Reading as an Occupation: What I read in February.

The Meal Deal: Blaze your Own Trail to a Healthier Eating Lifestyle by Lisa Kiersky Schreiber  (*)

With so many different  food programs available today, determining the best way to follow a specific food program can be difficult. I have seen many people unsuccessfully try Whole 30, Atkins, low-carb, no-carb, vegan, vegetarian….the list is extensive. The reason for failing to keep up with these programs is the level of organization and preparation that is needed to be successful with the dietary choices (let’s not use the word restrictions because many of these programs have you make healthier choices.

Ironically, prior to reading this book, I was thinking about what is needed to be successful with maintaining a certain food program—a plan that you can consistently follow. Lisa Schreiber provides you with that plan and then some. The Meal Deal is a book that provides concrete, actionable steps that makes meal planning and healthy eating a lifelong habit. It truly feels like you have your own personal nutrition coach by your side helping you make decisions on organizing your kitchen, choosing the best meals that work for your health goals, meal planning, and much more.

The biggest point that Schreiber makes in The Meal Deal is this is not a book about dieting. This is a book about making the necessary changes in the way you approach food preparation and how to maintain that approach. The most positive aspect of The Meal Deal is the constant level of support that Schreiber provides the reader on this journey of preparing healthy meals on a weekly basis.

Schreiber begins The Meal Deal with the “why”. Why are you at this point where you need or want to make a change in the way you approach your diet? She then delves, very comprehensively and systematically, into the “how”. The “how” includes providing multiple checklists that supports your success with any food program.

The resources listed are a small sample of the amount of information Schreiber provides. Schreiber takes each component related to making healthy meals and provides a weekly/daily checklist to allow these components to become habits in your life.  The information is also provided in manageable portions that makes them easy to implement and follow.

Finally, The Meal Deal is also well-researched with nuggets of information that supports the nutritional value of whole foods versus processed foods and the cost of eating out. The final chapter is aptly entitled, “The end is the beginning”, pointing out that the strategies in this book are lifelong approach to meal planning, meal preparation and food consumption.

Rating: 4 out of 4 stars

Highly recommend. This book is a blueprint for being successful with any food program.

Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse (*)

Another Reese Book Club pick! The name alone had me intrigued. When the backdrop of the story is a sanatorium that, in a previous life, housed people that had tuberculosis, you are prepped for a dark, psychological thriller. The first few chapters describe the sanatorium in detail, and I got The Haunting of Hill House vibes!

The story follows a detective on leave (Elin) that is searching to find the fiancée (Laure) of her brother (Isaac). There are many plot twists throughout, and the story is engaging from beginning to end. There are some other characters that are part of the story, such as Adele, the maid in the Sanatorium.  Pearse does well with character development and connecting the characters throughout the novel.

One area that I felt could be further developed was expanding more on what happened in the Sanatorium in the past. The main items from the past that were thought to drive the reason for what happened in the present day was not as central as I thought it would be.

Rating: 3.5/4

Recommend this book. The story itself was well-written. There were some areas that I felt could have been developed in another manner to give the plot more of a psychological thriller feel., but overall a good read and book club pick.

When Life Gives You Pears by Jeannie Gaffigan (*)

This book was recommended by one of my book clubs. However, I was already aware of Jeannie Gaffigan’s story from a magazine article that followed her journey following her removal of a  brain tumor. She chronicled, succinctly, the difficulty of not being able to eat and the strength it took to recover from her craniotomy. When the opportunity came to read the whole story, I was intrigued to learn more.

Gaffigan is the wife of comedian and actor Jim Gaffigan and they have five young kids. At the time that the book was written, the children were between the ages of 4-12. In addition to being a wife and mother to young children, she was the executive producer of her husband’s TV show. This was a woman that was in the prime of her life.

Over the course of a few months, she started to lose the hearing in her left ear and attributed the loss as an anomaly and that her hearing would eventually return. It was at a trip to her children’s pediatrician, where she mentioned the hearing loss, and the pediatrician informed her that she needs to seek medical attention. Within a few weeks, she found out she had a benign tumor the size of a pear that was expanding into her brainstem and that surgery was required to remove the tumor.

The removal of the tumor impacted her function. She was unable eat and became weak following the craniotomy. She brings you into her recovery and the professionals that are involved in her recovery, including occupational therapy! What drew me to this book was Gaffigan’s humor. Sprinkled throughout the book, even during the portion that focused on the difficult task of recovery, was humor. An important component to recovery is one’s perception of their situation and Gaffigan does a great job of always bringing humor into her story.

This book can be used as part of an occupational therapy curriculum because Gaffigan has many life roles that were impacted by her tumor, the resulting surgery, and her recovery. Many times, case studies are made to recreate an individual that has many life roles which have been impacted by an illness. There is no need to recreate this situation with Gaffigan. As previously mentioned, she is a wife, mother, producer, and so much more. All these roles were impacted by her illness and it took a plethora of professionals to return her back to those roles—all of whom she thanked profusely in this book. Her gratitude was extended to her occupational therapist of which she said: “An occupational therapist is supposed to help you relearn day-to-day things as you go back to your life at home.” She continued with her memory of her OT sessions, which provided insight into ensuring that you are engaging in meaningful occupations with your client because it does leave an impression.

Some questions to ask:

  1. If you were Gaffigan’s occupational therapist, what assessments would you use in your evaluation to have a concrete baseline to track progression?
  2. What do you believe were Gaffigan’s main problem areas?
  3. You are a home care occupational therapy practitioner and have been approved for 2 weeks of occupational therapy services, what would be your areas of focus for intervention and what occupational roles are you addressing?

Rating: 4 out of 4.

Highly recommend. This book was well-written and provided insight into the real (read: better than a made-up case study) recovery process of an individual with multiple roles, young dependents, and a career.

What are you reading? Any recommendations for March?

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