation expecting a vicious indictment of McDonald's, Burger King and associates. Instead, I got a richly entertaining story showing me the people, animals, social forces and cultural movements involved in the fast food industry. I learned that fast food and industrial agriculture in some ways are not so bad. In other ways, they are horrifying nightmares that have driven me away from commercially produced meat, hopefully forever.
An example of Not So Bad -- I hadn't considered that, for many poor families, eating at McDonald's was the first time they had ever been able to eat out in their entire lives.
Example of Unbelievably Awful -- the conditions on factory farms and slaughterhouses, staffed by immigrant workers who are frequently injured, raising animals who rarely get to move, are exceedingly fat and often infected with e coli and other germs. Of course, these farms and processing plants provide food to many markets and restaurants, not just fast food places.
Schlosser introduces us to fascinating people, including the founders of McDonald's, the Idaho godfather of French fries, slaughterhouse workers, ranchers, the chemists who create the tastes we eat in all processed foods, and many more.
One weakness is that Schlosser doesn't say much about improving the situation for consumers, workers or animals. He does present some ideas for legislation, but most of the changes that might happen in response to Fast Food Nation are individual food choices.
To deal with the health issues (such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity), I believe individuals, families, communities, businesses and governments need to take strong actions. Hopefully, the fast food companies will be part of the solution by selling healthier food (like McDonald's new salads) and pressuring suppliers to make farms and processing plants more humane and healthful.
David Spero RN, author of "The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness," and the upcoming "The Politics of Diabetes: Social Causes, Costs and Cures of an Epidemic" (out in 2005.) [...]

My Grandfather's Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging
My Grandfather's Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging
by Rachel Naomi Remen
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.64
144 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A Master Story-teller, Jan. 5 2004
Dr. Remen doesn't need another 5-star review, but these stories are so wonderful. Just as strong as Kitchen Table Wisdom. I have to admit to bias, because Dr. Remen wrote a beautiful blurb for the back of my book The Art of Getting Well. But I would have loved her anyway.
David Spero RN [...]

Love Medicine & Miracles
Love Medicine & Miracles
by Bernie Siegel
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.43
144 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, but can be hurtful to some readers, Jan. 5 2004
I loved this book when I first read it. The healing stories, the practical advice, the positive outlook all resonated with me. I used some of Dr. Siegel's ideas in my book The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness.
But I kept encountering people who felt Love, Medicine and Miracles had hurt them or their loved ones who were struggling with cancer. Dr. Siegel states that "happy people don't get sick," and makes other statements that imply that illness is mostly our fault. He has tremendous compassion for the sufferers, but says that they could get better if they got their attitude adjusted.
This healing from within may often be possible. But the physical and emotional conditions of people's lives can make such changes very difficult. And some diseases are so strong that all the change in the world may help, but will not cure.
So I was very careful in writing Art of Getting Well to make clear that health conditions are not our fault. But it is still our responsibility to do the best we can with them. And we can often do very well indeed, and Dr. Siegel's book can help us.
David Spero RN [...]

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