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September 27, 2005 > To Your Health

To Your Health

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, Harper Collins, $24.95. Recommended for adults.

There are so many health and diet books on the market that you can't blame Americans for being totally confused. Over the 30 years that I've been following health trends, I've seen the pendulum swing in extremes, high carbohydrate/low carb, high fat/low fat, high protein/low protein, and hopes pinned on supernutrients like vitamin E and lecithin. Consumers spend their health dollars on miracle cures and then blame themselves for not have the willpower to achieve their goals.

Responsible medical professionals preach moderation and balance. A varied diet of unprocessed foods, exercise, and stress reduction are boring remedies that require a long term commitment. This prescription is hard for even a true believer like me to follow but it has a high probability of working. Now, how to put it into a neat package for the general public?

Written by two doctors, You: The Owner's Manual is a service manual for your body. Most readers of health books are women and the book market reflects that. This book should appeal to men as well. There are terrible puns and funny cartoons that teach us as we groan. The authors include lots of fun "gee-whiz" facts in the form of health myths and facts. Without having to relearn high school biology, the science here is simple and factual without a lot of jargon. For parents, this is a good resource for explaining how the body works.

Just like a house or a car, your body needs regular maintenance to prevent major repairs. The book encourages you to rely on yourself to maintain control over how your house ages. You do the regular jobs like changing light bulbs and washing dishes to keep the house in order. We want to avoid having to call the professionals to fix the major problems.

Roizen and Oz write, "By the time you reach 50, your lifestyle dictates 80 percent of how you age; the rest is controlled by inherited genetics." For baby boomers, this is our teachable moment. It's not just about living longer, but living better. The ideas here just make sense. Like any manual, you don't have to read it cover to cover, just what is important to keeping your body in running order. If you only make a few of the lifestyle changes that YOU recommends, you win. YOU doesn't prey on your guilt and sense of failure no matter whether you need a tune up or a major overhaul.

Health advice is always changing. For updates, check out the authors website -

The Feelings Book, The Care & Keeping of Your Emotions by Dr. Lynda Madison, Illustrated by Norm Bendell, American Girl Library, $8.95. Recommended for ages 8 and up.

You might think that preteen girls are too young for self-help books; instead they are the ideal audience. They really need to be told that changes are normal, that they are not the only ones that have these feelings and to seek help when it all seems so overwhelming. The American Girl Library (from the same Pleasant Company that sells the American Girl dolls) has always been adept at reaching their target audience of preteen girls. Their new book, Feelings, helps girls through this emotional time in their lives. The highs are just great, but the lows seem unbearable. For adult women, you reluctantly return to that awkward, wonderful age. For adult male readers, now you know.

I particularly liked the explanation of Fight or Flight, that protective mechanism that gets a person through trying times but can be so embarrassing. It's very necessary for escaping wild animals, but not very pleasant when trying to negotiate junior high school.

The Feelings Book gives girls the vocabulary for expressing their concerns. This vocabulary isn't full of technical psychological terms; rather it uses everyday words to let parents know what is on their minds. For example, the section "Help, I'm Scared" discusses dealing with fears, without referring to phobias.

It also provides tools for talking yourself out of unproductive thinking patterns. For example, advice for changing negative thinking includes "Stop it short" - cutting off negative thoughts, "Replace it" - explore other reasons to explain a situation, and "Check it out" - find out whether a negative thought is true.

There are many examples of friendship problems given. Anyone who has dealt with preteen girls know how important girlfriends are - giving comfort at times and much pain at other times. Appropriately enough for this age group, there is little discussion of boy-girl relationships.

The Care and Keeping of You, The Body Book for Girls by Valorie Lee Schaefer
illustrated by Norm Bendell, American Girl Library, $9.95. Ages 8 and up.

With over 1 million copies sold, this book is still the best guide to the physical changes that preteen girls go through. Along with breast development, skin changes and menstruation, there are the emotional changes. Puberty is treated as a normal development with an emphasis on individual differences. Before your favorite preteen girl goes through the "change," read this book and leave it around. Girls will return to re-read sections as they become relevant.

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