Sugar Nation

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Sugar Nation, a 2011 book by fitness writer Jeffrey O’Connell, is an honest, fresh look at the nutritional roots of insulin resistance and diabetes. Combining extensive research and personal experience, the author offers a compelling intimate account of his own battle with run-away blood sugar and its many effects. At the same time Jeff O’Connell takes on the advice of the medical establishment and drug industry which call for treatments which not only don’t help the condition but can make it worse.

Whether you have issues with insulin and diabetes or a genetic predisposition to it, this book is an informative and entertaining look at preventing a range of health issues and improving your well-being, simply by cleaning up your diet and increasing your fitness.

So Much More Than Sugar

Although the book is titled Sugar Nation, the author’s main point encompasses more than that: he uses a wealth of research to demonstrate that empty, refined carbohydrates and their prevalence in the modern food industry have caused an epidemic of insulin resistance, diabetes, and the accompanying conditions of high blood pressure and heart conditions.

This is both the book’s strongest and weakest point: while recognizing that other carbohydrates beyond sugar, such as potatoes, rice, and wheat products wreak havoc with the blood sugar, the author seems to overreach by condemning a whole food group. While everyone could benefit by introducing more whole foods and eliminating nutritionally deficient carbohydrates, the fervor with which the author advocates for avoidance of all carbs is reminiscent of the anti-fat and meat advice of those which he opposes.

Thin and Healthy, So What?

This book proves insightful because it presents an atypical case. Outwardly, Jeff O’Connell was the epitome of health: fit, slim, and active. As a fitness writer and head of a large fitness website, he prided himself on being informed about nutrition and health. Most would not expect, including the author himself, that his body was constantly in flux.

His condition also presented an atypical case of insulin resistance where a person’s blood sugar dips to extremely low levels. What do you do when, by all appearances you are healthy, but you can’t help feeling something is not right?

Pass the Meat

O’Connell struggled with blood sugar which was usually quite low, but after meals reached levels which would be considered diabetic. As a result he felt jittery, moody, and was always looking for his next carbohydrate fix. Wondering what was wrong, on one doctor’s appointment he received his diagnosis: pre-diabetes. Having a father who avoided treating his diabetes and faced the severe consequences later, O’Connell was determined to control his blood sugar and find a path to better health.

Noting that foods high in carbohydrates caused his blood sugar to destabilize, the author read more into the link between carbs and insulin resistance and decided to completely overhaul his diet. He cut out the snacks and fast foods he was accustomed to and based his diet on meats and vegetables. As he suspected, on his next appointment his health profile was better than it had ever been; most notably his blood sugar returned to normal range and A1C –the measure of your blood sugar levels over a few months– drastically improved.

While Sugar Nation can go off on tangents at points and isn’t without its flaws, it is an interesting read for the seemingly simple idea that it presents and achieves: that, equipped with the right tools, a person can take control of their own health.

 

Nemesis

nemesis-jo-nesboNemesis/Sorgenfri is a psychological thriller by Norwegian author Jo Nesbø. It is the fourth book in the English translation of Nesbø’s Harry Hole series which chronicles the cases and life of the Oslo, Norway detective. Nemesis main plot involves a string of heists pulled off by a particularly intelligent and cruel bank robber. The subplot continues Harry’s search for a drug lord and killer of his former colleague, and his current search to find the murderer of an old lover. As usual, Nemesis features Nesbø’s intriguing plot twists, poetic storytelling and keen psychological insight.

Divine Retribution

Taking its name from the Greek goddess, Nemesis shows what happens  when justice, vengeance, and retaliation become all-consuming. The characters find themselves the targets of revenge, the initiators of it, or both, in a complex web of ultimate payback.

How far would the average person go to right the wrongs they feel have been done to them and their loved ones? How far would you go? These questions and more are put up for discussion in Nemesis and the answers aren’t quite what you’d expect.

Familial Ties

In Nemesis familial ties are at the forefront, though it may not be clear to the characters themselves. The characters’ actions are in part motivated by the wish to be close to their family, whether this is family created by blood and DNA or a family forged by years of close relationship, and whether this closeness is physical or psychological. Nemesis illustrates the lengths people can go to keep together the pieces of what they believe to be their family and home base — or at least the image of it.

Good or Bad?…Neither

Jo Nesbø specializes in creating the most horrific criminals yet he has the rare gift of showing these criminals’ unmistakably human side. Nemesis shows this skill at its best — the “bad guys” in the novel are relatable and sympathetic; it’s not difficult to understand the motives behind the actions they take. Meanwhile, the darker sides of those who would otherwise be seen as the heroes and do-gooders of society are brought to light.

By the end of the novel one is left wondering who is really the bad guy and who is the good guy, and if good and bad truly exist or if they’re simply flawed man-made labels imposed on the indescribable. In Nemesis, as in life, the lines between good and evil aren’t so clear.

Recommend a Book

book-recommendationsDo you have a favorite book? A book you’ve read and like to discuss?

In addition to the regular movie reviews that are written, I will now be writing reviews of books I’ve recently read.

While I have books in mind to write on, I’m willing to consider any book suggestions that blog readers may have. The book can be of any type or genre — nonfiction or fiction, long or short, and of any era. The only requirement for suggestions is that the book must be written or translated in English.

Every month I will read a book and write about it here. The book reviews will contain a bit on the author and his or her writing style, analysis of the main themes of the story and any social aspects that may apply. Each book will also be given a grade based on the author’s writing and the book overall.

Feel free to suggest as many books as you’d like in the comments below.

Profiles of the Emotionally Unavailable: The Ten

vain-man

Also known as the number one Hot Guy ™ or Hot Girl ™.

To some known as suffers of the Beautiful (Wo)man Syndrome.

The Ten

The Ten is the person whose great looks have carried them through life, and as a result, they never fully developed their personalities or inner life. The Ten learned early on that their physical appearance was the greatest asset they had to offer other people. They reacted to this message by further developing themselves physically, not mentally, and certainly not emotionally.

The Ten relies on the alluring power of their good looks to draw people to them. All beautiful people are not Tens, but all Tens are beautiful people. The Ten is unique in that they keep their emotional distance. Their relationships are based on appearance primarily, if not only, so they never have to actually connect with anyone, including their partner. Why should they? People stay around anyway because they’re gorgeous.

The Ten Plus You

Everyone loves the Ten, and they are rarely without a relationship. And if you begin a relationship with the Ten, your role is quite simple — adore, compliment, and complement the Ten. You must make sure the Ten remains confident in their appearance, and make sure that you serve as a good backdrop to their all-encompassing beauty.

You, like most people, are fine with this role at first. You feel proud and accomplished that you have such a good-looking person as a significant other. You see people look at you with jealousy or admiration as you walk by with your Ten. You can’t help but feel pleased.

But eventually this thrill gets old. You wonder where this relationship is going. You realize that you don’t really know the Ten and you want to get closer. You’re no longer satisfied with being their figurative or literal mirror holder. But the Ten has little to offer you. Since they never developed themselves emotionally, they are emotionally unavailable to you, themselves, and everyone else. Instead of an emotional connection, all you get is more shine and beauty.

The Ten Minus You

You might decide to end your relationship with the Ten, but more likely the Ten will decide to end their relationship with you. Either way, when your relationship with the Ten ends, your self-esteem may suffer a bit. Especially if you’re quickly replaced (a likely scenario since many are waiting for their chance with the Ten). You might wonder if you were ever worthy of the Ten — were you attractive enough? It’s tough being the ex of a Ten.

But what you should really be wondering is how lucky you are. Now you are free to find someone who can offer you more than physical beauty, someone who can offer you the emotional closeness that you need.

The Ten’s emotionally unavailability has nothing to do with you and everything to do with themselves. The Ten may never self-examine and connect with their inner self as closely as they have connected with their outer self. Until they do, they can’t have a full relationship with someone else. But that’s no longer your problem.

Have you ever been involved with a Ten?

See also:

  • Profiles of the Emotionally Unavailable:

Profiles of the Emotionally Unavailable: The Intellectualizer

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Emily Deschanel as Dr. Temperance Brennan on TV drama "Bones"

This isn’t your ordinary analytical partner.

The Intellectualizer is one form of the emotionally unavailable partner. The Intellectualizer has to analyze, quantify, and categorize anything in order to understand and experience it. In the love and romance realm, this includes emotions.

Emotions aren’t easily categorized — they are shapeless and unpredictable. So the Intellectualizer ignores them when possible. If you attempt to emotionally engage the Intellectualizer, they will freeze up and back off, or express their thoughts, instead of their feelings.

The Intellectualizer isn’t always a bad choice of partner. If you’re satisfied with an intellectual, unemotional relationship (perhaps if you are an Intellectualizer yourself), then you’ll have no issues with the Intellectualizer. But if you expect your partner to show emotion at certain times and to feel rather than think, you’ll be in it alone. The Intellectualizer will try but they are so emotionally unavailable that they can only simulate true emotional involvement through practice and study.

The Intellectualizer usually won’t see their emotional distance as a problem. They tend to view themselves as rational and steady, and one who makes wise, well thought out decisions. Other, more emotionally expressive people –everyone else– are the ones with problems. Why can’t they get in control of themselves and their emotions?

Such unevolved, troubled beings!

What the Intellectualizer doesn’t realize is that they are far from untroubled and certainly not more evolved. Life and relationships in particular require emotional involvement. By rationalizing their feelings they are blocking themselves from truly experiencing life. Intellectualizing creates distance between themselves and their emotions, so they don’t actually feel them. This prevents real connections from being made with other people, including their significant other.

What can an Intellectualizer do about this? Usually they won’t do anything, since they don’t see a problem. But if the Intellectualizer can make a commitment to feeling their feelings, and not thinking them, they can improve over time. If your partner is an Intellectualizer you can help in small ways, like reminding them to begin sentences with “I feel” or “I believe” instead of always with, “I think”. But the Intellectualizer has to connect themselves with the emotions they are always leaving behind.

Have you ever been involved with an Intellectualizer? Are you one?

See also:

  • Profiles of the Emotionally Unavailable:

Profiles of the Emotionally Unavailable: Romeo

piggybackRomeo is the dream partner.

He (or she, in the case of Romiette) is the ultimate romantic. You begin dating Romeo and he is attentive, sweet, and devoted. He spends time learning all about you and assures you that he is in love with you. You are the most amazing woman he has ever met — the only one for him. You can’t help but to be swept into the fantastic web of romance he has created around and about you, and picture yourself with Romeo forever.

Then, after a few weeks or months, Romeo becomes less and less available. He doesn’t come around as often, doesn’t call, and responds to your calls at the last possible moment. He becomes more distant, that is, if he doesn’t disappear completely. You may later discover he has been seeing someone new. You are devastated.

Say hello to Romeo

Romeo, or Romiette, is a person who loves the romance –and nothing else– of relationships. The term was first used by psychologist Bryn Collins in her book Emotionally Unavailable. Romeos begin relationships strong, stronger than most, but lose steam as time goes on. Romeo is one of the most dangerous types of emotionally unavailable partners because everyone believes his love is sincere. Including him.

Put simply, Romeo is a romance junkie. He loves the excitement and thrill of romance, which is more likely to occur at the beginning of a relationship. But what he doesn’t like is the steady, stable affection of a long-term relationship. He is hooked on is luv  — that exciting, passionate feeling that comes with a new romance, not Love — the deeper and truer feelings that arise with time. Unlike luv, Love is not always exciting and grand, and is way too emotionally complex for Romeo.

Say goodbye to Romeo

The minute Romeo senses the familiarity and regularity of mature, realistic Love, he begins to look for an exit. And, often, a new romance that will bring those feelings of luv back.

Romeo doesn’t mean to be cruel. But he doesn’t really love you or anyone else. What he loves is the intensity of luv; its highs and lows and constant fireworks. No matter how romantic and sweet he may be, Romeo is emotionally unavailable and doesn’t build true, long-lasting connections.

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Survival Signals

suspicious-womanEver wondered how manipulative personalities manage to gain control of their victims? Do you think you’d be able to recognize the signs of a potential rapist, con artist, or other attacker?

Gavin de Becker, author and expert on the prediction and management of violence, offers what he’s termed survivals signals in his number one bestselling book The Gift of Fear. These techniques are what many face-to-face criminals use to keep their victims from recognizing that they are in trouble. Understanding these methods can help you to recognize if you’re ever in a potentially dangerous situation.

1. Forced Teaming

Forced teaming occurs when someone pretends to be in a similar situation or have something in common with another. It often involves the use of the word “we” or “us” as in “What are we going to do about this?” or “We both know…” Forced teaming is used to create unearned trust — people are more likely to open up to someone they think is like them, or is in the same situation they are.

2. Charm/Niceness

Charm is consciously used by potential attackers to control by alluring. People respond more positively to those that captivate them. Rather than think that a person is charming, think that they are trying to charm you. This will keep you from being swayed.

Niceness is not goodness. If a person wishes to control, presenting the image of a nice person is an effective way to make the other person more comfortable with them.

3. Too Many Details

When a person is being truthful and straightforward, they don’t feel the need to add details (i.e. support) to what they are talking about. But if a person is lying, even if you believe what they are saying, they might not. What they say might not sound believable to them so they keep talking, adding more and more details.

These details, like other techniques, are used to keep the other person distracted and oblivious to the context of the situation.

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Why Women Are Competitive

female-competition

The idea of female competition is almost as old as history itself. The image of the competitive, spiteful woman appears in sacred texts and classical myths, among others. Media and popular culture exploit the “catty women” stereotype and men and women alike confirm its existence.

Are women naturally more competitive and with each other? What causes women to compete? Leora Tanenbaum, in the book Catfight, traces the roots of female competition to three major factors: restrictive and contradictory gender roles, economic and ethnic differences, and desire for inclusion.

1. Restrictive and contradictory gender roles

Both modern and traditional female roles place limiting ideas on what it means to be a woman. These ideas can even be contradictory. For example, it’s important for a woman to be beautiful and stylish. Yet women are made out to be superficial if they pay too much attention to their appearance, or worse, not taken seriously. Another confusing expectation comes with their relationship to the opposite gender. Women are told it’s necessary to find a good man to marry, but also told they shouldn’t rely on men and don’t need one to be complete.

Women feel constrained and confused by these roles yet feel obligated to fulfill them — all of them. Thus a competitive environment is created over who is the most pretty and fashionable, or who is the most successful with men or in their career.

Women’s competitive natures are more personal and underhanded because they are supposed to be the more gentle, sensitive, and people-oriented sex. Given this, girls and women are encouraged to develop themselves in relation to others. So when they do become competitive, their competitions are less direct and upfront than those between men.

2. Economic and cultural/ethnic differences

Differences in class and income, and culture and ethnicity can cause mutual distrust. A white American woman whose is well-off can afford luxuries that a working-class immigrant from South Asia can’t. The two may socialize with different kinds of people, live in different neighborhoods, shop at different stores. They may not feel they have much in common and thus are less likely to work together and support each other.

Women of similar incomes and classes can also become competitive. They will compete over who dresses the best or who has the most intelligent children and the best partner. They can adopt a “Keeping up with the Joneses” mindset that has them seeing each other as rivals instead of allies.

3. Desire for inclusion

People desire to be accepted into their peer groups. In order to form a clear, definite group, members within accentuate their similarities and highlight differences of those outside of their group. This can cause friction between and within groups. Inside the group, women may try to become the “Queen Bee”, go-to woman of her circle and knowingly or unknowingly sabotage other women. She may exclude others because she realizes there is power in exclusion: the one who excludes is safe in the group. Between groups, members may get into disagreements over their differences, perceived or actual. The result of this need to be accepted is conflict and mistrust all around.

What do you think are some causes of female competition? Do you have any experiences with women and competition?

See also:

The Anxious-Avoidant Trap

anxious-avoidant-attachmentWhy are people who long for closeness in relationships attracted to their complete opposites: people who prefer their independence and distance? And why are the resulting relationships unsatisfying and prone to failure?

Attachment science defines a person with a strong desire for intimacy and preoccupation with their relationships as anxious. Anxious people are sensitive to perceived threats to the intimacy of their relationships. On the opposite end of the spectrum are avoidant people. Avoidants wish to reduce closeness and intimacy in order to maintain their autonomy. They are less aware of the needs of their partner.

It would seem people with such differing needs would avoid each other, but the opposite happens. Studies have shown that in a classic case of “opposites attract”, there is a mutual attraction between avoidant and anxious people. Each has particular reasons for attraction, as outlined in the book Attached:

Why the Avoidant is Attracted to the Anxious:

  • The avoidant has built up an idea of themselves as being more capable and self-sufficient than other people. They believe that people want to “trap” them and create more intimacy than they are comfortable with. With an anxious partner their beliefs are confirmed.
  • Due to their defense mechanism of self-sufficiency, the avoidant likes to feel psychologically stronger than their partner. They can not feel stronger than another avoidant or a secure partner who would not be bothered by their behavior. They can only feel this way with an anxious partner.

Why the Anxious is Attracted to the Avoidant:

  • The anxious person’s defense mechanism is likewise supported. The anxious person believes that they want more closeness than their partner is capable of. In addition, they believe they will be let down or hurt by their partner; this is the inevitable result when they pair with an avoidant.
  • The anxious person tends to idolize avoidant tendencies. Self-sufficiency, independence, less need for another person — these are the qualities the anxious person wishes they had.
  • The anxious person, being addicted to passion, mistakes the mixed signals sent by the avoidant for sparks of love. They think the avoidant might be coming around to loving them as they feel they should be, but the avoidant is just unsure what to do: they want to be in a relationship, yet they want to keep their independence.

Some signs that you are in the anxious-avoidant trap are extreme highs and lows in the relationship, a feeling that your relationship is uncertain, and if you’re the anxious partner, a feeling that things get worse the closer you become to your partner.

Relationships between anxious and avoidant people tend to be very unstable. Even if the relationship lasts, it is stormy and unsatisfying for both partners. The avoidant person has little desire to resolve issues — doing so would create more intimacy. So the anxious person ends up conceding to the avoidant in the Anxious-Avoidant Tug of War. Any hope for a better relationship is never realized.

See also:

The Codependency Myth

codependencyPopular self-help books, articles, and TV shows tell us over and over that dependency in relationships is a bad thing. You should aim to be self-sufficient and maintain clear boundaries between yourself and your partner, they teach. You should never become too involved with a person to the extent that you need them. That would make you codependent and deficient in some way — work on gaining a “better sense of self”.

That idea is all wrong. As outlined in the book  Attached, adult attachment science explains that it is not only normal, but inevitable to be dependent on a partner.

Dependency Is Not a Choice

Studies show that when two people form an intimate relationship they regulate each other’s psychological and emotional health. You and your partner become one unit. Our partners help control our blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, and even our hormone levels. How can you keep clear-cut boundaries between yourself and your partner if you affect each other on such an internal level?

A True Partnership Involves Two

A partnership involves two or more people working together towards a common goal. In a true partnership both partners have a responsibility to each other. Neither partner can sustain the partnership alone or it would not be a partnership. In a romantic partnership each partner is responsible for the others comfort and well-being in the relationship.

The Dependency Paradox

Regardless of how independent we believe we are, and no matter how we consciously try to be self-sufficient, we are all dependent. Feelings of vulnerability, attachment, and fear of loss are a part of any relationship. But this does not mean we need to be with our partner at all times or ignore other aspects of life. Quite the opposite: the more thoroughly dependent we are on our partners, the more independent we come. This is known as the dependency paradox.

Our ability to independently step out into the world depends on the knowledge that we have someone to support us in this — a secure base. If we feel secure we can take risks and become more self-sufficient.