I’m not proud to admit it, but I rarely – if ever – pick up a book that isn’t a cookbook. But in recent weeks, I’ve happily sacrificed precious sleep to devour two non-cookbooks: Andy Cohen’s Most Talkative and Dallas and Melissa Hartwig’s It Starts With Food. And as much as I love Bravo’s Executive Vice President of Development and Talent, I haven’t yet gotten past page 56 of Cohen’s cheeky, breezy memoir. Despite my love of The Real Housewives, I pushed it aside to finish It Starts With Food. Why? Because the book is a wonderfully engaging and fun read, and because being the healthiest version of me is my number one priority. (Sounds awfully Oprah of me, huh?)
Written by the dynamic duo behind Whole9, It Starts With Food hooks you in with a casual, conversational tone that immediately puts readers at ease. It’s authoritative without being preachy – just like the authors themselves. When I read the book, I can literally hear Dallas and Melissa talking to me. Yes, there’s a lot of science and references packed into the pages of It Starts With Food, but the Hartwigs have distilled it all into clear, concise, and easy-to-digest (pun intended) concepts and analogies that even those among us who failed high school biology will easily grasp.
Here, for instance, is one way they explain the critical role of leptin:
Imagine that your brain is blind, unable to see your chubby reflection in the mirror or the creeping number on the scale. It needs leptin to give it the facts it can’t see. So until the brain hears leptin say, “OK, we’re fat enough,” the brain is going to keep telling you to eat more and move less, to ensure your survival… And without that leptin message, your subconscious brain will continue to direct your behaviors as if you were too lean – despite the fact that you know you’re gaining too much weight.
Believe me: I’ve tried to explain to people the science behind the way I eat, and despite my degree in nutrition and food science, I’m often greeted with blank stares. In contrast, Dallas and Melissa make it look easy.
Like most of you, I lead an extremely hectic life. But the main reason I’m able to thrive (and I’m not using that word lightly) is ‘cause I’ve got my nutrition dialed in. I’m not perfect by any means, but the food blueprint I follow is Whole9’s. From my blog, you can see that I pretty much eat according to the Whole30 program every day, along with the addition of a few foods that I’ve reintroduced into my diet based on self-experimentation and/or because it’s worth it (like dark chocolate and the occasional bit of whole, raw, grass fed dairy). This nutritional approach is so deeply embedded in my cranium that – without even thinking about it – I developed almost all my recipes in my iPad cooking app to be Whole30-compliant. (Did I mention that my app contains a Whole30 recipe category and is officially Whole30-approved?)
The Hartwigs’ new book is a fantastic reference for EVERYONE that addresses virtually EVERY conceivable question about how best to nourish yourself. Really. I tried to stump the book, and couldn’t. Got a question about the healthfulness of fruit smoothies? Page 193. The fiber content of grains versus vegetables? Page 110. What about nutrition for pregnant or breastfeeding moms? Page 245. Vegetarians? Page 240. It’s all in there.
For readers who aren’t yet fully on board with clean eating, It Starts With Food is disarmingly persuasive. Any and every roadblock that you can throw up is knocked down by the Hartwigs’ no-nonsense, well-researched answers.
I’m not kidding when I say that I carry this book in my bag at all times. Ever since my preview copy of the book arrived, I’ve whipped it out whenever I’ve been asked a question about the way I eat – and I get asked a lot. When a co-worker told me that her brother was feeling tired and run down ten days into his Whole30, I flipped to page 214 and pointed out the section on “carb flu.” When friends asked me what dietary fats to prioritize, I told ’em to read Chapter 15 (“The Right Fats”). Rather than stumbling through a rambling diatribe about nutrition, I can refer to the smart, succinct answers in It Starts With Food.
I also have to sing the praises of The Meal Map in the book. Designed by my super-fabulous foodie soulmate Melissa Joulwan of The Clothes Make The Girl, the Meal Map is genius, filled with inventive but simple meals that you can whip up from your well-stocked pantry and fridge. It’s the perfect cheat sheet for readers who are craving delicious inspiration for innovative, healthy meals.
I’m sure some of you will discount my high praise for It Starts With Food because you know I’m friends with the Hartwigs. Yes, I’ve shared laughs and meals with Dallas and Melissa, and I’m proud to say that Dallas and I once butchered a steer together. But that being said, I wouldn’t be pals with people I didn’t consider genuine, smart, and sassy. And I wouldn’t steer you wrong. This book is the real deal. I frequently joke that the Hartwigs are like Paleo superheroes, but in all seriousness, what they’ve packed into It Starts With Food will definitely save lives.
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