DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!


Jan 20 2016

New Year’s Resolution? Fat Chance!

by Hope L

Well, it’s that time again. Many of us will swear off sweets, junk food, cigarettes, spending frivolously, swearing, sloth, and rudeness to our fellows, among tons of other things we do or don’t do. It is time to follow through on that New Year’s Resolution.

Yeah, well, there won’t be any resolutions here, not this year. I’m already exercising more, trying to get plenty of sleep, and drinking lots of water. I had a good friend tell me a couple of years ago that I “shouldn’t drink so much Diet Coke because it turns to formaldehyde in one’s stomach.” Formaldehyde! Well, I’m sorry to say that almost one month after that ominous warning, my bottled-water-swigging friend passed away. And she wasn’t even sick. I’ve since upped my intake of Diet Coke.

One day the news is telling us caffeine is bad for us, the next day they are saying that drinking a couple of cups of java a day is good for you. Fat is bad–wait, no–fat is good for us. Salt–long the enemy of us all–my doctor told me to eat more salty foods to keep my blood pressure up. Alcohol is a no-no. Wrong again. A couple of glasses of wine a day provide antioxidants and often pair well with Hamburger Helper.

I mean, consider the following titles of books I just perused on the shelf at DCPL:

changebrainChange Your Brain, Change Your Body: Use Your Brain to Get and Keep the Body You Have Always Wanted by Daniel G. Amen

YOU:  The Owner’s Manual – An Insider’s Guide to the Body That Will Make You Healthier and Younger by Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz

The Detox Strategy: Vibrant Health in 5 Easy Steps by Brenda Watson

Seems like there is plenty of interest out there in changing one’s self. Even Oprah Winfrey herself, the queen of success, change, and financial prosperity, would still like to succeed at something that has long eluded her with a permanent solution: weight loss. She can be seen on commercials for a leading diet program, encouraging us to “try again” along with her.

Well, yeah, but why would this time be any different than all of the other times? I know how hard it is to be overweight because I was a chubbyish child and weighed 250 lbs. in my early twenties. It’s not easy carrying an extra 100 lbs. or more around with you every day.

But the worst part, in my mind, is the prejudice/bias/loathing regarding heavy people. Especially toward women. (I was once asked when the baby was due, and I was not pregnant. Not surprising, though, since I could gain 50 lbs. in the blink of an eye.) Tabloids love to put cellulite on their covers, with gal stars who are caught unawares frolicking at the seashore or pool in bathing suits showing their not-so-best sides. I’d like to see men treated in this way. Sure, on occasion, you will see a man’s beer belly or two photographed and put out there for all to see. But it is and always has been more about women.

I’m glad to report that the times are a-changin’, though, however slowly. Some very famous people nowadays are generous in size and, in part, may just owe their very success to the fact that they are “relatable” to the rest of us real people.

fatgirlewalkingMo’Nique, one of my favorite stars, has a couple of hilarious books (available at DCPL): Skinny Women Are Evil: Notes of a Big Girl in a Small-Minded World and Skinny Cooks Can’t Be Trusted.

And, also at DCPL: The fabulous Brittany Gibbons, aka Brittany Herself, and her book Fat Girl Walking:  Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Skin … Every Inch of It.

It’s about time for my mid-morning snack … But first, I do believe I will make just one New Year’s resolution:  I shall look both ways before crossing.


Jan 9 2015

What Does It Look Like?

by Dea Anne M

Many of us resolve at the start of the year to do something about our diets–either by losing weight or by just learning to make better food choices. Part of drawing nearer to either of these goals typically involves paying attention to getting high-quality calories into one’s diet while at the same time not consuming too many total. For a typical, reasonably active adult, 2,000 calories a day will maintain weight–although some people need less and others will need more.

On December 22nd, as 2014 was drawing to a close, the New York Times ran what was to me an interesting photographic essay about what 2,000 calories look like when eaten at fast-food restaurants, casual dining spots (such as Olive Garden), and at home.  This visual proof is illuminating, and a little startling. Who would imagine that you could get your entire daily allotment of calories from one meal (breakfast at IHOP) or just dessert (cake and cappuccino at Maggiano’s Little Italy)? How about from a single beverage? It’s true! Several of the shakes and malts at Sonic weigh in (pun intended) at over 2,000 calories. Now that’s a thick shake!

You can do a little better at a place like Subway. In fact, careful choices can buy you three meals from the popular chain at only 2,010 calories. Of course, care in ordering is essential at any restaurant if calories are a concern, and it helps that more and more establishments either post nutritional information or will make it available to any customer who asks. Still, restaurant dining will rarely be a calorie bargain–at least compared to the option most popular with nutritionists, doctors and our nation’s First Lady. No surprise–it is cooking and eating at home. The NYT article shows photographs of two different days of meals prepared at home. Both boast a surprising amount and variety of food and include dessert and beer or wine with dinner. I don’t know about you, but it looks like a tasty way to keep calories in check.

Of course, restaurant dining is a daily reality for many people and an occasional, highly desired pleasure for many more. It is entirely possible to dine out and still keep a handle on calories consumed, and DCPL has resources to help.

kidsFirst consider the virtues of David Zinczenko’s ground-breaking title Eat This, Not That: Thousands of Simple Food Swaps that Can Save You 10, 20, 30 Pounds or More!  Zinczenko has tirelessly researched many types of restaurants and prepared foods available in grocery stores to bring readers the best nutritional choices. Calorie counts are given as well as sodium content, total fat and other vital information. Eye-popping color photographs put the food front and center. Armed with the information you need when a fast-food lunch is on the agenda, you will know that a Big Mac is a better choice than a Whopper with cheese. You still might choose to go to Burger King but at least you will know that the McDonald’s sandwich will save you 220 calories. Zinczenko has gone on to compile Eat This, Not That For Kids! meant to help kids and, their parents make the best choices, and Cook This, Not That! Easy & Awesome 350-Calorie Meals: The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution which features healthier home-prepared versions of restaurant favorites.

confidentialIn a similar vein, check out Howard Shapiro’s Dr. Shapiro’s Picture Perfect Weight Loss: The Visual Program for Permanent Weight Loss. Lavish color photographs illustrate calorie counts for various foods and show that it can often be a better choice to have a reasonable portion of the food you really want instead of more of the “virtuous” choice. Though a bit dated and a little too heavily slanted (in my opinion) toward soy protein, it is still a useful volume for anyone who likes visuals (and I count myself as one). Finally, give a thought to Restaurant Confidential: The Shocking Truth About What You’re Really Eating When You’re Eating Out by Michael Jacobson. Also a bit dated (it came out in 2002), it contains useful information nonetheless. Jacobson provides nutrition profiles of many brand name restaurants as well as those of the types of restaurants many Americans eat at, such as Chinese and Tex-Mex. Also included are helpful tips on getting more nutrition and less junk into one’s diet and, yes, one of those tips is eating more at home and brown-bagging more often.

Of course, if going out for lunch or dinner is an occasional treat (very much so in my case) then it may be worth it to just have whatever strikes your fancy. My general rule is to order something new to me or that I’m not likely to cook myself. Your rules and life will, naturally, be different. How often do you eat out? How do you make your decisions about what to order?



Aug 10 2012

Sharereads: Fiction and Nonfiction

by Joseph M

ShareReads intro

I’m a voracious reader, and working in the library, I come across interesting books on a regular basis. That being the case, I often find myself reading multiple books at a time. What I’m reading at any given moment depends on the occasion and my mood, and can run the gamut of content and format types. Generally, I find it easier to juggle more than one book at a time when I’m switching primarily between a work of fiction and a work of nonfiction. Earlier this summer, I found myself in just such a situation, dividing my reading time between two great books, which I’m going to talk more about below.

First, the fiction. The novel is called Hunter’s Run, and I found it noteworthy for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it is a collaborative effort between three authors: George R. R. Martin, Gardner Dozois, and Daniel Abraham. All are notable writers on their own. George R. R. Martin is, among other things, the author of the bestselling Song of Ice and Fire series of books, on which the popular HBO series Game of Thrones is based. Gardner Dozois was the longtime editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine and has won multiple Hugo and Nebula awards for his work as a writer and editor of short fiction. Daniel Abraham is a prolific voice in American science fiction, and no stranger to successful collaborations, having penned the lauded epic Leviathan Wakes (unfortunately not yet available at DCPL) with author Ty Franck under the pseudonym James S. A. Corey.

There are many different ways for authors to collaborate on books, and in this case the story took shape over the course of several decades, passing back and forth between the authors and appearing in a number of different variations before publication in its present form in 2007. You can click here for a more detailed summary of the process. In addition to Hunter’s Run, Abraham and Dozois have separately collaborated with Martin on other projects.

But the writing process which created it isn’t the only fascinating thing about Hunter’s Run. It’s a science fiction novel, but with elements reminiscent of Western and Adventure/Exploration genres of literature. In many ways, it could be classified as a Space Western. The sense of a wild frontier is established with a description of the setting: a mostly-unexplored alien planet, settled by human colonists within living memory, and much of the action takes place in the wilderness away from the human communities. A majority of the characters and place names have a Latin American or Caribbean flavor, which also adds to the “Western” feel of the book.

Another aspect of the novel worth mentioning is the main character, Diego Rivera. Diego could definitely be classified as an antihero (and we’ve written about antihero protagonists before on ShareReads) at the start of the story, but he undergoes a fascinating internal transformation as the plot unfolds, providing an interesting counterpoint to his travels in the external world and allowing the authors to explore complex themes of memory, identity, communication, and the ways we are shaped by our experiences.

In addition to all of that, Hunter’s Run is also quite an exciting book, and does not lack for action and suspense; I certainly had trouble putting it down once I got started.

Now I’d like to talk a bit about What I Eat: Around The World In 80 Diets by Faith D’Aluisio and Peter Menzel, the excellent nonfiction work I enjoyed concurrently with the novel discussed above. Peter and Faith are a husband and wife team who have traveled the world and documented the lives of people they met through photography and essays. In previous works such as Material World and Hungry Planet, they arrange “family portraits” based on the theme of the work; all the household possessions of the family were piled together for the portraits in Material World, while in Hungry Planet the families were pictured with a week’s-worth of food. In What I Eat, the authors alter the concept, focusing on the food intake of individuals over the course of a single average day, and using meticulous research to determine a caloric count. In all, 80 individuals were profiled in the book, and are ranked from first to last in order of calories consumed. The result is fascinating, informative, and poignant. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone. For a “taste” of what the book has to offer, you can visit the official website. Or, you can just check it out from your local library!

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Jun 21 2010

You Have Such A Pretty Face

by Veronica W

If I had a nickel for every time I heard that “compliment” while growing up, I would be, at the very least, upper middle class.The well-intentioned (I think) speakers did not understand exactly what they were saying…or not saying. “You have such a pretty face but the rest of you is a mess!” I grew up with parents who would not let you leave the table until you had “cleaned” your plate. It didn’t matter if that plate held enough food to feed a longshoreman who was coming off a fast. “Waste not ,want not” was my mother’s mealtime mantra, along with the admonition to remember the starving children all over the world. (I couldn’t believe that even they wanted my Lima beans.)  My parents had lived through the Great Depression and there was a visceral satisfaction in being able to feed a family of nine. Consequently my six sisters and I have battled with weight for most of our lives, with varying degrees of success. Since society, explicitly or implicitly, condemns physical “abundance,” we have also battled with self image, once again with varying degrees of success.

While everyone wants to look good, young women are especially vulnerable to criticism of their appearance. They respond in different ways and their efforts to cope are chronicled in numerous books, both fiction and non-fiction. Some adopt a “take me or leave me” attitude, while others embark on a lose and gain and lose and gain and lose and gain cycle of frustration. Check out some of these books which deal, sometimes humorously, with the struggle. In the Young Adult fiction section, there’s Artichoke’s Heart by Suzanne Supplee, Accidental Love by Gary Soto and Vintage Veronica by Erica Perl, among many others. Positive image advice can be found in books such as You’d Be So Pretty Ifby Dara Chadwick and You Have to Say I’m Pretty, You’re My Mother by Stephanie Pierson. If you want to find fashion tips for those who are amply endowed and want to hide or embellish it, check out Does This Make me Look Fat by Leah Feldon or Pretty Plus by Babe Hope. For pudgy preschoolers, there’s I Get So Hungry by Bebe Moore Campbell at one end and I Like Me by Nancy Carlson at the other end.

The campaign against obesity, especially in children, is necessary and laudable, as long as it’s about health and not appearance. “You’ve lost weight!! You look wonderful!! (now that you don’t have to walk sideways to get through the door) could be replaced by “I see that you’ve lost some weight. How do you feel?”  I know, I know. Reality check. However if some misguided person now dares to say “pretty face” to me, I smile politely and say “Thank you. And the rest of me is very nice too.” By the way, Miss Manners does not approve of  making personal comments. Oh, but that’s the January 25th blog.