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Book Review – Relief: Release Stress and Harmful Habits and Awaken Your Best Self

Relief: Release Stress and Harmful Habits and Awaken Your Best Self by Sasha Loring is full of strategies and techniques to help people with eating problems improve their relationship with food and enjoy a happier, more peaceful and satisfying life. You can find out more about Sasha, the book, and her work at http://www.sashaloring.com.

Relief starts out by describing our brain functions, focusing on how they affect our nervous system, including an explanation of why we overreact to fears and how we can respond more appropriately to our automatic reactions. My experience with troubled eaters over the decades is that they react rather than respond, that is, they don’t choose how to think and feel about a situation, but automatically do what they’ve always done without considering other options. Loring explains how to break this cycle in order to make better decisions around food and in life.

She describes commonplace actions and reactions in ways that make us think twice. For example, we’ve all felt boredom, but do you know the difference between claustrophobic and spacious boredom? I didn’t, but found the distinction useful. In the former, we want constantly to be entertained, to be busy and thoroughly engaged all hours of the day. What a tiring, unrealistic and unhealthy expectation and one that could easily lead to mindless eating. In spacious boredom, we expand into it and don’t feel hemmed in by having nothing to do, as if nothing to do is exactly where we want to be.

One of my favorite exercises from the book is simple: to increase joy and pleasure in life (and stop seeking it through mindless eating), pay attention to small pleasures and spend at least 10 seconds on each of them: looking into the window of a flower shop, gazing at clouds, enjoying the calls of birds, sinking into a comfy chair or a hot bath at the end of the day. Most dysregulated eaters dismiss and, therefore miss such small pleasures. The fact is, no matter what your life is like, you can pause and enjoy mini-pleasures on a regular basis which keeps you humming with contentment all day long.

There are lots more practical strategies in this book for doing what the title suggests: finding relief and release. My only minor quibble is with Loring’s assertion that sugar is addictive. The debate on this subject rages on and the jury, as far as I’m concerned, is still out. Otherwise, for a practical guide on making daily, meaningful changes in your life that will generate larger and more lasting happiness—and increased comfort around food—I recommend giving this book a thorough reading.

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