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#HealthAtEverySize: Big Fit Girl

As a plus-size woman, I rarely read self-help books. I find them degrading and useless. They make me feel like I’m not good enough. The authors, most of whom are tiny celebrities that can afford personal trainers and in-house chefs, put an emphasis on weight and size. They suggest cutting our carbs, eating only low-fat foods, exercising seven days a week, and attending boot camps to ensure your body is “bikini ready.”

For plus-size women, these recommendations can cause anxiety and depression, and 90 per cent of the time result in fast weight loss and even faster gains after the fact.

Big Fit Girl is an exception to that sentiment. This book follows the personal story of author and plus-size athlete and personal trainer Louise Green on their journey towards athleticism. The book is full of body-positive messages and completely dismisses the idea that health is related to a number on a scale.

For example, did you know that about 40 per cent of obese men and women have healthy blood pressure and normal cholesterol? And yet, most of those people are judged by the size of pants they are able to squeeze into.

 

Green runs through how the fitness industry as a whole discriminates against size and fails to meet the specific needs of plus-size women. Athleticism, according to Big Fit Girl, doesn’t equate with weight or size. It is something that can be measured by ability, strength, and endurance. In essence — a healthy body doesn’t necessarily mean a bikini body and the fitness industry needs to come to that realization.

I’ve been struggling with my own health journey for a while, and reading this book gave me the inspiration I needed to keep going. It begins by shattering stereotypes and discussing the lack of body diversity in advertising, media, and branding. Green asks her readers to make a number of pledges, including avoiding companies that don’t provide options for larger body types and eliminating negative, body shaming messaging.

As encouragement, Green lists the social media information of a number of professional plus-size athletes who, despite their size, have become award-winners in their field. The book is slam-packed with stories and quotes from plus-size athletes, outlining their peaks and valleys, as well as their success.

Big Fit Girl is a wonderful combination of athletic and nutritional advice, motivational success stories, and myth debunking. In between the storytelling, Green includes a number of recipes, simple stretches, her favourite workout playlist, and a training regime for a 5k race.

Green wants her readers to succeed, but not only because she wants them to accomplish their personal goals. Instead, she wants to start a movement: plus-size women have a prerogative to prove to society that they can be healthy and active. The more people that see plus-size women on the racetrack, the more it will be normalized.  “Whether you are an avid walker, a triathlete, a ballroom dancer, or an Olympic weightlifter, or if you aspire to be al these things and more, your presence as a plus-size woman working out in our society is creating a much-needed shift. And because we don’t see women of size as much as we need to in advertising, television, movies, or other media, it’s up to us – you and me – to inspire others to join our ranks.”

Ultimately, this book taught me a number of things, but these three stand out: Don’t be afraid of trying something because you think you will be limited by your size. Aim for health and fitness above weight loss and dieting. And practice self love, because you ARE an athlete.

Big Fit Girl will be available in stores on March 18.

Review: Lauren Graham’s ‘Talking As Fast As I Can’

As avid readers of Women’s Post are keenly aware, I’m a big fan of the hit-show Gilmore Girls. Even though I didn’t love the revival, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, the original show still maintains a special spot in my heart. That’s why I picked up Lauren Graham’s book “Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (And Everything In Between).”

When I started to read this book, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it was an autobiography of sorts that touched on the actress’ role as the infamous Lorelai Gilmore and that it would contain a diary of the filming of the revival. But the book also gives readers a sneak-peak at the Graham pre-and-post this iconic role.

I knew nothing about the actress behind my all-time favourite television character — which meant that while reading the book all I heard was Lorelai Gilmore speaking in my head. But, strangely enough, that worked.

It takes a few chapters to get used to Graham’s writing style, which is as conversational and scattered as a Gilmore Girl. She makes the reader feel like a friend and is not afraid to abruptly end a sentence and jump into broadway song lyrics or go on a tangent about her wardrobe or a phone conversation she had with her dad. It’s through this writing style the readers are truly able to get to know the author.

Some of my favourite chapters revolved around her writing and her entrepreneurship. When she first started writing, she received a lot of flak from male journalists and men within these industries, all of whom couldn’t believe she didn’t have help completing her work. When bigger opportunities were offered to her, she questioned it, wondering whether the people she was meeting with had other people in mind to produce or be in charge of her projects. The sexism she experienced made her feel inferior, but it’s something she was able to combat, which I found incredibly inspirational.

“It’s not lost on me that two of the biggest opportunities I’ve had to break into the next level were given to me by successful women in positions of power,” she writes. “If I’m ever in that position and you ask me, “Who?” I’ll do my best to say, “You” too. But in order to get there, you may have to break down the walls of whatever it is that’s holding you back first. Ignore the doubt—it’s not your friend—and just keep going, keep going, keep going.”

And of course, there were the two chapters on Gilmore Girls themselves. In “What was it like, Part I”, Graham re-watches the original series and makes comments on the fashion, technology, and the elements she loved about each season. This chapter seems to go by fast, and I wished there was more insight into the relationships between the actors rather than a simple review — but that’s not Graham’s style. As much as that was what I wanted, I respect Graham for not dishing on her co-workers. The whole book is full of positive messages, and that was something I sorely needed at the time I read it.

In “What it was like, Part II”, there was a lot more detail. Graham kept a diary during the filming of the Gilmore Girl revival and readers get an in-depth look into the challenging process of re-creating the series nearly 10 years later. The diary is written in order of filming, not in order of episodes, which provides a unique view into what it was like to make the Netflix hit. Apparently, Carol King gave an impromptu concert that led to many tears and a few emotional breakdowns. Don’t you wish you could have been there?

What did I learn after reading this book? Lauren Graham is my spirit animal — and probably yours too!Her style is refreshing and authentic, something that is very rare in memoires, which tend to be overly edited and formal.  Some of the other topics mentioned in the book include the trials and tribulations of trying to be an actress in New York, the blunt of sexism when trying to promote her first novel, and the challenge of sitting down and writing. She speaks candidly of the jobs she auditioned for that made her cry, the jobs she took because she had to, and the struggles of being an artist.

If I had to sum up “Talking As Fast As I Can” in one essence, I would say this: Graham broke down the barrier between “celebrity” and “normal”, proving that actors and actresses are just regular, nerdy people who love the work they do, and sometimes do work they don’t love to do. Seems simple, but trust me, its a lot more complicated. You should probably read the book to truly understand.

The Party Wall: a refreshing take on humanity and relationships

I had very few expectations when I first opened The Party Wall by Catherine Leroux (translated from French by Lazer Lederhendler). The summary on the back cover looked a bit jumbled — four different stories, all involving pairs of people that may never meet. The plots appeared a bit confusing and illogical, and I couldn’t figure out how the author was going to make this work as one, singular novel.

But, I was pleasantly surprised.

Leroux is able to intertwine and shift between numerous storylines seamlessly. Her writing is delicate, almost lyrical, yet not overbearing. It’s themes touch on the very foundations of humanity, relationships, and above all else, love. But not in a way the reader expects.

In fact, there was little about The Party Wall that was predictable, which is what made it such a refreshing read. The novel follows the separate stories of four pairs.

Monette and Angie are two young sisters taking a walk, marvelling at the small things they witness along their way, unaware of the shocking end their story may have. Madeleine and Édouard are mother and son, or are they? Madeleine learns at the worst possible moment that she may not be the biological mother of the child she gave birth to. Ariel and Marie are husband and wife in a post-apocalyptic future in which Canada has a labour party and Saskatchewan is a barren wasteland. The power-couple come to a startling realization about their shared past. And finally, Simon and Carmen are siblings that watch as their mother passes away, all the while holding a deep secret about their background that changes the essence of their relationship.

Each story redefines what it means to be a family — the identity that unifies us or breaks us apart. Not all of the stories have happy endings, but each and every one makes the reader stop and think about the universal truths of humanity. Human beings are full of flaws and regrets; yet also the ability to see good in those who can’t see it in themselves.

What truly captivated me was Leroux’s vivid imagery and startling metaphors. The characters were all wonderfully developed and very real. Even the plot line that exists in a futuristic state is all-too revealing of the impending consequences of North American indulgence.

There are very few authors capable of jumping between four separate storylines while still maintaining the readers interest. The passion and truth radiating from this piece of fiction was compelling and genuine, which leads to my final recommendation: The Party Wall is a must-read for 2016-17.

The Party Wall is shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and was the winner of both the Governor General’s Literary Awards for translation and the France-Quebec Prize.

5 Books Every Woman Needs To Read

A list compiled from The Huffington Post‘s favourite choices, these books by women are just a few of the incredible titles published. They are some of the most-discussed, thought-provoking and life-changing books from a diverse group of women writers. From lighthearted memoirs to lifestyle reads, there’s a genre here for everyone.

Here are the top 5 books that all women should read:

1. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kahling 

“Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!” – Good Reads

2. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

“In sharing the gritty, heartbreaking details of her own experiences and unrealized desires — in showing us how, exactly, she is a ‘bad feminist’ — Gay reminds us what feminism can and should be: A space where women can realize their difference and their nuances.”

 

3. How Should A Person Be? By Sheila Heti 

“A raw, startling, genre-defying novel of friendship, sex, and love in the new millennium—a compulsive read that’s like ‘spending a day with your new best friend.'” — Bookforum

4. Bossy Pants by Tina Fey 

“Chapter after chapter, in a voice consistently recognizable as her own, Fey simply tells stories of her life: How a nerdy but self-confident half-Greek girl entered theatrical life (a wonderful community theater, lots of gay and lesbian friends), what Second City was like “back in the day” (cultish, hard, unbelievably fun), how ‘Saturday Night Live’ works (a chemical compound of Harvard grads and Improv people), what it’s like to be a woman in comedy (harder than you think but not as hard as coal mining) or to run your own show or to satirize a vice presidential candidate when she’s standing right backstage.”

5. The Beauty Myth: How Images Of Beauty Are Used Against Women By Naomi Wolf 

“If you have wasted even a minute of today worrying about the way your hair, breasts or thighs look, or about the wrinkles around your eyes, or whether your winter “wardrobe” is working for you … this book is for you.” – The Guardian

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Book review: Where Chefs Eat

4/5 stars

Where Chefs Eat: A Guide To Chefs’ Favorite Restaurants is the ultimate foodie reference guidebook and is perfect for traveling. It is an easy read and very organized. You can read the book front to back or search a specific city. I prefer front to back since I discovered Morton’s The Steakhouse listed under Shanghai, but if you can’t travel, you can always find it in Toronto and use the recommendation.

The chefs are introduced with a brief biography and you are told the meaning of specific categories. For example, they define the budget for you. The chefs are well-known and established. They include Marcus Samuelsson, Daniel Boulud, Hugh Acheson, and many more. The book itself is divided by continent and a map is provided for each section. Every restaurant says who recommended it and they specify the area in the city for ease. In addition, they always provide the website and a reservation e-mail if it is needed. Each page contains a quote from the chef and mouth-watering food descriptions. The restaurants are not all well known and allow readers to discover hidden gems in their own city or abroad. Where Chefs Eat also comes with a yellow bookmark, which is a nice addition.

Although I was very impressed with this book, I wish that every restaurant had quotes from the chef and a brief description of the atmosphere, dishes and chefs. I feel that more detail would have improved the book.

Where Chefs Eat also has an iPhone and iPad app that was released in May. If you prefer to have your smartphone while traveling rather than carrying a book, this is a very practical idea. This is one of the few books that has an app.

Overall, I thought that this was a great book. At 643 pages, it is massive and features varied cuisine that is sure to fulfill any taste bud or craving while traveling. Instead of relying on internet reviews, the chefs have authority in the industry and recommend restaurants for any budget. They even include restaurants that the chefs wish they’d opened. This is the perfect travel companion for summer.

Women of the Week: Krista Bridge

Bullying knows no boundaries. It can happen to children in a schoolyard, to adults working away at the office and between siblings at the dinner table. In Krista Bridge’s new novel, The Eliot Girls, she draws from personal experience as she explores the various depths of bullying at a private school for girls.

The germ of the novel had been kicking around in the back of Bridge’s mind for years and stems from a time when she was a student at St. Clement’s, a private school in Toronto where bullying was afoot.

“It really was just something I’ve lived through and it really made me want to write about it because it’s such a key experience to the development to my own identity,” says Bridge. “It was something that went on every day, sometimes in subtle ways, not necessarily in big ways. And it’s such a huge part of growing up.”

Bridge eventually left St. Clement’s to attend a public school for the last two years of high school.

In 2007, when she was pregnant with her first son, Bridge became serious about writing the novel. After her son was born, she mastered the parenting skill of maintaining a regular naptime routine, which allowed her to write for an hour and a half each day, chipping away at the novel a little more as her son slept.

Not too long after she started to get the foundation for the novel, the theme of bullying emerged.

“I’ve been through bullying and I’ve been on both ends of it really,” she says. “I’ve been a bully and I’ve been a victim. I haven’t been a bully in any sort of terrible offence, but I think a lot of students occupy this kind of middle ground where they move between those roles. And, at least in my schooling experience, most people weren’t always the victim or always the bully. Although some people certainly were.”

Even though there are some parallels between the novel and her youth, at the end of the day it’s a writer and her fiction. George Eliot Academy is not St. Clement’s – it’s a fictionalized private school.

Even with such a strong theme of bullying threaded through, Bridge didn’t write it with a principled message in mind.

“I really wasn’t trying to construct a moral message. I really didn’t really have that objective at all,” she says. “I wasn’t thinking about it from that vantage point of, you know, the social good. But I was really just thinking about it as a writer and how much that story interested me as something that I had lived through.”

She also looks into the lives of the educators, exposing their humanity and the way their private lives are reflected in the way they teach.

Bridge’s writing career began in 2002 when she had a short story published in Toronto Life.  She also attended the Humber School for Writers under the mentorship of Elizabeth Harvor.

“She was wonderful. She was so supportive, so helpful, so instrumental to my development as a writer in the beginning,” she says.

The program resonated with Bridge so much she decided to take the program for a second year, furthering her relationship with Harvor.

In 2006, Bridge released The Virgin Spy (Douglas & McIntyre), her debut collection of short stories. She was shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award and the Relit Award.

The Eliot Girls (Douglas & McIntyre) was launched on June 19 at the Dora Keogh Pub as part of the Fine Print Reading Series.

 

Book review: The Happy Baker

4.6/5 stars

My first impression of The Happy Baker: A Dater’s Guide to Emotional Baking was that it was a very approachable book for a non-baker. Erin Bolger begins with a memorable disclaimer quote that states, “If any of my recipes are low-fat I’m sorry, it was unintentional.”

She has cute names for her baking recipes and beautiful photographs. Some recipe names include ‘Who Needs a Man on Valentine’s Day Biscotti’ and ‘You Can Kiss My Triple Decker Carrot Cake Goodbye’. The names certainly aren’t boring. Erin has separated her book into four distinct chapters. Throughout The Happy Baker, she has chick lit stories followed by a recipe that relates to the story. There are illustrations of her and her past dates or boyfriends relating to the story. The stories cover speed dating, breakups over text or e-mail, the first kiss, and many more. Erin’s personality shines through.

In order to fairly evaluate The Happy Baker, I had to get into the kitchen and bake. Her recipes are easy and most of the ingredients are found in your home (you may have to buy one or two ingredients). I decided to make ‘Erin’s Go-To Cookie’, ‘Goodbye Men, Hello Dolly Squares’ and ‘My Eggs Are Not Getting Any Younger Crème Brûlée’. Each of the recipes that I made provided me with a large quantity so the time and the effort are well worth it.

The crème brûlée was rich and creamy. The cookies and dolly squares were buttery and greasy, but delicious. They were so popular that when I opened the covered plate laying on the counter, they were all gone. I ended up eating some of the cookies and dolly squares from the freezer and they were just as good cold. Don’t hesitate to put some of Erin’s recipes in the freezer, you may be in for a pleasant surprise.

I found that the recipes were simple, easy, decadent and, of course, delicious. The Happy Baker is killer comfort food. Erin was honest and upfront when she said these recipes were unhealthy. As a non-baker myself, I was able to bake recipes that I probably wouldn’t have ever made.

This is not your average cookbook since it is filled with unique stories and recipes. She has even provided a few non-bake recipes.

If you’re ever in Bayfield, Ontario be sure to check out Erin’s new business, The Pink Flamingo Bakery and Boutique.

BOOK REVIEW: King of the Class

King of the Class is set in a futuristic Israel where the religious and secular citizens lead separate lives. In 2019, robots provide not only housekeeping and babysitting but also the security necessary in the difficult political climate. Hoverboards have made it easy to move around but guard posts ensure each citizen occupies his rightful place.

The story centres on Eve, who is studying in Israel and engaged to Manny. With her North American attitudes and values, she is bewildered when her fiancé becomes drawn to a religious life. Eve must decide if she is willing to give up her scholastic dreams and live according to strict rules. At the same time she has visions of a soul named Ben who is counting on her and Manny to become his parents. Are the needs of the pre-soul as important as her ambitions and freedoms? Can marriage to Manny lead to a fulfilling life?

Eventually Eve makes a decision. When her story continues, the reader discovers the character referred to in the title, King of the Class. It is her son, Netsach, gifted in basketball skills but bullied by jealous classmates. Manny is suspicious of and does not understand the mystical link between mother and son and it is driving a wedge in their marriage.

Faced with a terrifying situation in which she is powerless, Eve must find strengths in herself and in her relationships. While the people around her all face their own challenges, they must unite to prevent a tragedy.

Gila Green does an excellent job of ramping up the tension in the final chapters. The reader becomes drawn into the suspense, and there is a satisfying resolution when Eve’s choices prove to be honourable.