The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating
by Walter Willett M.D
This is one of the books that started all of this for me. I read this while I was pregnant with my first child in 2005, so I was primed to pay attention to things that were genuinely good for me. This book uses the expertise of a medical doctor and nutritionist to evaluate many trends in healthy eating and fad diets, then explains healthy eating for a lifetime. We’re all guilty of the quick fixes, especially the diets or supplements that promise to take off 10 pounds in two weeks. Admit it – you have owned a copy of the South Beach Diet. We all did. In my defense, I suggested to my husband that we adopt a lot of the recipes and principles in the book without doing the two carb-free weeks. I know my limits. But he insisted, and we lasted about a week (that’s a lie – I didn’t even stick with it that long). Then again, I have little room to make fun of him on this one, as I have adopted my share of stupid weight loss plans. For example, I needed to drop some serious poundage the summer before my wedding, and I turned to Tae-Bo and Slim-fast (I was going with a hyphenated theme). The weight came off rather dramatically, as did my hair. In huge clumps. I complained to my stylist, who said, “Because you stopped eating! Any dramatic change in your diet affects your hair. And guess what, honey? It will start falling out again when you head back to your old eating habits, so you may want to rethink the Bacon-Egg-and-Cheese-Biscuit Brunch you are planning for the day after the wedding.” And he was right. The hair continued to fall out until I achieved a little balance in my life and diet. This is not to mention the fact that I was a total witch for quite a while during this era. Insult to injury? That weight was back within a year.
I never really paid attention to nutrition; just the sound bytes. I hopped on board the low-fat bus (remember Snackwell cookies? It’s okay to eat 2 boxes of Devil’s Food because they’re low fat!), Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice, dark chocolate (it’s good for you, so I should eat it 3 times a day), you name it. This book fixes a lot of that. I’m not a supermodel by any means, but it’s not so much an issue of not being well-informed. I just like cheese and sitting. Anywho – the book is remarkably well-written and researched. Willett has his M.D. and bases his advice on huge studies on diet and disease.In addition to clarifying a lot of the science underlying nutritional trends, Willett also offers a “Healthy Eating Pyramid” to replace the pyramid offered by the USDA. This is really a terrific book, even if you don’t lean towards the hippie side of the spectrum. Grab a copy at your local library.